The Weight of a Name

What exactly is the weight of a name?  It’s hard to say, for me, considering so many of my paintings are “Untitled”.

I know of other artists who start with a seed word, or an idea / concept, or maybe even a phrase, before they starting creating. For me, that’s now usually the beginning. I look at my palettes and try to decide what colors I want to play with (hence the “colorplay” paintings) and then I just go from there. I might have an idea of what geometric shape I feel like using, if one at all. I like hexagons a lot. Not entirely sure why, but something about that shape is very pleasing to me, so I tend to use it a fair bit. But beyond those little starting bits, I really don’t have any kind of plan or idea when I begin painting. 

I don’t paint to work out deep-seated (or thinly-seated or any kind-of-seated) issues or emotions. Painting is just.. something I do. It brings me a sense of satisfaction and joy to simply create and see what happens when I do X. That’s a huge part of the reason why I’ve leaned into watercolors so much over the years. There is an element of uncertainly to what the finished piece will look like depending on how the colors feel like drying that day. Will I get hard edges in the colors, or cauliflower spreads, or a nice flat blend?  Who knows? And that’s the fun of it all.

Which leads me back to my title up there. If I don’t start with a seed idea or concept or phrase or whatever, how then am I to name my paintings?  Every once in a while, I finish a painting and a title just springs into my mind and it fits. But that is incredibly rare. Mostly I just take the finished piece in and enjoy it as is, with no title coming to mind. And I’m having a hard time reconciling that so many of my paintings are just “Untitled (year-number)” in the galleries (which I’m re-orging and cleaning up, btw). Sometimes I may come up with a series name or a vaguely related title, like the Colorplay ones, but even that isn’t usual. And then I see so many great pieces of art from other artists I’m friends with or follow and I’m just over here going “Uh… it’s untitled?” that it makes me wonder if the failing is with me somehow? I see paintings posted in art sharing sites asking “what would you call this?” so it’s not just a me issue.

I know the adage of “don’t compare your art to others, you are on different paths and places in the journey” but it still it feels like I’m failing – myself, my viewers – by not having an actual title for my pieces. And that sense of failure is a huge weight on me but on the other hand, I also have no desire to just start making up random names for the paintings either. If a name for a painting comes to me, I’ll be glad to use it but otherwise, I think I’m going to be stuck with my current process.

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