Alchemy: What's in a Name

[singlepic id=169 w=320 h=460 float=left] Naming a painting can be one of the toughest parts of the entire creative process. It can also be one of the most fun. It's like a little reward, beyond the finished painting itself, for all of that hard work. I always name my paintings after they are completed. Sometimes I will start a painting with a title in mind, but I can't think of a single instance when the painting ended up with that title. I think if it did, it would be because I pretty much phoned the whole thing in. No matter how clear an idea I start out with, if I am paying attention, after a point the work will evolve on its own. And it will demand a fitting title.

Sometimes the title is obvious. It just pops into my head in final form, I write it down, done deal. But the most interesting adventures in naming often happen when only a partial title comes to mind. This oil (number 46 for anyone who's counting) is a good example. As I worked on it, the element that evolved beyond my original idea was the bronzey-gold, or the idea that the blue-green leaves were turning to bronze. It occurred to me that the blue-green bits resembled oxidized copper as well. As I finished the painting all I knew was that I wanted to incorporate the idea of bronze or gold into the title. 

I couldn't think of an interesting way to do that, so I headed to the thesaurus and dictionary to do some word association. But looking up bronze, I found nothing more than a pretty standard definition (boring) and some references to suntans (useless). With only one more place to look, it was Wikipedia to the rescue. After skimming over a very long entry, I found some history of Turkish bronzes, including the story of how an Armenian alchemist named Zildjian discovered the musical properties of bronze while attempting to turn base metals into gold. Turning base metals into gold... Alchemy! Perfect.

All poor Avedis Zildjian got out of his discovery was the largest cymbal-making company in the world. But I got a title for my painting. Ha!