Have you ever wondered how some artists find such good titles for their artwork? Well, there are easy ways to find great titles if you know the secrets.
Use these helpful tips to name your art:
- Find Idioms
- Common Expressions
- Phrases and Sayings
- Metaphors and Similes
- Proverbs and Adages
- Short quotes
- Alliteration and Rhythm
- Puns and Humor
And don’t be pretentious.
Above all, keep a notebook and jot down ideas as they come along. Don’t think you will remember titles, you won’t. When you hear or think of one, write it down.
In this post, I will go over my approach to finding a good title when looking for a good idea. I’ll tell you how to name your artwork and find a title that attracts potential buyers
(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)
Does a Work of Art Need a Title?
YES, YES, YES! A good title will sell a piece of art and it should never be a casual afterthought.
Sometimes the right name will be obvious, but there have been times when I have rushed to publish with a less than perfect title and regretted it afterward. Now I hold back until I have thought things through.
Many years ago I was chatting to an art student about painting and he was aghast when I emphasized the importance of finding a good title. His purist approach demanded that a work of art should speak for itself.
In his world the title of the artwork was secondary.
A typical student encounter in many ways, but we were in Kenya, and I was painting wildlife art and selling them to tourists. I was talking from direct experience and he was theorizing.
If you make wildlife art use these subjects for extra sales: 12 Wildlife Art Bestsellers
It was like listening to a virgin talking about sex. I wonder if he went on to be a working artist. Who knows?
What I do know is the first thing people look for, when they stop to look at a painting, is the title of the work, and then they read the description.
Your admirers, and potential customers, want to be informed about the picture, and the painting’s title must resonate and evoke an emotional response, to keep them engaged. It fulfills the same function as the title of a book, film, or headline.
If the title grabs them, it hooks them in.
Get it wrong and you’ve lost them, get it right and the name of the artwork alone can be enough to sell the work.
Naming your art is that important.
The title of your artwork will affect your sales so, what do you do when your brain goes blank?
Finding a Good Name For Your Art
Idioms, Expressions, and Turns of Phrases.
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, an idiom is a short ‘figure of speech’ differing from the literal meaning, with 25,000 examples in the English language to choose from. This gives you a list of titles without much effort.
I enter ‘idioms’ in the search engine as my starting point. I’m looking for short titles.
And I mean short and snappy. No one wants a sentence. Brevity is king and that’s why idioms work so well. They are defined as being short in length, meaning, they’ll encourage you to think in the right way.
You may indeed come across expressions and quotes that are longer in length, but you don’t need to use the whole term. You can edit down the key phrase and infer the rest.
Search Google for ‘expressions from Shakespeare’ and see the wealth of ideas. You may well find the perfect name. It’s OK, everyone else does it.
Alliteration and Rhythm
I like alliteration, it’s very pleasing to the ear. I have a personal favorite that I used many years ago to describe a cat I’d drawn, lying in the shade of a pot plant.
I called it ‘Potted Palm and Puss’. Very satisfying and it made people smile.
What about this goody below? It has everything, alliteration, and rhythm, plus it’s short and describes the scene.
I named this next picture ‘Mischief Monger’. A good choice of title for a fox. In fact, I like it better than the drawing itself!
Good alliteration has a rhythmic flow that is slightly hypnotic, but you can have rhythm in other ways. I have a drawing of a line of Meerkats called ‘Eyes to the Right’
And another of two penguins named ‘Push and Shove’.
My snappiest titles are rarely more than 3 or 4 syllables long.
Puns and Humor
Sometimes working a pun into the title can work really well.
No prizes for guessing what animals appear in ‘Pride and Joy’. A lioness and her cub of course, what else?
How about my giraffe drawing entitled ‘The High Life’.
By the way, you can see how I drew this giraffe here.
It’s the effect I’m after, my aim is to see the smile on someone’s face.
I’m not averse to getting input from friends and family members either. That said, very few people have the knack for a clever title, but it’s worth asking around nonetheless. I’ve used a few suggestions over the years.
One title, in particular, comes to mind. I’d drawn a domestic duck with lots of water reflections but I was having a hard time finding a decent name. A friend gave it some thought and suggested ‘Love a Duck’. It was brilliant. Pity, it didn’t sell!
Well, you can’t win them all.
