Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Woad is Me, self-portrait, by Kim Blair

Woad is Me
12x9, oil on canvas
self-portrait

Every once in a while my Scottish heritage shows up... or perhaps some distant Celtic roots.  The Celts often painted their bodies with a bluish dye derived from the woad plant, and although this portrait leans more to the purple side it does have blue tones... the complement to my orange hair.  I like to think that my warrior princess alter ego is 'captured' in this painting...

Woad is said to have antiseptic qualities, which may be one of the reason the Celts liked to paint their bodies with it before heading out to war (although some sources say the blue woad painted bodies is a myth, but certainly makes for a colorful story and perhaps frightening sight to behold on the battle field.)   Like broccoli, caulifower and rape seed it belongs to the Cruciferae family and sports fragrant neon yellow flowers that appear in May.

The blue pigment from woad was the only light-fast blue dye available in Europe from before B.C.E. until the 1600's when Indigo was introduced from Asia.  I read that there is a resurgence of growing woad and perhaps this renewed interest in the plant is fueled by research suggesting that it contains 20 times more glucobrassicin ( a compound that is said to fight breast cancer) than broccoli.


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