annunciation diary day thirteen: finding the title

Tomorrow should see the completion of the painting. Then comes the final important decision as to what the title will be. I have two in mind, quite different from each other. Should any readers feel moved to prefer one above the other, then your comments may contribute to the outcome. The two titles are:

Annunciation with Sunflowers

… and Plummet.

Your views will be most welcome. So will any suggestions alternative to my own. (Might this be turning into a competition?)

22 thoughts on “annunciation diary day thirteen: finding the title

  1. Well, I’ll tentatively commit to ‘Plummet’.

    But I wouldn’t rule out another title entirely!

    Many thanks for the introduction to Graham Ward. Unknown to me, a real find. Please get painting again, Graham!

  2. Somehow I managed to look at this a number of times without it becoming obvious to me—until now—how shocking it is that Gabriel grasps the Virgin’s arm. Usually they don’t even touch on the picture plane, no matter what sort of perspective is at work. That Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting where the hand and lily cross in front of the Virgin seated on her bed is the only one that I can remember where they touch on the canvas plane, though of course they are not at all really touching, thanks to perspective.

    You are good with titles. “Plummet” does have a wonderful feel in the mouth. I’m not sure that the picture has a plummet-feel, precisely, though. And I think “Annunciation with Sunflowers” is very good. One tends to want something about flowering or seed because of the strong union of son and sunflower and the two seedtimes. It also stresses tradition–which also means stressing how you differ from it.

    I was talking to Mike about it, and he came up with the very same third idea that I did—which seemed surprising to us both, since I hadn’t mentioned it—and that was one based on Luke I. (34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God.)

    The one we both thought of was “Overshadowed.” It’s not quite exact about the Holy Spirit because the time is not identical to the time in the picture—“will overshadow you,” Gabriel promises. But she is literally overshadowed here.

    Anyway, I throw it in the pot, though the truth is that I like both of yours. And would probably come down on “Annunciation with Sunflowers” even though I like “Plummet.”

    • Ah! The enterprising left of field I was wondering about in my comment to Anne Wolf. (See below.)

      Now this new suggestion complicates things even more. But it’s a nice conundrum and one to enjoy. My thanks to Mike for his insightful suggestion. ‘Overshadowed’ is a fitting sentiment for the subject. It has that layered-meanings-in-one-word aspect that I so often look for in the titles of my paintings.

      I’ve been wondering when someone who knows about such things was going to comment on the point of contact between the Virgin and the Angel. Moreover not a brushing of sleeves or the fingertips in proximity type of a contact, but a full, invasive taking-hold. I didn’t want to fudge it by playing with picture planes, which I feel in this harsher age would be an evasion on my part that might feel coy. However, I’m heartened by the fact that you didn’t notice until now. That seems to be in the general direction of perhaps having got it right. We’ll see. Suffice to say Marly that you’re the first to have written or said anything about the ‘touch’.

      • Well, it’s overshadowed in terms of composition… And “will be” in terms of meaning.

        Strange. I suppose it’s because of seeing the picture in stages; the grip didn’t achieve full force until complete. Because now it seems to me rather bizarre that I didn’t focus in on it, even though I remember looking at the grasp.

        You do have a good solution to the problem of angels–that they often go unrecognized and only sometimes (the “Fear not” angels) appear with obvious attributes like wings. While you’ve often used the split coat to suggest wings, this one also gives that strong halo effect without actually reaching for anything that might seem extraneous.

        And now I shall go rebound, which is as close as I get to flying!

        • Clive, I love the physicality of that grasp; it’s yet another way your paintings go beyond their Biblical or mythological sources and feel as if they are happening right now. For me, that makes them much more profoundly spiritual than the originals, and challenges me to put myself into the frame, into the meaning of whatever is happening. An angel we can’t touch or who never touches us – what is that, except for a message that we are living in a fallen world, separate from whatever is “holy.” I don’t buy that; for me, sunflowers, sheep, lip-smacking beagles and oak leaves are just as holy (if not more so) than anything else!

          • What a thoughtful response. Thank you Beth for that. You know from our past correspondence that I have no faith, though my reply when asked whether I do, has to be that I believe in what I paint when I’m painting it. But yes, if I believed, then I would see God in everything. He’d be in the falling oak leaves, the clouds, the sunflowers and in the sound of passing wings. As it is I see an accident of circumstances and evolution that leaves me dumbfounded by the sheer magnitude and diversity of the universe. No wonder as humans we try to mirror what we see around us by constructing our own flawed creations. I see it as a process of attempting… and usually with some futility… to make order of the chaos. It’s the force that keeps me pinned to my easel, working away trying to perfect a vision that of course can never be perfected, never really finished.

            I recently saw a nature documentary, and as I watched a bright-eyed bower bird seeking out component parts for his creation, returning to arrange and re-arrange them to his satisfaction, obsessively labouring until all was as he wanted it, I though to myself, “That bird and I are cut from the same cloth!”

  3. Dear Clive, I cannot help but ‘join the fray’ … personally I prefer ‘Annunciation with Sunflowers’… somehow, for me, ‘Plummet’ isn’t a sufficiently beautiful sounding word for such a glorious painting. I find myself in sympathy with Beth’s thoughts.

    • Welcome to the fray Anne. Though as frays go this is a very decorous one, Beth will nevertheless be relieved that you’ve tipped the balance in favour of Annunciation with Sunflowers. (And it’s good to know the reason why you favour it over the alternative. I’m not sure I agree with you about the word ‘plummet’. The sound made by the word when spoken is rather lovely. Think of someone with a beautiful voice… say Siân Phillips… saying it. The p plumped up, the musical l and the long u segueing into a soft and sensuous double m before finishing with the soft peddle on the e t. ) However there’s still time for it to swing the other way again, or even for someone enterprising to come from left of field with an entirely new title. We must wait and see.

  4. hmm..i prefer “plummet.” it grabs me. you really set up the image for this post for that title, i think. it drives your eyes, and points out the sunflowers just as well…

    • Zoe I think you’re right about the way I may have sub-consciously ‘set up’ the above image to weigh slightly in favour of Plummet, though on the conscious level I tried to crop the image to balance both titles under consideration. This is a tough one. Titles are really important to me.

  5. Dear Clive Hicks-Jenkins,

    I have been directed to your web-blog by my friend Derek Brampton. The work is ravishing. It has been all I can do not to spend the hours I would like pouring over the imagery and the power of these beautiful figures and these wonderful still-life compositions. I have contacted Newport Art Gallery today to enquire whether they still have copies of the catalogue that you mention under ‘Publications’ on your site. I am intrigued by the quiet spirituality of the figures, and the intensity of their gaze, and the referencing to the Masters which is evident throughout these paintings. I wonder, did the ‘Gawain’ head become the central figure in the ‘St George’ piece- was it (the head study) ever offered for sale- in short, might it ever be for sale? On the subject of the ‘Annunciation’ piece (the figure of the angel in particular, so staggeringly beautiful in his countenance) the depiction of the sunflowers are wondrous- and, I should hope- are now complete in your opinion (I have been following the metamorphosis of the piece- it must be one of the most significant images you have made to justify such slavish care. I long to see more…


    Graham Ward

    • Graham, thank you so much for your generous comments. My thanks to Derek too for having directed you to the site.

      Let me know if you don’t have any luck at Newport regarding a Mare’s Tale catalogue. I have some here and could spare one for you.

      The Gawain head was done after Green George, and so the reference was the other way around. Certainly the helmet links the two. I’m not yet through with the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight theme, and I’m currently reading (for the third time) Simon Armitage’s magnificent re-working of the poem. I think there’s a big painting cooking in the back of my mind. Both the ‘study’ heads are going to be in my forthcoming exhibition at the Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff, opening on the 26th.

      All being well the Annunciation should be finished tomorrow. Still the angel’s feet to be painted in and some foreground detail refined. When all is to my satisfaction, we’ll photograph the painting properly and post an image on this site. Then I have to get it to Cardiff for framing. The lead up to a solo exhibition is always a pressurised time, but I’ve made this one particularly hard by leaving such a complex image until last. Nearly there now though.

    • Oh crikey!!! Graham, I knew your name was ringing a bell. Peter and I purchased a painting of yours from the Portal Gallery at the Islington Art fair about fourteen years ago. It was called Portland Bill. (‘Bill’ being a seaman/lighthouse-keeper with the wings of an angel.) Maybe you remember the painting. For close on ten years it’s hung at our cottage overlooking Cardigan Bay, and we’ve always said that Portland Bill, the first painting that greets visitors past the front door, is the presiding guardian spirit of the cottage! How extraordinary, and how exciting to hear from you in these circumstances. I so admire your work. Unfortunately I can’t withdraw the Head of Gawain from my forthcoming exhibition as it’s already been dispatched to Cardiff. But if it doesn’t sell then it’s yours, and if it does then I’ll happily make another for you. Not identical, but an alternative version. Perhaps we could do a swop. I’ve long harboured a notion of getting a more recent piece of your work. This is SO exciting. I’ve been looking at your site and the work is beautiful. What a wild coincidence. Please get back in touch.

