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Painting titles are hard

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to name your paintings.  Problem: it’s often contradictory. Painting titles are hard.

First piece of advice: describe the painting in the title. If it’s a red barn along a country road, don’t call it Serenity, Call it Red Barn on Country Road  Or, if the painting is based on a bay in Iceland, call it Breiđafjörđur.  Okay, I’ve done that.



Second, call them all Untitled, because it doesn’t matter what the artist intended. What matters is what the viewer (hopefully, buyer) sees or feels.  And the artist can never know what that will be. Sorry, but I’ve never done that (although I’ve been tempted).  It just feels like a cop out.

Third, name the painting after the feeling it evokes (hopefully). I’ve tried that. When what I captured is a feeling of mystery and there are no words to adequately describe it…

Language Is Leaving Me

Language Is Leaving Me

Finally, you just do what you think makes sense. Painting is hard. Titles are hard. You go with whatever works. And sometimes your first choice doesn’t work and you have to change the name.

I just finished two paintings: one I really like, one not as much. The not as much one I was going to call Ebb and Flow.  It was based on rain water washing across a concrete surface.  The first, the one I really like, I couldn’t figure out what to call (Untitled did come to mind). Actually, the more I thought about it, Ebb and Flow made more sense for the first painting.  But then, what to call the second? So I asked my husband what it made him think of and he said, Asia.  I decided to call it China Flow.  And here they are:


Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow


China Flow

China Flow

Do you have better titles?

Posted by ruthhurd on January 4, 2015
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. 01/4/2015

    I can’t think of better titles, but the first reminds me of estuaries — I love both of them! By the way, yesterday we talked with Cassidy about how you often do studies for your paintings before you create the final piece. She was upset because a drawing she did for a book report did not come out the way she wanted it to. So we called it a “study” and she did it again. 🙂

    • 01/4/2015

      Half (at least) of my paintings don’t come out the way I wanted them to. Part of the learning process is making mistakes and then trying to figure out how to fix them. Even if they’re not ultimately “fixed” you end up learning something. The whole point of the studies is to make the mistakes and figure out what to do; then you make other mistakes and figure out what to do… Many studies later, you have a shot at a good painting.
      Tell Cassidy the best thing she can do is to make a lot of drawings/paintings. She will have more successes than if she just tries to create one good drawing.
      And rots of ruck. If it were easy, everyone would do it.


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