Branding: Artists, Build your Brand Around Your Name

I’ve written and spoken extensively about branding. I don’t consider myself to be a branding expert by any stretch, but as I’ve worked to build branding for Xanadu Gallery and RedDotBlog.com, I’ve learned quite a bit about the branding process. I’ve also learned how important branding can be when you are creating a relationship with art buyers.

In today’s post, I would like to address a branding question that comes up quite frequently in relationship to branding for artists:

Should an artist use his or her own name when building a brand, or is it a good idea to create a business name and brand around that name instead?

The most common form of the question I hear is whether it’s okay to use the artist’s studio name instead of just using the artist’s name.

How we Named our Gallery “Xanadu”

I can understand where the question is coming from. There is something very alluring about creating a business name and using it for branding purposes. I remember the excitement my wife and I felt when, in 2001, we decided to open a gallery. It was a lot of fun thinking about how the gallery would be organized and how we would try to make it different from other galleries. We thought about the type of artwork we would carry, the location, the layout of the gallery and about a million other things you have to think about when you are opening a new business. We distilled all of these thoughts into a business plan and began working toward getting the gallery off the ground.

At some point, we decided it was time to come up with a name for the gallery, and, surprisingly, the naming process turned out to be one of the most agonizing parts of the whole launch process. A name is so important, and once you select a name and have signs and letterhead made, you are pretty much stuck with it. Naming is something you definitely want to get right.

GallerySquareI remember spending days brainstorming about names. We first thought about what we didn’t want use. We decided using our name or last name, as some galleries do, wasn’t going to work. My last name, Horejs, is both unpronounceable if read, and unspellable if heard. With that out of the way, we started thinking about everything else we might call the gallery. We must have come up with hundreds of names, and sorting through all of them was a real chore. Finally we landed on one that we thought was perfect. It distilled into a single word exactly what we wanted to convey through our gallery name: “Quintessence”. “Quintessence Gallery.” It had, we thought, a nice ring to it.

We asked our attorney to register the name with the state corporation commission. By some cosmic coincidence,  someone had registered the exact name several weeks earlier. What are the chances that we would have thought of the same name for a gallery at almost exactly the same time someone else?

Of course, now, I am very happy that we didn’t end up with the name – it doesn’t sound nearly as good in retrospect as it did at the time and can you imagine how expensive a sign with 19 letters would be!?

Now we had to go back to our list of names and try again. I wish there was a great story about the flash of inspiration that lead us to Xanadu Gallery, but the truth is my mother-in-law saw the word “Xanadu” on a personalized license plate  and said, “how about ‘Xanadu!?'” The name stuck.

Once we had a name we got to work on logo design, stationery, business cards, and our website. It was a lot of fun, and building Xanadu’s brand has been an undertaking of love ever since.

That’s a long way of saying I can completely understand why an artist might decide to name her studio and then think about building a brand around the studio name. It’s fun to employ your creativity in coming up with a name instead of using the one your parents stuck you with, and, let’s face it, “Last Chance Studio” has more pizazz than “Jane Smith, Artist.”*

*(my apologies to any artists named “Jane Smith” who are reading this article – it’s a perfectly lovely name!)

Should you Use your Name or a Business Name?

Unlike other businesses, as an artist, you are your brand

In spite of this, I’m going to strongly recommend that you build your branding around your name, rather than around a studio name. Unlike other businesses, as an artist, you are your brand. When collectors see your work, they are going to feel a connection to you, the artist, even if they have never met you. Art is a pure form of communication – your vision is going through the viewer’s eyeballs, straight into his brain, and is going to stir an emotion. The connection is going to feel very personal, and that collector is going to want know your name, not your business name.

Art is one of the last things a human being can buy that hasn’t been engineered by a marketing committee and mass-produced in a factory. Using your name is going to help convey this message.

Because you are your brand, I recommend keeping the spotlight on yourself. Use your name on your cards, your brochures and your portfolio. Try to get a website URL that includes your name. The more your buyers see your name, the more they’re going to remember you.

Can you create a business name to use in addition to your studio name? Sure! There’s no reason you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I would recommend that you use the studio or business name in subordination to your name. You could include it below your name in your marketing materials, as a kind of subtitle.

