How to Title Your Art

Why Art Titles are Important

Artists often wonder whether to title their art. The answer to that question is absolutely positively YES. To begin with, a title always adds value to a work of art. At the very least, it gives viewers more information than they would have if the work was untitled. Think about it. If you had to choose between two very similar works of art, you liked them equally well, they were both priced the same, but one had a title and the other didn't, which would you buy? If you're like most people, the one with the title of course. Because the one with the title has "more" than the one without... and you're paying nothing extra for it.

Titles are also important because that they serve as introductions to your art, especially for people who know nothing about you, but who come across your work by chance or accident for the first time, like what they see, and want to know more. Good titles give them one more reason to initiate the want-to-know-more process. They help engage and encourage viewers to keep looking and learning.

And then there's the Internet. A major plus point of art with titles is that it's searchable on Google and other search engines. Untitled art is not. And the more opportunities you give people to discover your art, the more people will discover it. With these facts in mind, artists often wonder how to come up with good titles. Well wonder no more because here are some basic tips and guidelines for how to title your art:

* Think of titles like keywords. What are the most important words that describe specific works of your art? What kinds of words do you use when talking about that art? These types of words are excellent starting points for titles.

* Titles save time. Many people don't like trying to figure out what art is about. A title gives them a starting point, a reason to slow down and take a closer look.

* Choose titles that make your art more accessible by hinting at or giving clues to what it's about.

* Stand up for your art. Tell it like it is. Strong titles reflect what inspires you to make it, what personal beliefs it represents, what messages it is meant to communicate, and why we should look at and think about it. Grab people's attention; make sure they get the point.

* Think about using titles that provide specific information about the art. Many people are too shy, afraid, or embarrassed to ask what untitled art is about, even if they like it. They may just pass it by because they decide they won't be able to get it. Titles at least give viewers fighting chances to understand what they're looking at.

* If a composition has identifiable proper names in it, like geographical locations, landmarks, species of plants or animals or sea life, people, objects, and so on, think seriously about including those names in your title. That way, your art might come up in search results for those proper names. For example, someone searching for information about the Mississippi River Delta might find your painting in their search results, and like it so much that they decide to look at more of your art, or maybe even contact you.

* Good titles help people to recognize and appreciate aspects of your art that may not be immediately obvious. For example, a figure painting might be about family, childhood, memories, growing up, or youthful experiences. But without a title, viewers may never get the chance to fully experience those aspects of the work. Titles help viewers see what you want them to see.

* If possible, use titles that have some connection to the visual content or composition of the work as opposed to ones that are completely unrelated to what the art looks like. Titles that clearly connect with the art at least keep viewers in the game.

* Then again, cryptic titles that do not obviously or immediately relate to the compositions or subject matters of your art can sometimes work in your favor. But they have to be well-thought-out. Good ones can intrigue viewers to the point where they spend time trying to figure out their meanings, like captivating mysteries or riddles.

* Use titles that seduce viewers into taking longer looks, and maybe even ask questions. Unexpected or uncommon titles engage viewers in ways that ordinary or common titles don't. Some artists' titles are so unconventional that people look at more artworks just to see how they're titled.

* Unusual words or word combinations tend to attract more interest and attention than ordinary ones. At the very least, they slow people down. These kinds of titles also have better chances of appearing higher up in search results because of their uniqueness. Be careful though. You want to use these kinds of words only when they relate directly to something about your art, and not use them gratuitously or to try and game the system.

* Make every title different. In a way, every title is one more clue to you as an artist as well as to what your art is about. Not only do viewers appreciate a unique and individual titles, but a diversity of titles when taken together can offer insight into your thought processes and perspectives, and help people to better connect with and appreciate you as an artist. Having a different title for every piece of your art also maximizes the number of opportunities for your overall body of work to appear in search results.

* Gallery owners really like titles. And they really really like titles that increase viewers' interest in the art. Plus good titles make their job easier when it comes to selling the work. And think about this... how do you expect galleries to list individual works online, in emails, or on price lists if none of them have titles?

* Titles not only serve purposes now, but also into the future. Perhaps the most useful is that they make tracking the histories, locations, and owners of specific works of art easier for curators, researchers, scholars, and historians (and for galleries and collectors as well).

* Lastly, a couple of don'ts. Avoid numerical titles. Not only do they provide little or no information about the art, but they also can't be searched. Similarly, don't use the same title over and over again followed by letters or numbers to distinguish one work from the next, like Urban Landscape 1, Urban Landscape 2, Urban Landscape 3, and so on. They limit opportunities for people to find your art.

* Don't use "Untitled" as a title. Not only does it fail to distinguish one artwork from the next, but it also pretty much eliminates the chances of anyone finding it online.


(art by Casper Brindle)

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