Collective Wisdom | Creating Titles for Your Artwork

Coming up with great titles for artwork can be a real drag. Many artists feel like it’s more work to come up with a title than it is to create a masterpiece. If you were a natural wordsmith you would have become a poet, not an artist. So, the question is, do titles really matter, and how much time and effort should you spend titling your work?

From a gallery owner’s perspective, I can tell you that I do believe titles matter. A buyer wants to feel like that artwork they are about to purchase from you is one of your best ever – that it truly is one of your masterworks. They’re going to have a hard time believing that if you’ve called the piece “Untitled No. 427”. A good title becomes a part of the buyer’s narrative. A particularly good title will help sell the artwork. Conversely, a bad title can hamper sales.

So what makes a good title, and how can you come up with good titles without going insane? I have some suggestions, and I would love to hear yours (leave them in the comments below).

What Makes a Good Title?

Titling your artwork is a challenge because you have several potentially conflicting goals with a good title:

  • A good title will provide insight into your inspiration for the artwork, and may help the artwork tell its story.
  • A good title will leave room for the viewer to bring his or her own meaning and interpretation to the artwork.

Additionally, a good title will

  • be memorable and catchy
  • be original (or at least as original as anything can be in a world where nothing is ever truly new)
  • not be too cheesy

How to Come up With Titles

So the goal is to come up with a great title – but how does one do it? After having dealt with tens of thousands of pieces of art and having spoken with hundreds of artists about titles, here are some ideas that might help:

  • Start with the obvious – if there are elements in the artwork that are key focal points, use those elements as a jumping off point.
  • Was there a driving emotion or inspiration that lead you to create the work? If so, try and draw a title from that inspiration.
  • Is there an underlying story behind the work? Try to clue the buyer into the story with your title.
  • Try to put yourself in your viewer’s shoes – what will they see when they look at the work? What do you want them to focus on?
  • Keep it short. While there are obviously exceptions, if you need a 30 word title, you are probably doing something wrong (and maybe you should have become and author instead of artist!)

Coming up With Titles can Become more Difficult over Time

This all sounds great in theory, and will work for the first dozen or so pieces an artist creates, but what about after you’ve created hundreds of pieces? Eventually you are going to run out of creative, unique titles. To combat this issue, try to come up with a naming system. I’ve known artists who look to poetry or mythology for inspiration. Having a dictionary and thesaurus around can help. Get help – my mother helps name most of my father’s paintings.

Examples of Great Titles

Here are some examples of works that I feel have strong titles.

Lorri Acott, an artist I represent in my gallery is a master of titling her artwork. Here are a couple of the best examples of her titles.

Who Rescued Who? by Lorri Acott

Who Rescued Who? by Lorri Acott 

The piece of sculpture is fun and engaging by itself, but the title adds a whole new layer of meaning to the art. Last night at artwalk I observed a couple looking at this piece.

“Look at this one,” the husband said.

“I love it,” replied the wife.

“Now look at the title.”

“‘Who Rescued Who,’ Oh, I love it.”

“The title makes the piece.” Said the husband. The wife agreed.

 

Conversation with Myself by Lorri Acott

Conversation with Myself by Lorri Acott

Again, the title makes you stop and think, and the more you think about it the more intriguing you find the piece.

 

“Okay,” you are saying, “so there are a couple of brilliant examples, but my work doesn’t lend itself to those kind of title fireworks – how about some more down to earth examples?”

You have a point – here are some strong, but simpler titles:

 

Aspen Elegance by John Horejs

Aspen Elegance by John Horejs

 

Commitment by Guilloume

Commitment by Guilloume

 

Chicago to Arizona by Dave Newman

Chicago to Arizona by Dave Newman

 

Desert Flame by Joshua Dean Wiley

Desert Flame by Josh Wiley

 

What are Your Thoughts about Titles?

Do you struggle when titling your artwork? Have you come up with a great system for titling your artwork? What would you suggest to other artists who struggle with their titles? What are some of your favorite art titles ever? Share your experiences, challenges and ideas in the comments below.

Did you find this post helpful?

