Canadian abstract artist Susannah Bleasby in her Hamilton Ontario art studio

What's in a name?

It's a classic 'chicken or the egg' scenario: how do to name a painting? It's something I'm often asked about and a question that doesn't have an easy answer. I hope it doesn't sound like a lame cop-out to say "it depends" ... but it does!

Sometimes the painting comes first.

Each painting has its own personality and needs to feel suited for whatever name I choose. I'm not sure it's always my call - I kind of feel like each piece is telling ME what it would like to be known as!  

The colours and brushstrokes and scenes often tell me what direction I need to go in when dreaming up a name. I wouldn't call a soft and gentle sky painting something big and bold (those names are for paintings like 'Wild Winds' below).


large acrylic sky painting on canvas in art studio of Susannah Bleasby Canadian abstract artist


As a reader and writer, I am a collector of words and phrases, snippets from poems and song lyrics. I keep a running list (err... lists - they're all over the place!) of possible ideas for titles. Once a painting is done and I'm letting it sit while I dream up a name, I will browse through my little book and see if I can play Matchmaker.

I love it when the perfect name is waiting there for whatever I have just completed!  That's exactly what happened with 'Dawning'. I had written it down (is it even a real word?) and knew it was exactly the right name for the morning light and warmth of that particular sunrise sky.


colorful morning sky painting by acrylic painting on canvas by Canadian artist Susannah Bleasby


Sometimes words and ideas spark the idea of a painting.

Starting with a phrase or title in mind is often a great jumping-off point on those days when I'm looking for somewhere to start. For example, when I was starting to play around with compositions that raised the horizon line to the upper section of the canvas, I had the title 'Highview' in my heart and with that, I ended up painting a beautiful memory of my days living in England and my lovely morning hike up a hill, through a field (past the cows ...pretty sure I was trespassing?!) on my way to work.


original oil painting on canvas of an english countryside morning view


I have more title ideas than I think I'll ever manage to use, but there are definitely some at the top of my "I must paint this" list. To name just a few, keep your eyes out for 'Wanderlust', 'Apricot Summer', 'River Silence', and for a giant painting, 'Far-ranging and free'. One I'm holding close to my heart, for now, is 'Loch Fyne' - it's in Scotland where my parents' ashes are scattered and a place, a feeling ... memories ... that I'll paint one day in some way.

A title also has to fit the 'style' of the painting.

I have great fun coming up with names for my abstract paintings! With those I feel I have a bit more leeway to be silly and play around with words; my abstracts themselves are meant to be playful and curious. One of my favourites was 'Kneedeep in the Hoopla' - I have no idea where I got that, but I love it! And it seemed to fit the colourful energetic painting I had been commissioned to do.

acrylic abstract painting colorful contemporary floral painting on canvas

And then there was the day I took a deep breath and pick the brightest, boldest magenta as the feature colour of an abstract piece - how could I not call this one 'Fearless'?

magenta abstract acrylic painting on canvas by Canadian artist Susannah Bleasby

 Another abstract name I loved using was 'Riptide' for this bright blue abstract feels like the thrilling, very alive and enticing swirl of rushing water.

bright blue acrylic abstract painting on canvas by Canadian abstract artist Susannah Bleasby

 I could go on and on about titles, where each one came from and why, but ultimately,

I think ...

it's the egg. 

Or maybe ...

it's the chicken?

Follow this link to enjoy my latest collection of "Forever Skies".  Choosing a collection name is actually really hard - to get one title that encapsulates each piece individually but also represents the collection as a whole is often a challenge ... but one that I love - it feels so great when it finally comes to me!