20 Comments

WHAT IS IT ABOUT TITLES?


I Am Home
“I Am Home” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen
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We are always advised to make a title inviting. To use it as a “hook” to get people to read or look at something we have created.
After all, who would want to see something bland and uninteresting? I have been making art and writing for most of my life, and I have yet to find the composing of titles an easy job. It has even been suggested to me that the titles I apply to my blog posts could be a bit more….you know. (My loved one is so forthcoming.)

Early on I used to try and think of great titles for my paintings or sculptures. I was even known to think of something and do a painting to match the title. As the years went by if the art stayed around, I would change the name on occasion. I have even found myself lazily changing the name of a piece which was sold long ago on its archive record. Dr. Advice will often ask “Wasn’t that painting called ….?” I am ashamed to admit I do not remember. Once out of my hands….. Foundries to which I have entrusted a piece sometimes suggested a better name, to which I often shrugged a shoulder. What’s really in a name?

Long time readers will remember that I frequently changed my own name as a child as well. Serving as my own shrink I determined some years ago that a change of name was an easy way to shake up the status quo and enter the world of pretend.

We too all have titles. Miss, Ms., Mrs. Are they really important in telling people who we really are? Emily Post and Miss Manners tell us there is a right way in written address for unmarried women, married women, divorced women and widowed women. How many people pay attention to those rules unless printed on heavy white bond paper in a social situation? According to that I am not kayti sweetland rasmussen, but a replica of my husband with Mrs. planted in front of it. Mrs. Dr. Advice probably doesn’t fly.

We are each unique. Many artists resort to the number system. If you can’t think of a name for a piece of art, give it a number. If you give it a big number it makes it seem as if there had been many precursors which is intriguing to those who decide to like what they see and they think you must be very important. I hesitate to resort to that method when recalling that prisoners and Holocaust victims are given numbers.

I have known people to give their pets the same name as their predecessor. That must be rather insulting to a new dog when he realizes that when their name is called, their master is remembering another.

In studying some of my family records, the name Hiram comes up three times, one after the other. It makes it hard to distinguish which Hiram made the dresser in my guest room, Hiram one, two or three, without looking through the papers. My own name, occurring in several generations, presents the same problem, though none of us was a cabinetmaker. It’s left to succeeding generations to make the call.

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20 comments on “WHAT IS IT ABOUT TITLES?

  1. What’s in a name indeed. At first I thought you were writing about titles related to real estate. The ones that are kept by the bank that let you have the money to purchase ‘own home’. and use the title of ownership in case you renege on the promised re-payments.
    I too have chased the Oosterman name and there are some rumours about of Man of the East imlying vestiges of wisdom and links to Hebron, however, the wisdom has been washed out long ago.
    Still, we all do our best and I certainly like reading this insightful piece Kayti and looking at your lovely watercolour. Thank you and say hello to Dr Advice.

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  2. I laughed when I read this Gerard, since I have a daughter and a grandson in title insurance and another daughter in real estate. Funny how our minds interpret things isn’t it? (grin) Glad you liked the painting. It reproduced lighter than the original, but there you have it, what can we do?

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  3. Oh how I love your work and your words!

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  4. Sometimes I find it hard to name a painting or print, and sometimes it seems effortless. Sometimes an image comes to me and a blog post comes right along with it. Or the other way around: I think of a topic I’d like to write about and then I must come up with a painting or print to go with it. I’m a bit cavalier about my record keeping, too; luckily, my printmaking teacher is strict about this and nags us until we do our documentation.

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    • I agree. Sometimes these “great” ideas come in the middle of the night, and then have flown by morning. I keep a notebook by my bedside to jot things down in but sometimes it doesn’t seem so “great” in the daylight!

      Yes, it is important to keep good records. I know I have done many paintings and/or sculptures which never were catalogued. Ah well!

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  5. There is something ever so vaguely reminiscent to me of R.C. Gorman in the robes of the Native American figure in your gorgeous painting. My husband is a “third.” At one time, there were three of his name alive resulting in endless confusion. They began calling him “little Roger” which became amusing when he stood a head taller than “big R.” As you say, what’s in a name? Kayti, you write such lovely, thoughtful posts. I’m very happy I found you!

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    • Calling people “little” and “big” is so funny; as you say—when they grow even bigger! My mother was much shorter than I with the same name, and granddaughter a couple inches bigger. What does that make ME? “Middle” Kayti?

      Glad you liked my bit of trivia. The similarity of R.C. Gorman was not vague. I shadowed him for a short while years ago, until he became too commercial. One thing I was first attracted to was his relation to the Navajo Code Talkers from WW2. He is part of that family of Gormans. Funny how one thing leads to another isn’t it?

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  6. I, too, struggle with the title of a piece of writing. I’ve determined that others often have better ideas for our titles.

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  7. hehe, there’s that Bette Davis humor, ” … my loved one is so forthcoming”. I like your freedom with names! I especially admire your painting. Your works from the pueblo have that something extra. “I have arrived, I am home” is part of a Buddhist aid to meditation.

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    • Home is such a rallying cry for all of us. The concept of whether “home” is a place, a time, or a feeling varies with everyone. My daughter asked me the other day “when were you the happiest?” That’s really a good question. I could answer immediately. It wasn’t at my own home, and it was more of a feeling of goodwill that made me feel at home and at peace with myself. Some people search forever for “home”. I wrote once that cats have a better sense of finding their way home than we do.

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  8. I actually won a painting from an artist in New York a couple of years ago in a “Title the Painting Contest.” It was a wonderful experience, which you could read about here, if you like.

    As for titles generally — at least titles for written pieces — I love them. Sometimes, I’ll get the title first, and then have to create a post to go with it. Here are three titles with no or minimal post attached just now: “The Come and Take It Duck,” “The Stone Thrower,” and “Return to Camel Lot.” Obviously, the last has to do with the Texas camels.

    Sometimes, I go through a dozen titles before I find the right one. But I do pay attention. I think on the internet, titles are especially important. When people are browsing, that title may be what gets new readers to click. After that, “they” say we have three seconds to pull people in with the appearance of the page. Whether that’s true I can’t say, but it is pretty interesting.

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    • I absolutely loved that post Linda for reasons I commented on, the paintings were marvelous. What a good idea to have a contest to choose a title. I have been known many times to choose a title for a painting and then craft it to match.

      I’m waiting for the “Come and Take it Duck”. I have a mental image of what I could paint.

      Your titles are great and they are so important. I try to remember how many people actually either commented or clicked on “like” on which post. If I paid attention to the “Blogging 101” and worked a little harder, I could make my page more inviting, but I’m lazy!

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  9. Loved this post Kayti. As a memoir writer names become an issue. Some people say change them. I find if I do the character loses their identity and no longer can I write the person. I also have a strong feeling that I am robbing them of their identity. I did a post on this “Call me anything but don’t call me late for dinner” So I think it does matter. As yo said when you changed your name you were hoping for a new identity.
    I have lots of problems with titles as well and as Linda said 3 seconds is not long to hook someone.
    I had a pair of kittens that I simply could not come up with a name for and they became Big Cat and Little Cat. Where we lived in the Pacific having a name was essential. No name meant that you were bound for the dinner table at some point in time.
    Loved your painting.

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    • I frequently use real names. It’s true if you change them, your mind automatically shifts into fiction and you have lost the memoir.

      As far as titles go, I sometimes just plunge right into the story and grab a title later. Linda is right it probably does only take about 3 seconds to hook someone.

      A great aunt of mine had a Boston Bu8lldog named “Dog”, so I see where you are coming from. The dinner table scenario scares me though.

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