WHAT'S IN A NAME?
There are many steps in the process of creating a painting. It might come as a surprise to learn that actually doing the painting part is often not the most difficult part. For my money, generally speaking, coming up with the subject idea is probably the toughest part of the process and can take months, although there are rare times when it takes virtually no time at all. Naming the painting after it is completed can be the same – a good title can pop into your head even before the painting is finished, but more often you can twist your brain into a basket of pretzels trying to conjure up something appropriate.
My painting with the white ravens is a good example. I took the photo of the rock outcrop 2 or 3 years earlier during my first hike through Brickyard Bay Park. I liked the character of the rock with its shape and strong crack lines and felt I might be able to use it in a painting some day. I kept going back to the image trying to decide what else it needed to make it interesting and then I stumbled across these ravens in my reference photo files. I liked the overall idea, but was very skeptical that it would appeal to anyone else. Eventually I sketched the whole thing out on a large canvas and decided to go with it even if I doubted its appeal to anyone else. It had a quirkiness to it that amused me.
Because I take progress photos of my work I needed a title so I could file those images in my computer. I started out by thinking of the rock itself and how many millions of years it had ben there, but could not conjure up anything catchy from the words “sentinel” and “aeons”. “Gathering Moss” I thought had potential because if a rolling stone gathers no moss….well, you know. “Aging Gracefully” led to “Cracking Up”. “Rock Solid” was already taken because I had used it for another painting and “Stone Cold” was best saved for a rock painting with snow.
So, I turned my attention to the ravens. “White Ravens” was an obvious choice but hardly imaginative. But I thought with their all-white outfits including those large beaks, they looked a lot like KKK creeps secretly hatching some nefarious plot in the deep woods. I thought “Klan Meeting” was very clever, but realized immediately that would not be politically acceptable, so scratch that. I learned that a group of ravens can be called a “conspiracy”, and these birds definitely looked like they might be conspiring. So, “Conspiracy” had a double meaning in this case and that is the title I eventually selected for filing purposes.
However, as the painting progressed, I started to think of the raven on the ground as a stand-up comic presenting its routine, and the two on the rock above as the two grumpy old men in the Muppets Show in their balcony seats that would hurl abuse at anyone on stage. That suggested the name for this piece as “The Hecklers”. I like it because it is not what you would expect, but at the same time it can be linked to the image. As you can see, I went with “The Hecklers” because it is a somewhat unusual painting and accordingly, deserves an unusual title.