View Full Version : Help Pick a Title of Oil/Digital Painting

10 October 2003, 08:35 PM
Hi Everyone! Here's a good image for this new forum. This is an image I've been working on with Mark Snowsell for an upcoming project. Originally this was an oil painting made for a book cover and, at the time, it probably suited the job just fine. The art direction was to make the girl emotionless and there was limited time allowed for the background plus there was type issues as well.
I was never really to happy with the image, but thought it had potential. I also thought it would be interesting to document the process of taking a digital image and improving/adding to it using digital tools. Initially Mark and I agreed the image was lacking any kind of punch. First order of business was to try and engage the veiwer further in a subtle way. Of course, Mark suggested working with the eyes and facial expression. We both agreed that a slight smirk along with a slightly raised eyebrow would really do the trick. After a couple of versions, trying right and then the left eyebrow we went with the left. Initially I went a little to far with the smirk and she looked a little goofy so we toned that down as well.
Another problem with this image was the overall lack of character in the background. I went to work dirtying up the barn by just adding some subtle variations to the hue and value of the details. Mark suggested we needed more variation on the path and the field as well. I then moved onto adding more character through subtle hue changes and variety in line treatments for the details.
After all that we went back and forth a few more times tweaking little things here and there. But the final product can be viewed below.
Ultimately this image may not be my favorite portfolio sample but it does show how some small changes can really add dimension and life to an image. The story here is definetly more engaging and clear and there is a much more emotive quality to the piece.

So special thanks to Mark S. for working with me on this piece. Please make sure to give me your thoughts for a title as well as any others you'd like to share.
Here's the original

Here's the new version:

10 October 2003, 09:51 PM
Scream from Munch?

A B/W image or desatuate the color may help.

10 October 2003, 10:13 PM
Sream from Munch?.....I don't get it??:)

your not the first to say that I should desaturate it. Others have said they like the color...maybe its personal preference

10 October 2003, 11:09 PM
"The Ring" the movie may be more appropriate....

10 October 2003, 12:17 AM
So what do people think of the devlopment of the character of the second image?

Can you see how the second image implies so much more story than the first? ... I am really interested in what people think the second image now says?

10 October 2003, 12:31 AM
For me, the first image doesn't convey much at all. What relation does the girl have with the house? Is she happy/sad that the house is on fire? WHY is the house on fire? Can't seem to make that out.

The second image lends a lot more meaning to the overall image. Now it comes across as "Hahaha! I just burned the house down!"

Amazing that you could do that by simply raising the eyebrow and giving her a sly smirk on the face.


Back to work......

10 October 2003, 12:44 AM
I'm not sure what you're trying to convey here. I understand the image, and it looks like this girl/woman is supposed to be emotionless, but it looks more like she is happy that it is on fire. There doesn't seem to be too much emotion so much as there is meaning. I think that to convey what she is thinking more accurately, you should try to give her a very coy smile. The kind of smile a woman gives you after she's just said something very sexy. It makes you realize that they are thinking of pleasure. It seems like this girl means the same thing, like she got pleasure from seeing the farm on fire, but it just doesn't jump out at me. I don't know, thats just my crazy opinion on it.

I do think that the changes from the first to second version are significant, and the second image does stand out much better.

10 October 2003, 01:00 AM
Shin_Tori: Awesome crit...thanks for taking the time.

I'm glad the emotion doesn't jump out at you...that was the desired effect. It seems to me there is a fine line between conveying the concept here and going overboard with the facial expression. To much "desire" or "feeling" on this, to me would look a bit too "campy." While I think this image does have a bit of a campy. horror feel to it...the subtlety of her facial expression adds to the sophistacation of this image. On top of that, my style is to be subtle with emotive pieces. I like things to need a second look, with enough there to still convey the concept quickly enough.
But, heck, what do I know I painted it and we all know we can be to close to our own images.

