Painting Pink

Naptime 2012  oil, graphite, ground ochre on canvas 60 x 48 inches         

I really struggled - did battle almost - with this one, but I really think I prevailed!  It is hard to paint pink and not end up with a bubble bath.  

Actually, I almost felt sick yesterday when I got home because I wasn’t happy with my painting.  Early on, one of the painters in the studio where I paint (at the Art Students’ League of New York) thought it was done.  But, I didn’t feel like it was.  I could have leeft it after the first day, but not after the second. The kiss of death is when you stop when you think it looks nice.  My advisor, Larry Poons kept harping at me, “More pink Trixie, more pink”.  That was okay, I hadn’t actually seen him in a few months because he is a bit reclusive.  I was pleased to get such a strong directive.

Below I will put the stages of the painting:

After the first day, I kind of liked the soft fleshy vibe going on. I liked it at this stage.  When Larry came in, I didn’t get my canvas out of the rack until I had my whole station ready.  Nothing is worse than getting feedback and not being ready to try to make the most of it. 

Once I got it out, I heard this, “More pink Trixie, more pink,” from across the room.  I wonder what direction I might have gone if I hadn’t heard that?  Maybe I ought to go back to that point with another canvas and see.  “More pink Trixie.  Trixie, more pink”.  Okay, okay.

Here it is after my first pink-athon:

Not done yet.  It’s always difficult painting at the ASL because you have to stop when your time is up, instead of when you feel like stopping.  I much prefer to paint at my home studio space in that regard.  Unfortunately at home I don’t have other artists struggling away next to me.

Next go-round, I tried to go farther.  It may not show in the photos, but some of the pinks were so intense, I literally had to blink a few times to get some perspective. I had temporary pink blindness!  I knew I was going way out on a pink limb.

After returning to Burgundy in the late spring, the colors had changed somewhat.  Mainly, wherever there were not young vines, there were the most beautiful fields of rapeseed plants.  The color of the fields contrasted with a big often stormy sky was awesome!  Around every bend in every road there seemed to be such beauty.

During my next session I went even farther in the same vein.  Uhh - What am I doing?  Where am I going to go with this?   This is when it got looking to busy, or too choppy - too many little things.  Just try not to think about it and just paint, I told myself.

It sounds so easy, but it is not!  

Dear God, I absolutely hated my painting when I looked at my photos at that point!   (Above.) I felt sick.  It is such a horrible feeling!  Especially when the canvas is not at home, within your reach at the moment, it is excruciating.  I hate to sound melodramatic, but last night, I couldn’t sleep.  After all, I had really challenged myself.  I had come off a very successful painting where I went for broke and it worked, and I didn’t feel I had yet gone for broke.  But what to do?  I sort of knew - I had to just give it up - let it go  - see what happens.  And, that is what I did.

To me, the actual painting part is quick.  It needs to be to keep ahead of my thoughts.  Thoughts get in the way. By the time I get my canvas out, and actually start painting, I have usually performed a sort of ritual.  It focuses me. I took a course in Sumi-e Japanese ink-painting years ago that was more of a blessing than I realized at the time.  Sumi-e is all about the ritual of getting out your ink stone, dropping some water drops on it, mixing it while all the while looking at your blank painting surface.  The actual painting is quick.  

That’s how I paint.  I get out my palette, squeeze out the paint I need, line up my paint sticks, my charcoal, and my graphite.  I get out my paint thinner jars, skim off the reusable part, savor the pigment dregs at the bottom that I love to reutilize.  I get out my headphones, pick my tune, which lately has been almost exclusively the Sierre Leone Refuge All-Stars (fabulous).  Then, at some point, I get to it.  I don’t hesitate and try not to be wishy-washy and just go with my vibe.  As Bob Ross said, “There are no mistakes, just happy accidents!”  I love happy accidents.  They are blessings.  Often, if I don’t get any happy accidents, I’m not  in the best zone.

When I was learning how to play tennis in Hong Kong years ago, there was a Chinese saying that we would say right before serving, “Gau Cho Ah,” which roughly translated is, “What the hell!  If you don’t totally go for it, whether it is a tennis serve or a painting, if you play it safe, then you lose.

Finally I feel satisfied.  What a relief.  I guess in this kind of painting it is a good thing to reach a point where you feel relief!  Now I love the painting, after wrestling with it so hard.

Naptime 2013  oil, graphite, ground ochre on canvas 60 x 48 inches

originally published: October 3, 2012                    

© Trixie Pitts 2009