Don’t use pink; skies aren’t green

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dont use pink

In order to re-engage with this still-unfinished painting, I had to break two of my own rules: Don’t use pink, and skies aren’t green.

The pink rule came from messages I received in childhood, messages about femininity, the frivolity of bright colors, and not drawing needless attention to myself through embellished appearance. I questioned this rule as I felt compelled to make pink leaves. Perhaps the rule has been limiting me, not just on the canvas but in other arenas of my life. Pink is putting it out there, without apology or self-censorship. Pink is flamboyant, worldly, exuberant, even childlike. I was taught that children should be quiet, obedient, seen and not heard. Seen, that is, but not in bright colors–not in pink. As the pink leaves came in, I realized I had ideas, not just about pink but (sorry here, if you love pink) about the kinds of people who wear pink, use pink, like pink. I had to come up against these rules and judgments just to paint pink leaves, pink leaves that won’t hurt anybody or otherwise cause damage or pain. Innocent pink leaves. And you know what? I love the pink leaves, possibly more than any leaves I’ve painted. Go figure.

The other rule, skies aren’t green, came from, well, never seeing a green sky before. The actual background color is a sea-green, which depending on the light, tends towards blue, green, or gray. In Tennessee, the green trees filled the skies in domes of luminescence. “Skies aren’t green” didn’t allow me to express the feeling of green skies. When I mustered the courage to break this rule, I was glad I did.

After working on this painting for much longer than usual, I’ve begun to think that commitment to a practice may be another kind of freedom.

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