12 April 2014

Pretty is as pretty does

Still thinking of making "something pretty" ... and wondering what "pretty" actually is. OK, it might be epitomised by pastel butterflies ... but those aren't what I have in mind ...

Going round my flat looking for pretty things, I found these patterns on bowls, quilty items, Persephone bookmarks -
Birds fit easily into my prettiness comfort zone. Colours ranging from the pastel to the strong but somewhat muted brights. A sense of space, of lightness. Orderliness, though not necessarily in a regimented way.

A focus group of female friends identified that pretty has to do with the feminine - they mentioned pastel colours, rounded shapes, petals, small or detailed patterning.

What does the dictionary say?
pretty: adjective - (especially of a woman or child) attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful;  pleasing to the eye or ear (from the Oxford Dictionary)


adjective, pret·ti·er, pret·ti·est.
pleasing or attractive to the eye, as by delicacy or gracefulness: a pretty face.
(of things, places, etc.) pleasing to the eye, especially without grandeur.
pleasing to the ear: a pretty tune.
pleasing to the mind or aesthetic taste: He writes pretty little stories.
(often used ironically) fine; grand: This is a pretty mess!" (via)

Note in 4. the conjunction of pretty and little! The word "pretty" seems to embody a diminution - "not truly beautiful"; colours diluted to pastel; shapes safely rounded.

"Pleasing to the eye" - that's not a bad thing. All too rare, some would say!

A related exercise is to find words for not-pretty art. How about: strong; immediate; raw; overworked; vivid; chaotic; frenzied; intense; dark ...

1 comment:

Jane Housham said...

Yes, I agree. I think 'pretty' definitely has overtones of 'not scary', 'not threatening', 'not challenging'; it comes with reassurance, and nothing wrong with that -- maybe not all of the time, though.