About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

50 Comments

  1. OK, OK. I admit I hate titling too. One of my artist friends has a great method some of you might want to adopt if you have trouble coming up with titles. She posts the work on her Facebook page & asks for title suggestions. The winner gets something from her (I forget what, but some type of art work). She then uses that as the title. The process involves her readers in the process of creating her work & that has to make them feel more involved & more interested. I do have one piece that I refuse to title. I actually had a title for it that related to what I saw when I looked at it, but I noticed that every single viewer sees something different in the piece, so I stopped titling it. Maybe I should just title it, “Whatever UC”.

    1. I have also used that Facebook method and gave the winner a print of the artwork. But normally the title comes to me as I paint or create it. I let the artwork speak to me.

  2. Just after I create one of my photographs and am more invested in how I feel about the piece, I think of a title. I usually put it on Flickr after creation and a title is generally required. Many times the title is more descriptive since sometimes photography can be more realistic versus interpretive. Other times, my titles are more about what I feel about the art piece but still has some relation to the image. Some times I may change my original art title to another (better) title before I introduce a new art piece to the customers eyes.

    For the select photographs that I later show to customers, I find that the customers are interested in the titles and feel that with some titles it changes on how they interpret the image. I never list any art piece with “Untitled” since I feel that we are in a creative field and customers may not understand why some artist do not title their art work.

  3. Great six minutes, thanks. I like creating titles. They seem an extension into the work and I like creating titles that are connected to the work but slightly open ended. That way the view can bring something of their own experience or feelings into the work.

  4. I also use the Facebook idea for getting ideas for my titles. It’s surprising how many people with reply with their ideas. Many of my pieces are titled during the creative process as I become familiar with what they are turning out to be. I personally enjoy titling.

    1. Good idea. I’ll try the facebook. I have abstract work and i have trouble picking titles. I don’t want the titlel to box some one in. I want to leave the imagination to relate to the picture or mood.

    1. Hi Jason
      I just returned from Frank Bette Art Center Plein Air in Alameda, CA. On Friday afternoon we had a framing party and helped each other come up with some great titles. It helps to get input from your peers, sometimes!

      Other times, I take a small, but important, element of the piece, and play on that.

  5. A fellow glass artist did a Facebook post of a work she was completing and asked for suggestions on what to call the piece. At the end of the day she had maybe 20 or so ideas to choose from, plus some people considering purchasing the piece.

  6. I love coming up with titles. I try to have my titles add something more to my art – almost like adding a prologues or an epilogue to the piece. I try to select titles that give hints about the meaning of the piece but the viewer still needs to come up with their own narrative.

  7. Thanks for sharing your perspective on the importance of titles. I agree with you! I love to title my art … sometimes it feels as though the paintings title themselves. In fact, rarely, but occasionally I “get” the title before I start the painting. Other times the title “comes to me” in the midst of the underpainting session. Exciting work, this painting and titling.

  8. I too believe the title is the icing on the cake. It does give insight as to what I was either thinking or feeling while creating the work. It may very well provide a clue to a story I am attempting to tell. I get a lot of positive comments on the titles of my work.

    Thanks for sharing all of the information and knowledge you have learned during your years of being in the art business

  9. I actually LOVE thinking of titles. However, I have been known to utilize alliteration too much. Sometimes a title will pop into my head BEFORE I make a work. Lately, I’ve been doing plein air of just random trees and country areas. Those are getting kind of boring, but I usually include the location in the title. My other specialty is abstract paintings. Those are pretty tough to title. I was going to title a recent blue swirly one “Into the Maelstrom,” when my mom commented that it made her think of peaceful things, so that title ruined it for her. I like the idea of asking friends on Facebook. I think I’ll use that to help me hash out the ideas now.

  10. My titles come up after the work is completed and when I meditate on where the art took me soiritually. Sometimes it takes a few days to come up with.the title and sometimes it takes longer. It is important information for the viewer, like an entry into the world I created. Most often I write a blog post where I present the process I used and the spiritual lesson I explored or learned, and the title of the post coincides with that of the artwork.
    I use the “ask fb followers” ploy when I either show a portion of the work, or when I present a play piece, like a new technique I am exploring for my classes. It generates quite a bit of interest. I enjoy allowing the title to “appear”.

