Would You Benefit From Using a Different Artist Name?

Elsewhere on this blog, I encourage you to use your real name for your art business—in whatever form you choose.

It never would have occurred to me in a million years that artists would use any name other than their own for their work.

Well, apparently it's not always that easy.

There are reasons to work under a different name that I never considered. At least two artists spoke to me about their fear of being found by those who had abused them. Another didn't want to be associated in any way with his family name.

Using a different name in either of these circumstances is understandable, and you might be best served by legally changing your name so that there is no confusion.

There is also the possibility that you want to use a business name rather than the name of an individual.

Using a DBA Name

There are two primary reasons for using a business or company name besides your own. This is know as a “Doing Business As” or “DBA” name.

1. You have a service business.

The first is that you are a service business like Art Biz Success and want the benefits of the service to be evident in your business name.

But even with a service business, you should be front and center for your business since we hire services from people we trust and like. We want to know them as a person that we'd like to work with.

Artists who also provide services include muralists, wedding and portrait photographers, instructors, and so forth. But don’t think that you need a DBA just because you provide a service. It still might be to your advantage to keep your name as your business name.

2. You have a production line of art.

The second reason to use a name besides your own is that you have a production line or “less serious” body of work that you want to keep separate from the art you choose to be known for.

In this case, reserve your name for how you want to go down in the history books and use a DBA for the other work.

Moving Away from a DBA Name

If neither of the two reasons above applies and you are already known under a DBA, don’t worry. At least you’re known!

If you’re still early in your career and using a DBA, I advise the following steps to switch back to using your given name.

    1. Purchase the URLs for both your business name and your own name. Forward the URL for the DBA to the one with your name.
    2. Add your name to your business name in your marketing material. From this point forward, your business won’t be “Golden Gems” but “Golden Gems by Sue Henderson” or “Sue Henderson’s Golden Gems.” Eventually, you'll be able to drop  the DBA altogether.

One final note. Just because you are incorporated or official under a legal DBA name does not mean that you have to plaster that name everywhere.

No one has to know a legal business name until they buy something from you, at which point it will show up on an invoice or credit card statement. For instance, I am incorporated under Stanfield Art Associates, so when you buy something from me, you get a receipt from Stanfield Art Associates, Inc. But my brand is Art Biz Success.

This post was originally published in 2008 and again in 2012. It has been updated with original comments intact.

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77 thoughts on “Would You Benefit From Using a Different Artist Name?”

  1. I created a name dilemma for myself by using my maiden name for painting, but taking my husband’s name upon marriage. As an art teacher in the public schools, I was Mrs. Poplawski. As a painter, Capettini. Known to old friends and family by both; to new friends and family by my married name; and confusing new acquaintances in the art world by using both. What to do?! They are definitely un-hyphenable… So now I introduce myself as “Maggie”, sign my art “Capettini”, and use all 3 names on printed materials.

    1. Maggie: That’s a tough one! Always introduce yourself by your artist name. And start using it more and more to train people. You can be Mrs. Poplawski, but your name is Maggie Capettini.

  2. This interesting Alyson and something I have to deal with as well. I began my carreer before I got married and then took my husband’s name but then took a break in my painting carreer. After my divorce I returned to painting and obviously want to be recognized as the artist from all those years ago so have reverted to my maiden name only haven’t changed any of the legal documents. I have to say it can be quite confusing when it comes to paperwork ie billing, cheques etc so I am considering legally reverting to my maiden name.
    Anne Blankson-Hemans aka Anne Herbert

    1. Anne: Yes! Use your maiden name. Is that Herbert?
      Where does the hyphenation in Blankson-Hemans come from?

    2. I was in a similar situation, Anne. I would have gladly kept my married name except that it is an extremely common name – Johnson. The confusion of having two identities, especially with regard to paperwork, was too much for me. I went ahead and had my name legally changed back to my maiden name. It was a little bit of a hassle, but it has been sooooo worth it! Although my maiden name can be difficult to pronounce or spell, I find that the unique-ness of it makes it memorable to people.

