Oct 23, 2012

Artists Struggle With Titles

I recently read a forum post about an artist's frustration with naming artwork. I can relate. I struggle with titles too. But, as difficult as they are to come up with sometimes, we can't neglect this important step in creating and sharing our artwork. Titles can really make a huge difference for our art. Art doesn't always speak for itself. That doesn't mean it's bad or complicated. It just means viewers need to be pointed in the right direction. A title can evoke an emotional response to a painting that the viewer might not otherwise notice without this prompting. The title can give them so much more information about the story behind the painting, or what the artist was experiencing at the time. You want viewers to have that emotional connection. It helps them remember your art ... and you, the artist!

Here is my favorite example, a blog post I did a while back about a western artist, Jim Clements: The Importance of Good Title

When I first saw that piece, I thought it was beautiful simply because it was well done and the colors and lighting were lovely. But then I read the title I was nearly in tears. I will never, ever forget that painting now.

So, yes, thinking of titles is as much fun as going to the dentist for most of us. But, as you can see, it can have a huge impact. So it's very important, like it or not.

If you are struggling with a title try to think of something emotional related to it. Is the mood of the scene emotional in some way? Is it rainy and gloomy? Is it sunny and happy? Is the subject doing or feeling something emotional, possibly? Cowering? Sulking? Celebrating? If the subject itself is not emotional, perhaps you can use an emotion you were feeling when you first saw the scene, or how you felt while creating it.

If the artwork itself does not evoke an emotional response, try to think outside the box. Maybe go with a color, flavor, or sent that evokes emotion. Sounds crazy. But, I once painted a simple snow leopard cub. He wasn't doing anything in particular so I couldn't think of a title that told a story. But the colors I used had blue violet in the rocks behind him, and his fur was sunlit creamy yellow. The color combination made me think of some boysenberry ice cream I'd recently had that was most delicious! So I ended up calling it "Boysenberry Cream". Not brilliant perhaps. But better than "Untitled" or simply "Snow Leopard Cub" I think. Even though boysenberry ice cream may be unrelated to snow leopards, because of the color relation, it can still have an emotional impact. Who can't relate to enjoying some boysenberry cream pie at a family get-together, or some boysenberry ice cream on a hot summer day?

If all else fails, try Googling paintings that have a similar subject/style to the one you're trying to name. See what other artists are naming similar paintings and, when you find one you like, see if you can make your own variation of it. "Untitled" is definitely not the way to go.

In case you're curious, here's the snow leopard cub painting.


lia said...

"Under the circus lights" is it good for a title? Amazing work by the way!


Peggy said...

Crista you are so right about having difficulty figuring out titles. Also about the importance of a good title! What a cute little guy.

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