  11. I’m in the ranks of those who love titling my work. Lately I’ve been using verbs to create a bit of action as in, “Walking the Hedgerow”, “My Garden Begins Here”, and “Blue Skies Smiling”. I’ve also used some native American terms such as, “Twilight of the Wolf Moon” and “Long Shadows in the Hunger Moon”. Sometimes my titles have words that might appear unusual given the subject matter. “Frozen Sanctuary” and “Strawberry Assault” have sparked conversation with patrons, which is always welcome. I keep an alphabetical record my titles so as not to use them twice.

  12. Thanks Jason – Great topic, and thanks for putting the effort into elaborating on this tricky subject. I almost always title my paintings in response to music I’m listening to. One time I was painting a dreamy “flowerscape” … and I thought to myself “This painting looks like a dream .. I think I’ll call it “Reverie” … maybe Debussy’s Reverie.” At the time I was listening to the radio and there was some beautiful classical music playing, so I went online to see what I’d been listening to … it was “Debussy’s Reverie”! http://www.studiosusanpepler.com/wp-content/gallery/florals/reverieoptsold.jpg

  13. Love this video, Jason, a picture tells a thousand words but a few choice words can tell a compelling story when associated with an image! I think coming up with a great theme for a series of titles could inspire a whole new body of work!

  14. I just enjoy the painting process, and then titles come up in the process, and I write them down. Sometimes I even get titles before creating an artwork, which I sometimes treat like a theme helping me to further understand the piece and coming up with other possible titles based on the original title.

  15. The title quandary continues once you have chosen a title. Should you change it or not. I have done this only a couple of times with some art work that seemed to slumber in my inventory. A more perfect title solution (idea) presented itself months later and I quietly changed the title of the piece in my Web site Portfolio. I’ve also used subtitles a couple of times when it seemed appropriate. When interacting with potential clients on market day, where I sell my art cards, I often use the title of the particular art work they may be looking at or commenting on to engage people in conversation. It works, they typically buy that card and others. Thank you Jason for all the brilliant ideas and breadth of issues you discuss.

  16. As a photographer very early on I titled images by identifying the place and objects in the scene, like “Cape Cod Green Rocks”. However now I am working digitally taking pictures on my iPhone and transforming and totally abstracting them on my iPad which makes it more difficult. What I do is look for emotions that seem to resonate with the image, maybe even relate to the moment when I was creating the work. I do agree that an intriguing title extends and adds to the meaning of the work and can be something for a viewer/buyer to relate to.

    By the way Jason, I really like your starting to make these short videos. It feels mush more personal than reading words on my computer screen. This one above was very effective. Keep doing it. Also how about short video clips with you talking with some of your artists about their work or about art issues? Just short think pieces.

  17. I am lucky enough to have a writer for a spouse so he comes up with intriguing titles. I am the most proud of a title I came up with for a piece that I painted based on an old photograph from my grandma’s wedding in 1927 -“Something Old, Something New” not only reminds us of the brides wardrobe poem, but I took a cherished old picture using a new technique on Yupo paper.

  18. I just had to watch this video, Jason, before I titled the piece I just finished. I have a couple of titles in mind for this new piece, but I usually run my ideas past my husband, Don, who is a wordsmith, and he often can give the artwork a better title, tweak my idea,or he will also tell me when he doesn’t like my idea. In that case, I go with what I want (regardless of what he thinks). I do think titles are important and that they give the viewer something to think about, but yet you don’t want to kill any ideas they might have about the piece. I have to admit, sometimes I just don’t have any good ideas, and title it what I refer to it in my mind as.

  19. The “Untitled” default drives me nuts. If a piece is worth doing surely it deserves a name. Some of my work speaks its own title effortlessly while others I’m never happy with. With historic or significant natural scenes the observer is pleased to know where that wonderful place is. I’ve heard discussion about specifically named titles that describe … supposedly a buyer will search “missions” and search engines will have my “Mission Espada” come up on the page; of course, that demands association by your webmaster. I have often asked friends for suggestions and yes, they all come up with different titles. Amazing how a piece will speak so differently to so many.

