As much as I like to let my art do the talking I’m a big believer in titling my paintings. After all, that’s my baby going out the door! Maybe it’s my marketing background talking, but I know for a fact that word association goes a long way in making creative work memorable. For that reason I like to come up with short, lighthearted and sometimes thought provoking names for my artwork. In this post I’ll share a few of my favorite painting name combos and what in the piece inspired me to title them as I did. You’ve undoubtedly seen your share of ‘Untitled’ art as well, so I’ll touch on that too.
WHAT’S WITH UNTITLED ARTWORK?
In many contemporary museums and galleries you will come across works of art with the curious ‘Untitled’ next to them. Conventional wisdom tells us this practice is utilized when the artist who produced the work has chosen not to name it and implicitly prefers that the painting speak for itself. Yet I suspect few pause to register how a label like that makes us feel. Was this piece not as important as some of the artists other work? Did the artist not want to share what he/she had in mind? Was the artist just done with the painting? So many questions left unanswered!
I feel if we like a piece of artwork enough to search for the title next to the painting, only to find its negation, it leaves most people hanging. As an artist and art appreciator I’m going to see in a painting what I see anyway. A title either reinforces what the artist intend or it gives us something else to think about. I can’t think of a time when I’ve come back from a museum or gallery and gone into detail describing my favorite piece…’Untitled’. Fine art deserves better than that! For those reasons I’m a big fan of always naming my work.
MESSAGE BEHIND THE WORDS
I don’t necessarily use quotes or song titles as naming inspiration; but occasionally, after I’ve named a piece, I find it fits perfectly with a quote that is out there like this one by Elton John: “There is a time for everyone, if only they learn, that the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.” The message I am conveying in the acrylic painting I’ve titled “Kaleidoscape” (pictured at the top of this post) fits perfectly with my hope that people come back with fresh eyes every time they view it and see new color and pattern coming into focus. The idea is that the world as a whole is beautiful and each of us, as our own expressive selves, have our moments …to shine and be the focus, but must remember we are all part of the same landscape.
You might have noticed “Kaleidoscape” is not spelled correctly. That is not a typo but intentional play on words. My years of advertising art direction, specifically logo design, have made it second nature for me to look for word associations and have fun with creating plays on words. I’ve named this abstract acrylic painting with the intentional merging of the words KALEIDOscope and landSCAPE to note the ever changing color detail and the movement through a visual space or landscape.
MAKING A CONNECTION
I’ve had the names of paintings seal the deal for some of my collectors. In one case, I had an art opening and reception at iWerx, an Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Development Center. In talking with one of the guests she told me which painting was her favorite. She said, “I’m not sure why I like it so much, I just love it though.” I told her that the painting was named, “As The Crow Flies” and she stopped in her tracks. She said, “That’s it! I see the crows, but didn’t realize that’s what you meant for them to be. My husband and I collect crows. In fact, he has a crow tattoo because it symbolically means so much to him.” She told me, “Now I might have to take the painting home!,” and went to look at it again. She called two days after the artists reception and purchased the piece for her husband.
MAKE A STATEMENT
In a painting recently sold at Strecker Nelson West Gallery in Manhattan, KS, I had a statement to make. The abstract acrylic painting titled “Many Ways To Get There” was created when the news was full of people taking hard line stances on what they think they know is right…which in turn puts anyone who thinks differently in the wrong, in their minds. This pervasive “my way or the highway” mentally inspired me to paint a counter to that attitude. In particular, my contemplation for “Many Ways To Get There” was regarding topics of religion and politics. I felt the need to colorfully express various styles of pathways all running horizontally across the canvas. Each path taking on different colors, shapes and styles. The red meandering boardwalk, the sharp determined blue lines with extreme highs and lows, and the soft airy gold wisps floating in the background. All moving in divergent ways with different styles but arriving happily to the same place with their own approach.
Coming up with names for my artwork is a creative challenge that I eagerly accept. There are those serendipitous moments however when the painting tells you what it needs to be called. I love it when that happens! Take a moment and hover your cursor over the paintings in my portfolio to see the different titles.
Let me know what your favorite name and painting combo is in a comment below!