Saturday, March 22, 2008

Naming a piece of art

Easter Bunny
4 x 6 Oils on panel
copyright Jeanette Jobson


"Titles do not give a just idea of things; were it otherwise, the work would be superfluous."
-- Gustave Courbet

I've played around with some oil paints today with varying results. Oils are something I used a lot of years ago and have tried my hand at a few times recently. I love the texture and smell of turps, but I still need lots of practice. I was buoyed by the sale in November of one of my first oils in 20 years but haven't done a lot with it since.

This little piece is inspired bya ceramic rabbit found at the supermarket today. I liked the round shape and the simplicity of it, as well it will make up part of centrepiece for the Easter table tomorrow.

Then naming it... Sometimes titles for art come easily and almost name themselves, as it did with this piece. The subject, the season, it all fell into place without effort. Sometimes its very difficult to come up with a suitable title. So how do you choose a title for a piece of art and what weight does a title hold with keep the viewer's attention or buyer to reach for their wallet?

Some artists choose from a variety of methods of naming their art piece. Here are a few that I've come across.

1. Use a name found on a paint chip. This can have some merit, as designers spent months coming up with paint lines and titles for them. I don't know the merit in 'borrowing' the names of even if copyright could come into play on that one, but I know the names of paint become more and more interesting over time.

2. For landscapes, use the name of the place. This can cause some argument as the buyer may insist on knowing the exact place and whether it is there in their knowledge or not. Buyers also like to create their own story around a scene and putting a geographic name to the piece may spoil their illusion.

3. Use a single word for each art piece. This can become part of your style and make people remember you. Its rare to run out of single words, but you may have to spend some time creating the story around the title.

4. Generic titles are difficult to catalogue and not good for marketing your work. Not may people will search online or in a catalogue for Work # 563 or Abstract 728.

5. The Influence of Titles On How Paintings Are Seen. The title of a drawing has significant impact on the face it presents and the viewer's perception of it.

Bastard Paintings by Michael Corbin

Robert Genn's article on naming a drawing.


I do title my drawings and paintings. Partially it is the connection with the subject of the piece, or what I interpret as an action of the subject. Sometimes, the colour plays a role in it and sometimes the piece has a name almost before I begin to draw.


I believe that the name of a piece is part of its appeal and interest. It can pull in a viewer and give them direction or set the stage for thoughts around the words that make up the title.

How do you name your art pieces? Do you name them or are they generic pieces?

4 comments:

Jo Castillo said...

I name my art pieces. They seem like they need names and later I can recall the work easier. I have a terrible memory and could never remember what "Untitled 17" was. :)

Maricello said...

Very interesting (and, nice bunny). I don't actually produce art pieces, other than ATCs (which I do name). I have always wondered why this thinking doesn't apply to classical music. "Symphony No. 35," for instance, doesn't impart much information.

Natalie de Guzman said...

Thanks for the tips in naming an artwork.

Jan said...

I name my art pieces also. Sometimes it's just a descriptive name, especially for those pieces that have come from a challenge reference photo and turned out so-so or those from a commission. At other times, it's a more personal, or perhaps even emotional, name - a name that means something to me. I don't name to entice buyers but also don't really have my personal art out there to buy so don't worry about whether the title will appeal to buyers or not.