Saturday, October 08, 2016

Creating titles for paintings

 Scarlet River
30" x 40" oil on canvas

Finding a title for a painting can go one of two ways.

1.  The title flows, almost intuitively and fits the painting.
It can be an idea that's been floating around in my head for awhile or an emotional connection to something that the painting represents that will provide the title for the piece.  Sometimes its even a song that I'm listening to while painting the piece as was the case in this one. "Sitting in the Morning Sun" was inspired by the Otis Redding song "(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay".

Sitting in the Morning Sun    12" x 12"  oil on canvas - SOLD

2.  The painting resists being titled as if its life depended on remaining anonymous.
So what do I do in this case? I start analyzing elements of the painting that can trigger reaction in a viewer.  It may be colour, or location.  Sometimes the most obvious and the simplest things become part of the title.

If that doesn't work, I start doing some research on other paintings with similar subjects to see what their titles are.  Its amazing how many paintings of a subject have the same name.

Sea Breeze
24" x 24"  oil on panel, custom framed

My final trump card is the thesaurus.  I put in words that reflect aspects of the painting then see what results come up.  Its quite a good way of looking at alternate wording or may trigger other thoughts about the piece.

Throwing a piece out for public input on titles can provide results that can be worked with, but as the public don't have the same connection and insight to how the painting was created and what inspired it, suggestions may be based on common visuals only.  i.e.  black dog, red boat, etc.  And while these can be good titles, try doing an online search of "black dog paintings" and see how many have the same name.

Creating a title that is meaningful to the artist and the viewer can be a challenge.  Leaving a title as a number is a final resort but makes cataloguing very difficult for the artist, gallery and doesn't provide information that inspires viewers or helps them create their own story about the painting.

4 comments:

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

I am horrible at thinking of names for work, if I really can't think of anything, as a last resort I use the latin name of the subject matter lol

Jeanette Jobson said...

Good idea! Might be a bit difficult with boats lol

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

looked it up, there are actually a few different latin words for boat, depending on the type of boat :)

Jeanette Jobson said...

Interesting. I'll have to investigate further.