Thursday, March 15, 2018

Crowdsourcing Titles

I'll be the first to tell you that I am terrible at coming up with titles for artworks.  Just look at my current series of charcoal and pastel works.  They have titles like "Amy #14", "Troy #3", and "Jennifer #6".  Almost as bad are my landscape paintings: "French Broad River Rapids".  Not much there to inspire your curiosity, is there?  I have, on occasion, come up with some pretty good titles, but by and large, I don't.  Most titles are a descriptive word or two, and that's it.

Recently, I completed a new painting and could not come up with a decent title to save my soul.  Calling it "Astrid #1" just seemed wrong.  So I decided to ask the world for recommendations.  And the world responded.  Here's the painting:

So what would YOU title it?

I got lots of suggestions.  Most of them were about as bad as my own ideas. "Weary Woman", "Lost in Thought", "The Striped Chair", "Contemplating the Dreams".  None of them came close to the idea of the young woman that I had in my head while this painting was in progress.

After this had been going a while, somebody piped in with the question, "what did you decide?"  I thought about that for a while and finally decided that was the painting's title.  "What Did You Decide?"  It's perfect.  This young lady is looking directly at the viewer, so there's some kind of interaction ongoing.  From the pose, she's at ease: no woman would adopt such an unselfconscious position with somebody she didn't know.  And the question could go either way: she could be asking it of the viewer (you), or you could be asking it of her.  Whichever version you prefer, it reinforces the direct communication with her that is apparent from the pose and gaze.  Perfect.

Actually, many of the best titles for my paintings have come from other people.


This painting is an update, of sorts, of Michelangelo's Pieta.  I was stuck on that title until I asked the owner of the gallery where it was exhibited, and without a second's hesitation, she said "Lament".

Saddle Up

My initial thought was to title this one with the man's name.  Real original, huh?  But I asked him what he thought and he immediately said "Saddle Up".  That was what the Marine sergeants in Viet Nam said when it was time for the squad to move out.  "Saddle up, ladies!".


I had finished this satirical painting and was casting about for a name.  An artist friend took one look and suggested "Pleasantville".  Perfect match.

Okay, now for one of the very few examples of a title that I came up with, all by myself, that I think is pretty good:

You Don't Understand

That's part of the theme of the painting, obviously, but a descriptive title wouldn't cut it.  Speaking from personal experience here, the deployed guy doesn't understand everything that the wife/girlfriend has to deal with while he's gone, and she has no clue as to what he has to see and do every day.  And you, the viewer, don't understand what they're going through, either.

So, artists: how do you title your artworks?  Have you tried crowdsourcing ideas for titles, and if you have, how did it turn out?

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