Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Painting with Bug Blood, Week III: Blood Supply Dwindling

All that remains of my blood supply

I must have jinxed myself. Last week I wrote that I was overwhelmed with bugs, and this week they have vanished. Maybe it was the cold snap, maybe they have relocated, or maybe my neighbours started spraying. I supposed that’s good news, but I have to admit I was starting to enjoy myself. I feel idle, and I made a promise to the public I intend to honour.

Reconnaissance photo
Which has me searching for alternative blood sources. I now see the squirrel in my backyard with different eyes. In the past I saw him as a plump and incorrigible nuisance, but I have begun to think seriously about trapping him. He wouldn’t even necessarily have to die, if I could keep him in the basement and tap him as a sustainable blood supply. But he is wily, I know he is onto me and my plans. He laughs at the camera. I get a whiff of mockery every time I go to the backyard. This project could get expensive, not to mention slightly inhumane. The responsible thing is to look inward.

I was up until 3 a.m. last night, scheming. Not far from my house is the Canadian Blood Services, and I was thinking maybe I could convince them to go halvsies with me.  That seemed unlikely, and in any case I am too shy to ask. I looked in the kitchen for a solution closer to home.

1:57 am
I sat in the bathroom with the door closed for a long time. Things seemed to have gone too far awfully fast. I am prepared to suffer for my art, but not in such a way that I will have permanent scars or difficulty walking. I know I exaggerate, but I cannot overcome a basic squeamishness. I don’t menstruate and  I don’t use injection drugs, so there is no real way to get my blood short of a puncture wound. Besides, there is no way of knowing how the public would react, and I suspect it’s already been done. I put the implements back in the drawer.

Which left me with the dwindling supply of blood in my fridge. This week it has turned a disagreeable chocolate colour and stinks like fish oil. If I can’t come by fresh blood by next week, I may have to abandon the project. With a heavy heart I turned to page five of Chinese Brush and sat down to paint what might be my last composition.

2:21 am
According to Lucy Wang, “Bamboo is one of four plants in the traditional study of Chinese brush painting techniques, along with the orchid, plum blossom, and chrysanthemum. These four plants – called ‘The Four Gentlemen’ – represent the noble virtues of Chinese life, which include strength, beauty, honor, and longevity. The straight hollow bamboo stalks symbolize the Buddhist and Taoist ideals of an emptied heart and mind, cleansed of earthly desires and reflecting a modest personality.” I'll tell you about the other three later.

"Chinese Brush" by Lucy Wang, pg 5
Ms. Wang certainly set the standard high, and I quickly broke every rule of Chinese brush technique. My excuse is that blood does not behave exactly like ink, and it is difficult to get variations in darkness with a single stroke. This week I struggled with something every amateur painter surely does, the desire to “improve” on the existing picture until one arrives at a hideous mess. I suspect that after just two paintings I have lost my naive touch and am beginning to conventionally suck. Also, the painting is outright brown. Since I seem to be deviating anyway, next week I am going to go out of doors looking for inspiration. For now, here is the finished product:

Check back next week for more bug blood art!