Naming Your Artwork — Tips for the Fine Artist

Here are some helpful tips for the fine artist on how to name their oil paintings and other works of art for exhibit or sale.

Tip #1: Keep it simple and keep it short. Don’t make your titles lengthy or complicated. Keeping it simple is always best. Make them easy to remember and understand. You’ll get better results that way.


oil painting canvas artStill Life with Fruit and Candle
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Tip #2: Make your titles descriptive but not too personal. Instead of being ambiguous, consider naming your art something that describes exactly what is going on in the artwork. For example, you just completed a still life painting of some fruit and a candle on a bedside table, you could name it “Still Life with Fruit and Candle“.

In addition, you should not get too personal with your descriptive titles. If your painting is of your sister, it would not be best to name it “My Younger Sister Liz”. No one except a family member would be interested in buying such a painting, however, if you were to name it “Girl in a Pink Dress”, then you have suddenly expanded your audience to more potential buyers.

Tip # 3: Include the name of the place when naming a painting of a particular location, especially if it is of a famous place. People want to know what or where the location is especially if it is a place they are familiar with, such as a familiar mountain range, hometown or old homestead where they grew up, etc. They will also want to know the name if it is a place they have visited before or hope to visit someday. Be sure to title the painting by location name if it is a famous landmark, national monument or park. Lastly if it is place not that familiar to many, but viewers can still curious enough to want to know the name.

Tip #4: Never name your painting “Untitled”. This can be a real deal stopper and a complete turn off to a potential customer. Viewers and potential buyers will have a hard time believing your work has value if your piece is simply called “Untitled”. Titles do matter to an art buyer!

Furthermore, if you are selling online, “Untitled” won’t get you anywhere in the search engines. Try typing the keyword “untitled” in Google or some other search engine and see what the results are. You’ll have a hard time finding your masterpiece in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). It will be buried so deep your painting will never get found.

Tip #5: For specific genres, like portraits, landscapes, historic events, etc., you might try the following:

  • Portraits — Include the individual’s name, add the date, and/or occupation.
  • Landscapes  —  Start with the location, maybe include the time of day, season of the year, and perhaps the mood as well. Example: “The Garden Tomb at Sunset
  • Historic event  —  Name it by what the event is, such as “First Man on the Moon“.

Tip #6: Start with the artwork’s focal point. This will usually be most the obvious elements of the piece. Titling your artwork after the focal point will help others to understand your artwork better, especially if your piece is an abstract.

Tip #7: Get others involved in the naming process. You can ask others for help naming your artwork or get their impressions on a title you are considering. What might sound like a clever title to you, could actually be a total flop. Getting feedback from others will help you choose just the right name for your masterpiece.

Tip #8: For multiple pieces in a series of paintings, you might want to name them sequentially. For instance if you wanted to do a series of snow paintings, they could titled “Fence Post in the Snow #1”, “Fence Post in the Snow #2”, and “Fence Post in the Snow #3” etc. You get the idea. Or you can give them all similar names like I did in my Peggy’s Cove series. I simply named these “Peggy’s Cove“, “Return to Peggy’s Cove” and “Peggy’s Cove Revisited“.

If you have a tip for naming your works of art, share them by commenting below.


Using Linear Perspective to Create Depth in Your Paintings

linear perspectiveLinear perspective is a rendering technique used by fine artists to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface. It is the most basic form of perspective in which parallel lines appear to converge in the distance at a vanishing point on the horizon line. (See illustration right.) The technique is based on how the human eye perceives the world around us. Meaning objects which are closer to the viewer appear larger, while more distant objects appear to be getting smaller as they move away. Linear perspective comes into play when orthogonal (parallel) lines that recede into the distance appear to get closer together as they converge at a vanishing point on the composition’s horizon line.


bonnie and clyde car paintingForgotten Roads of Bygone Days
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 18″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


linear perspectiveThere are three basic elements that must be present in a work of art in order to make linear perspective possible. These are a horizon line, a vanishing point, and convergence lines. If any one of these elements is missing, the illusion of depth is weak.

Horizon line — The horizon line defines the farthest distance of the background and is the place where a central vanishing point is established. It is the level plane where the earth’s surface (or sea) and the sky appear to meet. The line at the top of mountains or buildings is not the horizon line; these objects “rest” on the horizon line.

The horizon line will ALWAYS be at eye level regardless of whether you are at ground level or standing on a mountain top. It changes as you change position. Sometimes hills, trees and buildings or other objects can hide it from view, but the horizon line will always be present.

