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Blood Water Paint


Blood Water Paint

Before reading Joy McCullough’s BLOOD WATER PAINT, I did not know about the story of the amazing Artemisia Gentileschi. Now that I have read it, I am so glad I know her story.

BLOOD WATER PAINT is incredibly hard hitting, gut punching and heartbreaking. I say this partly because the author did such a fantastic job at capturing the pain through verse, and partly because the story is true. Reading about a young female painter with such immense talent who got no credit for her work because of how little women were valued during her time is hard. Hard, but important.

In addition to spotlighting the sexism and the dehumanization of women in society, BLOOD WATER PAINT tackles the extremely tough subject of rape, especially in the 1600s. Real court records were masterfully turned into a verse-style narrative to tell the story of Artemisia’s trial against her attacker, who was a respected artist hired by her own father. There were several times I had to set the book down and take a breath because of how hard it hit me.

"BLOOD WATER PAINT is incredibly hard hitting, gut punching and heartbreaking….McCullough made an excellent decision in writing this story in verse, because the message was delivered with impact."

I feel that Joy McCullough made an excellent decision in writing this story in verse, because the message was delivered with impact. One reason BLOOD WATER PAINT was so hard to read and yet so amazing at the same time is because while the treatment of women was worse in Artemisia’s time, I definitely saw parallels to the present day. For example, the way women are seen as worth less than before after they have lost their virginity --- even if it was not consensual. It is so incredibly important that things like this are called out and discussed in media that we consume, because this is how changes are made.


I truly have only praise for Joy McCullough and BLOOD WATER PAINT. It broke my heart on every page, and made me wish I could go back in time to tell Artemisia how brave and talented she is. I loved that the book was written in prose, but I also loved that there were interspersed chapters where Artemisia recounts stories her mother told her about women in paintings. These stories inspired Artemisia to be strong, to prove to a world of men what a woman can do. It was very hard for her to find her voice, especially because her mother had died, so the strong women she had to look up to were the women from her mother's stories. These chapters added such value to the book.

Artemisia’s father made my blood boil, and his awfulness shone through in the verse. In every line where he said or did anything diminishing her work or her value, there were lines in response pointing out everything wrong with his words, and I loved that. This book is just so important, especially because things like this are often left out of history books. I would highly recommend BLOOD WATER PAINT to anyone looking for an inspiration story about the strength of women.

Reviewed by Jessi H., Teen Board Member on March 27, 2018

Blood Water Paint
by Joy McCullough