plein air, 10" x 8", oil, 'Desert Surprise'
Does an artist create a painting first and then title the painting? Or does the artist have a title in mind and then creates a painting to fit the title?
Robert Genn, in his inspirational art newsletter, The Painter's Keys has said this, "Most of us paint first and title last. Sometimes, about the middle, a title just pops out of the ether. And there are a few of us who get a title in our heads and figure out the work to go with it. Particularly with whimsical and didactic art, this last system is worth considering. The right title makes a difference as to how a work is seen and understood. Not only are titles a bridge to the viewer, they are also part of the art."
Genn suggested there are five main kinds of titles:
I know several artists who have complained about how difficult it is to figure out names for their art work. They resort to titling numerically because they are pressed for time or they haven't thoughtfully prepared a list of ideas.
Dr. Paula McNeil, an associate Professor of Art at the Valdosta State University in Georgia, gave a presentation about the life and work of Utah wildlife painter Randsom Owens for 2008 Everett Ruess Days. She asked how he came up with names for his paintings. Randsom said his titles for some of his art came to him in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. Sometimes he would see words come together in various places like on bill boards, cards, magazines, etc. Or he would have an idea come to him as he was driving in his truck in the mountains that inspired him for a future painting. He said he was never to far from a notebook and pencil when the ideas arrived.
I tried his suggestion in my travels and have now collected over 1,000 art titles by doing these four simple steps.
- ALWAYS have a notebook and pen close at hand while driving or as a passenger.
- LOOK at rich print everywhere. Advertising, billboards, street names, businesses, signs, etc.
- WRITE it down as best you can without driving off the side of the road!
- COPY your notes onto a spreadsheet at your computer.
You will be surprised how quickly the list grows over time. It's easy to do and convenient to have. Just try it!
I found this advertisement at the Paris airport and used it for a blog post title last week.