Convergence lines — Also called orthogonal lines, convergence lines are when sets of parallel lines appear to get closer together as they recede into the distance and meet at a single vanishing point. All parallel lines will eventually converge at a vanishing point. Sometimes they can even represent the edges of objects and some objects can have more than one set of parallels lines. An example of this would be a box or cube. Depending on where it is viewed from, we can see one, two, or three sets of orthogonal lines.

Vanishing point — The point on the horizon line where all parallel lines appear to recede and converge at is called the vanishing point. It is helpful to note more than one vanishing point can be present. This is called two-point and three-point perspective. When there are two sets of parallel lines that appear to converge, there will be two vanishing points. If there are three sets of parallel lines, then there will be three vanishing points. See The Rules of Perspective for more information.

Assignment

  1. Create a rendering by drawing a straight highway or railroad tracks using a horizon line, vanishing point, and convergence lines.
  2. Use linear perspective to create depth in an illustration using a row of trees, a fence line, and/or telephone poles running alongside a road.

Additional Reading

Creating Depth in Your Paintings via Atmospheric Perspective


Creating Depth in Your Paintings via Atmospheric Perspective

Art Terms Used in a Discussion on Atmospheric Perspective

Atmospheric perspective (also known as aerial perspective) refers to the effect the atmosphere has on the appearance of an object as it is viewed from a distance. In art, and especially painting, artists attempt to mimic this effect as a way of creating depth or distance (three dimension) on an otherwise two dimensional (flat) surface.

Color saturation is a color’s purity of hue; it’s intensity.


national park wall paintingMonument Valley
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
16″ x 12″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Background is that part of a painting that appears to be farthest away from the viewer.

Horizon line is where the land (or sea) and sky appear to meet. This is an optical illusion however. It’s actually an imaginary line to which things recede.

Middle ground is the part of a painting that lies between the background and the foreground.

Foreground is the part of the painting that appears to be closest to the viewer.

Creating Atmospheric Perspective

Atmospheric or aerial perspective is achieved when the illusion of depth is created by depicting distant objects as paler, less detailed, and usually bluer or grayer than objects close up. Some ways this illusion can be created are by using the following techniques.

size and placement in perspectiveSize and placement — Objects appear smaller as they move further away from the viewer towards the horizon line. Larger objects tend to appear closer and smaller ones tend to recede into the background. Also related elements placed lower to the bottom of the canvas will appear to be closer to the viewer than those which are placed higher on the canvas.

overlapping objects in perspectiveOverlapping objects — The easiest and fastest way to create depth on a 2-D surface is to overlap objects. By partially covering one object with another it gives an appearance of depth. This can be accomplished by allowing the contour of one element to slightly cover the contour of another, so it looks like one item is physically sitting in front of another.

color saturation in perspectiveColor — As objects recede or move off into the distance the intensity of their color becomes less saturated and shifts towards the background color which is usually a blue-gray middle value. Even bright whites and rich blacks tend toward medium gray and will eventually disappear into the background.

  • Foreground = object are normal intense color
  • Middle ground = the color would b a little lighter in tone and bluer
  • Far distance, horizon line or background = colors would be much lighter and even more bluer

Contrast — As the distance between an object and the foreground increases, the contrast between the object and its background will decrease.

Tone or Value — Objects further away will appear lighter than those up close. Using a lighter tone on what’s in the distance of a landscape painting immediately gives a sense of depth.

Spacing — Objects that are clustered closer together seem farther away. Also horizontal lines will move closer or even converge (disappear) as they near the horizon line.

Focus — Objects tend to lose detail as they recede into the horizon. This does mean they are out of focus or blurry.

Assignment

  1. Use atmospheric perspective to create depth in an illustration or painting of only two or more mountain ranges.
  2. Create depth in an illustration or painting of a field of sunflowers or other type of flower using “size and placement”.

Additional Reading

The Rules of Perspective


The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings

Now that you have bought this beautiful oil painting, you will want to take measures to insure that it stays that way. One very important thing to do is make sure it has received several coats of non-yellowing varnish. Varnish is a final, clear protective layer applied to a painting after it is finished and completely dry. The artist should have already done this before selling the painting. It is an important first step in preserving the work of art so it lasts for generations to come.


western sunset oil paintingCowboy Sunset
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 18″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Why varnish an oil painting?

1. Varnish saturates the colors making them pop. Varnish brings out the vibrancy of the colors and gives them that just painted look and shine. In addition, varnish helps to keep those beautiful colors from fading as the years go by.

2. Varnish creates an even sheen over the entire surface of the painting. Oil paint colors dry very differently because of the different pigments that go into making up each individual color. When completely dry, some colors appear matte, some satin and some glossy. A layer or two of varnish will even out the final appearance of the painting, giving it a consistent overall look.

