Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

Breaking the rules… or not

Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

Fun With Titles

Posted Friday, May 4th, 2012

I like a good title.  It makes me try to connect the title with the artwork.  I wonder what it means.  I look at the work, see what I see…and sometimes wonder what it was that the artist saw.  Does the title spell out exactly what it means?  Or, does the title pique your interest and make you wonder what the painting is about?  Is it a serious painting?  Is it tongue in cheek?  What does it mean?  I really hate untitled works.  I sometimes just move on to the next piece because there was nothing to make me think and wonder.  I guess one could argue that the work itself should make me think.  I suppose that would be valid.  But, it’s so much more fun to be poked and titillated.  To me, the title is a part of the work, an important part of the work.  Granted, you don’t want to spell out the entire meaning of the work and explain each mark and color.  Mystery is part of the appeal.  And, each viewer may see something different in the work.  I like that.  Each viewer’s interpretation is valid.  But, a title can be a starting point to get the thinking going.  It can suggest something that the viewer can then follow – or not follow – to some conclusion.  Maybe there isn’t actually a conclusion.  Maybe, getting one to think is all it’s about!  Whatever.  Makes no difference.  Maybe it’s just a personal thing with me.  I like titles.


My painting, “Sign On the Dotted Line”, has a title intended to make one think.  What can that be about?  Where’s the Line?  I don’t see a line!  I see a bunch of dots…large ones, small ones, scattered about…  Whenever I’m asked (or told) to sign on the dotted line, I feel like I’m signing my life away.  Now, it’s written in stone.  Now, I’m bound to this or that.  No flexibility here.  No excuses.  No getting out of it.  It’s signed, sealed and delivered.  Now, I’m beholden.  Signing on the dotted line is a serious and everlasting thing!  There’s always fine print.  Usually, an interpreter is required.  There are way more words than necessary, in fine print, that you’d better understand.  Hah!  Lots of luck with that!   So…I think I’m adding a little levity to the serious act of signing.  Where is the line, anyway?  Not only is everything in fine print that I don’t understand, I can’t even find the line!  Wouldn’t you know it?  “They” have all the control.  And, you can take it from there.  Whatever you see in the painting is okay with me.  But, I gave you a starting point, something to ponder…


Sign On the Dotted Line




If you’re going to paint in a series you must know what it is that you’re painting about. You know where you’re going. That’s counter to my usual method of working. I usually don’t know what a work is about until I’m finished and it’s titled. When I come up with a title, everything falls into place and the meaning reveals itself to me.

I do have one series that I started several years ago and I keep adding to it when I’m moved to do so. I didn’t start out with series in mind. That idea came to me after I’d completed the first one and titled it. My “Twelve” series now has six paintings in it. I don’t know how many will ultimately end up there. The possibilities are endless. I like that!

My latest painting in the series is “Twelve and Twelve More”, a 10″x10″x1 5/8″ oil/mixed media painting on panel. It’s actually a variation on the theme of “twelve” because it actually contains twenty-four! It has twelve circles (the original premise), but also has twelve bars. I thought that was a fun variation.

"Twelve and Twelve More" by Erika Allison

"Twelve and Twelve More" - oil/mixed media on panel, 10"x10"x1 5/8"

Back to the beginning: I painted a 16″x16″x1 5/8″ painting containing twelve circles. The challenge was to make it interesting. The inspiration was a package of paper towels in the studio. In addition, I chose a complementary color scheme of red and green. So, I think I had a real challenge there! After I finished it and titled it (clever title, eh?) I thought I could paint this subject endlessly and have interesting variations every time. That’s how this series got started – with twelve circles. Most have twelve circles. One painting I decided that the “twelve” didn’t necessarily have to be circles, so I used a few squarish shapes. I will say that I think that one is the weakest of the series.

"Twelve" by Erika Allison

"Twelve" - oil/mixed media on panel, 16"x16"x2"

I really enjoy working on this series. I find it challenging. I’m taking a simple premise and painting it over and over again – and expecting the results to be unique and exciting every time.

