Telling Stories with Your Titles
In our members-only series about how to turn your art into a saleable product, we emphasized the importance of stories. However, there is one simple story you can tell about your art that somehow, I have, until now, inadvertently left out of that series: the title.
Often, you can tell a whole story (or completely change the story) of a painting simply with the title. When I was in the gallery business we often collaborated with artists (at their request) to title their works to enhance the emotional resonance of a particular artwork. And, for a couple of artists, who didn’t speak English as their first language we (again at their request) actually wrote all of their titles for them. It’s a small, but extremely valuable place where you can tell a whole story with just a few words (similar to the old example of “Baby shoes. For sale. Never worn.”) and it is worth thinking through what originally inspired you about the image. What idea or energy are you trying to convey?
Sometimes, you truly may want the image to speak “on its own” and might deliberately decide not to title a piece. But, make that a conscious decision, don’t use it as an excuse to be lazy. Collectors definitely look to the title for cues and most are disappointed with cop outs like “untitled #423.” More often than not, there will be some idea or energy about the piece that you originally wanted to convey, and that idea can be enhanced with your title.
For example: picture a painting of an old Chinese man, sitting high in the Himalayan mountains, his village visible in the background. He is sitting contemplatively, smoking a long pipe. I created a concept for this “painting” in Mid-journey which is pictured below:
Here are some possible titles:
Mourning a Wife’s Passing
Awaiting a Grandchild’s Birth
After the argument
Watching the flock
The Moment of Enlightenment
Sentinel of the Village
Do you see how the title has completely changed the energy of that image?
How have you used your titles to enhance the stories you are telling with your art?
Let us know in the comments!
Next week, we should be moving on to the next circle of art marketing which is that loved/hated topic - Sales.
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