ARTICLE: Assigning titles to artworks: Untitled drawing and my thoughts about titles

Female Face Pastel Drawing | Artist Amy Marie Adams

Should an artist title their work or not? Recently an impassioned discussion occured just about that topic. Most of the participants thought titles were important for various reasons – the majority did. All of the people in the discussion have different reasons for making and presenting their art as well. Personally, I do title but more as a matter of tracking then anything else, it is more convenient for me. But my titles do not imply meaning generally unless I make a concious choice to influence the viewer. So here are a bunch of random thoughts, ramblings about my feelings on this topic and an example of a work to make my point.

Female Face Pastel Drawing | Artist Amy Marie Adams

Most often they are simple noun descriptors, something like; Girl, Man, Fem, Dog, etc. Chosen for “inventory” not to influence the subjective feeling that a person has when viewing a work. Here is an example of a drawing that to me, should be presented without a title. Why would a viewer want to know what I am trying to say with words in this case? It seems illogical to me. If I am doing my job correctly, the work should speak for itself.

A visiual image, like a word is a sign, a symbol that we give meaning to. Since I am not trying to retell MY experience, a title is not really appropriate. The work is an expression. So even though I might bare my soul in a work in the moment that it is being created, it isn’t about me – it is about the human condition. You might say, that it’s about both of us and at the same time, it’s about you alone and me alone. My hope is that the expression is timeless.

In the broadest sense we all share core emotions and our lives may even fit into neat little archetypes, even so, each individuals perspective is unique. Aside from analysing composition, colour, etc. etc., all viewing is subjective since we are a composite of our experience, our perspectives change with each moment and tommorrow you are someone else, someone who as experienced something else in your life. Think about it, haven’t you had the experience where, at one time in your life think, “Wow that’s great!” – about any topic; fashion, art, music, relationships – then life happens and you think about it again or see it again and think “I can’t believe that was in style?” or “What was I thinking?” etc., etc.

However, all of these are colored and influenced by our history, our story. Your story is not my story – yes the essence is, the basis, the foundation, the core but your experience of viewing a work is yours, not mine. This is why I feel that it is up to a viewer of a work to determine what the work is for them. Comments and thoughts are welcome on this topic.

  • Patricia Camilo

    Very nice idea!

  • Dally

    Good points made, very interesting!