Many artists find the naming of artworks the most difficult step in the creation process. How does one find a perfect title which both summarizes what a drawing, painting, sculpture, etc. is about, and leaves space for interpretation from the viewer?
There are also other concerns. What if people think the title is stupid or uncreative? What if after setting a name for an artwork, we decide its not appropriate? I have struggled with these things on more than occasion.
In this post, I share with you some ideas and tips for naming artworks.
For additional help, you can review our previous post:
How to Find the Perfect Title for Art
Keep a notebook of art name ideas
While you are creating art, keep a notebook handy and write down words, phrases, feelings, associations that come to you. Try to keep this notebook with you wherever you go. If you go for a drive or walk in the park, have it with you.
Titles and ideas sometimes come to me at the most unexpected of occasions. My idea notebook has become not only a good place to find titles for artworks, but also where I often go to find inspiration for paintings!
Find some ways to find inspiration for creating art in this post: Art Inspiration Ideas
Explore the artwork
Try to examine the painting or drawing thoroughly and answer these questions:
- What is the most prominent thing that pops out at you?
- How does the artwork make you feel?
- What are the main colors?
- Why did you create the artwork?
An ideal title should summarize everything you know about the painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.
Keep titles simple and short
There will undoubtedly be occasions when long titles will work, but for the most part try to keep them short. Short titles are memorable and generally easier to understand.
Think of famous paintings such as Mona Lisa by Leonardo, Starry Night by Van Gogh, Waterlilies by Monet and Guernica by Picasso. Titles do not have to be complex. People should not need to look up the meaning of a title. Titles should enlighten artworks instead of making them more obscure (unless that is your intention).
For examples check out: Most Famous Paintings of the World
A word about untitled pieces.
I never label any of my own artworks “untitled” but there may be occasions where untitled may be a good name. The artist may want to leave the interpretation of the artwork completely up to the viewer, without the aid of a title. There may be times when a name may do more harm than good. Sometimes an artwork just has to stand on its own.
Naming artworks does not have to be a dreaded experience. As explained in this post, it can be a part of your art process. Use a notebook to come up with ideas, then use that same notebook to title your artworks.
I know artists have different approaches to naming art, so if you would like to share your own ideas, please do so below in the comments.