  20. I enjoy titling my works; in fact, I sometime create a work to fit a title I have in mind. Much of my work is part of ongoing series (I think it is important that the viewer/purchaser sees the piece as part of a larger oeuvre), and in these cases I include the series # and a follow up title, such as “Birch Series No. 20: Flame”. The most fun I have, however, is when I have a title that reflects my inner thoughts as I was painting the piece–“I Imagine Greenland”.

  21. Great info as always Jason. Personally, I love thinking up titles. The process starts at the conception of the painting. A few times I have come up with what I think is a great title before I even have finalized the sketches for the painting. Most times I am looking for meaning in the painting but also trying to find a witty “play on words” for it. The few times I have been “stuck” for a title I have posted the image online and asked followers for suggestions for the title. I never thought of making it a competition and actually giving something away. I will try that next time I ask for suggestions.

  22. When I first started to think about how to come up with titles, I turned to rock n’ roll. I noticed that most bands took a part of their lyrics for the title, but is usually just a very small hint of what it is about. So I apply this to my paintings. Usually during the sketching of my piece and as the story builds is when I come up with the title.

  23. As you say, titles are an important part of my work. Sometimes they make people think about a piece in a different way; sometimes it increases their connection with it.

    Sometimes a title comes before a piece begins – this is often true of commissions – but if it doesn’t, I pay attention as I create a piece and it often comes then. Very occasionally I come up with a title after the piece is completed. I reach into its creation, inspiration and impression and the title reveals itself ….

  24. Titles serve many purposes. Certainly they connect me and my creative process to the piece, but maybe more importantly, they connect a potential buyer to the piece. The minute a prospective purchaser shows interest in a particular piece of gourd art, I refer to it by its name, which personalizes it. If the potential buyer uses the item’s name, they have already started “owning” it. Even when I communicate with people who have purchased my art in the past, I notice they continue to refer to the gourds they have bought by their names.

  25. Naming other peoples’ art and pets comes so easily for me. Naming my own when I paint the same subjects over and over is a CHALLENGE.

    There was a fabulous colored pencil artist who drew crinkled paper bags. He called them “Paper Bag #102” (or whatever number he was on). It was hilarious in spite of the obvious nature of the title, perhaps because the viewer was shocked that anyone could draw that many paper bags.

    My best titles so far are “Was It Heard?” for a pencil drawing of a fallen Sequoia tree, “Size Matters” for a pencil/colored pencil drawing of a huge tractor tire, “Any Cookies?” for a very detailed oil painting of a cookie jar, “With, Please!” for a pencil/colored pencil drawing of walnuts and “Worth It” for an oil painting of an ice cream cone.

  26. Sometimes if I am on a new tangent in my abstracts, I will title the whole series with a series name first, like “Going Places” then all the titles for the individual work relate … such as ‘the path’, ‘love that walk’, ‘contemplation’, ‘arrival’. If I am doing my animals, the animal helps dictate the title, but not always. I have also asked for titles on Facebook, and that helps. I try for a little humor sometimes.

  27. Actually, titles are just another fun part of the whole process for me. I tend to incorporate humor or wit whenever possible. One of my paintings, a still life with three copper tea kettles was giving me problems. I almost named it Copper Pot Battery, a twist on the Duracell tagline of copper top battery. Instead, I chose a title that was not immediately clear, Favorite Things. This from the Sound of Music song, “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” in which the phrase “…bright copper kettles…” was used. An old watercolor that I did depicted my cat Rusty under the Sunday funnies. I couldn’t think of a title. My wife came up with the most brilliant solution, “Comic Relief”.

    I typically do not have problems with titles but when I do, I often ask friends and family. The Facebook suggestion is great! Currently, I guess you could say that I am cheating in regards to my titles. I am working on a series of somewhat large acrylic paintings. The series is titled “I DO Know Jack!” because all of the paintings include a child’s to chrome jack and a title that incorporates a play on words. The first four paintings are Sky Jack, A Pair of Jacks, Jack the Ripper, Jack in the Box and I’m currently working on Apple Jack. To see the “jack” paintings, check out my ArtPrize7 entry page… http://bit.ly/KHA-ArtPrize2015

    I guess my solution was to face it head on! Come up with the title first and THEN paint !