10 October 2003, 01:09 AM
The self-satisfied or barely-there smile (upturned corners of mouth but no real creases in the cheeks) indicates to me that the girl lit, or is somehow involved in, the fire and is pleased with herself. Her raised eyebrow, often a sign of questioning, seems to say to the viewer, "Well, what are you going to do about it", as if she is unconcerned about consequences.

My only difficulty with the image is that the girl doesn't seem to be physically connected with the scene - it is like two parts with no link between them apart from an assumed story. As we see her only from the shoulders up there is no obvious connection so perhaps a more subtle one is needed. Smoke is billowing from the barn to the left, and the same breeze could maybe blow a few whisps of the girls hair in the same direction? Of course, this might be the intention; to echo the apparent lack of concern the girl shows for what she has done.

10 October 2003, 01:15 AM
Ordibble P. Lop: Now that is a heck of a good idea!!

And your comment is well noted....there is a a bit of a disconnection there...I mean heck the lighting on her probably would never happen like that in real life. i may just have to do the hair thing. THANKS!

You like that Mark?


10 October 2003, 01:16 AM
First the Title: "Baby Blues"

(Because it speaks about her eyes, I reallt like her eyes).

About the image... 1st is emotion less, 2 is "Well.. not bad it is burning". For the cover of a book like the one you descrived I certainly would go with the first picture. The second picture screams "mischievous" out loud.

Just for the fun of it, could you do a mix of both pictures.. take the 2nd. picture (because the fire and grass are a lot better on 2nd. picture) and overlay the emontionless mouth from 1st. picture... I think that would do the trick.

10 October 2003, 01:24 AM
I think titles are an oft times over looked yet intrinsically vital aspect to creating a work of art. It can finalize the image, giving it direction and suggesting a bit of insight as to the intent of the artist, or it can give the viewer yet another element to work with when coming up with their own interpretations.

Using the lower of the two pieces as an example, here's what I mean...

The artist could use a literal title to push the viewer in one solid direction. For example by calling the work "Arson at Emerald Ranch" the artist gives a very direct meaning to the piece. The barn is on fire, and because we know the piece is about arson, the fire must have been intentionally set by someone. The girl is smirking, ergo she is the arsonist. This does leave the viewer the job of coming up with the back story, the why, and the how of the piece, however by so readily supplying the who, the what and the where the artist severly truncated the participation of the viewer.

By using something a little more vague and suggestive, perhaps "Josie's Game" the artist gives a little more reign to viewer. Now we as viewers can start coming up with a more complex and rich backstory, plus it gives us a little more emotional content to go on. By suggestion fire and arson are a game to Josie we lend a sort of psychopathic tilt to the image making people uncomfortable to be in Josie's presence but still fascinated by the untold story. However, once again the title still directs somewhat the viewers interpretation with the strong implication that the smirking girl is in fact "Josie" and that she started the fire.

Note though, that vagueness in a title can be taken too far. By calling this image something like "Red Elephant 5" we've divested all usefullness of the title towards developing the story until it becomes so much baggage, confusing the viewer and working against the viewer-artist connection.

The trick then is knowing when is enough and how much is "too far". This will only come with practice and study and is as much a product of style from artist to artist as is the visual aspect of the art itself. I myself like to create a multi-layered meaning using the elements of the piece as sort of visual puns. I hope to create titles that can be taken any number of ways, each vague enough so as to develop interest in the viewer and spark the desire to add their own thoughts and feelings to the piece but direct enough so as to give the viewer a base from which to start. In this case, based on the girl's expression, the color of her hair, the fire and the sunset, this piece should be titled...

"Rhapsody in Red"


10 October 2003, 01:31 AM
Apollux: Good idea...the combining of the two...this better defines to me that the subtleness of her smile is very think maybe its to much...Shin_tori didn't think it wasn't enough.

