Naming My Soft Paintings


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Fields of Gold 2013  oil on canvas  15 x 30 inches

Lately I have been painting with a softer more subtle palette.  I’m not sure how it happened but I maybe I’m feeling soft and sensitive. I think it started after returning from a colorful trip to Colorado and Utah when I painted an abstract landscape of the mountains as a way to ease back after the break (Near Crested Butte).  Even though the colors are muted, I think the feeling of the wildflowers and the mountainside still comes through. Somehow if I had painted it with intense greens, I don’t think it would be as strong.  Next I painted Sightseeing, a big canvas that I think is bold in its subtlety!  As you can tell I am my own biggest supporter!  But if you don’t believe in what you are doing then why do it?  After that came Open Heart, which I wrote about in my Open Heart entry.

I frequently work on smaller canvases while I am doing a big one.  Rockum Sockum Romance, I started when I was painting Sightseeing.  It helps keep things loose. You can tell the two have similar colors.

If I happen to paint a painting and have an outpouring of emotion, sometimes my instinct is to name it something emotional.  But I try not to do that anymore.  What looked like a raw and vulnerable open heart to me quite literally looked like someone giving their poodle a bubble bath to someone else!  That’s one reason I love painting this way.

BTW, I love my titles.  I love naming my paintings!   I even love naming other people’s paintings!  It always amazes me that so many people don’t love naming their paintings.  I would never name my a Number or Untitled.  What is that about?  The other day someone said to me with a worried look about her painting, “Maybe I should call it Halloween” - like she was thinking oh no, it’s no good! And I said instantly, “No, not Halloween, Sunset on the Bayou!”  Because to me that’s the feeling I got!   That is one way I tell if a painting needs more work.  If a title doesn’t come to me without really thinking about it, then it may not be done.  If I get a title in my head, then I know it is done.


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Butterflies 2013 oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches


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Rockum Sockum Romance 2013 oil on canvas 16 x 7 inches


IMG_1516Sightseeing 2013 oil on canvas 48 x 48 inches


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By the Pond 2013 oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches


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Under the Sea 2013 oil on canvas 30 x 15 inches 

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Make Love Not War 2013 oil on canvas 24 x 12 inches


One thing I believe wholeheartedly is that it helps to know when to stop.  That’s a hard one.  When you paint the way I do, hopefully a painting sort of happens and you have to be willing to walk away and accept it for what it is, even if you had no idea that was what you were going to paint when you started.  Trying to tweak a painting, or “fix” it invariably destroys it.   And, so does planning it out ahead of time.  Premeditation and abstract expressionism don’t mix.  Like Larry Poons (advisor) says, “Paint the painting on the canvas, not in your head.  If you have a picture in your head then you have already painted it.”  I guess it’s all about trusting the ride. If something turns out that you weren’t planning, just go with it; it happened for a reason.   This has been the case with my new paintings.  To go back and do more on  these paintings would fundamentally change what they are and what they have to say.  Most recently, I have gone even more soft and subtle.  Even though someone might not like The Heart’s Long Trek (below) because it is just pink, white and grey, I have realized that there is more to color than just more color.  Tone and shade can be powerful tools.  And, white can be very expressive when it isn’t just used as the bottom layer or base.  I think I am good at white.  Most people seem to have a hard time with it.  They either leave the white showing through or they mix it and muddy up their colors.


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The Heart’s Long Trek 2013 oil on canvas 48 x 48 inches


originally published: October 9, 2013


© Trixie Pitts 2009