A Good Art Title Has Emotion
There’s a very blurred line separating good taste from sentimental goo. I’m not sure I always get it right, but on the whole, I think I find the sweet spot.
On the one hand, you are trying to appeal emotionally to your audience, on the other hand, you have to live with yourself!
If a title is awkward for people (mostly men), you’ll soon find out. If you can hear the embarrassment in their voices when they say the name out loud, you’ll know you’ve gone too far. It matters because your sales will suffer.
I have a picture of a cute baby chimp. It pulls the heartstrings but the title saves the image from going over the top. It’s called ‘Fingers and Thumbs’
It’s a simple yet evocative title and describes the picture well. No one is embarrassed to ask for it by name.
Just imagine a huge guy buying the same picture for his family and then having to ask me for a ‘My Little Pickle’. I rest my case.
Find a Family Metaphor
One of my most effective ploys is to find a ‘family’ metaphor. It’s a common theme of mine, and if I can hit the family/maternal button I will go for it.
Note how many titles I have that refer to the family in some way:
- Jumbo Family
- Baby on Board
- A Family Portrait
- Kindred Spirits
- Father Figure
And, believe me, there are more.
This is where you can stir emotions most effectively. People buy art for emotional reasons, that’s the most important thing to remember. If your admirer can find a link to their loved ones, they are much more likely to buy your picture.
I named my picture of a proud lion ‘Head of the Family’ for a reason. People buy it for their Dad, usually in an ironic way.
It’s a fact that people project human characteristics onto animals. It may have no basis in science but no one buys a picture for that reason. We enjoy seeing ourselves reflected in the natural world and the name of your art will resonate more if you exploit that tendency.
Add a Caption With Your Title
If a good title helps, a good caption can clinch the deal. They have a few key elements. I write the title, the framing size in inches and centimeters, and 2 or 3 sentences
As always, the caption must be short and to the point. If they are intriguing enough, your customer will start to read them all. Not only are they more likely to engage positively with you, but it’s also a great way to attract passers-by to your display. It’s a win-win.
My most amusing titles and descriptions get the best response, and there is nothing more effective than laughter to bring the barriers down.
Take your time and put some thought into those few sentences. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I describe the subject matter and point out details the viewer may have overlooked. At other times it will be an anecdote relating to the picture, or a thought process.
Any angle that presents the image in an interesting way will work, especially if your reader wants to know more.
Whatever you do, don’t waffle on. Edit your sentences down to the bare bones, check for spelling mistakes, and stay positive. Negativity will kill your sales. Remember you are dealing with emotions.
How to Name Your Artwork: Final Thoughts
As a professional artist, I’m fine-tuned to selling my own art in the form of open and limited edition prints and they must have a good title if they are to gain the maximum attention. Any gallery owner will tell you that.
It doesn’t matter what type of art you are selling, it could be a sculpture, a drawing, or an abstract painting, Everything art form needs a professional presentation, and that includes a great title.
It bewilders me to see pieces of art for sale with a lazy descriptive title. All that time, expense, and effort, and the best they can come up with is a boring ‘Stiil life with Lemon’ or ‘Study in Blue’. Give me a break.
As I’ve said so many times before, never assume that your art does the talking. You must communicate on many levels. That includes your signature, your title, and a few descriptive words to go with them.
If all you manage to do is find a talking point to get a conversation going that’s enough to start the sales process. This is an art business after all and I see every viewer as a potential customer.
Happily, one of the comments I hear most often from people viewing my artwork is ‘I love your titles’. so I must be doing something right.
Ignore the power of words at your peril.
Don’t get your business name wrong either. Check out this post: Art Business Names: How to Find the Right Name
There are so many things you have to get right if you are to sell your art successfully. Take a look at Katy’s Domestika course and get inspired. There are over 7,500 students!
If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit:
- Pentel Mechanical Pencils 0.3mm
- Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils
- Daler-Rowney Heavyweight Cartridge Paper
- Jakar Battery Eraser
- Tombo Mono Eraser Pen
- Faber Castell Putty Eraser
- Blu Tack
- French Box Easel
If you want an alternative to Amazon, check out ARTEZA art supplies or BLICK
Good names sell a picture, but there’s so much more to learn. If you’re serious about selling your art, you need this guide! Take a look.
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Hi, my name’s Kevin and I’m a real person!
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy