I am an artist and have done a series of 10 paintings that I have titled "Notes to Self." Each painting has a subtitle. For instance, "Notes to Self: Breathe" or "Notes to Self: Hope." Someone has asked me if my exhibit label in the gallery should read "Note to Self" singular rather than the plural "Notes to Self." I have no idea and hope someone here can help me out. This is an ongoing single series with more paintings to come, but each painting represents a mental note to I make to myself. Thanks in advance for any ideas!

  • 4
    I suggest that each painting is a "Note to self" and the whole collection is "Notes to self." OTOH if an individual painting is called "Breathe" then the label should be clear in its layout. Apr 2, 2020 at 15:14
  • But it's art. You can call it "Banana Llama" if you want.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 2, 2020 at 15:17
  • Thank you Weather Vane! That makes perfect sense to me. And I'm laughing out loud about the "Banana Llama" comment. Point well taken and so true! Thanks again.
    – MaineCoast
    Apr 2, 2020 at 15:20
  • If I had 5 apples, each one is an apple, not apples. Apr 2, 2020 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


In theory, it's completely fine to refer to a work within a series in the format “Name of Series: Name of Work”. For example, I might refer to the book from the series “The Dresden Files” titled “Storm Front” as The Dresden Files: Storm Front. A much more famous example is Star Trek: The Next Generation.

So, labeling a painting Notes to Self: Breathe would not be an error.

The problem, however, is that it looks like an error. Many people will look at that label and be confused about why it says “Notes” instead of “Note”.

Here's what would make sense to me. Instead of giving the painting the title Breathe and labeling it Notes to Self: Breathe, give the painting the title Note to Self: Breathe and label it exactly so. The collection will still be called Notes to Self, and even though the name of the collection is technically no longer on the paintings' labels, the relationship will be obvious.

On the other hand, maybe you really do want the title of the painting to be Breathe, not Note to Self: Breathe. In that case, I have an alternative suggestion: I think it would make to label the paintings as Breathe (Notes to Self), Hope (Notes to Self), and so forth.


There is the possibility of changing the punctuation and using a hyphen, thus preserving the plural, which otherwise would tend to indicate that any term after the colon is the whole of the notes, in other word, for examle, "Notes to Self: Breathe" tends to mean that "Breathe" shows/represents several notes to the Self. That way, in for example "Notes to Self - Breathe" one is more likely to take "Notes to Self" as an overall title and "Breathe" as the title of a given part, and maybe of a single note. This is not too precise, however. If you are intent on being specific as to the number of "note" for a given part you'd have to use some other device and I can't conceive of any shorter device than numbering.

  • Notes to Self - Note 1: Breathe

  • Notes to Self - Notes 1: Breathe

  • This is very helpful. THANK YOU!
    – MaineCoast
    Apr 2, 2020 at 15:40
  • Why would you say "Notes 1: Breathe"?
    – CJ Dennis
    Apr 4, 2020 at 9:59
  • @CJDennis Is it so far-fetched to conceive that the artist could in a single picture (possibly a multifaceted one) express several aspects of what he calls "Breathe"?
    – LPH
    Apr 7, 2020 at 12:51

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