Well, you’ve just finished your latest painting or drawing and now you need to think of what to call it. This should be the easiest part of the creative process, right? Wrong.
Strange as it may sound, coming up with a great title for your latest work of art can often be one of the most challenging things to do. But, this isn’t an article about crafting great titles – it’s an article about coming up with a title fairly quickly. Ideally, in less than a minute.
And, as someone who has pretty much come up with at least one or two titles per day for the past two years or so, I’d like to offer a few tips about coming up with titles quickly that might come in handy.
Some of these tips might be ridiculously obvious, but hopefully at least one or two of them will be new to you.
1) Descriptions: This is the easiest way to come up with a title quickly and it’s pretty self-explanatory. You just use a short description of what is in your painting or drawing – it’s that simple.
For example, this rather quick landscape painting I made a few weeks ago is simply titled “Valley”, because it’s a picture of a valley. Seriously, it took me less than thirty seconds to come up with this title.
Although this might sound like a rather simplistic way of finding titles for your artwork, it’s probably one of the most widely-used ways of coming up with titles because it’s simple, memorable and unpretentious. It’s easy for the artist to think of and it gives the audience a clear (and easily remembered) impression of what is in your picture.
2) Times: I’m not quite sure when I first used this technique for coming up with drawing and painting titles but, another easy way to come up with a quick title is to just think of what time of day your picture takes place in (eg: “2am”) and use that as a title.
Generally, I like to include the precise time (including minutes) because that means that I can use these types of titles again and again, without worrying about repeating myself.
The main advantage of using this type of title is that it makes your art sound very slightly more “edgy” and “modern”. Not only that, it also adds a certain air of mystery to your picture too and makes your audience wonder exactly what is happening at that particular moment in time.
3) Untitled: If you really can’t think of even a simple title, then you can just simply call your picture “untitled”. Generally, it’s a good idea to add something else to this title so that you can quickly tell the difference between your different untitled pictures.
Some artists like to number their untitled pictures, but I personally prefer to just use the date that I drew and/or painted it – like in this old drawing from last May:
Don’t feel bad about leaving a picture untitled every now and then – even famous artists occasionally leave their paintings untitled. And, of course, one of the other advantages of not using a title at all is that it gives your art a certain air of mystery.
Plus, it aso places more emphasis on the art itself rather than the title and, well, having no title can sometimes be better than using a crappy title.
4) Random: This one is a little bit pretentious, but you can use it to create memorable and intriguing titles. All you have to do is to just think up an interesting-sounding and completely random phrase (even if it has absolutely nothing to do with your drawing or painting) and then use that as your title.
This technique probably works best for abstract and non-figurative art, for the simple reason that there are no clearly identifiable people, landscapes and/or objects in these types of art.
I haven’t really used this technique very often, but a famous probable example of it by someone else is Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living“.
The title of it sounds very profound and insightful, but it’s actually just a dead shark in a tank of formaldehyde. Yes, it isn’t even a drawing or a painting. It’s also worth millions for some ridiculous reason too – perhaps, in part, due to it’s pretentious title.
The only real downside of using this technique is, like with Hirst’s shark, if your title is too long or too random then your audience are just going to come up with their own shorter unofficial titles instead.
5) Prefixes and Suffixes: I actually learnt this technique from an absolutely brilliant anime series called “Cowboy Bebop“, where it is used in both quite a few of the episode titles but also in the name of the show itself.
Anyway, a good way of coming up with an impressive-sounding title in less than a minute is just to take the name of something in your painting and add a cool-sounding word (eg: “noir”, “blues”, “metal”, “jazz” etc…) to it as either a prefix or a suffix.
Seriously, you’d be surprised at how this can turn a mediocre-sounding title into something a lot more interesting within a few seconds.
Sorry that this article was so basic, but I hope that it was useful 🙂