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71 Comments

  1. Titles somehow just come to me when I paint. I really do believe they help to sell a piece. An example: I did a softly colored, atmospheric painting of three rural mailboxes, which was lovely in its own right. One mailbox was slightly ajar, like a chick hoping to be fed. I called the painting “Waiting for Word.” A woman saw it — actually, just saw an image of it, and not the original painting — and loved its look. But when she heard the title, she began crying and said she wanted to buy it then and there. It seems that when her beloved grandfather was dying, she wrote to him every day, and after he passed she found her letters everywhere in his room. She knew then that he had been waiting each day to hear from her .. and that memory moved her greatly. I might have made the sale on the basis of the painting alone, but the title sealed the deal.

  2. This is the first article I’ve seen on titles and I think you bring up some excellent points. Titles definitely matter and can make or break a sale. Just to add to the conversation, an artist I know uses song titles from her favorite singers or bands. She finds a title that somehow relates to the painting. A buyer may know and like the song and further connect with the art.

    1. Me too, Patricia. I find lots of inspiring titles in words or phrases from songs, humns and scripture.
      One eagle painting I did I titled ‘On Eagles Wings’ . It fit so well. I sometimes just sit down with a
      writing pad and think up titles from sources written above or just ‘think them up’ and then, eventually
      a painting will happen where I can use one of these ‘thoughts’, eg. ‘The Meadow Sleeps’. This was a
      meadow under a fresh fall of snow, quite, silver, beautiful as in summer.

  3. Titles and stories make sales for me. Most viewers love them. I especially find that having a title related to a place that patrons may have visited, such as Maui, resonates with the eventual buyers. Only once have I had a patron say that the painting and story didn’t fit her view. When she told me what she saw in the painting, I suggested a new title and a story behind that title–and she bought it.

  4. This is a great subject. I try to connect my titles to what inspired the work as much as possible. My most recent painting is an example. It’s named “Color Blind.” It’s a view into the canopy of a special tree from my childhood. I discovered it had been cut down. The painting depicts an autumn day with birds in the canopy. The title refers not only to the tree’s foliage providing cover for the birds, but also my disgust about its having been cut down. It describes how I feel about the person who did it or authorized it

  5. I do struggle with titles. Am never truly happy at the end but satisfactory enough so that I can explain how it relates to the back story of the painting. Curiously the one work I turned into my logo/front piece, I list it as Untitled. I really want to viewer to be able to react without any prior indication as to what it is. I enjoy seeing various reactions to it and I feel a title would take away some of the spontaneity. But this is only one case really. Other paintings, I usually land on my feet title-wise. Sometimes, my close friends (the ones I talk to about art) would make suggestions but I reject them. It is funny when we argue about each other’s work issues. We are 3 friends from school days and we end up in a facebook chat where we discuss current projects. It takes away frustration to know that at the end of the day my idea is better than my friend’s. They think the same about their ideas)))
    A lot of times, I am not even asked about titles. People are just enjoying what they see, and I am glad when that is enough.

  6. For landscapes, the titles pick up a feature or feeling in the painting—pretty straightforward.

    For portraits, the titles are the person’s name, maybe including more, like their position, attitude, expression, whatever—also pretty straightforward.

    For abstracts, the titles get wild and weird, sometimes using the titles from songs* twisted and truncated to (in my mind) suit the painting, or the titles may be strings of words that at first blush make no sense (dada-ish, I guess) but engage the viewer in a treasure hunt for meaning. These are the most fun paintings to title.

    Just never never never would my work go up without a title, or as “Untitled …”. In my opinion untitled artwork is incomplete. It is not wall-ready and is as unacceptable as work going up still wet.

    * The songwriters are always credited for their lyrics

  7. Great topic! I’ve been painting a long time now, and have lots and lots of work, so as you mentioned, how to keep coming up with original titles can be challenging to say the least. I do some of what’s been suggested, poems, songs, describing what’s happening in the work. A couple other things I do, if a phrase catches me while reading a book, I write it down. In my notes I have a page I call Painting Titles, and keep possibilities there, if in conversation, someone says something that catches my ear, I write it down. When I’m out and about, if I see something, I write it down. So now, if I’m searching for a title, I can go to my list and see if anything I’ve already written, fits. I usually paint and the title comes later, but Sometimes i work a painting based on a phrase or thought. All fun and intrigueing!