  28. I often listen to music while painting, my latest painting of a fall scene came from one line in a Dead Can Dance song, the line was “The Shadow of Summer Past”. I heard the line just as I was putting the finishing touches on the painting. You can see the painting on my website. I also read some poetry now and again to get ideas.

  29. I recently completed a painting of a horse in a field. The horse is looking directly at the viewer. The title is “Are these flowers edible”?

  30. Great advice – thank you Jason! I try to find a title that is reflective of my art, but yet pulls at the heartstrings of viewers. Such as my painting I titled ‘Be a Little Wild’ of an imminent storm cloud approaching a serene mountain lake. Obviously, the cloud is wild and exciting, but the title is also a suggestion and reminder for the viewer to take a chance when they may otherwise avoid risks. So, far, titling my art with a little emotion has worked well for me. However, I do struggle with the fine line between inspiring and cheesy!

  31. I have 4 bodies of work, and with 3 of them I knew how important a good title was and named accordingly. Ironically, the 4th body, which is a 43-piece portfolio of succulents and my best seller is the one that I’ve had the most trouble titling. I used botanical names until I ran into a couple I absolutely could not identify, but they were so striking I had to paint them anyhow, so I just numbered them “Succulent #28, Succulent #35,” etc. Sometimes if there was something particularly different about a succulent, I gave a subtitle. As in “Succulent #25, Pink Kalanchoe.” Since I’ve committed to numbering this series, I’ll continue, but from now on I’ll add the subtitle as well. No more excuses for being lazy!

  32. When I paint animals I keep a baby names book handy and when I use one of the names out of it I mark it usedin the book so I don’t use the same name twice.

  33. Often a title will come to me during the work process but usually by the time the piece is finished, something has materialized. I find as I work, I locate the piece I’m working on somewhere I can constantly see it, which keeps it (and a possible title) at the forefront of my mind.

  34. I truly believe in titles. Many of my paintings sell because of the title. Often a client will keep a list of my art by title and later contact the gallery using the names of my art. If the painting has already been removed, it is easier for the gallery to call and ask if it is still available. If so, I immediately return it to the gallery.
    My paintings are my creation just as my children are. My children aren’t numbered, they are named. So I honor my art with names even tho after a few thousand creations, it is more challanging. I have a notebook with prospective titles listed for future use.

  35. Jason, I flat out love naming my works. Some are more engaging than others but I found that a title for a painting of a lone wolf, Alpha, in this case, designated First Place or leader. I believe, to date, my best name for a cottontail rabbit (you guessed, I paint critters) was the name “Q-tip”, and no it wasn’t named for the cottontail. It was named for the application of powered pastel to an ink-like etching applied with a Q-tip from my wife’s makeup drawer. People see him, smile and buy the little guy…over and over and over again. It works with Mischief as well. He is a young raccoon on my website with Q-tip.

  36. thank you for this great video.
    i too am disappointed when i see a great finished piece of art, with the title: “Untitled”
    REALLY? why would anyone work so long and hard at creating and not finishing with a title? like birthing a child and not giving them a name.
    and you are right, titling pieces is hard work, but it IS part of the ‘work’, and i feel if i don’t title my work, it remains unfinished.

    my method for titling varies.
    sometimes, titles comes from a quote i’ve read or a phrase that caught my ‘ear’.
    sometimes, titles comes to me during the making of the piece, maybe from one of the elements i use in the work (my medium is assemblage)
    often, the title becomes clear once the piece is finished, as if the finished piece itself ‘tells me what to call it.
    thank you again

  37. I never have trouble with a title. As I work on a piece I have a certain feel about it even if in the beginning I had a completely different idea in mind. This feeling is so strong that there is no question to how I name it. I created over a hundred pieces now and still the titles come easily to me. I have a friend, an abstract painter, he doesn’t plan anything in the beginning, just picks up the brush, squeezes some paint and goes for it. In the end titles come to him easily as well, because he is emotionally involved in the process. I think as long as the emotions applied to the creation naming your masterpiece should not be a problem. It could be a good exercise for the artist, even if the artwork is purely decorative try to bring up something personal ( memories, feelings) while working on it, then titling should not be a problem at all, finding a right Word is a different story, I go for help to a Webster in this case.

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