Friday, November 28, 2014

Coming up with titles for artwork can be a real drag

I recently went to an open house in a studio of a friend of mine. She had a beautiful painting of frogs on lily pads. The frogs were all facing the inside of the painting which kept the eye within the painting. Great composition! Then, I looked at the title of her painting. It was called “Executive meeting”. So then I looked up at the painting again and saw the artist’s witty and whimsical personality come through that painting. I was smiling at the painting.
I don’t know about you, but for me coming up with great titles for artwork can be a real drag. Sometimes it seems like it’s more work to come up with a title than it is to create the painting. If I were a natural wordsmith I’d have ventured into poetry and not trying to become an artist. So, the question is, do titles really matter, and how much time and effort should you spend titling your work?
If you’re going to exhibit your work then I do believe titles matter. A buyer wants to feel like that artwork they are about to purchase from you is one of your best ever – that it truly is one of your masterworks. They’re going to have a hard time believing that if you’ve called the piece “landscape No. 427″. 
So what makes a good title, and how can you come up with good titles without going insane? After a bit of research, this is what I have found: 
  • A good title will provide insight into your inspiration for the artwork, and may help the artwork tell its story.
  • A good title will leave room for the viewer to bring his or her own meaning and interpretation to the artwork.
Additionally, a good title will:
  • be memorable and catchy;
  • be original (or at least as original as anything can be in a world where nothing is ever truly new) ; and
  • not be too cheesy.
So where do we start?
  • Start with the obvious – if there are elements in the artwork that are key focal points, use those elements as a jumping off point.
  • Was there a driving emotion or inspiration that lead you to create the work? If so, try and draw a title from that inspiration.
  • Is there an underlying story behind the work? Try to clue the buyer into the story with your title.
  • Try to put yourself in your viewer’s shoes – what will they see when they look at the work? What do you want them to focus on?
  • Keep it short. While there are obviously exceptions, if you need a 30 word title, you are probably doing something wrong (and maybe you should have become and author instead of artist!)
I imagine that the more one paints that coming up with titles can become more difficult over time. This all sounds great in theory, and will work for the first dozen or so pieces an artist creates, but what about after you’ve created hundreds of pieces? You might run out of creative, unique titles. I know I certainly will.
To combat this issue, try to come up with a naming system. Some artists look to poetry or mythology for inspiration. Try visiting galleries to see what reputable artists are using for naming conventions.
Best of luck in finding the titles that makes you stop and think, and the more you think about it the more intriguing you find the piece.

This week's watercolour discovery is Michal Suffczynski. Here is one of his paintings
watercolour of Michal Suffczynski

p.s. publishing early this week since I'm participating in a 3-day art show

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