The naming of names


Two weeks into the New Year, painting is well and truly under way and I have completed my first painting of the season. It's called V I P and is of course a tribute to our beloved leaders in whom we have so much faith, those leaders who continue to improve our world in so many ways and and who serve as an example to us all by adding truth, beauty and peace to this little planet of ours. It has spurred a thought process about the titling of pictures and what it means to me. When I started this picture it was to be called "the Very Important Person" but during the painting process it seems to have changed its name several times via "The Cactus king", "The King of the Cacti" "Our Leader", " The Great Leader", "Our Beloved Leader", "V I C" and finally almost back to the begining with a simplified version of the original name.

I have been asked what comes first, title or image. this is a tricky question because sometimes an image arrives from nowhere and insists on being painted and at other times a title sits around for a long time before the image agrees to come in and lie down on the canvas. The "Spoon throwers" painting was a case in point as the title arrived with me nearly a year ago but I could not find the right way to produce the painting. I had originally seen it as being a long canvas with the spoon thrower on side and his long suffering assistant on the other but whenever I drew it, it lacked drama and looked rather baffling. It was only later when I was doing picture research for a painting of Punch and Judy that a picture of a professor and his assistant emerged and I realeased that of course what I needed was a formal portrait and then everything fell nicely into place.

When the image arrives first then there can be an entirely different problem trying to find a title that will suit the painting and give it the finishing touch. Occasionally a serendipitous circumstance or meeting yields a perfect title and sometimes I am left wondering exactly what on earth I have just painted.

An extra layer of complication has been added in that I now show my work in France. Sometimes direct translations are not possible and we need to find alternative titles for the piece that do not alter the idea behind the picture but that will mean something to a Francophone audience. Thankfully, Jude is brilliant at this process, whereas my efforts were described as "Charming" by one French lady, which I think actually meant "mildly berserk".

The title is such an important part of the piece that I would find it acutely uncomfortable to leave it untitled. To call something "Untitled" would be anaethema to me unless there were to be some particularly compelling reason for so doing. Thinking about it though, I do have an idea for a paining called untitled..

So, in short, it's a totally flexible process with no logic or reason. It just happens.

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