What’s in a Name?

Ponder by striatic on Flickr

Have you ever wondered how an artist selects names for their works?  It’s a very personal process.  Methods can range from using the geographical location the piece was painted/photographed for a title, to the name of a person in the image, to no title at all!  I can’t share from someone else’s perspective (though I will likely ask that question of future guest bloggers), but I can share my own selection process.

In the beginning, my method was simple.  I would look at a piece and consider what it was saying to me/what feeling it conveyed.  This produced titles such as “Contemplation II“, “Scattered” and “Floundering”.  My thesis paintings (in my private collection), which were the start of my current “Toy Stories” series, have titles which are direct references to things that occurred in my life (“History of a Girl, Pt. II”, “Denial”, “Shotgun”).  Other titles along the way were intended to strengthen meaning behind a piece, such as “Progress” and the triptych “No! Foolish Poison” (which refers to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which inspired the work, and the Chinese symbols found on the gold rings on each panel).

Floundering, 5"x7", acrylic on panel, copyright 2005 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved

While I continue to employ these methods on occasion, I find myself drawn to popular culture/the things that surround me for inspiration.  I mostly employ the use of song titles or lyrics.  These are carefully selected to go with the feel and intention behind each image.

To find the right fit, I often scan the discography of some of my favorite artists.  My favorites are ones with an extensive, eclectic catalog such as David Bowie (who’s song “Fantastic Voyage” is the new name for my blog) and David Sylvian, though any of my favorites are fair game.   When I use a song title, I don’t necessarily find the lyrics to be perfect fit, I simply like what the title itself evokes.

David Sylvian "Gone to Earth" CD

When scanning song titles doesn’t produce the desired result, I start to think of song lyrics.  The title “Livin’ on a Dream Ain’t Easy” came from the lyrics of Paul Young‘s remake of  “Love of the Common People” (originally released in 1967 by The Four Preps), while “The Policy of Truth” arose from the lyrics of Depeche Modes‘ 1990’s hit “Policy of Truth“.

"Livin' on a Dream Ain't Easy", digital photography, copyright 2009 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved.

Not all of my current titles drawn from pop culture come from music.  “In No Sense” is a reworking of the word “innocence” (pronounced in-no-cence”) spoken by the character of Darkness in one of the favorite movies of my youth, Ridley Scott‘s 1985 film “Legend“.   “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?” was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, while “Not in Kansas” was part of a line uttered by Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz“.

Not in Kansas, digital photography, copyright 2010 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved

That gives you a little flavor of what’s in a name when it comes to art, at least from my perspective.  Next time you are at an exhibit, feel free to ask the artist how he or she titles his/her work.  You may be surprised by the answer!

© 2010 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved


About Amy Buchheit

I am a Signature Member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters and an Ambassador for Artist Trust. I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Marylhurst University and have exhibited on regional, national and international levels since 2000. I am committed to connecting with the viewer through my work - stirring buried emotions to the surface for further inspection and introspection. The inspiration for my art comes from direct observations, research of subjects I am passionate about and personal experiences. For more information about my art, workshops and exhibitions, visit my website at http://www.amybuchheit.com. My blog "Fantastic Voyage" can be found at http://www.amybuchheit.wordpress.com, and I can be found on Facebook under Amy Buchheit Art and on Twitter as @AmyBuchheit.
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