  3. I definitely have the too difficult problem. I’ve often thought about changing the name of my shop from Dyche Designs (that was me trying to keep it simple but it’s pretty generic) to Kathryn Dyche Dechairo. Trouble is not only is Kathryn an unusual spelling but my maiden name (dyche) and my married name (dechairo) are both difficult to spell. No easy solution.

    1. Why do you encourage artists to use their maiden names? I have thought about going back to my maiden name but just thinking about the bank, Social Sec. and then all my friends and collectors that know me as A.Jacobson or Aleta Jacobson 511 Art Studio. How would I handle that?

  4. In my early career days as a graphic designer at the Atlanta newspaper, my real name was going all over the place under illustrations I’d do for them. Because my name is SO hard for people to spell when they’re not looking at it, and because I wanted to distance myself from work at the paper, I thought I’d use another name with the same initials for my fine art: “Max Glitz” was born. The alternate, easier way to reach my site that uses my real name is maxglitz.com and that name has been my personal e-mail address for decades now. Back then I naively signed paintings with only my initials. I regret that since one is now owned by someone of some notoriety. I also regret that I didn’t move forward with signing “Max Glitz” to all of my work. It’s easier to spell and it suits my work. If you choose to use another name early, it’s probably like getting a tattoo and must be considered carefully. There’s no changing my signing with my real name at this late datae. But in my more mature wisdom, I would have worn that “tattoo” proudly when I look back.

    1. I made that mistake at the beginning as well. I was signing all my artwork with JPugh instead of my full name. I found out that it was making it harder for clients to find me online. So after 3 years I decided to change it up to my full name. It has already proven to be a much better branding and marketing tool. More people have been able to locate me online and order custom piece.

  5. And you didn’t touch on the idea of painting under two different names because you paint 2 different styles.
    I began doing that for a while but I started to feel schizophrenic. Could I use my “real” resume and credentials and attribute it to my Alter Ego? Or would I start with a blank slate? And I know my bank isn’t going to cash a check made out to Joe Bloe so how would I handle the business side?
    I like the suggestion about using a variant of your real name.
    At the moment on my websites, social media etc, I’m K. Henderson and K. Henderson Fine Art. Not a great solution but that’s where I am at the moment.

    1. K: There’s so much here I didn’t touch on! But you bring up a subject that is fodder for another blog post. I talk about it often in my workshops.

  6. I was very glad to see this subject come up as I’ve been thinking about changing my name also. I couldn’t come up with a name that had a ring to it for my art so I have used my initals of my 1st name, my maiden name & my married name. I’m a stained glass/multi medium artist and Finally a Name hit me that describes all my art. I’ve been thinking of changing the name on my business cards etc. But have wondered if its a good idea. IF I do change my Studio name I would still sign all my work with all three intials.
    I have also though a name change “might” be a attention getting to. As the new name I have in mind has nothing to do with my name its more about my art.

  7. Funny story. I am a licensed artist and all my artwork can all be found under my married Jennifer Pugh. I had been doing art for over 6 years and had never thought to google my name till a couple years ago. I did and found out that there is also Model with the same name who does topless and not so appealing photo shoots. So when you do a google image search with my name looking for artwork you find my lovely art pieces mixed in with this model. My goal is to have enough artwork out there with my name on it that it will bump the model off the main search engine page.
    Do you have any other suggestions on what I could do to help this? I’ve thought about changing to my maiden name but my clients all know me as Jennifer Pugh.

  8. I’ve been showing my work as a glass artist (showing primarily sculpture) for over 10 years. I was showing under my maiden name of Erika Kohr. When I was getting married I asked a couple galleries that I showed with how they felt about me taking my husbands name (Island). They informed me that I would continue coming up on searches if I changed my middle name to my maiden name, and then used the entire (Erika Kohr Island) any time that I showed work.
    I do have a second business name though and was wondering if anyone has any advise about it… I started a small “affordable” glass product line which I have named “Homestead Glassworks”. I was looking for a way to separate small inexpensive production work from my fine artwork. Has anyone had experience with this issue?