3. Varnish protects the painted surface from atmospheric elements and makes the surface easier to clean. All paintings will require cleaning as time goes by; however, varnish will reduce the frequency of those cleanings and reduce the risk of any possible damage to the painting. If the painting isn’t varnished, over time dust, grime, dirt, grease, moisture and pollution in the environment will change the look of the painting. These can dull the colors, causing them to crack and chip off as the years go by.

When should a painting be varnished?

An oil painting should be allowed to dry for a minimum of 6 months. Depending on how thick the paint is applied it might even need as much as 12 months of drying time before applying varnish. It’s crucial that the oil painting is completely dry before varnish is applied, otherwise the varnish may crack. This is because varnish dries before the oil paint does. As oil paint dries it moves slightly and since the varnish is already dry it begins to crack.

If your painting has never been varnished, you will need to wait at least a year and then take it to a reputable frame shop. They maybe able to varnish the painting, however, it will most like be for a fee. Or is you know of an artist in your area who is an oil painter they may varnish the painting for you as well.

One final solution is to varnish the painting yourself, however, I wouldn’t recommend this if your painting is an extremely valuable piece of art. If you do varnish the painting yourself be sure to use varnish designed for fine art oil paintings. Be sure to follow all instructions on the label. It is not recommended that you use varnish obtained from a hardware store as this kind is to too harsh for the painting and could wind up damaging it.

Additional Reading

A Practical Guide To Caring For Your Oil Paintings


Making and Using a Viewfinder to Compose Better Paintings

viewfinder graphic
Use a viewfinder to crop out unwanted parts of an image to make a better composition.

A viewfinder is a handy tool often used by photographers and artists. In photography, this optical device is the apparatus on the camera that the photographer looks through to compose, and in many cases to sharpen the focus of, the photograph he/she wants to take. In oil painting a view finder is a tool used by a painter that performs a similar function. Artists use these devices as an aid to organize the scenery of their paintings. It can be moved up, down, left or right to isolate the most appealing aspects of the scenery present in the photograph. It does this by cropping out the unimportant parts resulting in a much stronger composition.


longhorn cow oil painting“Texas Longhorn in The Meadow”
Wildlife Art by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Making an Artist’s Viewfinder

artist viewfinderMaking a viewfinder requires little effort. There are two types: window and L-shape. Both types are simple to make and which one you choose depends on the canvas you plan to paint on. For standard size canvases you may want to choose the window viewfinder. Take a simple piece of paper, scrap mat board or cardboard and cut a rectangular window in the center to look through. The window opening should be proportionate to the prepared canvas in height and width. For example, a 16″ x 20″ or 24″ x 30″ canvas would require the viewfinder window to be 2″ x 2.5″ or 4″ x 5″.

Other proportions that might be useful are:

  • canvas size = 16″ x 24″ or 24″ x 36″, window cutout = 2″ x 3″ or 4″ x 6″.
  • canvas size = 9″ x 12″, 12″ x 16″ or 18″ x 24″, window cutout = 3″ x 4″ or 6″ x 8″.

After carefully measuring and cutting out the opening of the viewfinder, move it around slowly on the surface of your snap shot until the image that interests you appears in the opening. Once you have decided on the composition, tape the viewfinder in position on your photograph to hold it in place.

artist L shaped viewfinderThe L-shaped viewfinder is made from two L-shaped pieces of cardboard, mat board, or paper that when placed together create a frame around your area of focus. You then look through this frame to determine the scene you wish to paint. The L-shaped viewfinder is beneficial in helping to determine what size canvas is required for a particular scene if you do not plan on using a standard size canvas. The two L’s work together much like an aperture of a camera. You move them out and away from each other to enlarge the opening or move them closer together to shrink the inside opening. To make one of this type, you will need a ruler and pencil to draw two identical sized L shapes on a piece of paper, scrap mat board or cardboard. A good width is about two inches so they can easily crop out the unwanted areas of the scenery. The length of the arms of each L can be any size; 6″ to 8″ works best if you are going to use it on photographs.

Using an Artist’s Viewfinder

using an artist viewfinderUsing the viewfinder is a simple technique that has been around and used by artists for hundreds of years. What a viewfinder does is to frame and crop out unimportant areas of an image. This would be the background details that could muddle up a landscape and take away from the overall unity of the artwork making it a weak composition. The elements that are left make up an interest focal point that can be used to begin creating your painting from. This is achieved by filtering out the distractions from outside the field of view allowing you to focus only on the important elements you want to keep. How this is done is to take your image and slowly move the viewfinder around on it until you pinpoint a precise spot that makes an eye-catching center of interest. Once you have your composition picked out, attach the viewfinder to the picture using artist’s low-adhesive tape to hold it in place. This will permit you to make several drawings of the scene that is needed or even sketch it directly onto the canvas to get it ready for painting. Artist’s tape is easy to remove once your painting is finished.