  6. … And I prefer Plummet.
    I don’t see ‘plummet’ as necessarily free fall, especially with a winged creature, but as a controlled and intensely focused descent. I like the direction of the title against the craning of the sunflowers, it adds an energy. ‘Plummet’ sounds to me a more personal title for the painting where Annunciation with Sunflowers is factual and I prefer it for this reason too (says she, having just titled pieces ‘Self Portrait with This’, ‘Self Portrait with That’ etc!)

  7. I guess I prefer the first title because “Plummet” seems inaccurate since it implies a freefall, without choice, without possibility of return. Unless your angel plans to stick around!! And I do like “Annunciation with Sunflowers” for its connection with Renaissance masterpieces known to us (if not their own creators) by similar names. (The sunflowers are gorgeous, by the way.)

    • I’m glad you like the sunflowers Beth. When I first roughly painted them in I surveyed the result with horror, convinced that I’d ruined everything. But they just needed a lot more brush work (and sgraffito) to bring them into the world of the painting.

      I take your point about the title. I must say I’m really torn on this one. Currently there are two votes in each camp. You and Graham (Check out his excellent site by the way… his paintings are truly beautiful) batting for Annunciation with Sunflowers, while Zoe and Philippa have put their combined weight behind Plummet. I think there are good points made by all of you. We’ll have to see who else turns up in the next few days to sway my decision!

      • You’re quite right about Graham’s work, Clive. Thank you for pointing me to his website. I’m very intrigued and would love to know more about his choices of symbols, especially in the very beautiful paintings with quasi-religious subjects. “Aldeburg, Ash Wednesday” (I hope I have that right) for instance, and the various paintings with deer or reindeer. How fortuitous that you two have reconnected! (And I’m glad he agrees with me about the title; I need some support here in the “Sunflower” camp!)

        • Yes, he has a poet’s ear for titles. I find his compositions to be deeply contemplative. Graham is that rare beast, an artist who conjures faultlessly formal, schematic compositions that are decorative yet freighted with deep and serious intent. Those things, in my experience, almost never go together. Right now I can only think of Paul Klee. There’s a painting of Graham’s… a little bird perched on a font-like vessel… that just sticks in my mind like a burr that won’t let go. It’s heartrending. (See it on his PAINTING page, the first icon in the third row down on the navigation panel.)

          Moreover… and this is very close to my heart as you’ll see if you read the last two comments HERE… he’s a master of positive and negative space, something that’s evident in the many works on the site with spare compositions. Graham is not afraid to be simple, which I greatly admire.

        • Hi Beth,

          I am intrigued by the ‘forum-aspect’ of Clive’s web-log! Goodness me, what praise- I was directed to Clive’s work by a very old friend whom I had not seen for a number of years, and I have been transfixed by these images. Unrecalled by me, he bought a painting of mine some years ago, and this reconection is fortuitous indeed. Thank you for your kind words on my work; my only regret at the moment is that there is not more of it being done. Sometimes, our feelings of inertia are really stasis- a ‘waiting to move’ essentially, and I hope that I am able to make some headway. The figurative elements of my work have always been, and I am striving for a way in which the elements can be simplified, without comprimising their presence. Are you a painter? If so, I wouild love to see your work. Thanks again for your encouraging words.


          • Graham, how nice to “meet” you here at Clive’s! I spent quite some time yesterday looking at your work and website, admiring nearly everything I saw there and intrigued by the subjects, the simplicity, and the treatment. (That is also a very good photographic portrait.)

            Blogging is good for jump-starting creativity, I find, and am continually grateful for the comments and community that forms – you might give it a try! I’m now a writer, editor, and publisher who used to be a painter; by profession I’m a graphic designer. My artwork was quite realistic and then became more expressive, but I stopped about 20 years ago when I turned seriously to writing. Now, at 57, I’m coming back to art, and have no idea where it will go – which is exciting and challenging both. You can see more about me at my blog — and at My husband (of 30 years now) is a fine photographer; his work is at We are Americans now living in Montreal.

            Are you Anglican, I wonder? I’m curious about the spiritual side of your work.

            Thanks for replying here,and I hope we’ll continue our virtual chat at one place or another!

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