Thursday, 25 June 2015

In Defence of Pink

Think of pink, and immediately I get a smile on my face. Childhood memories of fun fair candy floss, my best friend at school who always wore pink, my dad's garden full of scented pink roses, strawberry ice cream, pink iced buns, warm and soft wriggly piglets. Pink is an evocative colour that many openly snub as 'girly' and sugary sweet, but secretly love for all the same reasons I do. A bit like saying, 'I'm an Essex girl and proud', I'm happy to say I like pink.

Painting pink is something of challenge though, with the myriad of shades and tones proving particularly tricky and can all too easily turn garish and false. I mean, where do you start? There's Cerise and Fuchsia, magenta, rose, bubblegum, salmon, baby, and a whole load more. With so many shades and tones to choose from, what's not to love? You've got to have a go.

Simple, but oh so pretty
Rosa 'Sweet Haze'
Loved by bees and me! 

Echinacea and Sedum

Painting a pink Dahlia

But there's more to it of course, so here's a bit of a history lesson.

In colour psychology and throughout history, the colour pink is representative of unconditional love and nurturing, showing tenderness and kindness. Hence it's popularity as a feminine colour and associated with baby girls. Or so you would think. For centuries though, it would seem that all European children were dressed in blue, because the colour was associated with the Virgin Mary and many European cultures valued this association. 

The use of pink and blue emerged quite late, at the turn of the 20th century, the rule being pink for boys, blue for girls. Since pink was a stronger colour it was best suited for boys; blue on the other hand was more delicate and dainty and best for girls. And in 1921, the Women's Institute for Domestic Science in Pennsylvania endorsed pink for boys, blue for girls. And who would dare argue with the WI?

Well, how about a compromise?

Let's just all like purple.
Not one for wearing pink too much, and not one for wearing blue too much, I go for purple.

Contemporary colour symbolism would also appear to confirm these associations. Blue is considered a calm, passive colour, hence feminine. Red (pink derived from red) is considered active and robust, hence masculine. Think how warm colours come forward and cooler colours recede in paintings. Red often represents anger and aggression, but also romance, whereas blue is cool and serene. Would the Red Room in Fifty Shades of Grey have quite the same impact if it had been a rather nice shade of blue? Hmm.   

One for the boys?

My favourite pinks from the garden, from projects and from days out and about.

The idea of associating blue with male babies may stem back to ancient times when having a boy was good luck. Blue, the colour of the sky where the gods and fates lived, held powers to ward off evil, so baby boys where dressed in blue. In Greece a blue eye is still thought to have powers to ward off evil, so you often see them on the bows of ships. The idea of pink for girls might come from the European legend that baby girls were born inside delicate pink roses.

Pink and blue, it's up to you.

A detail from, 'The Green Belt'

'The Green Belt'

This one featured a one of my favourite blue flowers.
Cranesbill flowers have a clear, bright almost Cobalt colour on the petals that fade as they age.

Adding the shadows of stamens on a Dog Rose

Petals painted with Permanent Rose with a touch of Lemon Yellow
Shadows mixed using the pink mix with a touch of blue to make a lilac.

Not too cool though, as the petals on the rose were quite warm. 

Picking out the stamens on a bramble blossom

Bramble blossoms painted using Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow and a touch of Indanthrene Blue.

By using cool colours in varying quantities, the pales pink blooms didn't go too pink.

In English, the word "pink" could be derived from the Dutch flower Pinken, (see below) dating back to 1681. The flower's name could have originally been "pink eye" or "small eye." Another possibility is the verb "to pink" - to prick or cut around the edges, as with pinking shears. The jagged petals of the flower looked as though they had been cut, thus explaining why it became known as the "pink." (Jean Heifetz, 'When Blue Meant Yellow') The family of Dianthus flowers are also known as 'Pinks', and have the same jaggedy edge to their petals. Although, the word could have an even earlier use, the verb "to pink" actually dates from the 14th century and means "to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern" (possibly again from the German term pinken, "to peck") Well, now you know.

Finally, going as far back to the realm of ancient Egypt, the flamingo was the hieroglyph for the colour red. That's simple.

Lily bud and mixes.

Alongside, is a pale lilac freesia that recedes against the warmer pink of the lily.

Open lily flower and mixes.

Permanent Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, Perylene Maroon and even some Opera Rose came into play here

Another pjnk chart with some photo references

Pinks from around the garden used as a collage to assist with colour mixing

A Cosmos petal, flower and bud

My very first attempt at a pink flower

Busy Lizzie 

Roman poets also described the colour pink in their work. Roseus is the Latin word meaning 'rosy' or 'pink'. Lucretius used the word to describe the dawn in his epic poem. 'On the nature of Things' (de rerum natura).

"Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered dawn appeared..."

from 'The Odyssey' by Homer 800BCE

Pink was not a common colour in the fashion of the Middle Ages. Nobles usually preferred brighter reds, such as crimson, possible to enforce a sense of strength and power. However, it did appear in women's fashion, and in religious art. In the 13th and 14th century, in works by Cimabue and Duccio, the Christ child was sometimes portrayed dressed in pink, the colour associated with the body of Christ.
In the high Renaissance painting the Madonna of the Pinks by Raphael, the Christ child is presenting a pink flower to the Virgin Mary. The pink was a symbol of marriage, showing a spiritual marriage between the mother and child

'Madonna of the Pinks'
by Raphael

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The party for the defence rest their case.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very interesting post. It will make me think when I next use any of my pinks.