When Blood Runs Cold - Dr Rev

Published: 22 June, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 200, June, 2011

“This guy – Dr Rev – he paints in his own blood...” It sounds somewhat basic and if you’re not au fait with his work, you’ll conjure up all kinds of nonsense about what it may look like. Rather fortunate then, that in the biggest ever issue of Skin Deep, we bring you the biggest ever Dr Rev feature so you can see for yourselves

It was Craigy Lee who first brought Dr Rev to my attention. Word came back through the wires that there was a rather brilliant tattoo artist throwing some great shapes at the big Aussie conventions this year. As it happens, Craigy had taken enough photographs of the event that it was possible to see exactly what was going on as opposed to making things up in my own head – and it looked like nothing I had ever seen before. 

Dr Rev Meyers (aka Dr Rev Bloodpainter) likes to describe himself – when pushed – as a ‘realism specialist’ who translates images and emotion from daily life into works of art using nothing but his own blood. As usual, words are not quite enough to sum up exactly what is going on here. I hunted him down and found a man so thoroughly entrenched in his art, that it was quite humbling.

Back when I was a kid and I first got into Kiss (in about 1978), they put out a comic book; the first run had blood taken that was tipped into the inks for printing, but that was then (and looking back, it all seems very innocent). How exactly did you get the concept on your radar – in a similar way?

“No, it was quite literally a random thought that popped up while I was taking a blood test. Up until that point, I had painted with most media, oils, acrylics, automotive paints, etc, so I literally thought: ‘I wonder if you could?’ and asked the pathologist if I could have a vial of my blood. She quickly responded ‘No!’ in no uncertain terms for safety reasons, but after sharing my silly idea, she complied and off I went with a small amount of my blood and proceeded to create what I look back on, as a very disorganised and messy painting. However it opened up something inside, because I couldn’t stop.”

The question on everybody’s lips has to be, 'what's the "technical" aspect behind painting using your own blood?' I mean, how much would you use in an average painting, and is there a scientific threshold on how much of your own blood you can draw at a time. Do you max it out as much as you can – how exactly does it work?

“Obviously there is a health impact with taking my blood; loss of energy, concentration, feeling run down, etc. They say you can safely remove one pint every 54 days on average. A man my size and body weight can lose two litres of blood before you cross the line of no return, in other words, death. Obviously, each painting varies in the amount used as does black ink in a tattoo, but to give an indication, on a 400mm x 500mm canvas, I would use between six ml and 40 ml – sometimes more. 

“I always take as much as I can and store it in my refrigerator. After so many years of continually taking blood though, my vein walls are hardening quite badly. It’s not a health problem, but it becomes more painful the more frequently we make withdrawals. Blood doesn’t handle anything like paint either, so you have to understand it has taken years and countless hours to get to the level I am. There have been a lot of failures and heart-breaking moments in my career believe me!”

Presumably, you get different tones of red on different days depending on what you’ve eaten and what the consistency is – do you have to have some kind of diet sheet that you work to in order to give your blood different consistency?

“It doesn’t matter really how I play it, in the end the paintings will all end up a similar tone, but for me, at the time of creation, I prefer older blood because it’s not so bright red. It’s still very red, but using the stuff the same day you pull it out, it is really red! It makes it difficult to judge tonal differences and contrast. Not that it’s easy any other time, but any help I can get is a bonus.

“I can’t tell you my whole dietary regime, since some are of questionable legality, but water! Lots of water, vitamins, a ton of red meat – very rare, nitric oxide and a host of body building supplements in a very high protein diet, plus a few extras I can’t tell you. I also hit the weights and train in Kung Fu, both of which help create nice new blood.”

These may seem like extreme lengths to go to but it’s all part of the package. It becomes evident very early on, that this is no flash in the pan stunt. This is the man’s whole life.

You said in a recent interview which I’ll quote here – "No gallery has ever been able to show me why they have the right to a percentage of my work. They don't do anything I can't do myself." Is there any advantage at all then in entering into such an agreement with a gallery? Maybe volume of people or that you would be able to say you exhibited there – which holds sway for some people I guess...

“It’s not good, for the consumer and I don't see what right they have to take up to 40% of my hard earned money because it’s hanging on a wall they own. If they were walking the streets with it trying to sell the painting fair enough, but they’re not.”

Are you headed anywhere in particular with your career with regards to an endgame? or, right now, is it enough to be finally getting recognition from appreciative audiences? Is there a long term plan or is the plan simply the freedom to do whatever you please, and the fact that you're able to survive off the back of it reward enough?

