What Should I Title This Post?

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

I like words and I enjoy writing and so naturally I like to title my artwork. Sometimes I have a great title in mind before the artwork has barely begun. More often it arrives as I am working on the piece and will bounce around in my head in various iterations until the piece is finished. And sometimes I can’t for the likes of me come up with a good title, and will mull over it forever, but rarely decide to call it Untitled.

Different artists and viewers have different opinions on titles. My preference is for titles that give a little insight into what the artist is thinking but still allows plenty of room for the viewer to bring their own interpretations to the piece. I don’t care for titles that are super esoteric that can confuse the viewer or that feel pretentious, but I am okay with simple descriptive titles when it make sense with the piece. Ultimately, of course, it is the artwork that needs to connect with the viewer, but I think a good title can help give the viewer an initial entry into the piece and can often add another dimension.

A lot of my early works were mostly descriptive in their titles. Some examples include Fruit Bowl with Mostly Red Apples, Starfish Gatherers, The Red Patio, and Man and Woman with Spotted Dog. There were also rather a lot like Girl with Kitten, Girl with Flamingo, Shower Cap Girl, Portrait of Girl with Bird, Ice Cream Girl, …etc, etc you get the idea!


Starfish Gatherers, Acrylic on Canvas, 2005

With some works, the title added another dimension, that gave insight into the conceptual ideas behind the piece, such as The Offering of the Dolls, Me and My Husband (If I was the Older One), and Self Portrait as the Mother of Myself and My Sister.


Me and My Husband (If I was the Older One), Oil on Canvas, 2002

I did a series of small imaginary girl portraits in 2006 that were all directly inspired by my daughter who was two years old at the time. Mine, Hoodlum, Pink Tears, and Lemon Eater, are just some of the titles attached to those works.


Hoodlum, Acrylic on Panel, 2006

For a number of years now, my favorite titles seems to be fairly short and give some insight into my conceptual thinking. Facade, is not only a descriptive term describing the actual facade on the building in the photograph, but also the idea behind the piece — the way young girls act and consciously present themselves to the world at this age of self discovery, and how they can be filled with self confidence one minute and self doubt the next, –their public facade may not align with their inner feelings as they try to figure out who they are. Additionally, this image is a constructed photograph combining a painted figure with a photographed image which happens to include a real painted facade — the whole artwork itself is essentially a facade!


Facade, Digital C-Print, 2008

American Portrait (Hope) is a portrait of two girls on the brink of young womanhood. They stand confronting the viewer in a pose reminiscent of the figures in the well-known painting, American Gothic, which inspired the title. At this stage of their life there is so much potential and optimism and hope, yet there is an underlying apprehension and uncertainty about their future reflected in their expression, poses and the ominous ambiguous background explosion. When I painted it, I felt that this was a metaphor for the current state of the whole country and while this is a portrait of two specific girls, the title reflects a more universal story.


American Portrait (Hope), Acrylic on Canvas, 2011

Little Red references Little Red Riding Hood, which, being familiar with the fable, adds to the mystery of the photograph — the little red house in the image is completely isolated and the viewer may wonder, is the girl running from something or to something? Is she carefree or alarmed?


Little Red, Digital C-Print, 2011

Vanish not only describes the vanishing chromatic pom-pom line visible in this photograph but also speaks to a vanishing Arctic landscape in this age of climate change.


Vanish, Digital C-Print, 2014

As I have been working on my new paintings I have been thinking about my approach to titling them. Since the works are becoming more abstract in their form, I am liking the idea of using descriptive titles that give the viewer an entry point to the work, especially if they have no other context. Of course as the work evolves so too may the titles, but for now I am interested in using specific locations, or a sense of place or nature, or some inkling of the inspiration behind the piece in the title. I will leave you with a couple of titles, and if you have been reading my recent blog posts, you may be able to match these titles with their respective paintings!

Big Boulder, Yosemite
Polar Waves
Daintree Dancing