    1. I do the same thing. As I’m looking at my list, there are key words in each phrase that I change to fit a piece. I cross them off the list once they are used, unless I’m creating a series. Then, I use the same title with different key words.

    2. I do this same thing for titles and have a little book with possible titles. Sometimes a title will inspire a work.

    3. I do much the same thing, Ellen. I really enjoy working on titles. Rather than keeping a book of potential titles, I use the memo app. on my phone. I save phrases from novels that I’m reading, signs I see while out shopping and from things that just come to mind. When a piece that I’m doing doesn’t immediately suggest its title, I check through my list of phrases to see if one might fit the piece. Also my wife helps me and often comes up with a title that is better than any that I have considered. I always listen to her! That’s in my memo app. list also!

  8. Poetry is good for coming up with names too. Try Nayyirah Waheed or Mary Oliver. They are both wonderful wordsmiths. Also, when I see a phrase that would make a good title, I write it down.

  9. Titles are more important than I realized. I was always afraid that my more creative titles would be seen as pretentious or tacky. So my titles are generally more descriptive of where they were painted. Most are based on my own photographs so the places often mean something to me. Piazza Garibaldi, Cortona — Above Lucca — Codding Hollow — Front Garden — The Potting Shed — Cades Cove Church. I will be giving that more thought from now on.

    New Question: Some of my paintings have stories behind them. How do you pass those stories along? Or do you? I have one painting of a little inlet to the river. It’s not there any more because the next flood took all those beautiful trees away. The Queens View in Scotland, where Queen Victoria came to paint. Etc. Do people even want the story behind the paintings.

    1. My little art studio is also serving as my little “gallery” in my home. I create a “story board” about each painting. I find that it helps people understand what it is they are looking at. I also rather hang the price sticker off the lower right corner. 2 birds with one stone.

  10. If I am unable to come up with a title, I will often post the image on Facebook and Instagram and asked for suggestions. I’ve had a lot of success doing that. People become more engaged and feel more a part of the process. I then send a small print of the piece to the person who suggested the title.

  11. I hope the fine painters here don’t mind my chiming in. My artworks are digital photo collages that are very layered, blended, textural, and even mystical. Sometimes I begin with an idea and sometimes the art just happens. I know a piece is complete when the story emerges. I have rules for titles: preferably one word, two is okay, three words maybe, four at most if “at the” or “in the” are necessary. I “realize” a word from the artwork, then consult a thesaurus, which I find invaluable. This also means consulting a dictionary at times to make sure I haven’t misunderstood a particular word’s meaning. I try to stick to the most positive word/words in both the title and description. The description tells a story, which I hope is engaging. I try to inject emotion and paint a picture with words. I think the words are almost as important as the artwork itself. As mentioned above, “Untitled” is okay if it means something, but normally, a host of untitled works suggests to me that the artist doesn’t think enough of their own artwork to try to make it meaningful to others.

  12. Several people / artists I have met do a work up BEFORE they start a painting. Part of the process is often a value study. But making notes about what is motivating you to paint it in the first place. Beautiful …….mountain, boat, reflection, sunset. Makes you feel…………happy, sad, warm fuzzy, what ever it is. I am finding that these notes can help develop a full title. Thought I’d share.

  13. Wow, I think titles are really important. I am an older artist and know one way for me to give back is to encourage younger artists. Going to a site such as Daily Paint Works where there are around 150 thumbnails every day, of course the first thing to catch one’s eye is the image. Next is the title. If the title intrigues me, I click on the image to see what the artist briefly has to say about the work and give them a “like”. Likes add up to help sell these little studies. And, let me tell you seeing how I’ve enjoyed titles of other works has encouraged me to use titles too. Thesaurus, poetry, song titles, biblical references, it is all there if a title does not present itself while working.

  14. Once in a while I will post my new painting on social media and do a contest to win a print if someone finds a great title for it. This produces a lot of comments, the post gets attention, facebook shows it to more people, and I always get an amazing title!