A viewfinder is also beneficial for training your eye to distinguish a good composition, because this instrument will give the artist an idea of how an arrangement might potentially work as a viable composition. In time your “mind’s eye” will be able to ignore undesired extraneous elements present in the photo and will be able to visualize what a composition will be like without any help from one.

Lastly, both types of artist viewfinders can be used in either portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) position. This allows the artist to use the it as a drawing aid to determine which orientation works best for your painting. By holding the viewfinder in portrait mode, the top and bottom of the view will be emphasized; by holding it landscape, the width of the composition will be emphasized. This helps you focus on particular parts of the scene, enabling you to decide what will make the best composition, both in terms of emphasis and orientation.

Ways To Market Your Artwork

One of the hardest things about being a working artist is marketing your work. Without this necessary part, your artworks won’t be seen by the public and no one will be able to tell you how much they love it, or even purchase it. It’s time to find out some ways to get those artworks out where they can be admired and enjoyed by others for years to come. This article will look at various ways an artist can promote their masterpieces.

First Things First

Before you embark on any marketing campaigns, you will need a few things first. There are some important self promotional items you will need to have on hand if you are remotely serious about selling your artwork. These items should include:

  • Printed marketing materials — Business cards, postcards, brochures and flyers. You need to keep these with you at all times to pass out wherever you go. Your business card should include your name (of course), your website, and contact info. Brochure and flyers should have the same info as your business card, but also have examples of your work plus any descriptions of it. You may even want to include a brief artist bio as well. Flyers can serve as an announcement of where interested individuals may go to see your work in person, such as that local art fair where you are set up at or the art gallery where your work is on display, for example. At the very least you should have business cards.
  • Art Website — This is a handy tool at your disposal that be should used as a digital portfolio of your work. It can go places you can’t and put your artworks in front of potential buyers in ways you can not. It is open 24/7 where interested persons can see your work at any time of the day or night, find out more information about you as an artist and even purchase some if they so choose. In my opinion, a website is an absolute necessity.

Still Life oil painting“Still Life with Iron Age Pottery”
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Getting Yourself Out There

A huge part of marketing is making sure you’re doing something everyday that will continually put your works of art in front of potential buyers. To accomplish this you have to get your artwork into the public’s eye. That means displaying your work where they frequent. Those places could be:

  • Local events — State fairs, festivals, rodeos, art shows, art competitions, street shows, flea markets, outdoor concerts, etc.
  • Local places where the crowds go — Tourist spots, the beach, street corners, parks, roadside parks, etc. All are great places to display your works. If your art is the type you can set up and work on location, by all means do so! Passer-byes love to watch. You just may get a commission or sell some of your work on the spot.
  • Local businesses — Cafés, restaurants, hotel lobbies, bank lobbies, lawyer’s offices, doctor’s offices, library, schools, hospitals, etc.
  • Local galleries — Art galleries, co-operative galleries, museums, etc.
  • Local publicity — Community publications, county newspapers, area newsletters, radio, TV news, press releases, etc. Just about anything that will get you more exposure.
  • Local charities — Charity events and fund raisers, community projects, local schools, etc. Your involvement in worthwhile causes gets you exposure and recognition as an artist.
  • Online — Your art website and blog, online art galleries, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Deviantart, Fine Art America, Ebay, Etsy, Amazon, Craig’s List, etc.

Keep in mind, your art won’t sell itself. And even if it did, you still have to let everyone know about it. Marketing and self promoting is an ongoing effort that can not be neglected. Good luck!

This article is a companion of “Pricing Your Artwork — Taking A Two Step Approach“. If you have not read that one yet, you will certainly want to do so.

Additional Reading

Where To Sell Your Art Online

More Places To Marketing Your Art Online

Pricing Your Artwork — Taking a Two Step Approach

How much is your art worth? How do you determine what the asking price is for your works of art? If you are interested in selling your art but don’t know what to ask for it, I believe the key to pricing artwork is by doing a little bit of market research. And the first place to start your research is by finding other similar artists in your media. This task can be accomplished by two methods. One is using the Internet and the other is by physically visiting places where artwork like yours is being displayed for sale.


east coast lighthouse painting“Currituck Beach Lighthouse”
Marine landscape by Teresa Bernard
11″ x 14″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Online Research

Go to Google or any other search engine and type in the type of artwork that you do, such as, “oil paintings”, “stain glass windows”, or “ceramic figurines”, for example. Visit the sites of these other artists and see what they are charging for similar quality and size work as yours.

