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  • DW Johnson

Don’t call it “Aunt Margaret’s Butt”!

Total transparency here, I’ve done it. Truth be told, probably every artist has done it at one time. Done what? Saddled a piece with an absurd, confusing and utterly awful name.


“Complete and total work of the man inside the cogs of a mechanical mechanized world” Yep, that was an actual title and worse yet I found it in a gallery with a price tag that would have you running screaming into the night.


So, before you decide what to call the piece, think about it. Take as much time as you need and follow these guidelines:



· Don’t use “Untitled”, its cliché. I’ve already done it so you can’t. Ha!

· Don’t use numbers “451”, again cliché. I’ve done this too, so you have to think of something else.

· Don’t use titles longer than five words. People want to talk about your art, and they don’t want to take three to four breaths just to spit out the title to others.

· Don’t use titles that you can’t explain. Yes, one of my pieces is titled “Watermelon” and it does not have a single piece of fruit in it. But if you look at the colors, they are watermelon. So that makes sense.

· Don’t use a title or play on words of an already famous piece. “Screaming Farther” a photo of a bald man standing on a bridge screaming. A take from Edvard Munch’s “Der Schrei der Natur” commonly referred to as “the Scream.” Doing so comes off cheap and tacky.

· Don’t use slang that is considered offensive. Titles that use words like rape, Nazi, and derogatory names used for race, gender, etc. are all off limits. You want your viewer to enjoy the art, not to get upset you went the wrong direction with the title. And yes, there are artists that do these things. All they accomplish is shock value and I guarantee it's done to disguise that fact the artist lacks any creative vision.


Often it's best to title the piece by describing it. Or failing that title it in a way that it reminds you of the piece. For example, the piece in this blog is titled “Life in Autumn Thorns.” The colors are very autumn inspired, and there are thorns in the image. You can embellish, and I encourage it. Just make sure the title fits the piece.

Stay in these guidelines and your patrons will thank you. They may even buy a piece of your art. I’ve seen it happen. Patrons not complete sure about the piece throw caution (and their money) to the wind when they find out the title of the work.

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