  15. I’ve been painting for many decades, and have never had difficulty coming up with a title. But, I’m also an author and write poetry, so go figure… But in writing and publishing my book, I learned something pretty valuable that transcends into art works as well. The cover of a book is the single most important advertising factor for people deciding to pick up your book and leaf through it in a bookstore, or click on it online, so it’s got to grab your attention, right? An art piece is the same way–it must grab the viewer’s attention in the midst of so many other pieces. That pretty much goes w/o saying. However, as in books, the title is the 2nd most important advertising feature. It must have a “hook”, or somehow draw the person into the work, to examine it more closely, to internalize it with themselves. It can spark curiosity, make them want to be there, add mystery, awe, or a sense of well being. It can also do the opposite, depending on the emotion you’re trying to bring up in a viewer. Titles are very important and I’d NEVER dream of showing something as “untitled”. Since every painting I do is either somewhere I’ve been that especially moved me, or some objects that are precious to me, I never have trouble with titles. My example is my book. I wrote about 12 women in the Bible, and how their stories can translate into everyday living today as these women wrestled with the same problems we face, and overcame them. My original title was WOMEN’S STUDIES. Boring. There are thousands of “Studies” on everything imaginable out there, equally as boring sounding. It would never work in a search. Next, I tried something inspirational, like FROM THE VALLEYS TO THE SUMMITS. Inspirational but still boring. Then, I tried a “hook” with THE RICH, THE POOR, AND THE NAKED. Jackpot! Now, we’d never pick up or click on a book that wasn’t titled, would we? I try to do the same with my art titles, and it DOES work!

  16. I have fun with titles (I like humorous ones) and often paint in series, which helps. So, I have “Midnight Kitchen” this and that, “A Little Knife Music” this and that… triplet series became the “Tres Amigos”, etc. I’ve definitely had people buy because of a title, and love it when someone comes up to a piece, checks out the title, then laughs out loud (at the title, not the piece!) 😉 It also helps that I often paint intimate scenes- a close-up of a single tree or two, massive cloud studies… Once I had a couple buy a cloud painting off the easel at Taliesin West, and let them title it – they came up with “Cloudgate”, which I thought was awesome!

  17. My mind is as engaged as my hands and heart usually. It’s part of my process and apparently always has been. So a title- as summary of work is just not there. A clever or instructive title is beyond my grasp even though I know it’s what attracts a viewer and potential owner.
    It would be nice to use a “babbble chart” for artists that could put words together and start a verbal process.
    I can point to one possibly successful title “What the Sea has Said” which is a large vector graphic of a broken seashell. iI seems to resonate and is headed to a juried exhibition in Virginia.
    I’m title compromised- need help!

  18. I agree with Allen above that titles and stories is what helps sell the artwork. I keep a creativity journal handy to write down titles and story clips when the inspiration strikes. If I don’t write it down I will soon forget them.

  19. Great article. Titling was the hardest part of my painting process, so I started a list. As I travel I write down intriguing street names, local wilderness areas, names of anything and everything that would be appropriate or inspire a name. As I read books and articles I write down phrases and words that might be useful. And yes, yes, yes to the thesaurus and dictionary. Then to keep from duplicating a name (been there done that), I cross the used ones off on my one and only master list. I am a prolific painter and need lots of names … the master list keeps me from using any one word too many times, like meadow, spring, high country, glade, bubbling stream … etc.

  20. I’d like to join the chorus of artists who believe titles are not just important, they are the finishing touch of an artwork! I am usually thinking about titles or evocative phrases as I paint, and often find that the title may change or influence the direction of the work, or the work as it progresses may change the title. I would like to add a couple of thoughts in addition to Jason’s excellent suggestions: First, try not to make the title an obvious description of the art. “Coyote” for a (realistic) painting of a coyote is just pointless, but could be intriguing for an abstract. Second, while extremely long titles may be self defeating, don’t be afraid of longish ones that may conjure a story. One of my favorites (that sold immediately) was a white horse on a nighttime hillside under the constellation Pegasus entitled “At Full Moon, He Sometimes Dreamed of Flying.” Thanks Jason, for an informative and insightful discussion of the importance of titles.

  21. This is a great article. Sometimes a title is difficult to come up with. Other times, it’s easy. I’m an abstract artist so it can be doubly difficult. When my father-in-law passed away, I spent a day in my art room, painting. After I finished, it was an abstract with tear drops on it. I called it, “Broken Heart.” A friend of mine, who also collects my work, saw it, and broke down crying. She said it was one thing to see the tear drops but when she read the title she was overcome with grief and sorrow. I didn’t intend to make her cry, but it taught me that titles matter. I also realized it captured my own grief. When I have those moments, when I’m “stuck” and can’t come up with a name, I make a post to my Facebook page and ask my followers for their thoughts on names. They love participating in that and I get an opportunity to “see” what they are seeing in my abstract paintings. That helps me tremendously in choosing a name that will connect with my followers.

  22. I agree with the need for a title. It is a part of the presentation of work in the same way a base presents a sculpture or a frame a painting. It is also a part of the story of the piece. I see a lot of this un-title and really wonder what the artist is trying to say and why it is up to me to figure it out. The idea of untitled seems like a desire to be anonymous, or intentionally obscure, and I think it makes the art less personal and sometimes more difficult to relate to. I think that “Untitled” can be a title if it really fits the conversation the artist is trying to have with others, and in that sense, it should be relatively easy for the viewer to understand why “Untitled” is used. Based on the foregoing, I find that one way to determine a title is to be clear with yourself about what you want to convey and what emotional condition or mental image you want to induce.
    An idea I find helpful is to keep a list of possible titles that relate to the theme or concept of my work. There are times when a title or several titles will come to me out of the blue. I write them down for later reference. An interesting effect of this exercise is that some of the titles will also suggest new pieces.

  23. I created a painting of a table and chairs with a Thiebaud style piece of cake on it and called it “Waiting for Thiebaud”. It was a bit of an homage to him. I got that piece into two museum shows and it sold right away. I truly believe that it was the title that helped that piece get the recognition it got. Titles matter.

  24. I once read of a study that was done, observing viewers in a crowded gallery. People would spend an average of 6 to 8 seconds looking at a piece before looking at the gallery tag. If the piece had a title, the viewer would look back at the painting for another 6 to 8 seconds to correlate the title with the piece. If the piece was untitled, the viewer would just move on to the next painting. I don’t remember where I read it and I certainly can’t cite the source, but that seems to jibe with my own behavior when browsing a show. The extra view time alone seems to me to make it worth the effort to come up with interesting names for my work.

  25. Coming from an advertising/design background I strongly believe in the power of word and image working together. I do try to think “how would a buyer ’emotionally’ relate to any specific piece. This is on my mind right from the concept or inspirational stage and evolves through the ‘work in progress phase. If the work depicts life forms, say a group of people engaged in an activity, I focus on a story approach with an emotional element. For example; a watercolour of mine depicting two children taking risks clambering on rocks near the seashore was titled ” Watch your step”. As if to suggest one child is warning the other. This title also aims at the maternal instinct with female buyers. If I am struggling to come up with the right words, I sometimes google poetry relating to my subject. Spending a little time scanning the lines I look for a few ‘connecting’ words that ‘grab my attention’. These then become a foundation for me to build upon. I have found these approaches to be most effective. As above, so below.

  26. Hi Jason,
    This post was very helpful and came at a time when I am trying to think of a title of one of my latest paintings. The problem I am having is the painting has many elements, ocean, mountains, beach, land etc. I am hoping to zero in on the right title soon.

  27. Here are the approaches I use to title my paintings:

    I give myself all the time I need to choose a name. After 5 minutes of trying, frustration creep invades, but I know I will eventually think of a name I like. So I’ll try another 5 or 10 minutes, then take a brake if a can’t think of one yet.

    I choose a name that is vague enough that I won’t change, and possibly ruin, the viewer’s perception that is the reason they like the art. Often, the viewer’s perception of a work, especially a significantly abstract work, will be different than mine, and I don’t want the viewer’s love of the beautiful clouds the viewer perceives by entitling my work “Fantasy Forest,” on which I was basing the design. Now, the viewer will always see my forest instead of the clouds.

    I choose a poetic version of the common word that describes the art’s essence. One of my paintings is of a renaissance man alone in the forest with a stormy sky. The common words I though of to describe the scene were “one strong man.” So, my poetic version of the word “one” was “solitaire,” and my poetic word for “strong man” was to use the Greek suffix “us,” like in “Spartacus” in order convey strength. Then, I combined the two poetic words to become my made-up word: “Solitairious.”