I have a funny anecdote about my second attempt to add to my new idea of painting a series. I went from the smallish 16″x16″ to a large 60″x48″. I really like working large. My color scheme challenge was to use monochromatic scheme with yellow. Yikes! High key painting coming out! I finished it, thinking I had a ready-made title “Twelve.2″ I was about to write that on the back when I realized I had actually painted sixteen circles! Oh, no! Now, what? Obviously, I had to come up with a different title, which took awhile. I had to do a lot of thinking and studying before coming up with “Evolution/Revolution”.

"Evolution/Revolution" by Erika Allison

"Evolution/Revolution" - oil/mixed media on panel, 60"x48"x2"

I’m sure I’ll keep adding to this series.  I have no idea when it will end, if ever…

Oh, boy!  Art shows take a lot of work!  All that creating …all that thinking about titles, planning, hauling the work to the gallery…  Whew!  It’s finally behind me …for this round.  My show, “Unanswered Questions”, is being shown at the Ortego Gallery in The Arts Factory, Las Vegas for the month of July.

The Las Vegas arts district has a First Friday event every month, preceded by a Preview Night the Thursday before.  Preview night is when a lot of the artists make their rounds to see what’s going on, the new exhibits, greet each other, etc.  It’s also the night that a lot of collectors like to make the rounds, in hopes of seeing the artwork better and meeting the artists.  First Friday is a continuation of galleries being open to exhibit artwork, but there are lots of other things going on as well.  It’s quite a festive evening.  People watching is great, as is the art viewing.

Here are a few photos from the event.

Tamara Watson and Erika Allison discussing her new work, "As If By Magic".

Tamara Watson and Erika Allison discussing her work, “As If By Magic”

Las Vegas Painter Brian Malpasso at the Arts Factory

Local Las Vegas artist, Brian Malpasso showing his paintings.

Carlos De Las Heras showing "The Planet Earth Award" series at First Friday Las Vegas.

Carlos De Las Heras showing paintings from his series “The Planet Earth Awards, Beyond Superstition”.

Now that the July events are behind me, it’s time to update mailing lists, post pictures and write blogs.  Then, it’s on to more creating, thinking about titles, planning…

Photos credit – Trillian

Jill Of All Trades

Posted Monday, April 19th, 2010


“Can We Get There From Here?”


Oil/Mixed Media on Panel

Yup, JILL.  That would be the feminine for…you got it – jack of all trades.  I suppose I shouldn’t focus on gender.  All of us artists are up against the same thing:  the need to be able to do it all.  It seems that ALL is getting bigger and broader and more demanding.

I wish that being an artist meant that one would CREATE ART.  That’s all.  Times  have changed.  Our needs have changed.  And, there’s more than ever to do as an artist.  There’s so much preparation.  There’s promoting oneself.  Showing the work.  Being a good salesperson.  Keeping accurate records.

Before I can begin a painting I have to come up with a painting surface.  Sure, surfaces are available to buy.  But, there are many things to consider.  What kind of surface do  you want?  Can you afford to buy a prepared surface of the quality you want?  Or, if you want a “custom” surface that isn’t manufactured, you will need to create it yourself.  This is where the “fun” begins.  A knowledge of building materials and tools comes in handy.  Tools needed to build the surface are  needed.  And, a place to work at building is needed.  Time is spent building the painting surfaces.

The best part, for me, is the actual creating of the artwork.  I get the most joy out of painting and whatever else is involved in the creation of my work.  I work rather quickly as far as the actual painting goes.  But, I can spend a lot of time thinking, viewing, coming up with ideas of “what’s next”.  Do I want to include this or that, do I want to add this or that found object, do I want to add marks in pencil, oil stick or spray paint?  This is where I really enjoy the process.  These are the decisions that truly affect the final outcome of the work.  The answers to each of these questions make or break the success of of the work.  I love it when I feel like I’ve made the right decisions.

Now, I need to be able to promote myself.  In the past that meant being able to photograph your work well (or hire a professional photographer), keeping your resume up-to-date and searching for opportunities to show your work.  Opportunities to show your work is still the goal today.  But, there are so many more opportunities for promoting yourself.  Hello, computer!  If one has the skills to create one’s own website and keep it up-to-date and photograph and photoshop one’s work – that One is in good shape!  Hooray for you!  If, on the other hand, one (ME) is a bit of a dinosaur in this area – there is a lot of frustration.  I feel like I’m spending all my time learning how to do everything that needs doing.  And, where is my painting time?