Exceptions

There may be reasons that you would want to disregard this advice. If you aren’t focused on creating one-of-a-kind works and have a production studio set up where employees are helping you crank out work, a studio name may make more sense. This is especially true if the business might one day be sold to someone else.

Another exception to the rule would be if your name is impossibly long or complex. Even then, I would suggest thinking about changing your name or creating a pseudonym around which you can build your brand.

What do you Think?

Do you have a studio name you use instead of your given name in marketing? What made you decide to do so. Did you think about using a business name for marketing and then decide not to? Why? Share your experiences, thoughts, opinions and random ramblings in the comments below!

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 the Art Business Academy. 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.

81 Comments

  1. I came to the same conclusion. After working in the branding industry for years, it was tempting to create a new brand. But I realized I would spend all my time telling people that created brand really means me, Dana Jones. So my branded name, business name, web site. et al is simply, Dana Jones Art.

  2. Hi Jason. Happy New Year! Nice blog. I always enjoy your advice.

    A word about ‘branding’ from my experience in luxury marketing: A brand is not a name and a name is not a brand. ‘Branding’ is everything that makes up a company – or artist. Your essence, your unique appeal (Unique Selling Proposition), from the look of your work, where you display it, how it’s presented to how you interact via email and advertising. It’s what makes your work distinctive. So, whatever name you choose – as you say, it must truly reflect how you want the world to see your work. Hope this is helpful!

  3. I’m kind of stuck…my last name is long, and has 3 capital letters: VanDeBerghe (of course my maiden name was Jones!). It is hard to pronounce, as I’ve had so many renditions, and even harder to spell. When spelling my last name for someone, I typically don’t go for the capital D or B.
    A friend was helping me a couple of years ago, and we came up with the name VickiVanArt. I do have both my name, and VickiVanArt as domains.
    I’m needing to make a decision soon…any comments or suggestions are most welcome!

    1. I like Van De Berghe Art it has a much more classy sound and style than
      VickiVanArt I’m from Australia and often a caravan is known as a Van or a motor vehicle

    2. Your name is aristocratic! I like it. It is distinctive, unusual and certainly easy to say. I live in Canada where there are many Dutch, Flemish, French names which include a “de”, including my own. Good luck deciding.

    3. Gosh, they’re both winners. Lucky you! I’m struggling with mine. It is clunky to say and there isn’t much I have come up with to circumvent that. I went with Gunterhaus Art Studio the last two years, but found it is awkward for some people because of spelling or pronunciation, without the melody or charm that VanDeBerghe has. I salute you! Both are truly phenomenal.

  4. My gallery is in a watertower in Mendocino, and I live in the spaces above. I debated ten years ago and with applied kineseology, named my gallery The World of Suzi Long. Well, in the past ten years, the clientele has diminished in not only number, but age, and the landlord wanted the original sign put back. It is vertical with “the” across the top, and WATERTOWER down the length of the sign. I then painted a large board for my OPEN sign that says Gallery of Suzi Long OPEN and I hang that out daily. In the 2nd story window is the old World of Suzi Long sign. Not the best solution, but if I want to sell some day, The Watertower Gallery is going to be recognizable. And the pun for the 1956 movie will be long forgotten.

  5. Well, I agree to some extent. The problem is that women don’t always have the same name throughout their life. I’ve been photographing since I was a kid, but don’t have the same last name as I did then. If I were to use my maiden name as my “brand” name, it also sends a message that my marriage is transitory or an afterthought. If I use my married name, what if something happens and my name does change? There are issues that men really don’t deal with when it comes to last names, sorry. I have been using my own name, though I haven’t really tried to build my brand, yet. My website URL is still my maiden name, though I have a new one with my married name and use my married name in my site’s text. As the web sorta fills up, it’s also not as easy to get what you want for a URL. How would you advise dealing with things like name changes?

    1. Hi Bethe, I got married at age 21 at that time I wasn’t an artist but I also wasn’t ready to give my maiden name up. I’m a New Zealander and I decided to use both names. I seem to have gotten away with it so far and I’ve been married for 24yrs. Unfortunately, this may not be possible in other countries so I feel very fortunate that I can enjoy the best of both worlds.

