Did you ever glance out the window as the world outside turns pink? It's one of my absolutely favorite atmospheric moments and I always want to paint it immediately, even though I know it will disappear within minutes! Recently my good friend, early-riser Ed Steber of Mocanaqua, emailed me a photo he took from his front yard along the Susquehanna River. Everything was bathed in pink light, including the snow. Since I had already begun to write this article about the color pink, I immediately requested permission to paint the scene from Ed’s photo, complete with ice flows in the river foreground and Steber Peak in the background!
Did you know ”pink” has more symbolic meanings than any other color? Pink can symbolize tenderness, timidity, and affection. It's considered a sensitive color, suggesting sweetness and femininity. Pink is a childhood color—cheerful, innocent, and nostalgic. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can visualize the pink wallpaper that decorated my childhood bedroom walls InSide the Back Mountain. Some people say little girls' giggles are pink!
Because Mom sewed most of our clothes during my childhood, she used pinking shears to make a serrated, sawtooth edge on cut cloth to discourage fraying threads. They had to be kept sharp and clean, so I was never allowed to use them for my paper cutting and gluing projects! I always wondered why they were called pinking shears, and just recently I learned the earliest explanation for the term “pinked” was coined by a Greek botanist for the saw-toothed edges of pink carnations! Of course, like all good historical stories, I also found two other explanations. But I am sticking to the carnation explanation since, as an artist, I love to paint flowers, and I love pink carnations!
I am unendingly fascinated by the myriad of the shades of pinks in nature. The azaleas in my yard InSide the Back Mountain come May, are a veritable encyclopedia of pinks. While the color pink can range in what is termed “color temperature,” pinks tending toward peach and creams are labeled “warm” pinks while those leaning toward mauves are considered “cool.” From flowers and seashells to skies and skin tones, pinks abound in literally thousands of tints, shades, and tonal values. When I painted the pink sunset over Harveys Lake, I was fascinated by the cool pinks, tending toward mauve. The renowned British painter and colorist James McNeil Whistler once said, “Mauve? Mauve is just pink trying to be purple!”
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the color pink suggests love and romance, since it combines the passion and energy of red and the purity of white. That is how we artists make pink: either by mixing red and white paint, or, in watercolor, by thinning the red pigments until the white paper shines through, creating a vision of pink! Yet there are pigments which are really “pink.” Most pink dyes and pigments come from the cochineal beetle, an insect from South America, although many pink pigments are now produced synthetically. Sometimes I wonder what colors chemists could concoct from Pennsylvania ticks, but I digress.
A nurturing color, pink suggests youth, good health, playfulness, and even springtime. We refer to feeling “tickled pink,” and being “in the pink” when speaking of happiness and good health.
Pink is also a calming color. For many years, I read where it was used to paint the walls of rooms and hallways in hospitals and prisons, yet more recent studies suggest that those pink walls actually have not had any real effect on anxiety or aggression. So those sports teams who painted the locker rooms for the opposing teams in shades of pink, I guess, have been fashionable but disappointed!
When considering historical fashion colors, in the mid 1700s, pink was considered fashionable for aristocrats, both male and female. By the 1800s, boys wore pink and girls often wore blue, but fashion is always changing! After the First World War, blue became associated with military uniforms and masculinity while pink became known as its feminine contrast. After World War II, women in the workforce were termed “pink collar workers.” Does anyone else InSide theBack Mountain remember that Mamie Eisenhower loved pink and used it to decorate throughout the White House? And do you remember Elvis Presley’s 1955 pink cadillac? Now, that was an automobile! In fact, Elvis owned three pink cadillacs! He and Bruce Springsteen made pink cadillacs so famous that September 1 is recognized as Pink Cadillac Day. Mark your calendars now! As Miley Cyrus declared, “Pink isn’t just a color, it's an attitude!” Let’s make today PINK!
This article originally appeared in the February 2023 publication of InSide the Back Mountain.