Do You Think Titles Matter?

“Returning to Buddha Self” by Atousa Raissyan. Digital artwork, original artwork, 20" x 30". Various sizes and mediums are available. Copyright © Atousa Raissyan. Used by permission of the artist.

Many artists take special care in attributing titles to their art while others ignore them, prefer to leave them “untitled,” or assign nondescript titles. As a wordsmith, I am baffled as to why an artist wouldn’t use the opportunity to title their art. As one who has juried many exhibitions, I enjoy reading the title the artist has provided. I believe the artist who cares to take time selecting an appropriate title has considered the viewer’s total experience. And, when I judge an entry, and when the art appeals to me, it is the title that serves as a key to the door of the artist’s creative mind. It also often reveals the inspiration that led to their work of art.

For example, when jurying an exhibition Art That Lifts Our Spirits we selected One Soul by Atousa Raissyan to receive an Award of Excellence. Indeed, on its own merit, the image immediately attracted our attention and fit the theme. However, the title beckoned us to enter and explore the artist’s world of imagination. It was the proverbial icing on the cake. It was no surprise to later learn that Raissyan’s art is often inspired by quotations and poetry by Rumi, Hafez, Osho, Mooji and Kahlil Gibran.

I have discovered for most artists titles do matter. When I wrote an article, Art Insight: Do Titles Matter? on my blog, I was pleased to see several comments from artists regarding this topic.

Some artists delight in the process of choosing titles. Lidia Marina Hurovich Neiva stated, “I completely agree that titles matter. I love titling my paintings. Most of the titles just appear in my mind after I finish the piece, magically, like a whisper from the same muse that inspired me to paint.”

Sometimes a title needs time to reveal itself, as Charlotte Shroyer points out: “I live with the piece for a while, hang it on the wall, walk around it and let its spirit hang around the studio. Then magically the title appears, as you say, from the same muse that inspired me to paint.”

A firm believer in the use of titles is Wendy St. Christopher. She explained, “As long as we’re a species that communicates primarily with words, titles will matter. An untitled or under-titled piece is an unfinished piece, in my opinion.”

Questions to Ask Yourself About The Titles of Your Art

When choosing your titles for either a single work of art or a series you may want to ask yourself these questions:

1. Does this title provide viewers with insight about my creative vision?

2. Am I arbitrarily choosing any title without giving it much thought or consideration?

3. How will this title connect me and my art to prospective buyers?

4. What does my title communicate to viewers?

5. How does the title serve as an important part of my overall marketing/branding process?

6. How does the title complement and enhance the series it belongs to?

What do you think? How do you choose titles for your art? I look forward to reading your answers on this topic.

Renée Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach, is the author of several books and publications, which can be found on Manhattan Arts International. She has juried more than 60 exhibitions, including an annual “Celebrate The Healing Power of Art” online exhibition. She invites you to visit her blog and also follow her on Twitter, and join her on Facebook and LinkedIn.