At first glance, German artist Werner Härtl’s paintings look like stunning, sepia-toned pieces of artwork. In reality, though, they’re made with a surprising medium: Cow manure.
That’s right. Härtl paints with cow excrement as a nod to the rural heritage of the German state of Bavaria’s rural and agricultural background.
Härtl first came up with the idea to paint using this medium when he worked as a farmhand. He decided to collect a container of liquid cow dung, then took it home with him and tried painting with it on numerous surfaces: watercolor paper, canvas, metal, wood, and even plastic.
In an interview with Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Härtl revealed that once his paintings have dried, no smell lingers. However, when the “paint” is wet, it does smell “a bit funky.”
Härtl also explained his process for turning manure into paint. He catches the droppings in a canister, then dilutes it with water to create different shades. He added that just two bowel movements provide enough material for “half a year of creativity.”
One might initially assume that Härtl’s primary goal with his artwork is shock and awe. While he enjoys the humor that naturally accompanies his paintings, he also has a more serious purpose.
He told Ripley’s that he wants people to reconsider their view on the environment, including the resources they utilize and how they use them. He added that a pleasant life doesn’t have to be clean and convenient 100 percent of the time. It also requires some “dirt” and “working in sweat.”
Härtl also noted in another interview that cow dung is a sustainable material. By painting with it, he emphasizes the importance of reusing and recycling.