Imphead: What a wonderful editorial on titles...something I all to often decide at the last minute. What makes this even more lame of me is that i actually am a writer and a poet. Whats up with that!! Anyways thanks for the great insights...and I pretty much agree with your thoughts

10 October 2003, 02:16 AM
On the first image it feels like she got no connection to the house.. on the second image she has set the barn on fire because she has some bad emetions connected to that house. Just what i felt about the pictures :]

10 October 2003, 02:59 AM
Bloody excellent ! ... everyone seems to be seeing exactly the "story" I helped Phill steer his image towards.

The crits are mostly about the subtly and details -- but not the main story of the image. This is exactly as it should be.

Now all you are seeing here is the start and finish -- there were a seris of alterations that Phill did to move the image towards where it is now -- which is close to his original, but just twisted to something more enticing.

What I's like people to look at closley is the whole bunch of changes made to the face that now achieve a mischevious smirk -- which is not such an easy thing to do.

Once the primary element is right you need to make sure everything works with it -- acts as a conuter point in this case... and this includes a good title.

Imphead -- reall good comments. Don't make titles obvious -- the obvious stuff is in the image so don't repeat it in the title. Use the title to enhance the story -- I love "Josie's Game"

Here are some other suggestions


"Bugger" -- special meaning to Australians.

"I don't particularly hate mice."

"Goodness. Its been years since I saw aunt Hazel"

"Don't you just love the smell of country air"

"Its all about cleanliness"

10 October 2003, 04:58 AM
I am really corious... what is the name of the book this cover is for? (if it can be disclosed, of course)

No matter what the actual tytle of the image is, the book's title is the one that will echo on the picture (and the picture will echo on it) - To some extend, the picture is designed to sell the title, isn't it?

It would be quite funny pickying a book on the library with that cover and named "Aunt Alycia's Cook Book"

10 October 2003, 05:17 AM
"Burning the barns of Madison County"

10 October 2003, 05:27 AM
Express the body language, head down a bit, angled, the eyes cocked like red rimmed colt 45's, loaded and aimed straight at the viewer with that 'frozen' I see through you cause you're completely transparent...look. Bushier eyebrows and make her look like she smells something bad at the same time she's not so 'pristine'. Put her hair more like she's hiding behind it. Show the pores of her skin, put some moles, freckles, nicks and spots on her skin to make it look 'real'. Put spots in her eyes so they resemble real eyes, you know, with a 'fingerprint' one of a kind, not the 'blue lagoon'. Get rid of the hat and have a strong gust of wind pulling her hair like a horses' tail in the same direction as the smoke, to give perspective depth. Make the smoke pyroclastic, like its burning magma. Again, have rays of light in the horizon to add depth, like columns of light, rays coming down from the sky to the earth. Put the fire in a shadow...glowing like an ember. blackened smoke...have creatures running away, perhaps a horse. In the very distance at the foothills of some mountains have rain to show contrast of texture, fire and water. Like you have wind. If she has to have a hat, have her holding the hat with blackened fingers. She looks like she has a heavy basecoat of makeup on, remove that and the lipstick? They always 'eat' the lipstick, make it 'gone' on her lower center part of her lip. Have a few threads out of place on her seams. If you show her hands, a broken nail.
Or have her gripping her collar to keep her shirt or coat closed and have her leaning into the wind. Make her look like she's either done or seen a horror, like she's fleeing something. Title: 'Baby Beef'.

10 October 2003, 05:46 AM
To my mind the first image is more powerful.

I see the lack of emotion as being scarier than the self serving, vindictive, pleasure that the second character seems to show.

The second image it is immediate, I see the raised eyebrow, and smirk and it immediately lays out the mindset of the character. In the first image she is just cold. I keep searching her eyes trying to figure out the motivation, pain, anger, or just pure evil.

Image 2 tells a story, image 1 draws me in and makes me dig for the story.

Image 2 would make a better book cover, but I would rather have image 1 on my wall.

As for a title...

