What’s In A Name?

Titles are not just a way to catalog art, but an important signpost which connects artists to their audience. Thoughtful naming allows/suggests a path for viewers to more fully experience the art’s meaning and it’s overall effect. For me, naming a new piece of art can sometimes take longer than creating it in the first place. That’s how important names are.

Certainly, there is the other side of the coin. Over the years I’ve had discussions with artists who refuse to name their work beyond “Untitled”. They say “I don’t want to influence what the viewer sees in them.” I understand their logic, especially with regard to abstract pieces.

However, I’m not willing to divorce myself from my work to that degree. Not anymore, anyway. Naming the art gives that art it’s soul. Now it’s ready; now it’s complete. And there’s no getting around it — the title gives my patrons and viewers an important connection to me, the artist. It is additional insight into my mood, my process, my emotions and my moment.

I have often thought that a piece’s title should pop into my head when I’m doing the work, or at least during the last hours of completion. But no. Whichever part of my brain is responsible for naming things is completely shut off when I’m creating art.

That turns out to be a good thing. Once finished with the visual, I can then look at the work with a slightly different set of eyes — less creative art lust and more contemplative afterglow. Ha! Perhaps at times I seek to balance an over-zealous image by giving it a civilized, respectable name. Or maybe not. I am just as likely to hint at a wild streak which is not readily apparent.

Image courtesy chaymation, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Another service a name can provide the audience is as “story material.” Not that I’m into naming specifically as a form of marketing, I recognize that people do like to tell stories, especially about things of interest to them, and especially about recent and/or specially-valued acquisitions. Have you ever heard of anyone buying a spectacular new sports car and NOT be bubbling over with enthusiasm to tell you all about it?

    For me, I like the naming of a piece (as well as my signature block) to be an integrated part of the entire piece, combining as a cohesive whole. It seems some artists don’t find paying attention to this level of detail (deciding if/how to name their pieces) to be important or significant, but I find it gratifying. It’s something I do for myself, even if most of my audience won’t notice what I did.

    My naming process is different from yours, Dan. Sometimes I begin with a name (and associated concept). Sometimes the name comes and/or evolves during the working. Sometimes the name doesn’t seem to want to come even after the execution part of the work is finished. I seem to go back and forth from inspiration and intuition to observation and analysis during my creative process. Both the work and the naming seem to come from the same place for me, the ebb and flow of all that I bring to a piece. The “feel” of the name is always meant to influence the audience in some way or another, leading the contemplative mind, pointing toward an intended purpose, adding a bit of seasoning that can enhance the overall evocativeness of a piece, or as you suggested, modifying the impact of the work in some way.

    Great blog topics, by the way. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to blather on! Where are all the other folks wanting to discuss art??!

  2. Write all you like, Misha; you are a prolific commenter. My blog skills are still in the “learning to walk” stages, so it is gratifying to have your level of feedback and scrutiny. As to where everyone else is…I think they are in Wisconsin for the week. Plus, look at the comment standard you’re setting!

    You’ll soon have your own blog and I’ll be over here all by myself once again 🙂

  3. When to comes to processing images. Naming them is what I hate to do the most. When I first started it was “Wood Duck #1”, “Wood Duck #2” and so on. The more images you have the harder it gets too. Although I’m a lot better at naming them, I still hate it. Haha. I’m glad I;m not the only one.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *