Artists, do you ever struggle generating a painting title? Or non-artists, do you wonder about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of a painting title?
The act of creating a title for one of my paintings can range from quite easy to a real pain. Also, I can never predict which painting – while I am painting it – will be forth coming with its moniker and which one will be a nemesis. Coming up with a title is like a ping pong game between me and the painting and I enjoy it.
Before I get into my titling process, I do want to state that I believe that every painting deserves a moniker, otherwise the painting becomes lost and it exists without sense of identity. I know that there are painters who do not agree. Some find the process difficult and others just out right avoid it. They cop-out and assign titles, such as: “Untitled,” “Blue Series II,” or “Aspen #103.” These inane titles do not contribute to a painting’s vision and/or message. I find it odd that we artists can get away with this. Have you ever seen a book without a title or a movie or a song?
Generating a title for one of my paintings is part of my artistic process. Providing a title is also another way of connecting with the viewer. People often comment on my titles saying that they enjoy them and find them clever. Others like that they facilitate contemplation and more understanding of my visual intent. I love this.
I have found it interesting how words just pop into my head while I am painting. It is random and not forced. Sometimes I document the words. However, most of the time I just let them ruminate and percolate as the painting develops. I like how the words ebb and flow within my brain waves. It is also fascinating, as I have been doing this for over 25 years, how some titles (e.g. words), just won’t let go of the painting. This happened with a recent painting. The words, “Seeker,” “seeking,” and “The Seeker,” would not budge. I tried other titles/words, but I finally flew up the white flag and let it take hold.
Then there are other paintings where I have way too many painting title ideas and I ask for assistance. Often my husband provides something clever, as he likes to play with words. He came up with the title for “Bone Appetit!”
Other times I have sought assistance from my Facebook friends. I enjoy asking for their input, because it is always interesting to hear their interpretations and how they connect words with an image. The below painting, “Pickin’ the Pedicles,” is a good example of having lots of ideas for a painting and asking for help.
These are the words that had been floating in my head: “Playing the Cord,” “Strumming for Health,” and “Chords of Color.” (I am sure you could come up with even more titles.) The ultimate title came from a contest I ran on Facebook and I loved its final version. By the way, ‘pedicles’ are the parts of the bone that stick out from our vertebrae — those lever looking shapes you see in this painting. Generally only chiropractors and other medical professionals know what these are. The title usually stimulates a viewer to ask, “What is a pedicle?” which I like because it facilitates a conversation.
My objective with my titles is to add more flavor to my visual story. They are rarely obvious. For example, I try to avoid titles such as “Along the South Platte River,” or “Juicy Apple.” For one reason, those titles are too easy and they do not add to the visual experience. I like to have some fun with the words. Sometimes the painting title is play on words and often the words are there to inspire more reflection or questions about the painting.
When I get stuck, I do also go to my trusty Roget’s International Thesaurus for help. It’s a great resource. Always, I reflect upon the ‘why’ of my painting. In other words, answering “Why did I paint this image and what am I trying to say?” leads me to the final painting title.
As I prepare for my upcoming two-person show “Beyond the Surface,” I am looking forward to hearing peoples’ reactions to not only my paintings, but also to my painting titles. Connecting the visual with language is important.
To peruse other titles in this series of paintings, you are invited to visit my portfolio.
What is your painting title process? Is it easy or it something you don’t like to do? I would love to know if you enjoy applying words to your paintings.
Please share this post with those who may be interested.