Friday, 27 February 2015

"Blut ist ein ganz besonderer Saft"

- "Blood is a very special juice" - Mephisto, in Goethe's Faust.

And this is a very special post. I've considered blogging about this for a long time, only I felt so unsure about writing these things in public.
But my blog, my rules! And my art!

I know though that this is a topic some people will not be comfortable reading about. That's why I put a little warning here, and the rest of the post, including all the pictures, under a cut. 

This is about painting with blood. No creature came to any harm for me to come by the blood I used in these paintings. It's my very own. My period blood.

If you are grossed out now, then you can just hop over this post. However, if you've become curious,  click "Read More" below. (Note: if you came here by using a direct link to this article, you will already see it in full view, without cut. The cut might not work on your phone, either.)

So first of all - I'm proud of you curious soul for reading on! ;) You're probably wondering -

How come I started using my own blood for my paintings? Why would I paint with blood? Period blood!?

- Why not! :)

Let me explain and show you some of my favourite pictures so far.

Last year I read an article about menstrual cups by the online magazine Sugarbox (in German though). I had already been using one for a while and had grown to love it. I would never want to go back to conventional products. <3 (Here's the Wikipedia article if you'd like to read on about menstrual cups.)
Listing the numerous advantages you get from using a cup, they also mentioned something I hadn't thought about yet; that you could use the collected blood to create art. To create art? Hmm..
The more I thought about this idea, the more I liked it!!

While tampons and napkins soak up the blood and are to be thrown away, the cup collects the blood, and you need to put it out about twice a day and empty it. So one night I poured the blood into a painting cup instead of into the toilet.. and just started trying it out on a rough pencil sketch, using a normal paint brush. This painting was the result, it's from summer 2014:


My periods tend to be very, very painful, which is why I've always dreaded that time of the month. The painting is kind of pretentious, but I tried to create an image of how I feel when the cramps are hitting...I usually just curl up into a ball and try not to cry. I painted it just while being in pain, and it helped me focus on something else than my uterus going berserk.

Since I started using my blood to paint, my dreading actually turned into anticipation. I really enjoy painting with blood. It feels special. It feels like I don't undergo all that pain for nothing, but to get this really special and unique paint. I don't let a tampon soak up the blood and then I throw it away. I collect it, and turn it into art! 

I turn my pain into paintings!

You can use some water to get a lighter shade. Or layers to receive darker shades. Just as you would do with watercolours. One of the next things I did was this calligraphy-esque tree.


And during the next periods I then started to mix watercolours and blood. I did the watercolour layers first, and always added the blood in the end.


Something else I like about blood as paint is that it's kind of uncontrollable. It can have different consistencies of course, from a rather thin and liquid to a more viscous kind. It can have different shades of colours. And the colour will faint. All these pictures here were scanned the next day, and by now the once vibrant reds on the originals have changed to sepia-shades. If you would like to try painting with blood yourself, I recommend that you try out different things! I noticed that my blood always has the same, rather thin consistency, and it doesn't change that much over the days - unfortunately, because I had hoped to experiment more with different consistencies. But maybe yours does!


"But... doesn't it smell?"
No. If it's all fresh I might catch a very faint sniff of.. well, the typical metallic blood odour. Otherwise I don't smell anything at all. Since the cup stays in place around the cervix by creating a vacuum, the blood doesn't get in touch with oxygen, and so it won't smell like a bloody tampon or sanitary towel does when you put it out (another reason to love the cup!). As an experiment I even put a jar of blood (with a lid) in the fridge for some days, and when I took it out to paint, I noticed no difference in either smell or consistency at all. But again, that's my blood. I guess everyone's a little different.


"Isn't it kind of unhygienic?"
Adding the blood is always the last step in creating my paintings, so it doesn't get into my watercolour pans - meaning I don't directly mix it with watercolours. And also because I think it's more interesting to work with pure blood. In the beginning I used separated brushes for blood, but I don't do that anymore. I always wash my brushes very carefully after use anyway, no matter what kind of paint I used. I am the only one handling the originals; they are not to give away or for sale. I always clean the scanner after I scanned blood paintings, and everything else that came to be in touch with it. Simply because I am a cleanly person. And yes, I am all healthy.  

But I think that we in general are way too squeamish handling period blood. There is nothing icky about it. It's what the period supplies industry tries to make you believe, so you'll buy their scented napkins and the like. That when you're on your period, you smell and you're yucky... You don't. You're not. It's just blood. 

So why not use it to create something instead of flushing it down the toilet? Could a picture become any more personal than being painted with your very own blood?


 
I've noticed that it hurts less when I get my period now. I can't really tell if it's the cup itself (some women report that using the cup decreased the pain level for them), or my changed mindset that makes a difference. Sometimes I still have pretty bad cramps, but I feel like it's more durable. Either  way I am very glad I discovered this way to paint. I hope this was interesting for you to read, and that I covered all the important points. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

And there's more to come. Every month. ;)

/Katrin


8 comments:

  1. I knew the pictures and facts from our discussions, but that's a brave and interesting post! Turning period blood from something "dirty" or "shameful" to a medium of self expression seems empowering. I guess self-images of women (and men) have changed (or broadened) a lot in the past decades, but the modern period discourse still appears to circle around negative attributes like uncleanliness, smell and the like, just as you described. I could very well imagine your post as a guest article in some kind of feminist/culture periodical (yeah, sorry).

    I am curious to see how this special kind of self expression might evolve! Also I'd be interested in some comparisons on how the paintings change physical properties over time. As a side note, please don't call your own work things like "pretentious", it's always easy enough to find people to do the devaluations for you. ;)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! It does feel empowering. I also really agree with your thoughts on hygiene. As I stated above, I consider myself a very cleanly person. I have to have my daily shower! But that's why I figured that there is so cosmetical much stuff I don't actually need. I'm not really sweating for example, so washing myself every evening anyway, why use a deodorant? I felt reluctant to write all this on a public blog though because we still live with those conventions. When I thought about buying a menstrual cup I read a lot of articles, and there were so many women that were writing comments about how disgusting it is to get in touch with your blood like that when taking the cup out to empty it etc...
      Don't say sorry, I take that as a compliment!!

      And that's true.. thanks. :) Yeah, I already though about taking photos of the paintings as they look now and make a comparison post!

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  2. Wow. What an idea! I love it.
    And I agree with everything Sebastien wrote... wish I could add anything really :)

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