Nightfall's comin' on.

10 October 2003, 06:20 AM
I agree with electro that the frist image seems a stronger story... it makes me come up with ideas as why she is emotionless lending to a deeper idea than that she is just happy to burn things down.

10 October 2003, 08:01 AM
haha... after looking at this, I felt sorry for myself clicking open my own work. It's an awesome piece of work, especially the colors in terms of skill, just because they really leap out at me.

I'm not a huuuge fan of how the top of the hat is a little bit blurry, although the hat is an asset to the character in my own opinion. I hope you keep it! But perhaps only half as blended into the sky (at the top I mean)? You never know, then it might draw too much attention, the colors contrast a bit there already. But the sharper edge might bring your girl forward more, and that could potentially be a good thing. As it is though, I would prefer a sharper edge, like the rim has.

Some great suggestions have been made, I hope mine falls into the same category :)

'Summer cleaning' is a kind of cute name maybe, though inspired by current suggestions of course.

PS. Would I be right if I said your prefered direction of brushing is to the right? The grass all faces that direction. I know the smoke is effected by a light wind and all, but it definitely goes the opposite direction of most of the grass. In the first image, the grass looks as though a bit more wind is effecting it. Only SLIGHT amounts... But others might disagree completely, because it's obvious that very slight amounts of wind are present. My point is that the directions in the first image seem slightly wrong, but not really. I could just be in a funny mood or something ;)

In the second image, I didnt notice any conflict really. I like the second images grass a lot, it's definitely my preferred grass choice.

Keep in mind that I have never painted an image before, and I'm not a very experience artist :) But I hope to be helpful.

10 October 2003, 10:52 AM
Well I think the pics seems to give us a horror visual....I would like to clarify that it seems look like a screen capture that "video tape" of "the Ring". A buring house with an "innocent" "weird" woman...

but it is too colourful....

Yes, it may be contains some story in it...but may be lack of connection in content, just like one of the fragment segments of that "tape".

10 October 2003, 01:33 PM
wow everyone! Some excellent crits here. This forum is definetly going to be helpful for those brave enought to post thier work here:) Seriously though this is going to ba great place for professionals and aspiring ones to hone thier skills. I will apply some of the crits mentioned below and post this image again in the coming weeks to see if its improved any.

Thanks again for all of you taking the time out of your busy day to comment. Keep um comin!

10 October 2003, 05:28 PM
this is very ironic concidering that I live in Southern Cal and right now fires are destroying houses by the hundreds. So my opinion deals with the emotion. Knowing what I know now about people and how they react to loosing the homes, I would say that the expression on her face is not realistic of a person in this situation. Although, if she is suposed to be the cause of this fire then maybe her emotionless/smirk is appropriate.

10 October 2003, 06:51 PM
More then the 2nd picture is cleaer then the 1st one (when talking about emotions, story etc.), I think that the combination of those two - seeing the 1st, and then the 2nd one - is even a better choice. Like a short comics, making you ask questions and wonder what da heck is the connection between the girl and the burning house. Now, after seeing the 1st picture, You're in the story, waiting for answer, maybe even don't know the answer is going to come and then boom! you see the small smile, when the house gets burned more and more and it's just so funny!

Black humor - We have a lot of this here (Israel... well... why cry when you can lough? Seriously, things aren't so terrible all over the place, come to visit! :) )

10 October 2003, 09:06 PM
On the note of the main character being disjoint from the scene... i liked the comments about making her hair follow the wind.

One other thing though... would a country gal, in the barn, who just put it on fire look this "clean"?... perhaps some dirt... her clothes also don't seem to associate her with the event.

That scarf could also be blowing in the wind perhaps?

The tones on the first image look a little deeper... and better. The second image, the face looks a little flat.

I like the rendition of the flames, expression of the girl...

Keep up the good work!