“World domination! Seriously, my work is spreading across the globe faster than I could ever have imagined. In March, four million viewers across Germany watched me paint on a current affairs program called Explsoiv.  They flew a crew to Queensland to film and interview me during a live painting demonstration. At the moment, I have work sold in Norway, a lot in the U.S., along with a huge fan base in Canada for some reason. Scotland, New Zealand, Germany and a few others. It’s quite surreal to know I have never left Australia, yet my blood and my art are all over the world.  

“I’m happy to create though and as long as people out there admire my work, I will never stop – it’s all about your fans, without them you are nothing. I didn’t create the Bloodpainter, they did. Thats why my new book is sold at the amount it costs to produce. It contains at least eight pages of collages, made up of photos of my fans with me or their painting, or fan art, anything. I want them to know I never forget. So until they no longer want me or my work, I will get bigger and better.”

Given that the actual facts of what goes on when you paint differs vastly from how the public and relevant authorities perceive it, how does he make working in public a reality? 

“Yeah, a lot of what you see is a gimmick. I play on the bio-hazard thing a lot. My blood can’t hurt you at all, but all the signs and tape look good and freak people out! Logan was the only one where I needed to be ‘contained’, hence the 'Hannibal Lecter' cage they built for me. I was in the centre of an art gallery, so we needed to contain any possible over spray or secondary transfer. In fact, after a lot of hard work, my practices in a public environment are safer than that of a tattoo artist at a convention. 

“To begin, I’m using dead blood onto a canvas – a non living surface.  A tattooist, working on people less than one metre from a crowd of onlookers; breathing, talking, coughing and sneezing while a skin penetration procedure is in place is bad enough. But then that client gets up wrapped in plastic and wanders around the show with plasma and platelets dribbling out from under the covering. So how is that safe? My bodily fluids are dead, and that was verified by the state health department.”

As we can all see here – the Doc’s art is right up there with the best. Painting in red – all the time? Do you ever get up in the morning and think 'fuck it, I'm just going to paint in oil today' because you feel like using some other colour and keep your hand in and to push yourself forwards in that way?

“Rarely, but to be honest, I do miss color sometimes, but that's like asking Bob Tyrell if he wakes up and wants to tattoo a color portrait. I do what I do because I love it. Its an incredible feeling and it makes me feel alive.”

With the recent publicity coming the Doc’s way, surely it’s only a matter of time before others begin to dabble. Is there any competition out there? Anybody else trying to steal your thunder or are they just different? 

“Funny you should ask that. There’s an artist in L.A. named Axel. Full credit, I found out he was doing this before me, but his work is nothing like mine. Then there’s that wanker pete doherty – don’t use uppercase for his name, he’s not worth it, in my opinion – and from what I understand – he’s a junkie that needed money. Have you seen this guys so called ‘work’? What a joke. This clown put up a youtube video signing sheets of paper with a blood filled syringe. I despise anyone who advocates the use of drugs in any way. You want to use a 'junkie needle' to sign your name for what fans you actually have? Pathetic.

“There’s also a guy in the U.S and I apologise mate, but I cant remember your name, but he is really good; but I would never have known it was blood he works with – his work reminds me of old medical sketches. Aside from that, there it a host of idiots trying to jump on the band wagon. You have no idea how many people actually contact me and ask how I do it because they want to try. Are you kidding me? Sure and being as you’re asking, have my bank account details. Stupidity should be painful. I’m all for supporting artists, but I hate people who continually rip off other people’s work. It’s just not cool. You want to paint in blood, go for it, but do it because it has a deeper meaning not because you want to run off and show everyone thinking you’re cool because you're not.”

I can imagine that magazines like us and our ilk the whole world over are right behind you. But are critics/galleries/collectors outside of ‘our world’ accepting of it – or even coming round to it?

“Yes – in fact, during the past two weeks, I’ve done three interviews with art publications. First one was Jason Nickens from Stamp magazine online, he really helped. It’s taken a while, but the more magazines that run with it, it becomes harder to ignore. I’m kinda hoping other publications from your end of the world want to know more, simply because you are so far away! I also have a gallery coming up in July so that will have some serious press coverage – it’s also the launch party for my book.”

Bloodline - The Book 

The Doc also has a new book available. Called Bloodline, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of this limited run pretty soon – the last book he released sold out in 10 hours. You can buy a copy of it here: www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2211102 – where you can also get a cool preview of what’s in store.

Win An Exclusive Dr Rev Print!

We have ten numbered copies of this exclusive print to giveaway – it’s called “Clarity” and is a self portrait (if you get yourself a copy of the book Bloodline, the story behind the print will be clear). In keeping with our simple competitions of late, all you have to do is send an email into editor@skindeep.co.uk with the subject line TYPE O NEGATIVE and we’ll draw ten blood spattered winners at random.



Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Dr Rev