I used to think giving pieces a title was a waste of time and pretty excruciating at that. I’ve since come around. Now it’s an important part of finishing a piece. It gives a piece more presence and sometimes more meaning both to me, viewers and hopefully, ultimately the buyer.

I came around after I’d had a couple experiences with the titles. The first was at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver, CO. A man and his daughter came into my booth and clearly were taken by a particular piece. At that time, I didn’t have the titles on the tags, just pricing and media. The titles were on the backs of the paintings only, because as I said, I didn’t give much weight to the whole idea. Well, this gentleman asked me if I would hold the piece until the end of the day. He said he definitely wanted it, but didn’t have the time at the moment to complete the purchase. I was a bit reluctant, but believed him to be sincere, so I held it. Sure enough, at the end of the day he returned with his daughter. He thanked me for holding it and went on to explain that it had been a trying day. His mother was in the hospital and was dying. I asked him why he had made the effort to return for the painting on such a day and he responded by telling me how much comfort and peace my painting would give him and his family. I was very moved and touched by this reaction to my work. I began to wrap the piece up and start the paper work for the sale and then noticed the title of the painting; “A Tender Day”. Need I say more?

“Dancing with Green” 15×15 Pastel on paper

This pieces has a fluid acrylic under-painting that is primarily bright magenta and some blue. It’s from some reference that I shot on a workshop trip to Fish Creek, Wisconsin. I was just diving into the overwhelming green!

The next experience was at Art in the Pearl in Portland. By then I was putting the titles on the tags. I had a piece entitled “A Second Chance”. Well, an attractive women about my age loved it and explained that part of the draw of the piece was the title. She had just gone through a nasty divorce and was putting her life back together. This would be her first art purchase as a newly single women and it would give her strength. Wow!

So, now I view naming pieces with a lot more respect and understand that the titles can be a very meaningful part of each piece. The titles make them complete, and finished. One of the things I do to help me come up with appropriate and evocative titles is to keep word lists. When I’m reading and come across words that I think will connect with my work, I jot them down in the back of my inventory book, which is where I first give each piece it’s name. I try to connect the words with the place or the feelings I had while creating the works. Sometimes I’ll mine song titles to help with ideas because they are usually not your every day kind of words and lots of times they contain words that connect with the visual world really well.

I’ve come to enjoy this part of making paintings and work on it quite a bit, so that the title is a part of the piece, not just an afterthought.

With Warmest Regards,

Painting Minilessons
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