painting of two people walking in a moonlit jungle, by visionary artist Pablo Amaringo
Amazonica Romantica by Pablo Amaringo, as featured in "The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo" by Howard G. Charing and Peter Cloudsley

Pablo Amaringo Drank Ayahuasca at 10 Years Old, Then Ushered In a Global Art Tradition

Peruvian artist Pablo Amaringo’s colorful life highlights the interwoven relationship between art, ayahuasca, and the rainforest.

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The work of late Peruvian artist Pablo Amaringo is many things: surreal, immersive, hypnotic. At its essence, however, his paintings are a reminder of the magic and healing inherent in the plant world—and of our obligation to protect this domain. 

Born in 1938 and raised in Pucallpa, Peru, among 13 brothers and sisters in a family of farmers, Amaringo first drank ayahuasca when he was 10 years old, going on to become a high-ranking shaman known as a muraya. When he retired from shamanism in 1977, his focus became art. While he had no formal training, Amaringo’s paintings were intricately detailed, candy-colored depictions of the realms he’d traveled to in his medicine journeys. Rendered in oil and gauche, his images of birds, portals, snakes, and spirits served as the basis for the Amazonian School of Art, a now-global tradition depicting the Amazonian rainforest, and the traditions of its indigenous peoples.  

READ: A Brief Heritage of Ayahuasca Art

visionary ayahuasca painting by Pablo Amaringo of man holding arms out in jungle setting
Jehua Supai as featured in “The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo” by Howard G. Charing and Peter Cloudsley

“Pablo was definitely painting from memory,” says Peter Cloudsley, a longtime Amazonian plant medicine researcher who along with shamanic studies expert Howard Charing wrote The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo. “He said he never painted anything that he hadn’t seen for himself [in ceremony].”

READ: Alex Grey on His Journey to Finding God

visionary ayahusaca painting by Pablo Amaringo
Huasi Yachana

Charing and Cloudsley met Amaringo during their travels to the Amazon, where they became good friends with the artist whom Charing calls “the most beautiful, gentle, and wise person that I have been privileged to know.” As Amaringo gained worldwide renown, counting leaders of the plant medicine field as fans and traveling to far-off places like Japan for exhibitions, he also founded an art school for children, Usko Ayar, in his native Pucallpa in order to teach an appreciation of nature to young people. His message to students was the same one expressed in his art: Nature possesses the deepest wisdom, and we must protect it. 

“Pablo believed the conscience of each one of us must be the new government,” Cloudsley says. “The rest is corrupt.”

visionary ayahusaca painting by Pablo Amaringo
Templo Sacrosanto as featured in “The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo” by Howard G. Charing and Peter Cloudsley

Working in solitude and chanting as he painted, so that “the power and otherworldly beauty of these healing and uplifting icaros [songs] is embedded in the actual physical piece of art,” Charing says, Amaringo’s global renown rose steadily after the 1991 publication of Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman, a book of Amaringo’s art made in collaboration with anthropologist Luis Luna. While his art brought him around the world, Pucallpa was always his home, and was where Amaringo passed away in 2009 after a brief illness.

visionary ayahuasca painting by Pablo Amaringo
Vuelan Versucum as featured in “The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo” by Howard G. Charing and Peter Cloudsley

His spirit, however, lives on. His work, which inspired an entire school of art, can now be seen on yoga mats, coffee mugs, and iPhone cases sold online through Fine Art America. (The proceeds go back to his estate to help preserve his legacy.) Now selling for upwards of $50,000 per piece, his paintings were also featured in a 2019 Kenzo fashion show in Paris—appearing in such unlikely places to help more people recall the revelatory ideas that we in fact already know.

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“We have a vision and go into another world, and so often we deny and forget it,” Cloudsley says. “Looking at Pablo’s paintings, it helps you remember.”

*This article was originally published in DoubleBlind Issue 4.

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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