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How Important is a Title for a Painting?

Do you ever go into an exhibition and look at a work and have no idea at all, what

it's about? I think it would be safe to say that many of us have done that at one

time or another. I find this usually applies to more abstract works.

It becomes frustrating for me, when I’m drawn to the work, and it has no artwork statement

next to it and sports a title like, ‘Abstraction I’. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s making me work way too hard. If we are interested in an artist’s work, the first thing we do is look for a connection to that work, whatever it might be for us. Tell me the story behind your image, and I may then find a way to appreciate it on a deeper level.

It seems to me that if we, as artists, want others to appreciate our work, and connect to it, we sometimes need to offer a helping hand to the viewer, particularly if the work is somewhat obscure. The viewer doesn’t know what the starting point of the work was for you.

schoolhouse,deep creek
The Old School House at Deep Creek

They don’t know if you are just enjoying playing with paint, or if there is a much deeper back story to it. If you are enjoying playing with paint and that's it, how can you give your viewer an entry into that joy for themselves?

I have recently begun a series of works which have become very pared back, in my search for an intangible feeling that I’m endeavouring to express through thework.

In order to reach an image I’m really pleased with I have drawn and painted my

way through several smaller studies, however if you only saw the final painting in

this line up you would have no sense of the huge amount of evolution and work it

took to get there.

So what is the story behind the work above, and can you think of a title for it?

The story took place many many years ago, when a young eight year old girl went on a Sunday afternoon picnic with her family. They went to a place called Deep Creek, where there was a beautiful cherry tree outside a one hundred year old school house.

It is the story of childhood freedom, panning for gold and mysterious places. Trying to find a title for a painting like this is tricky. Something that tells a little of the story and yet makes you curious, wanting to know more.....

Ben McLaughlin did something quite bizarre in putting names to his paintings. The titles, never seemed to have anything to do with the work. For example his title for the work below is: 'Jan 9 2001:Islamic militants have killed four Russian engineers who were picking mushrooms 250 miles east of Algiers.'

His criteria for naming a work, as often as not, was a headline from the day’s news.

I think most artists struggle with titles for their work. Perhaps he’s telling me to make my own interpretation of the piece - to take away what resonates with me.

If you are an artist, how do you arrive at titles for your work?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject - please share below.

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