StudioSense: Name that Painting


An enduring challenge for many artists is arriving at the name for a landscape painting. Personally, here are my opinions. I don't claim that I follow these rules all the time, but I will strive to be more consistent going forward.

  1. Try not to name your painting "Untitled." I've got to believe that any painting, especially the abstract works of art, convey some kind of feeling or emotion. Uncover that emotion and give it a word or two to express its essence.

  2. Avoid naming your painting after the location of the scene (if it is a landscape, cityscape). Perhaps note the location of the painting as a secondary descriptive statement below the title.

  3. Pick a name that evokes the emotion drawn out by the painting. It might be your first impression of the painting (finding a word or two to convey that impression). Or perhaps a feeling that evolves while gazing at the work of art.

  4. Cute and witty names are also memorable.

Here is my current challenge. The painting-in-progress below is a scene from a hike in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Thanksgiving Day, 2017, neat the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I have stared at this painting each morning for the last month.


Here are some possible naming conventions. Less interesting is something like "Woodland Hike." There is NO hiker in the scene. Do I name the painting after the mold-infested tree in the foreground? How about "Mold-Infested Large Tree from a Woodland Hike?" Maybe a name like "Woodland Waltz" will work here.

I like trees. In fact, I think trees will be my signature style (see the lovely paintings of Gustav Klimt, one of my artist idols). Gustav was an Austrian painter, really into trees. Click here for his "Beech Forest Buchenwald I" and others.

This reminds me of my birch painting, below. That one is entitled "Birch Ballet." "Woodland Waltz" and "Birch Ballet," sounds like a recurring theme here.


On the subject of trees, the painting below, "Pines South," was not rewarded with a creative title. This painting literally is a depiction of the "Pines South" campsite at Camp Munhacke in Gregory, Michigan (a Boy Scout camp). As I think about this scene, I am reminded of the old days of playing hide and go-seek (and hiding behind a wide tree). So maybe we re-name this painting "Ready or not, here I come." The one item missing is a child's head peaking out from behind a tree.


I often have paintings linger in my studio for a few months, adding to them thoughtfully after reviewing them upside down, with a mirror, and in other rotated perspectives, then adding highlights, shadows, cloud structure, and (of course) more trees. I photo my updated painting each morning and email the image to my computer so that I can visit it during the day and sometimes make "Paint.net" digital modifications and reply back to my email with suggestions. It is usually after several hours of work and iterations that I start thinking about a name for a painting.

The largely monochromatic painting below is entitled "Limited Visibility." I thought that was more appropriate than "Foggy Morning at the Park."


I'm particularly proud of the name of the painting below, which I completed in the fury of March Madness in 2017. This painting is titled "Marsh Madness:"


For an interesting article on the history of naming paintings, published at the Huffington Post, click here.

Marjorie Sarnat is an artist from California. She recently expounded on the subject of naming your painting, and shares wonderful suggestions. You can find Marjorie's blog on the subject here.

One of Marjorie's suggestions is using alliterations (i.e. "Marsh Madness" above). I particularly like how she suggests that we artists put ourselves in our viewers' shoes and help them see what we want them to see.

Coming up with a unique name for a painting can add value to the viewing experience. A unique, creative name also allows the artist to exude an additional bit of creativity, sharing the depths of a bizarre thought process and exposing an offbeat perspective that can evoke laughter and awe for those who appreciate the artist's work.

"Pines South" is now available for sale at Etsy and Daily Paintworks. Click here for purchase information for all available paintings.