Desiree Malessa

Drawn by Blood

Artist John Franzen creates drawings with his own blood

It flows throughout our bodies and some of us faint when we see a drop of it. The fluid that is most closely associated with life and death.  

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Drawn by Blood - http://www.johnfranzen.com/drawn-by-blood.html Credits: John Franzen

Maastricht-based German artist John Franzen uses his own blood as an alternative to synthetic ink for his drawing collection “Each Line One Breath – Drawn by Blood”. While a lot of artists already use blood in contemporary art, often to shocking effect, Franzen tries to avoid horrifying the viewer, with his calm, minimalist blood drawings.

I watched one of Franzen’s art performances, to get a better understanding of how and why he draws with his own vital fluid. I did not know what to expect, but was prepared for confrontation, a level of emotional intensity and to possibly feel disgust. However, when I entered the Galerie space and waited for the performance to begin, the atmosphere was calm, even meditative.

Each of Franzens drawings start with one straight line, drawn in one breath with his own blood. A nurse helps the artist to take his blood beforehand, which is then combined with anticoagulant, producing the unique ink for his drawings.

The outcome is hypnotizing: Franzen's fine lines are drawn freehand and slowly layer to produce organic curves and waves. In a conversation with the artist, he explains why he uses his own blood in his drawings. Throughout his drawing process his blood ink changes organically its color palette from a dark red to light orange into darker golden-brown tones. With the color changing characteristic of blood he wants to show the transition from life to death. 

Click here to see the making-of video of “Each Line One Breath – Drawn by Blood" by John Franzen.