Well, I’m not giving up!  I’m still plugging away at it all.  This painting, “Can We Get There From Here?” shows how making one’s own painting surface contributes to the end result of the painting.  I’ve altered the shape of the rectangular surface by cutting out three semi-circles with my handy-dandy electric jigsaw.   I photographed the finished work.  With help from my fabulous webmaster, Trillian, I’ve come up with an image of the work.  She’s still working with me on how to do all this stuff.

I’m always looking for opportunities to show and sell my work.  I watch for competitions that I feel are worthwhile to enter.  And, when things go well, I have to get down to good record keeping!

I woke up thinking about this painting I did at the end of 2009.  It has been titled and shown already.  But, I’m still thinking about it.  It’s not truly finished.  It’s missing something.  I think I realized that all along.  And, yet, for some reason, I showed it anyway.  Shame on me!

The painting, “Don’t Suck Me In”, is missing pizzaz, the final touch.  It needs that one more thing.  I remember thinking about it as I was “finishing” it.  I just never came up with what that one final touch should be.  There are so many options at this point in a painting.  That final touch could be a paintstroke, a mark of some kind, a found object…  The hard part is figuring out which option will be the coup de grace.  It’s a critical time in the process of making a piece of art.  Is that last touch the coup de grace or the disastrous mark that makes the work OVER worked?  It is critical that an artist knows when a work is done.

Many times I have made my final mark and been so pleased with myself.  Aha!  The perfect mark that adds just what was needed.  Without that mark, the painting just isn’t finished.  Then, it seems that I will forever remember that final touch that made a particular painting.  Maybe I even get a little too impressed with myself!

Well, I would like to find that perfect mark right about now!  I could use something to gloat over.  The truth is, I’m struggling with this one.  Like I said, I actually woke up thinking about this.  That’s a good start.  I  had the idea of what to do next.  And so….I headed into the studio right after getting the coffee brewing.  The idea I had come up with had many possibilities, as usual.  Now, it’s time to pick one and JUST DO IT!  And, so I did.  I did not have to change the title of the painting.  I have perhaps added some depth to the meaning.  We’ll see.

I’m still not certain that it’s finished.  I will keep it up on the easel and pop in and study it.  At some point I will decide that I’ve come up with a good finish…or not.

“Don’t Suck Me In”, 25″x31″x2″, is still in progress.  The painting posted is the “Before” version.  I never understood why artists sometimes dated their work to include more than one year.  I’d think – it took that long?!  Now, I get it.  I will have to add 2010 to the date on the back.  It says 2009.  So, now, it will read 2009/2010.  It didn’t really take me 2 years.  Well, I’m not done yet.  Who knows?

I will photograph the work and post my progress in another post.  Who knows how long this might go on?



Posted Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Zoning Permit Required

“Zoning Permit Required”

I love titles! Titles may give me a clue as to what a painting is about, or, at least, the artist’s thoughts on the work. I hate to see untitled w

orks. When I see a painting that really intrigues me and I look for the title I am SO disappointed when I see “untitled’. I feel like the artist hasn’t finished his/her job when it’s left untitled. True, each viewer finds his/her own vision. But, it’s nice to get a clue about the artist’s vision as well. Don’t you wonder WHY an artist created a work of art – or what he/she was thinking while making it?

I work in the abstract so “what it’s about” is really up for grabs! I feel like most of my work is about whatever the viewer thinks it’s about. And, what I think it’s about can often be more than one thing. I actu

ally enjoy coming up with titles. Sometimes they come easy. And, sometimes I really labor over them. I may study the finished work for days on end before I come up with something that I like, that seems to fit, that could work. Usually, when I finally come up with it, it seems to be perfect…for me, anyway. I enjoy titles that make the viewer wonder. It seems to me that if the viewer wonders what the title means, he/she must be thinking about it. That’s great! I like to think I made someone think!

So – what do YOU think? Do you like titles? Or, are they not that important to you?