    I use other methods that depend on the nature of the art. I named an alien landscape one of the planets named in Star Trek (“Rigel Four,” which to non-Trekies still may sound like a foreign place. I’ve named a hidden figure made with only 6 similarly curved lines “Six Curved Lines” so I can let the viewer figure out what the lines portray. I’ve named a dusk landscape that has many different types of vegetation “Dusk Life,” which is a simple, general characterization of the image. I’ve named a predominantly blue abstract by using the Spanish name for “blue,” then adding a made-up suffix: “Azulan,” which some will get and others will hopefully be enticed by the allure of wondering what the word means.

    Hopefully, my satisfaction with my naming will be shared by potential clients and gallery owners, or I will be editing this post.

  28. I actually love coming up with titles for my paintings, although I admit they’re sort of all over the map! Cryptic ones like “Her Truth of Self,” or more poetic “Quiet Shards of Colored Rain,” or simple and to the point, “Merry Christmas” or “Jen.” My favorite title ever, though, is just supposed to be funny: “Marloe Escapes the Child-Eating Chair.”

  29. I think this is something that can be easy for some and hard for others based on the subject matter. For me the title is a huge part of the painting. I am a story teller folk artist so the title cements the piece. Many times I have the title before I have the painting as the title is the idea. I know the customers love hearing the story behind the title and painting. I have a write up that goes with the painting so the gallery has to story to share as well as the client has a written copy about the story behind the painting

  30. I am in the camp that the name can make or break a sale.
    I make pinwheels in clay. People liked them but didn’t buy. I started naming sets of three pinwheels The Three Sisters. They now sell well.

  31. In view of the preponderance of so much “untitled” being used in the last fifty years, this is a very important and timely topic. I believe that a title is absolutely essential for any artwork to be taken seriously. I taught art for thirty six years and discouraged my students from using “untitled” or leaving out the title from their projects. I feel that if artists really care about their artwork, they should give it a title. A title introduces the piece and serves as a springboard for the viewer to engage beyond the the visual elements of the work itself. A work of art is a creation, a newborn entity, and I have never encountered a child, a book, or even a movie with no name.

  32. When I first entered one of my paintings into a show I was stopped short because zi had no title. I took stock of my inventory and studied each one and listened to what my first thought was when I looked at the painting. I still do that and my titles feel like they are attached to the paintings. And, yes, it does get harder the more paintings I paint.

  33. I try to use names that evoke what animals were in the landscape, even if those animals aren’t depicted….
    A wetland: “Spring Peepers”
    A grassland: “Meadowlarks Calling”
    Often tempted to use “Horseflies Bit the Hell Out of me Here”.
    But I have to say that I find a lot of typical landscape titles pretty saccharine and pretentious.

  34. My titles come from the inspiration for my paintings – natural minerals and gemstones – and from the story I’m trying to tell with my current series, that it’s often necessary to look deeper than the surface to find true beauty and meaning, like “More Than Meets the Eye,” a title for a painting inspired by Nevada agate, a stone that is grey on the outside, but brilliantly colored inside.

  35. I had a large watercolor of nasturtiums called, you guessed it, “Nasturtiums”.-b-o-r-i-n-g! It had been in several shows and hung in a local establishment but never got any interest. I never really loved the piece and finally decided to cut it down to the part I did like and re-frame it. The smaller piece was titled “Some Like it Hot” and it sold within a day of being hung in a local bakery.

  36. The message I get when I see “Untitled” is that the artist is only interested in their process and has no ideas or deeper reason for creating their work beyond playing with their preferred media.
    My wife and I are both artists and when we get stumped, we play word games. Often we’ll throw out words, placing some in column A and some in Column B then try to find a combination that fits what we had in mind.
    My late mother-in-law was a watercolorist, her husband more of a wordsmith. She frequently relied on him to title her pieces.

  37. I really look forward to naming my paintings but I also do enjoy writing. I had just completed a new painting of New York skyscrapers and showed it to my 3 year old grandson. I was surpried how he studied it for a few minutes and then he said “Where is Spiderman? That is what I named the painting and it sold very quickly. I am not sure if it was the story behind the painting or the painting but I loved it and so did everyone else.

