Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tips and Ideas For Naming Artwork

I am really excited for today's guest post from Markus Orlyus.  One of the things as a designer of cards and announcements that I struggle with most is naming each piece of "art," because essentially that's what they are to me.  I have also made a lot of friends who themselves are artists in one way or another.  Put the two together and you have a great topic for guest blog post.  How does one go about naming a piece of art?  Markus, has some great ideas below:

The science of naming

De Profundis by LMars

I am a Professional Namer, the only one in the world as far as I know. It is quite like being a Consulting Detective, without all the running about and corpses. I sympathize now with a simple Adam, sitting beneath the burden of hundreds of expectant eyes belonging to his unnamed fauna.

My job is to assist artists in naming their works – partly for aesthetic resonance, partly for crass commercialism. The two overlap more than you would hope them to. Has it ever been otherwise?

I was drawn into this singular avocation because I am a writer and my sisters are artists in varied media – acrylic, watercolor, wood, clay, and felt. A genetic defect, perhaps. My mother was an artist and my grandfather was a forger, which is a sort of urban art. He was actually a Robin Hood like figure, saving peasants from uxorious tributes to the Swedish Crown. Now that I mention that, I really ought to have researched the statute of limitations on offences against the King of Sweden. Pity.

So in a moment of calm, I am sitting down to attempt to construct an elegant scientific edifice to guide artists in their typically intuitive bursts of naming frenzies.

The Voyages of Telemachus by LMars

1.)  Separate the eidetic from the linguistic. A work may look like something or it may not, but the artist’s visual inspiration should never be the starting point of a name. Would you buy the Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo or the Mona Lisa. Actually, that’s not a bad name, but I would create a more evocative one if it weren’t already sold. Often great works survive despite poor names, but a living artist depending on sales rather than patrons does not enjoy the luxury of waiting.

2.)  Eliminate mythology before proceeding. This actually means, name it something mythological if at all relevant. It sounds rather childish when I put it this way, but mythologies are the solidified memories of the world. Culture is a digestion process that has been working for at least 30,000 years. That date refers to the time when symbolic totems first appeared nearly everywhere all at once, like humanity woke up and remembered its dreams for the first time. Don’t spit out barely chewed ideas until you learn to trust the digestion of millennia.

3.)  Speak directly and forcefully to one person. Mimmio Paldino is one of my inspirations with his titles like I am trying my best to paint a picture.  Each piece you make is individual, even if it is identical. It is going to one person. Speak to that person with your naming.

These woods are lovely dark and deep (no quotes, fair use) but I had better get back to work. I just realized that three rules is a good place to stop because three is the eternal number of perfection. I would love to hear from you about how you name your art or stories of how changing the name made your work more popular.


p.s. both works above are accidental art by my 3 year old son. Without names they are floccinaucinihilipilificates.

Markus Orlyus blogs on history and travel at micropilot ( He is the owner of Cre8tiveIT (, a copywriting agency for artists and new technologists.


  1. I love this. My students have the hardest time naming their interior design projects, and it would be nice if I had a skill for it to help them come up with names!!

  2. I just checked out your blog and would love to be able to teach an Interior Design Class of sorts. Do you like it?

    1. I do! Working with my advanced students is the most fun. They do two big projects, including a competition to design a real house! Grading papers and cleaning up after them isn't awesome, but I think every job has a downside!