      I kept my maiden name for work (I file my tax under this name) I have all of my art, all material relating to my business, earning connections, website and printed material.
      I use my married name for everything personal – passport, drivers licence, joint bank accounts, mortgage, doctor and kids at school etc. This can be done but hasn’t always been easy.
      The biggest problem is having photo ID for my maiden name because all of the international legal documents are in my married name. NZ have set up another legal form of ID called Real Me. This has a photo ID and I’ve set this up using my maiden name. I often joke that I forget who I am when service people ask me my name… I have to stop and think “Is this business or personal” I have emails and correspondence arriving to both addresses. It can certainly be challenging but I feel like it’s worth it. here are my names: Sonia Keogh and Sonia Conway

    2. I am married but for both art and my day job I have always used my maiden name. It means there are never any changes and my qualifications and publications are always traced back to me. I don’t think it means your marriage is an afterthought- after all, unless you double barrelled ( which it doesn’t seem you did) your husband didn’t change his name and I hope and assume your marriage is not an after thought to him!. Using your maiden name means you are branded as you the individual, not you as part of a half. Unless you make your photography as a couple thats also more accurate. I How you conduct yourself in your personal life is up to you – many of my colleagues use their married name for their social life. I kept my maiden name for everything.

    3. I also encountered that issue. Everything I had done prior to getting married was in my maiden name and as I thought about using my married name, I had the same thought, what if something happens and my name does change. Turns out I sign my married name on my work, but use my first name, Dawn, in my studio name.

    4. How about using your first name, your maiden name as a middle name, and then your married last name? That will help people connect the dots.

  6. Stuck with Vicki.

    My whole career ( even when in corporate). Vicki P. Maguire For three years I have
    Used my domain as such since Vicki Maguire was a HUGE presence in her btand from U.K. The entire first page of google. So with P in there, it’s ok, yet clients and galleries
    Often misspell Maguire and even though I insist on the P….. it is left off their CV in store or their web. Also, bing and google bump my name and insist do you mean the other
    VickiMaguire? Sooooo, I am rebranding: help: VPMaguire, or VickiMaguireArt,
    VPMModernart, ? Or contemporary? I also own Tory Ocean Studio
    It’s easy to remember. Alternate to Vicki ( Tory), I’m inspired most but Ocean and
    It’s easy to remember and spell. But I am not a gallery . My Studio is me and any contractors I may hire. THOUGHTS????? Yes, I blog.. newsletter, 3 platforms…
    Designers call and say… your work is beautiful…. but you Are hard to find.
    Help!!!!! VickiMaguireFineArt.com. New site, marketing and domain… Yep agonizing

    1. Stuck with Vicki.
      My whole career ( even when in corporate). Vicki P. Maguire For three years I have
      Used my domain as such since Vicki Maguire was a HUGE presence in her btand from U.K. The entire first page of google. So with P in there, it’s ok, yet clients and galleries
      Often misspell Maguire and even though I insist on the P….. it is left off their CV in store or their web. Also, bing and google bump my name and insist do you mean the other
      VickiMaguire? Sooooo, I am rebranding: help: VPMaguire, or VickiMaguireArt,
      VPMModernart, ? Or contemporary? I also own Tory Ocean Studio
      It’s easy to remember. Alternate to Vicki ( Tory), I’m inspired most but Ocean and
      It’s easy to remember and spell. But I am not a gallery . My Studio is me and any contractors I may hire. THOUGHTS????? Yes, I blog.. newsletter, 3 platforms…
      Designers call and say… your work is beautiful…. but you Are hard to find.
      Help!!!!! VickiMaguireFineArt.com. New site, marketing and domain… Yep agonizing
      Reply

  7. My last name (Schauer) is long and difficult to pronounce (Shower) and also tedious when signing my artwork, so I adopted a shortened signature, ESch, which has become my brand by default. Some people even call me ESch and it now very much feels like a part of me. Ellen Schauer Fine Art is my legal business name.

  8. I had a made-up business name, and recently changed it to use my own name, partly because the old name doesn’t really apply as well to the work I am doing now, and partly to simplify life as a sole proprietor. I’m glad I changed it, but oh my, what a pain in the neck to make the change! I’m still working thru the more obscure bits of my old branding efforts. Not to mention losing whatever recognition my old business name had garnered.