  38. Titles are especially important in abstracts to give the viewer a feel for the artist’s vision. One of the first Abstracts I sold, “Camel Trek on the Red Planet” was because the client collected camel paraphernalia. As I paint, I let the painting speak to me and usually, the title emerges.

  39. I mostly srick to a one word naming convention. It serves to focus my mind on the ppinr of the piece, and gives a subtle takeaway message to rhe viewer. My mosaics are inspired by nature, so it can be a descriptive title like ‘Estuary’ or it can refer to the internal story or lessons-learned, like ‘Emerge.’ The latter is a landscape of a lake view I walked to every day as I was struggling with pain for several months. One day as dramatic clouds parted over the lake, I noticed the pond lilies had just started poking through the surface, signaling spring. This place gave me hope in a difficult time and the title reflects that.

  40. I’m a photographer, but we have the same problem, even moreso perhaps. Many photographers rely on titles that tell the location and perhaps other objective info, like “Moonrise Over Hernandez.” or “Pepper No. 31.” — that doesn’t do it for me.
    I wrote about my titling convention here: http://jrileystewart.com/blog/2016/04/05/whats-in-a-name/

    Bottom line, and this is independent of the medium, is that usually, some idea of a story or theme or concept strikes me while I’m composing the photograph. If not while composing, it happens while I’m making the photograph. My titles are usually related to that concept/story/theme, like “Bridge to NoWhere” or “Gran’s Lap.”

    Great article, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  41. The one title by Lorri Acott is grammatically wrong. It must be ‘Who rescued whom”. The who vs. whom is a frequently incurred mistake.

  42. What a great topic. As someone who is learning about art late in life, I have never understood why art work needs titles. And I still don’t. It seems that art should do the speaking for itself. It’s my humble opinion that titles distract, and I realize that the idea of not giving something an added identity, is not necessarily shared in the art community. Said another way, a work of art should not need explaining, no more so than a nicely wrapped gift needs a title explaining what is inside. Needless to say, I am not disputing that for ‘selling’ purposes, titles add to marketability. ‘’thanks for listening.

  43. The title should be “Who Rescues Whom” to be in proper English! Or am I
    too picky? I love the sculpture as well as the idea of the title. The title quandary is a good topic to address. Thank you.

  44. In my world titles help the viewer more than dissuade. Sometime a great title materializes before or during the painting – that always helps focus my intent and application. Other times they really evade me, I mull over it for days, search the thesaurus, toss a few titles out to friends and get help there.
    I love when the title elicits a laugh: “A Pigeon, a Chicken and a Bear Walk into a Bar….”, or an exclamation of delight: “Liquid Sunshine”. It’s fun to utilize a cliche when it works, and I do enjoy when the title can have a double or more meaning referencing the subject, then the viewer gets to decide what it means: “Shop Talk”, “Fisherman’s Best Friend”, “Tee Totalers”.

    Overly romantic (“cheesy”) titles turn me off the work I view, so I hope I do not go there.

    I do understand those who wish not to title, and let the viewer be absorbed into the world of that piece. But for me, I get good connections with viewers through titles and they often help make sales. Art sales support my needs.

  45. Great food for thought, thank you Jason.

    For landscapes, I mostly use the prosaic name of the place. I have sold several to people who have googled the name of the place plus the word painting. I may add a second title that is more emotional.

    Otherwise, some paintings name themselves during the process. Quite often from songs. Once I went back to my tiny studio after lunch, and thought at the painting “Hello Lamp Post”, and that is what it was named.

    I try to keep them short.

  46. feel a title can be suggestive of other situations. The title of my oil painting is The Timeshare
    The subject is many California Sealions on a Buoy. Relating to temporary occupation as in a timeshare.

  47. Often I have a title in mind before I paint and it suggest the direction. Also a phrase from a song or book will give me an idea.

  48. Love that someone has addressed this issue. I never leave mine untitled, and I do like to write, but it is often a struggle to get the correct title for some of my pieces. I’m anxious to read all the comments – you have opened a wealth of knowledge from the collective of artists reading your article. Isn’t that really cool!

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