How to Title Your Art

I have a guitar and in college, I was writing my own songs and playing them for anyone who had ears. These days, I like to pick up my six strings and play around, sometimes jot down a line or two...but I feel that this exercise of making words helped me gain confidence in naming paintings. I don't have the corner on naming anything and everything, but I certainly have a sense of how to name a show or a piece so that it fits.

When I approach a piece, sometimes I already have a name in mind and I paint around that title. This happened for my recent paintings which were included in 'Americana Culture,' - as I had a specific story I wanted to illustrate, and the story title also made a good fit for the painting title. It was simple and self-explanatory, although I tweaked a few to give the name a little zing: "Rainbow Crow," "The Bear," "Babe the Blue," and "Gator Gal," to name a few.

"Rainbow Crow"

Other times, I know what I'll be painting because the series is mapped out before me, but I have a lot of wiggle room for the titles. "Woman, These Are Yours" was a group of paintings that were dancing through my head and I finally pinned down by painting and naming.

"These Are For You"


"I Feel it in My Bones"

For the titles in this series, I worked off of a mix of the idea I wanted to convey in the painting, and what I literally painted. It's a bit intangible to try and describe, so I'll give you a little list of ways that can help you name your paintings:

1. Use One Word

The best kind of word to use? A noun or an adjective. These are the words that describe things...and some of the best titles would come from this tactic! Peace, Kindly, Poisonous, Bones, Fearful. These are random words that would sound fine as titles, granted the painting is complex enough to hold attention and tell a story.

2. Use Alliteration

...which is to say, use the same letter for the beginning of all your words. For a story in my Americana Culture series, about a girl named Sally, who fought with lightning bolts and rode alligators, I went with "Gator Gal." This is usually a more fun and slightly childlike way to look at your paintings. It symbolizes a sense of wonderment and innocence to use something like alliteration.

"Gator Gal"

3. Use a Phrase, and Then Use a Thesaurus

For my Social Media series, I wanted to give the impression of addiction, but with technology as a drug. In the following two paintings, you can see girls with smart phones for glasses and a low-battery warning above their heads. Their energy reserves are low, as if they themselves feed off of hits from their technology. I used the phrase "Hooked" and found subsequent ideas from there (thank you, Thesaurus) - "Strung Out," "Dependent" "Quick Fix" "Obsession" (ok, so the last one sounds like a cologne name, but you get the picture.)


"Strung Out"

And there you have it! Some tips from me on how to name your pieces! I think it's best to steer clear from naming everything you create "Untitled" and "Untitled No. 2", etc. It's nice to be ambiguous with art and have your audience put their own interpretation on what you're creating, but you don't want to be so open with the title that you essentially leave a blank canvas with no story to tell.

What do you consider when naming your art?

Do you have certain habits when titling a piece?

Marni Manning - Artist

Join the e-mailing list
I agree to receive monthly email updates from Marni Manning Art