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Creating Evocative Titles for Your Art

Your work of art is stunning. It took you months (a year or more) to complete, but you are not sure how to give that work a title befitting your creation. You tried "Untitled" but know that overused misnomer tells nothing except the fact you could not come up with a more appropriate title.

Here is a "mini course" in naming a work of art. Titles help you connect to audience, allow viewers to delve deeper into your art or, conversely, make it more accessible, depending upon your intent.

Titles may deliberately draw a curtain of mystery over your art or evoke a sense of irony at play in the tile and work.

Constructing titles typically fall into one of four categories:

  • Mysterious,

  • Factual,

  • Abstract, or

  • Emotive or Evocative.

The first step is to decide how you want your title to interact with your work first and your audience second. Let us imagine you wish to inform your audience with your title. Then you will want to try a relatively short but descriptive phrase of what is at play in the art.

Once you have chosen how the title should inform or how you want your audience to interact with your art, try a few of the ideas below to come up with potential titles. Say the title out loud while looking at your art. What do you think about when using those words? What do you feel? Consider the various experimental titles you have come up with in this way until one of them fits snugly inside your wonderful creation.

Here are a few suggestions for coming up with titles:

  • Words relating to color alone; or words relating line alone, shadow alone, etc.

  • Play on words of another well-known title in another genre (from a poem or novel)

  • Words or phrases in opposition to one another (dichotomy and juxtaposition)

  • Descriptive words or phrases from one or more aspects of your art

  • Mixing genres, substituting one for another

  • Words or phrases related to the feelings you wish to evoke with your art

  • Symbolic concepts suggested by your art

  • One concept vs. another concept (in opposition or balance)

  • Jumping to conclusions words

  • Unusual words

  • Catachresis (deliberately choosing the wrong word for effect)

  • Totally random words (blindly pointing to a word or phrase in a magazine)

  • The everything but the kitchen sink approach (toss it all in and see where they fall).

  • Alternative perspective

  • Snippet of dialogue

  • Considering the forces at work

  • Unusual juxtaposition

An example:

A title for an abstract line painting that suggests a map: "A Map of Getting Lost."

This title is both descriptive and ironic.

Remember, you want to draw your audience or viewers. You want them to think and feel something about your art. Your title is another entrance.

Possible titles for this beautiful work of art by Karen Dillon: Moon Dance; Queen Anne's Lace Gambit.


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