What's in a name?
Updated: Jan 29
Ever wonder how artists decide on a title for their work? How come one artist calls a painting of sunflowers in the Qu'appelle Valley, "Sunflowers in the Qu'appelle Valley" while another calls two blue stripes on either side of a red stripe "Voice of Fire"?
I can't speak for other artists but I can shed a little light on what goes through my mind when I title my work.
The first image you see when you enter my website is an early piece of work entitled "Roar". I think most people think of either lions or the Katy Perry song when they hear that word. I was thinking of neither. What came to mind when I was creating this was a quote by Mary Anne Radmacher - "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow."
I was still fairly new to assemblage at the time and was struggling with getting some visual depth into this piece. It was the end of the day and I was on my third or fourth attempt at getting the colours to where I wanted them to be. As I sighed and thought, "I guess I'll try again tomorrow," Mary Anne's quote suddenly popped into my head and I knew that I had just found the perfect title.
Sometimes I title a piece after it's finished and it lets me know who it is. Other times I have the title first and create the piece based on that. That was the case with "Doubt".
I don't have any formal training in art. And usually the lack of a BFA of MFA doesn't bother me and I'm quite confident in calling myself an artist. But every once in a while that incredibly cruel inner critic starts hinting that maybe I'm a fraud and points out everything that's wrong with my practice:
- "You're charging how much for that piece?!"
- "You're a woman. All your art should have a feminist theme!"
- "You're an outsider. You'll never fit into the inner circle of real artists!"
- "You can't be a real artist without a bunch of letters after your name!"
- "Hearts again? How cliche and un-artist-like!"
- "You can't just make art because it's pretty. You need an artist statement that uses words like 'intersectionality'!"
I needed to confront those doubts and decided to create a piece based on them. I'll let you decide which mandala goes with which doubt.
"But Who's Counting...?"
People alway ask me how long it takes to make my art and that's a really hard question to answer. Between the glue, the gesso, the spray colours, and the varnish, I spend a lot of time WFSTD (waiting for shit to dry). So while an acrylic painter might work on a piece for 3 straight hours, for me those 3 hours might consist of spraying a layer of colour for 40 seconds and then waiting 2 hours, 59 minutes and 20 seconds before I spray the next layer of colour.
So when I started this piece I decided to keep track of the amount of time I was actively working on it so I could answer "how long did that take?" Well that lasted about a day - I'd forget to look at the clock when I started or couldn't decide if the 10 minutes I spent sorting nuts and bolts was truly a part of the design process or just some housekeeping I never got around to. By the end of the build it was just as much a guessing game as to how much time I'd actually spent on this piece as any other piece. So instead I decided to count the number of bits and bobs I'd used - still an interesting fact, no? I think I got to 649 when I couldn't remember if I'd already counted a particular section or not. I realized at that point I could say any large number because the chances of somebody actually counting the number of components was pretty slim. And that's when the piece pretty much named itself.
"The Circles of Life"
Sometimes I just like to state the obvious...