Another place to do some market research online is eBay and other auction sites. These sites will help provide a realistic viewpoint of what is available and what people are actually willing to pay for art like yours. You want to find out the winning bids. This will give you insight as to what people are paying for the type of work you do. Some other sites to investigate could be Etsy, Amazon or Fine Art America, to name but a few.

Research on Foot

Visit art galleries in person to find artworks similar to yours. Keep in mind these works of art will be priced much higher to include commissions for the gallery owner. The artists will also be more well-known and will naturally command higher prices just on the basis of who they are. The gallery visit will give you a good feel of how much the higher end pieces are going for in the marketplace and will give you a price point to shoot for once you become more well known as an artist.

You will also want to go to local art shows and craft fairs to find out what other artists in your media are selling their work for. Ask the vendors lots of questions and take notes. Don’t neglect visiting the art studios of local artists. You can learn a lot when you talk directly to the artist, see the quality of the work they do and listen to what they can tell you about where and how they market their work.

In Conclusion

By using this two-step method you’ll be well on your way to figuring out the ideal price to charge for your artwork. All it takes is a little bit of research, some market testing and tweaking. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pricing your artwork. Try to be subjective when pricing. Test your pricing structure and ask your potential customers what they would be willing to pay for pieces of art like yours. This will result in some valuable information and ultimately lead to sales. Keep in mind your art is only worth what others are willing to pay for it. Create value in your reputation as an artist and over time the public will be willing to pay more for your work.

Now that you have determined what the asking price is for your work, it is time to get busy and start marketing and selling your creative works. For more information on many of the different ways to market your works of art, see the article title “Ways To Market Your Artwork”.

A Painting In The Making

All my paintings are composed and painted on commercially pre-primed and stretched canvas. I prefer the type of canvas that wraps all the way around the stretcher bar support. This allows me to carry the painting around the edge of the canvas giving it a more finished look. This also means the painting will not require a frame for display unless one is desired.

canvas with gesso layerGesso Primed Stretched Canvas
Even though the canvas I use has been pre-primed by the manufacturer, it’s not sufficient. Additional layers of primer need to be applied to provide adequate support for the pigment. Before I can begin a painting, the canvas must be primed and prepared to receive the oil paint. I apply two layers of gesso on the stretched canvas and allow each layer to thoroughly dry between coats. Then the canvas is lightly sanded to smooth out any rough spots. It is during this stage that I try to prepare as many canvases as I have on hand. This provides me with a ready supply of primed canvas to have on hand anytime inspiration strikes and I want to start a new painting.

Click for more information on what to know about gesso. For step-by-step instructions on how to prime a canvas using gesso, check out this article on WikiHow: “How to Prime a Canvas“.

sketch image on the canvas using a grid Sketching The Image
After the canvas has been properly prepared, it is now time to start sketching the image on to the canvas. Every painting starts out as a simple grid drawn on canvas. This grid serves as an aid in placement of the focal point and other elements where they will best compliment the overall composition. Using a pencil or stick of charcoal, I begin sketching the image that will eventually become the painting. I try to make the sketch as detailed as I can making sure to include the shadow areas too. BTW, I don’t usually make my grid lines this dark. It’s best to keep them light. I only made them  dark for the purposes of this example. I will erase them before the layer of underpaint goes on.

The Underpainting
An underpainting is the first layer of paint to go onto the canvas and serves as a base for the additional layers of paint that will follow as the painting is developed. It is an important layer and is made up mostly of medium (a mixture of mineral spirits and linseed oil) and pigment. I use this underpainting layer to get rid of the stark white canvas surface and to begin blocking in color which also helps to define the basic outline of the image. I keep this layer thin making sure not to cover up my sketch lines. That will happen later as I develop the painting. Once the underpainting layer has dried, I begin laying in oil paint layer upon layer until the painting is complete.

Painting In Layers
I paint in layers and allow each layer to dry before applying the next. This takes longer to finish a painting, but this technique allows me to achieve the affect I’m working toward on each of my paintings.

Applying Varnish
After the painting is completed and has had opportunity to dry for a minimum of six months, I will then apply at least two coats of artist grade clear varnish to protect the painting and make the colors pop.

The Finished Painting


white dog pet portraitThe Large White Dog
Pet Painting by Teresa Bernard
16″ x 20″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Sneak Peeks
I like to share my finished paintings on Facebook as sneak peak for all my followers before adding it to this website. Click the LIKE button to the left to receive these sneak peeks in your newsfeed or click here to visit my Facebook page.