  9. Jason,
    I always heard it said an artist should use their own name, from gallery people I think. I’ve been doing my own commercial art business almost 10 years and when I started it, I hoped to someday transition to painting my own designs on canvases and selling in the “Fine Art” market. So even when I started my sign/mural studio I used my own name in the business name thinking that all the people who knew my work from there would be on my invitation list if I ever had an opening in a gallery. I’ve just painstakingly begun doing small pieces on canvases and hopefully in 2 years I’ll have something gathered to start selling…

  10. I am very new to the business of selling my artwork and it is helpful to read all this information. When I put together a website I wanted the domain name to be the same as the website. I considered my name-Robin Hawkins but it was taken. I tried to use words related to the name Robin like Blue Egg Art or Robin’s nest and those were used also. I kept working at it until I found something that felt good and said where my art came from, and I chose Here’s My hART. I am still building my art business, 2016 was the first full year of participating in art fairs but I do have customers make comments about my banner and name and I hope that it is sticking and that they will come back.

  11. Thank you again for the timely article Jason. I have always signed my work kkjones. My studio was Kathy Jones Studio and Gallery. However in the next few weeks I am moving to a new studio. The other 2 artists who work there call it The Fifth Street Studio. They are leaving in July. I have decided I should call it Kathy Jones Studio with The Fifth Street Studio under my studio name as a subtitle.

  12. Jason, this is certainly sensible advice. While my birth name is David Wynn, I am probably better known by that name in my previous business career. However, when trying to register an Internet domain using my name as an artist, it seems I was pipped at the post.
    So, since Wynn is a Welsh word meaning “white”, and David is the patron saint of Wales, I opted for Dai, the diminutive form of Dafydd, pronounced “Dahveth” = David in English. While Dai is usually pronounced Die, my family call me Day.
    Another benefit is that Dai Wynn, as two syllables, is almost Asiatic in form. I have an agent in Shanghai to address the Chinese market. I believe that “Dai” means “great” too.
    So, my URL is dai@daiwynn.com and my art business name is Dai Wynn Fine Art Australia. I have registered for the top level domain (TLD) .art, available in February 2017. It will then be daiwynn.art

  13. I have been using the single name Stephan since the mid-1970s. It is my middle name and I prefer it over my full name. Since I specialize in Art Deco design, it is a throwback to those days when artists were only known by one name, e.g. Erte, Adrian, Lalique, Herge, etc. When I lived in California, my driver’s license only said Stephan on it. Oregon doesn’t allow me that luxury. It also saves me a lot of time signing things.

  14. I used studio instead of artist after my name because I am an architect as well as an artist and may occasionally still do architecture consulting. I was lucky that Matthew Lee studio was available.

  15. I fully agree that the artist’s name is your best brand name, that’s if your full name is not too difficult to pronounce or to spell, by all means use it. Otherwise change it to one that best characterizes you.
    I decided to only use my first and middle name Gerard Jonas (my French Jewish last name was ridiculously mispronounced and misspelled everywhere , especially in the US Army, so I just dropped it) but found a better verbal rhythm by switching my first and middle names around to Jonas Gerard which has a nice ring to it and easy to remember like Marcel Marceau the French mime. It caught on fast. That’s been my legal name for 45 years.
    My business name is Jonas Gerard Fine Art.

  16. Here’s a slightly different issue which you might find amusing. I have one of those names that other people have. Quite a few, as it turns out. I’m not the guitarist, the neuro-surgeon, nor am I the lawyer, nor, and here’s the amusing part, the artist born and raised 2,000 miles away in the same year and living now a scant 90 miles away in a market I’d like to be able to enjoy.
    Is this a case for an alias or a studio name? What I have as a studio and web presence is a reference to my roots via my forebears. (The website is in the process of being upgraded) I thought it was a good way around it. But now, I’m not so sure. Local people know the difference (and he’s much more established than I), but beyond that 90 miles or so, all bets are off.
    I’m thinking of a European sounding moniker that would fit with a lot of my interests and some of my images, but it’s already a confusing situation to begin with. (I do like the Euro-name alias but I’m not married to it).
    Any thoughts?

  17. My name is rather long but nice sounding – Kathryn Van Aernum. I have used vanaernumstudios for graphic design work, but kvanastudios for photography, since I sign the work kvana. I think that works. What do you think?