10 October 2003, 09:07 PM
I'm going to have to join the ranks of those who prefer her face in the original image.

In this case, the emotionless face does more for the image than the smirking one. It's obvious the girl had something to do with the fire, because of the existance of the painting itself. The character is more appealing to me in the first, because she must have had a legitimate reason for what she did... she is not happy about it but she had no choice. It gives the viewer a reason to admire her.

If the new version was a keeper, I think the smirk and raised eyebrow need to be toned back about 75%.... it's not quite subtle enough and doesn't give the viewer enough credit for his ability to figure out the story for his/herself. (Unless of course this is a story about an off center character who is evil at heart - the villlian - which case she maybe shouldn't be the main focus of the image).

I do like the changes to the fire, the grass and her hair. I would suggest creating a stronger backlight effect on the hair in order to get her a little more "into" the scene.

And I love the colors. Don't tone those down!
As for a title, "settlement".... or something along those lines.

I also would like to comment on the whole concept of changing your initial insticts. For educational purposes, I think it is fine to go down the "what if" road.... but in the case of a seasoned artist many times the first try is the best. It's important to trust yourself... if it's not know.
I know I've spent time trying to update old images only to realize I did something for a forgotten reason.


10 October 2003, 10:51 PM
I have to say all of your comments have been really awesome and helpful! Again thanks for taking the time. I love that people are torn between the first and second image. Emotionless was what I was roiginally going for on the first and i think its great you guys got that.

I can tell you this...i will be dirtying things up a bit on the girl. The hair and scarf will definetly be blowing...hmmmm what else. Damn i wish I had all time in the world to work on this but alas I have pending projects to work on. I will be posting the newer version soon.

Thanks again

10 October 2003, 08:59 PM
(...ahem...) I think one needs to see the pores in the skin, especially, with the little nuances of imperfections. Also, the eyebrows look 'pencilled' in like she just walked out the front door of a beauty salon. She needs to be cocked forward, holding her hat and coat. Also, columns of light in the background like rays should give perspective depth. Water as rain, fire with a 'glow' and windswept landscape pocked with austere barren spaces. The texture of the elements, even a little rain on her face and/or clothes, ashes, wind.

10 October 2003, 09:04 PM
fractionalist...thanks I saw your last post too, no need to post the same comments twice...I plan to apply many of your suggestions.

10 October 2003, 12:05 AM
Yes, I spent hours, fascinated by and looking at your images...and finally it all jelled and my first post seemed to 'searching' and not 'sure', at last the next day it all 'jelled' and I was able to verbalize my vision more clearly because I had formed the finished piece in my minds-eye very clearly. So I felt in retrospect that my first post was a little muddied and unclear also, therefore I posted a second time more succinctly. Now I can't wait to see what you do with that painting. There is no question that the image is haunting and speaks volumes, mostly questions.

11 November 2003, 10:10 PM
It occured to me the palette for the entire painting should be extracted from the eyes somehow, so that the focus of the entire painting chromatically is the eyes, and a rosier palette of those colors would be the lips. I keep checking for you updated picture, this is, to me, a very inspiring and exciting forum in which one can participate in the creation of excitment. Its like being at a 'Vernisage'!

11 November 2003, 10:19 AM
Beautiful work. Pieces like this remind me again that CG is quickly becoming a serious form of artistic expression.

I think I prefer the second one, but I'm also torn.

If it were mine, I think I would revamp the lighting a bit to have the gal's face lit from below or the side, like she was carrying a lamp away from the building. Something about her bright face with the scene so cleary backlit doesn't ring true to me. It almost appears as if someone has shined a flashlight on her face.

11 November 2003, 09:05 PM
I like the first one more, because I see a painter combining two elements, instead of a 'scene'. Kinda like the way the mona lisa is not really "in" the space that is behind her. Its more like her mind or something relating. Both the girl and the fire become more symbolic because they are not reacting to eachother naturally like they would in a movie. The second one also has that symbolic quality, but less so.

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