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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Title of This Art is "Title" - Artists Labeling Their Work

I am the worlds worst artist where it comes to placing a title on my work. On bigger pieces I don't seem to have a problem. I suppose that's because I spend more time with the piece and it allows me to coalesce around a particular name for the piece. Not to mention that when creating a piece of art that takes months to complete you immerse yourself in the theme of the piece so naming it is a lot easier.

My weakness is in smaller pieces. Now mind you I have whole hell of a lot of art created over the past 15 years or so. And much of that has remained title-less. Now that I am showing a lot more work I am finding much more of a need to consider titles.

Some artists don't really understand what the big deal is regarding titles. But I believe the proper title for a piece of art reflects a lot about that piece. It reflects the artists emotions. The direction the art is meant to take. Whether what is viewed has a specific nature or whether its more abstract in that nature.

A good title should most definitely reflect the artists mood at the time of creation. It tells a story in just a few words. This is something that many artists find difficult to do. 

They end up with one word titles that have been used and reused to the point where they lose their effectiveness as a title. Landscape painters that use the name of the place they are painting as the title, or the description of what they are painting such as "rocky beach" or "red canyon". Those are fine, but they in no way capture the imagination of the viewer.

A good title should always stimulate the viewers imagination.

I recently tried an experiment out on Twitter. I chose ten pieces that I had created and attached titles to them. On five of them I attached a pretty boring title. On five I attached something that I felt stimulated the imagination. Here is an example:

This piece was originally titled "Bayou Swamp" when it was created several years ago. This was before I became a really cool savvy title creator. So I chose this piece to be renamed. The new name after much consideration was "A Midsouthern Dream".

I then took this piece along with the other ten pieces and started tweeting them out randomly for a few weeks. Now I know from past experience that the piece I show here never really got much attention in the past when it was posted. But you know, by simply changing the title, it got much more attention. In fact all five pieces that had an imagination title received more looks and attention than he five with boring titles.

This says a lot to me about the importance of a proper title.

As a side note I also made one other minor change to these ten pieces. When I first posted them I also added to the tweet "prints available upon request". About half way through the experiment I changed this to read only "The Works of Grey Cross" and you know, there was a change in the viewing pattern yet again. Pieces that did not push a sale right up front did mediocre. Pieces where the art and creator was pushed instead did better.

I also stopped placing print buy info on the photo itself and just put the title on it instead. But this did not seem to make much of a difference. So I still think its wise to offer buying info directly on the border of the photo and will probably go back to doing so.

Small changes like this can make a whole world of difference to whether a piece of art gets viewed or looked over. I've tried to analyze my own viewing habits. What makes me want to look at a persons work more closely? A title of a piece always gets my attention. It prompts my imagination to want to look closer and find out why its called what it is.

Now let me say here that you also don't want to be deceptive. A good example is this recent trend called "click bate" where the writer of the article puts a misleading or deceptive title on what they are writing. There are thousands of examples of this floating around and all it does it make the writer look like a fool.

This does not mean that they can't create an imaginative title for their articles. I do it all the time (see above). But the title always reflects something about the article, not just stupid shit created to make the viewer click on it only. There is no integrity in this.

There is a fine line here and we all skirt it occasionally. But they key is to not be purposely deceptive in any title you attach to something.

So even though titles can be irritating to create, they are just as important as the work of art. Think of it like this. You are buying your significant other a birthday present. Do you just hand it to them? Or do you put it in a box, stick some pretty paper on it and a bow and a card (don't forget the card, that pisses them off), and then you hand it to them. Which makes the better impression? Which stimulates the imagination more? Which excites?

So take some time to consider your titles and don't be afraid to get a bit creative with them. If you can do it for the art, you can do it for the packaging. It makes a difference.


  1. Like most artists I have and still have a hard time naming my work, some I can throw a name on it when it is done others need to sit until something comes to me.
    I painted one and named it to give to my son for his guest bathroom that the colors and design would go with there decor, but because of its name they put it in another room that was more of the mood of the room, that through me off, it is more in a name that changes how someone looks at it.

    1. I too have difficult time to name my work. It's very hard to choose it (it's like naming your child or somethong). Mostly though I'm feeling sadness, when I create. So I name it in 1-2 words - I don't like to make my work too pathetic. There was one time I named my drawing with two full sentences: "What happens when you're alone?" This one was very special to me, because it described exactly my feelings on that moment. I think I should work out something like that to every artwork I make. It'll be more interesting. Thanks for the advise!

    2. Now, that I think about it, naming titles for articles I write on my blog- I name them much more interesting than art. That's weird. Maybe I do it, because when I write, title just comes up in my mind on itself. And when I paint or drwa, it's more about the look of my emotions than any words. Maybe.