  18. I’ve been revisiting this very question for the past couple of days! I’m just beginning to build a web presence, and a brand, and I have a new opportunity to decide what I’m going to go with. I’m pretty certain I will use my name, even though it’s long and people often misspell it. I think an unusual name isn’t necessarily more difficult to remember than your example, the perfectly lovely ‘Jane Smith’.

    On a related note, does anyone else have trouble deciding how to SIGN your art? I’m partial to a somewhat modest signature that doesn’t pull focus, but my name seems even LONGER when I’m painting it on!

    1. Signing… so agree. I really like the art to be Focus. Started w Vicki P Maguire
      Oh. Too much for me. Then I played with a logo creator app on iPad. And settled
      On VPM for signing. Logo shows p lower and Modern with full website smaller font
      Right under. However, you may have a lovely script handwriting.

  19. BRANDED….scorned as the one who ran……what do you do if you’re branded….and you know you’re a man…?!
    At least you know what you’ve got to prove for the rest of your life……That you’re not a COW!
    Joking aside, my take on “branding” is more of a marketing campaign belonging to name association. Call yourself what ever feels comfortable….I prefer my own name because it truly belongs to me, the artist. Build up an identifying presence around the chosen name with all of your marketing formats and presentations….photos, logos, web-sites, biz cards, promotional materials of any sort….Think of commercial name brands and how you easily recognize them, then apply that concept to how you would like to be recognized/identified.
    Hopefully your identifiable “brand” will allow you to diversify your product without sacrificing recognition or creative growth. To produce work solely for the purpose of being easily identifiable is not energizing….its mind numbing. Dye your hair pink instead….or sign your name REALLY BIG….or frame everything in puce….or

  20. That was an interesting read, both Jason’s blog and all your comments lovely people! I was advised some years ago by a chance encounter to take up my own (birth) name a URL, for which I am forever grateful. This has enabled me to undertake all sorts of twists and turns in my self-employed life, always under the banner of my own name. Now in mid-life as I come to promote my artwork, I have a ready-made platform where I can display it, that makes sense: http://www.catherineholland.co.uk

  21. Lots of food for thought. My first name is common and my last name is impossible to spell but I still decided to use my name as my brand since I have spent most of my life creating art using my name. I tried url with all sorts of variations but then I think about how do I tell people in my past about the new name I want to use. and the answer is , “I can’t”! So as Joan B. said in her note . . . I make it work. People still seem to find me because I have a web presence. Even misspelled it comes up somehow. So I gave up trying to be cutesy in my name choice and just use my name. the good thing is my last name is so uncommon I can always get my own domain, lol!

  22. Hello! Thank you! My name is Peter Tsvetkov, I’m from Russia and my website created as petertsvetkov.ru My painting’s title is designated simply as Peter, because it is easier and takes less space. Do you think it is better to leave as a brand name website and Peter Tsvetkov, or concentrate on the name Peter using the logo. Or take a literal translation of my name into English as Peter Flowers?

  23. I use my name because socially I want my art and name identified as the same. If one has to go into detail about a studio name it can be awkward. Long names or complex spelling is a challenge and that would be the only exception. Even then, unique is much better than common.
    To me, branding is more in the characteristics of your art … does mine distinguish itself from others? Branding is critical to corporate identity but artists are not soft drinks or cars. Bottom line, can people fine you easily and remember your name.

  24. Years ago when I first advertised in the Yellow Pages phone book, the representative suggested I use my own name. Best advice I ever had and Wadsworth-Smith Art has remained my name on everything from email to signage. I never use my first name though, too long I think.

  25. I use my name ( maiden name as I do for everything despite being married) but the simple name was taken by a jeweller as a domain so I am http://www.helenconwaydesign.com.
    There was a time when I was developing as an artist that I agonised over whether to use a complete pseudonym to allow me to separate my art from my life as a lawyer, both of which are serious careers for me. The idea was to protect me being traced online by clients I might not want to trace me. At least thats what I said overtly to my coach. it was also, as it turns out a great deal about the fear I had of my colleagues finding out I was an artist. I decided (a) to confront that fear – turns out they all love the idea! and (b) that if I used a pseudonym or a business name with no reference to me I wold never be able to do any gallery talks or interviews or anything where my identity might be ‘outed’. That seemed far too big a limitation to protect the off chance a service user might trace me. After all, they could just follow me out of the building! So my name it is and it feels very freeing indeed to ‘come out’ and say My name is Helen Conway and I am an artist! that said, I still dither about when and whether to use my Middle initial L!

  26. I just wanted to chime in here. I have the maiden name/married name issue. My last name now is one that belonged to someone I divorced some 20 years ago, but my art was signed with that name for so long that it became a difficult decision as to whether to keep it or not when the divorce was final. So now I use my maiden name and that name as well: Lynne Haussler Oakes. Still wish I hadn’t kept that name though, but it is probably too late. I do have a studio name and am in the process of re-designing my logo and name. The Joy of Art Studio. So I’m planning to have my name as No. 1 and the studio name underneath, as Jason suggested.
    I do think that my studio name tells more about me than only my name….but how I feel about art. Subtle, but still stated!

  27. I tell everyone I married my husband for his name. For the last 42 years, I have signed my work with just my last name, “Brush.” I use my full name for my website, Barbara Brush, (which sounds reminiscent of a past First Lady) My name is so appropriate, clients think it is a pseudonym for my artwork.

    1. How wonderful to have that last name. When I joined Facebook, they wouldn’t let me join with just my single name of Stephan so I put the word ‘Artist’ as my last name. Now, hundreds of people think that ‘Artist’ is actually my last name.

  28. I really like that idea of using the studio name as a subtitle below the name. That might work for me. I want the art to be connected first to my name, but the studio is an extension of that, so it kind of anchors it all a bit. Thanks!

  29. Amy Smith. Yup, so boring it’s hard to remember. I’ve always signed my paintings, ceramics as ACSmith, and was going to use ACSmithArts as my #, company name, everything. Not surprisingly, when I ran a search on ACSmithArts, someone else is already using it. She is a vocalist that lives less than an hour away. She is also NOT the only one who uses that title. Aaargh.
    Thank you for always providing such wonderful advice and thought provoking information!
    Middle name is Christine.😏
    I really don’t know where to go from here, will have to do a lot of brainstorming and searching.

    1. Amy. Your name is lovely. URL : ACSmithStudio. Com
      Or AmyChrstine Art, designs, artbyACSmith.com

      Or Christine Creates.. and then your tag line can be as you like
      Under business name… logo your AC Smith.

      It’s daunting. My name taken and common too.

  30. I can see where someone with a very difficult long name, may choose a nickname. I’ve always loved my nickname … fancy or Nancy-make-it-fancy or fancy Nancy. These names were given to me by co-workers when I was a designer. I don’t use them for my artwork but miss being called by those names.

    So, if I had a long difficult or all too common name, I would brand my work with a nickname.

  31. Long ago I opted for a business name of Creative Forces (because I do many kinds of art). I currently own a giftshop/gallery in a hotel and it is called Creative Forces. Another layer of my work, which I have made into a business is Sacred Embers. The different name is because it is a very different purpose and audience.

    I do use my name on things and of course, sign all of my work with my name, but the actual businesses are Creative Forces and Sacred Embers.

    And I am so glad that I found your site. Fabulous information!

  32. I registered my company’s legal name as Kish Photography, but when I first started I was doing pets & families. So my website header said Kish Pet & Family Photography. Then a couple of years ago, I titled my site as Suzanne L Kish Abstract Art. I am still working on how to really market it. I was glad that I didn’t get specific as to what type of art that I was doing. I too think your name is best, but like me, I had to add my middle initial. There are quite a few Suzanne Kishs in Photography.

  33. I was married rather early after school and started my art as “Marsha Bacon.” After 23 years of marriage and a divorce, then married again, I was advised not to change my name from “Bacon”. I had been painting a long time, selling and winning awards with that name. In the discussion about living together with my six-year long boyfriend, he said “I just want to know what name you are going to sign on your paintings?” We were not talking about getting married, just selling two houses and combining to one. That was the way he proposed to me! So, I knew it was important to him. So, what to do? I decided to use the new last name, but added my maiden name in the middle, “Marsha Hamby Savage”since I still lived in the general area I grew up in. It worked, and I have all printed cards, and everything reference the three names. I did go with “marshasavage.com” as my domain name, and also bought “marshasavageart” because I had used it as my blog name. After almost 19 years with the new name, I am known in art circles as “Marsha Savage” but have used the brand “Marsha Hamby Savage” on published materials, website, and on-line sites. May be a little confusing but only marginally so. But so far it has worked… and I did have success changing my name 19 years ago.

