Today’s question comes from a reader who struggles with choosing titles for art. She wants to know just how important a catchy title is. Here’s what she had to say.
I finish a drawing and then try to come up with a title for it that is quirky enough to make a viewer take another look. Not always successful. How important do you think is a good title ? How much can it add to the overall drawing? Sue
Clever titles can add an extra dimension to artwork. There’s no denying that.
But you’re right. It can be a lot of work to come up with interesting titles.
Whether or not they’re actually important is a difference of opinion. So I’ll share my thoughts on titling work, and then Kathryn Hansen will share hers.
Carrie’s Thoughts on Naming Artwork
I’ve been an artist for decades, and for most of that time, I was a commissioned portrait artist. For many years, I painted a minimum of twelve portraits each year in my spare time. I had a full-time job, so creative time was at a premium.
Consequently, I didn’t spend a lot of time naming my work. It was always the name of the subject, with names like Blizzard Babe and Mercury: Portrait of a Blue Roan. Not very exciting, but the titles were as much for my record keeping as for the clients. It didn’t require a lot of cleverness because the work was already sold.
I don’t do portrait work very much anymore, so my titles have gotten a little more clever, but the only claim to fame I have in the cleverness department is this piece: Christmas Tree-O.
And I don’t consider it a very good piece.
For the most part, my titles these days are descriptive rather than clever. Most of the time, I have a title in mind when I begin a piece, but sometimes that working title gets changed after a piece is finished. The titles work for me and gives potential buyers some idea of what the subject is.
Besides, the artwork has always seemed more important to me than the title.
But that is only my opinion.
Kathryn Hansen’s Thoughts on Choosing Titles for Art
Kathryn Hansen, the featured artist for the August 2021 issue of CP Magic, is very good at coming up with imaginative titles; the kind of titles that prompt a second look at the art work. So I asked her to comment on this subject. Here’s what she had to say:
“Personally I think titles are very important, and consider it part of my whole art package from conceiving the original idea for the piece to the title, to the images I take of it along the way, to how I market it…it’s very well thought out. And followers/fans/collectors have now associated me with puns and clever titles for my art and in my marketing posts/newsletters…so I stand out from the pack so to speak of other artists.
“So, in a nutshell, I think it’s very important. I find it very boring and lacking in creativity when I see unimaginative titles on pieces or when an artist asks followers for ideas about titles. I don’t wait till I finish a piece and scratch my head wondering what I’ll title it. I thought about it in the beginning or along the way. It’s the energy of the piece then as it’s getting created.”
This is one of Kathryn’s pieces, Let it Bee. After seeing some of the other titles of the work she provided for CP Magic, I spent a lot of time looking for a bee in this piece. Can you find it?
Neither could I.
So I asked Kathryn if there was a bee. Her reply?
“Yes there is…no physical bee…just a play on bears, honey and bees…I had Winnie the Pooh in mind when titling it!!”
So is Choosing Titles for Your Art Important?
I have to agree with Kathryn that it is indeed important. Her artwork is so beautiful, it’s easy to spend time looking at it.
If your creativity runs in that direction as well as in creating the art, then use a clever or catchy title.
But if you’re stressing over finding exactly the right title, then you’re probably better off with a more typical or descriptive title.
But when a title keeps drawing you back to the artwork, as happened to me with Let it Bee, then the title is important.
Thanks to Sue for asking this intriguing question and to Kathryn for sharing her insights!