Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band Paints a Picture of the Tortured Artist


Scientists have speculated about Vincent van Gogh’s psychotic episodes, like the one where he cut off his ear, and some believe his underlying conditions of depression and seizures were aggravated by absinthe, nicotine, alcohol, and turpentine.

It’s not like anyone featured in the documentary Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band comes out and says that Foulkes is suffering from anything, but the film paints a picture. Foulkes is a relatively well-known painter who missed out on great fame and fortune, possibly because he marched to the beat of his own drum (actually, an entire one-man band of instruments). Foulkes tears down, saws up, and redoes entire sections of his works — for years and years, over and over, even when someone wants to buy one as-is.

At times he sounds like a lame art student: “I’m trying to do something that’s never been done before.” Other times he sounds nuts: “The only way it’s finished is when they take it away from me,” or, “I had to do it; it’s not like I wanted to do it.” At all times he smokes cigarettes. But Foulkes is clearly striving to create in a painting space that will allow in light and depth in some meaningful way.

And while his obsessiveness seems neurotic, and watching this film is not always comfortable, it also seems to be all part of the process.