  34. Great article Jason!
    Yes, names matter to us all, a lot. There is a visceral sense of identity tied to them.
    So if names are so important to all of us why women are so quick to change theirs when marrying? The law changed in 1972, before that women were forbidden to keep their last name, vote or have a bank account, since the couple were viewed as one person. That person was the husband, whose identity superseded the wife’s.

    I love my name, even thought my first name is common, still nice to me. The issue with it is that it does not have an ‘H” on it, and almost everybody puts it there. I had drivers licence, health cards, etc with the wrong spelling. Even some of my collectors send me emails with the h on my name still.
    And my last name is not common at all .
    I guess I was lucky and never had any doubts about how to name my website since I wanted people to recognize me by my name. My website is very simple “Cristina Del Sol Fine Art”.
    I think Vicky’s last name is very sophisticated!

  35. I have to add that a woman’ s birth last name is even called “Maiden”, a very antiquated term. And unfortunately women feel pressured since is considered kind of abnormal not to do so. About 50% of all Americans think it should be illegal for a woman not to take her husband’s last name.
    I was not trying to offend any women out there for changing their names since I know the pressures that still exist around this important issue.
    Most women I know regret doing so, especially artists that were quite well known before getting married and they had to agonize about how to sign their names after.

  36. This is a great article. I’ve written about the importance of branding your name as an artist, but you definitely make the case for times when a separate gallery name makes more sense, especially when representing lots of artists. I have friends who’ve invented names for themselves or their studio, and I have to stop and remember the names when directing people to them. I used to use only my first name signing art, but through the years I realized that it wasn’t memorable. I really think that in the long run, Vicki will be glad she went w/ the classy VanDeBerghe Art rather the made-up VickiVanArt. As names go, I WANT to see the art of Vicki VanDeBerghe, whereas VickiVanArt sounds much less professional.

  37. What a great conversation; deciding your studio name is not an easy task! I have never come up with a “perfectly fitting” one so now, after a 30 year career, I am still “Leslie Pruneau Studio”; luckily it rhymes! What I don’t know is how many new collectors/followers are able to pronounce it, much less spell it in an online search, as my website is the truncated version, http://www.lesliepruneau.com. Your article has once again made me consider my “brand”. I’ve often wondered if I’ve grown “comfortable” with using my name, or would something “more pronounceable” or catchy be better suited.
    There are some great comments from everyone, and thank you so much Jason, for your wonderful newsletters and outreach; I hope to visit your gallery one day!

  38. What a good discussion, and here’s another 2 cents worth: I think the answer goes beyond the name – the brand – to its LOOK. When first making the decision about a visual presence for my studio, I designed a logo that would be used along with my name. (After all, over the years I had designed identities for many companies.) Mine was contemporary and pretty well reflected my work.

    Then my wife and our daughter both said HEY! Your signature is perfect. Use it!

    I had signed my paper sculpture since the beginning, and have since incorporated the signature into metal sculpture in the same way on every piece, for consistency, consistency, consistency. And because the signature isn’t particularly readable, my name is there too, on the website, in email and on all printed communications.

  39. Thanks Jason for clearing up a question for me. Having added an onsite aspect to my fine art offerings, I haven’t been sure how to present it with my marketing.
    It makes sense to show it as…. Paula Christen Watercolors presents Artist Live! wedding and event painter.
    Keep those helpful insights coming!

  40. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all the comments and have always used my birth name as for my art and photography. I’ll be setting up a website soon along with a new email address and can hopefully use my name in both. We’ll see how it goes but it’s been great getting ideas from so many other artists.

  41. What a great article, with lots of stimulating and interesting comments. Back in the mid 1970’s, when I was trying to figure out my artist’s mark for my creations I had originally thought of using my legal name at the time, which is Linda D. Watson. However, my mentor at the time said she knew a jeweler by that name and suggested I use the initial of my maiden name, making it Linda S Watson. That’s what I’ve used ever since on my website, my business cards, etc. I sign all my work LSW or LSWatson. A year ago I was contacted by another Linda Watson saying her middle initial was also S, for Susan. Well, what can I say. . .I guess Watson is just as common as Smith, but it is too late to make any changes now.

