I believe a painting must stand on its own merit, without explanation. But the title can be of some consequence, and I do find pleasure in a meaningful moniker.
Light on the Hill (major work, page 47) seemed descriptive enough, but hardly alluded to anything more than the hill. As I toyed with alternative titles, it came to me that I didn’t need to say more. The light was the subject – when isn’t it! After settling on that title, something nagged at the cloudy recesses of my memory. Google put it to rest. ‘The Light on the Hill’ was a Labour Party phrase used by Ben Chifley in 1949. There is nothing so lofty or metaphorical in my title, which disappointed me somewhat. I like to find titles that might evoke an alternative way of looking at the picture, or highlight what is important to me in it. In this case though it was simply my response to that blaze of light dividing the darkened landscape.
By way of contrast, I felt the title As the Old Iron Warms, Wisemans Creek (page 8), would gently direct interest in what I enjoyed capturing, the mist rising off the shed’s roofs. There were so many tantalising aspects to the visual feast on that cold May morning, but it was the result of sun on iron that made it sing for me.
Perhaps self-consciously, I titled Resting Egret at Sunrise, Burrill Inlet (page 39) that, because even though the title is self-evident, the bird is not shown in his common hunting mode and therefore without description, could cause misinterpretation; is that a post?. As I watched for him to show me his classic lines in profile, he stopped moving and hunkered his serpentine neck down to rest. I liked it and spontaneously flicked him in. As I considered whether it was sufficient, he up and left. I wonder if this painting would have been interpreted differently if it was titled, for instance ‘Waves breaking over the Sand Bar’?
At the risk of labouring the topic, the sketch for The Dazzling White Sands of Smiths Lake (page 16) was a picture painted for the pure white sand strafed with beautiful blue shadows. The kayak was an incidental warm note to accentuate this. Back in the studio, I liked the painting but saw an opportunity to tell another story. I don’t work from photos but had just been looking at family happy snaps of grandkids playing on the sand on the Georges River. It sparked an idea and with a little imagination, I had a paddler on his way to fetch the orange kayak. (page 61)
I can only hope that the title keeps the more important truth of the painting somewhere in the mix. When all is said and done, it’s the painting that has to speak to you. If it does and whatever it says, I’m grateful.