Monday, October 22, 2012

Is Finding A Title ... A Problem????

The Problem...  What do I call this painting?

In coming up with a meaningful title for this painting, I relied upon matching the feeling that I tried to put into this stylized landscape. In many respects, the painting resembles my usual approach to painting a landscape.
However... in this case I was amplifying or over playing the feeling that I had for the landscape and personified the trees and their movement to create a gentle "dance" effect with all of the trees... costumed differently participating in the event. The minuet is a stately dance... and the majesty of the winter's whiteness and the lighting effect offered a "ballroom" feel. I made use of my french to add yet another "royal" touch... and arrived at "Minuet d'Hiver"... which translates "Winter Minuet."

Strategies that you might consider... that consistently work for me

During visits to blogs that I follow over the last couple of visits, I noticed that there seemed to be a common  difficulty expressed by a number of artists in coming up with titles for  their works. This  difficulty rarely occurs for me because I source my titles in more than one way. That is... I come up with the titles for my work through approaching the problem in a number of very different ways.

First of all, it lies beyond my comprehension that one can spend hours creating a painting and then, after the process has drawn to a conclusion ask oneself, "What will I call this?" The questions which enter my mind ... Why did you select the subject?... How does this subject make me feel?...  What words or thoughts does this subject conjure up in my psyche? Often  these questions are usually dealt when I first encounter the subject... before I even open the paint box, or during the process. Ideas enter my thoughts as the painting is under way... stimulated by ALL of  my senses simultaneously.I will share some of the simple strategies which I use that might help you to develop your own personal and more reliable method for getting past this problem.

The Thematic Approach

As a school teacher, my teaching/planning approach  was always based upon a thematic approach... choosing one theme and then linking my ideas which in my thinking were related and could therefore be used as avenues for developing pathways for further discovery and learning. Often, I "brain storm" on paper and generate a possible list of "ideas"... images and locations which might guide the creation of a series of related paintings subjects. 

The current paintings that I have posted recently came out of such a focus. The theme is simply linked to an upcoming site for a Gala Exhibition that I will be taking part in at the local Eagle Point Winery in mid November. It seemed an auspicious opportunity for me to paint in a winery... I never have never painted in one  before. Focussing my attention for at least a number of paintings on a winery / wine theme idea would offer me a new source of subject matter... and since the attendees at the Gala were likely to also share an interest in the wine and winery as well.... having painting subjects that coincided with that common interest "might" prove to be appealing to potential buyers who enjoyed both art and wine.

My first painting came as a result of "happenstance". I simply noticed this wonderful landscape right under my nose in the parking lot at the winery as I was leaving an interview/photo op for our group which had been held earlier on site at Eagle Point. I couldn't get out the ol' paint box that day... but I came back then next day ... too late... but i did arrive and paint a sketch. I returned on one more occasion to fill in the blanks created by the unexpected cold. The 12x16 inch sketch titled  "After the Frost... Ice Wine Anyone" uses the cold episode to create a "tongue-in-cheeky" flavour to the landscape subject. So relating an event to the title to can provide inspiration.

This painting has already been sold to a client with a vested personal interest  and experience with the winery... so my guided approach and time and extra effort has been rewarded and encouraged me to push forward to my other ideas on my brain storming list for this exhibition.

Music... used as an ongoing theme and source of inspiration for titles

Relating still  to the winery theme, I added a musical "play on words"...  a dash of humour to an ordinary still life from our kitchen to create the whimsy painting... "Come to the Cabernet, my Chum" just completed. I have found music to be  a great resource... often using musical terms and song titles with a subject to create interesting and thought-provoking titles

The work is still a work-in-progress at this time... refinement of ideas and a few added features to be considered. "Off the wall"... quirky mannerism for me here, but it inspired me to think and paint outside of my comfort zone!

 The triptych "Heard it on the Grapevine" pairs both musical and vineyard thematic ideas beautifully. ... might revisit that idea!

"Morning Has Broken, Stonehurst South, NS derives from a Cat Stevens favourite listening classic from my personal playlist. The painting simply was playing and came up accidentally as I was in the process of painting. It struck a chord for me and it led to its becoming the title for this painting. Ithink that the "idea of the painting was to capture the break of dawn i n Stonehurst... and the title supports my goal to achieve this special time of day. Music while you paint is a great mood enhancer... but if you listen... you might find a title in  there somewhere as well.

Another triptych, depicting favourite Toronto streetscape is titled  "Rainy Day Feelings"... again finds its origin in the songs and lyrics of iconic the Canadian  folk performer, Gordon Lightfoot. If I need inspiration... his music and their lyrics have been a mother lode of  inspiration for my painting process and titles throughout my entire painting career.

"Canon in C Major (Crimson)"

 "Opeongo Opus"

Both of these paintings gained their titles from classical musical terminology... music that I constantly play and enjoy at home and as I travel in my car. Many an "Idea" for a painting driving in the Park owes is origin to this playlist approach to titling. The ideas for paintings and titles that I have gained through my interest and constant need for musical accompaniment is endless. These examples shown are but a few ! Play on!

Literature as a Source for Titles

 I read constantly and within the body of my preferred reading tastes I discover seeds of interest for both the subjects of my paintings and their titles. I have favourites like Robert Frost... whose genre of poetry matches my rural landscape focus and subject matter. A small meaningful quote from a poem... a novel or even magazine and newspaper articles can generate ideas for this purpose. I keep a "Clip File" filled with ideas which I find interest me and I save them until they pop up or I have a need. They are easy to find in such a place. Otherwise they are lost in the cobwebs of daily living.

I also keep a notepad in the van... or write in my sketchpad... or on the back of a grocery list to save an idea... seen or heard. I keep these in the Clip File until I have a need for them. Sometimes, I discover them years after they are collected... and use them at that opportune moment.

Obviously, personal responses experienced whle painting on location... where all of one's senses are firing simultaneously usually provide the vast number of my choices for titles. This underscores the immense value of painting en plein air and adds yet another reason to get... "out there." Just the subject itself... "Failing Light"... "Cascading Waters"... Spring Break Up"... etc can be the obvious title

I hope that these strategies that I use in my approach to titling my work provides you with some food for thought to support your own methods. Use these ideas if they help!

Good Painting and Titling... to ALL!!!


  1. Coming up with titles is never an issue for me. Now coming up with paintings? That is a much different story! LOL

  2. Good Morning Sherry!... The "recipe" for both processes depends upon the same "ingredients" Sherry.

    One's "cooking" experience... along with one's curiosity to add a "recipe" to one's "cook book" will add create the opportunity for a pleasant surprise. Keep "baking" Sherry!

    I stumbled upon this quote this morning... I smiled... and thought of "You":

    "She wasn't where she had been.
    She wasn't where she was going...
    but she was on her way!"

    God Painting!
    Warmest regards,