  42. I have compromised on this issue. Since my name changed (women and divorce) I decided to go with a name that will never change, my first and middle. So I have branded myself as Tamie Beth. It is just interesting enough, by the way, with two first names that it is memorable.

  43. My name is so common I get lost in a crowd of everyone from real estate agents to porn stars. I started with amandawilliams, but changed to aawilliams when I was being confused with another Australian artist. It’s been OK for a few years, but I went sign up for print on demand stuff this week and find both are taken. I wanted to be able to tag my illustration too, but checked what would happen and discovered my ‘branding’ is a mess.

  44. I am an artist and my name is “Pradeep Anurag Gade” I do chalk carvings, for couple of years I have been using “Anurag art” for my social media.. now , I have my first show coming up, and I’m in the Canadian(Toronto) market with a new Indian name, few of my friends says, my name could stop white people from being my art lovers, I am completely confused about what name I should go with on my business cards and the website. ughhh feeling struck!

    Can someone please help or give any advice? if yes, please email to chalkcarvings@gmail.com

  45. I ran a design studio for ten years that had a fun name, but once I decided to make a go of being a fine artist I knew I had to revert to my real name. It is problematic, because I can easily name dozens of fellow artists named Lisa, and my last name is invariably mispronounced. As a kind of shorthand I will tell people it “rhymes with quirky.” some have suggested that phrase as a tagline, but I’m unsure. My work has its own hand and is often whimsical and a bit naive, but I wonder if calling it quirky tells the viewer not to take it seriously. Thoughts?

  46. Great article and replies! I’m currently building my website which will feature my art — traditional, digital and screen printing — and I’m wondering if I should use my full name “Benoit Lebel” or simply “Ben Lebel” (I’m French Canadian). The latter could be easier since I’m targeting online sales to an international market. I own both “.com” domain names. What do you think? Thanks.

  47. Help! My name is Christine Christensen – its my married name that Ive kept even though Ive been dovorced for 7 years. I just like the way it sounds but I’m stumped on what to call my page/website. I sign my Art ” CC ” and go by Christine with my friends/family and clients. I’d like my first name to be included in the page name. Help Please 🙂

  48. In my case, I have a made up artist name and a company name. The name is not associated with the company. I would rather put both when I show the artwork. Yet, I am not sure if I should write just the company name or it is ok to write both for applications, exhibits and all that.
    Thank you for your time.

  49. I would love some feedback… My name is Marie Strange, I don’t know that I love that as a business name. I thought Strange Art is kinda fun, but I don’t want to give the immediate impression that my art is Strange. Thoughts?

  50. I’m looking to start selling my art soon, but my name is a bit odd. Randi is my first name but I’m named after my dad, which is a little odd in my opinion (I’m a girl). My current last name is Hughes, but I am in the middle of a divorce. My maiden name is Kibler, which everyone either spells or prounounces wrong. Usually pronounced Keebler, which makes me feel like an elf… Or spelled Kibbler. I have a nickname, Cassie, from my middle name Catherine. It all feels just really convoluted and I’m not sure if I like the idea of Randi Kibler Art. My name is often mistaken to be a guy’s name anyway unless someone knows I’m a girl first. I came up with a brand called “The Painted Maid”. I work as a housekeeper to pay the bills and I felt it kinda fit me. I’m looking for help on what I should do to make this work. I don’t mind signing my name to my art, but I don’t really want to be mistaken for a guy when people see my name on business cards.

  51. Thank you so much for this article and all of the awesome comments folks made. I would love your opinion and advice. I just live in a very small town and sell locally and at bazaars. I had business cards made up with the name: Nelda-Through His Eyes Studio. I have a serious eye disease that takes a lot of my vision and so I named my studio Through His Eyes because that is why I’m still able to create. After reading your post and many comments, I’m thinking perhaps if I wanted to open an online shop or website, Even though I’m rather up there in years to be trying to figure this all out!, I should make my name much shorter. Neldas Fine Art or Art by Nelda? You said the studio could be one name and then the art name above it. What would your advice be for me? I can’t tell you how much I appreciate any help on this. I create mostly wildlife painting with pastel or colored pencil.

  52. Hi,
    My name is Abhijeet Shrivastava. I usually go by Abhi. I have a similar question regarding art branding and naming. is it better to use my full name for my artwork or should I use something easier like _ the ABHI Art?

    Any recommendations?

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