    1. Separating the ‘affordable” line is a very common practice and very useful for marketing. And while I have no idea how you are handling your two “identities”, I would recommend that artists keep their galleries aware of the other line, too. Cross marketing is also important as many who might want a small gift item might also be a target for your higher-end work in the galleries. While calling the line “Homestead Glassworks”, you should still make the connection to you, so follow that biz name with “by award winning (or whatever) glass sculpture Ericka Kohr Island”
      After a discussion with the galleries, I would link the two art forms and link the galleries, too. The two art forms may be valued differently, but they are from the same levels of creativity, heart, and soul and can be “stamped” with equal approval.
      Adding credibility without stealing your own thunder is a delicate balance, but when done properly – it’s a huge win win.

  9. Hi Alyson,
    I am glad you advise artists to use their maiden names when possible. In Quebec in Canada women are only allowed to use their maiden names, and married women have had to revert. My husband and I gave our children both of our names: van Schaik Muir, with Muir last. Professionally both guys (photographer and actor) have dropped my husband’s name. I think you have been the biggest influence in encouraging me to use my name — my real name on everything from Twitter to Facebook to my blog. I am very grateful to you for that.
    Great topic.

  10. Hi Alyson,
    Thank you so much for your helpful email last week regarding whether to open a studio and gallery at the same time. I’ve decided to wait on the gallery.
    I’m glad to see this topic of names come up again. The name game is one I keep playing over and over in my head. Most people in Raleigh know me as Jane Rochelle (though I’ve been using Jane Barefoot Rochelle on my business cards and email signature), but I’m planning to move back to Virginia, where most people know me as Jane Barefoot. It seems that Jane Barefoot Rochelle, my current legal name, is the sensible name to use. (Jane B. Rochelle wouldn’t be familiar to the VA people)
    As my space will be a combination painting studio and Healing Touch space, do you think something like Jane Barefoot Rochelle Studios would work (I could add the tagline “a center for healing, creativity, and fine art”)
    Thank you,

  11. ~ I’ve also considered featuring the most interesting part with something like “Barefoot Studios … a center for healing, creativity, and fine art”
    Thank you for your thoughts,

    1. I like the sound of “Barefoot Studios…a center for healing, creativity and fine art.”
      It rolls really well.
      Just my 2 cents.

  12. No one can spell my name! And it has totally worked in my favour. Because people remember me and know the name is weird, which means I’m not mistaken for anyone else. The tip? Have good sound bites, tag lines, and 10 second introductions! If you can make them remember something unique about you, they’ll still find you.
    I’m the cycling artist. (type it in Google, I’m first) I do British coast paintings. (type it in Google, I’m first) Heck, even if you type in ‘Tina the artist’ I come up on the first page – and they can see the odd name and know it’s me.
    Keep your cool odd name! Then market so that you’re memorable for something besides your name – which is what we all want anyway, right?
    Oddly, when I had to choose another business name for a gallery I’ve gone with an even harder to spell name. My grandparents surname: Grejczik. I will make it get remembered.

  13. Many years ago I did not like my English name. So I changed it legally to my Hebrew name (Paisha Chana). Then I met, fell in love with, and married a guy from Chile who could not pronounce it. I told him my English name and then when we did get married I changed my name to Patricia Cheryl Vener-Saavedra. This has remained my legal name even after the divorce (I LIKE Saavedra). As an artist, however, I use Patricia C Vener (although my CT business license lists Patricia Cheryl Vener Creations as one of my dba names).
    It really isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Oh, and I have a Chinese name too (given to me when I was still dancing by some visiting dancers from China).

    1. This is a very important subject for me!
      My name is Daniela Monteiro, I recently started to show my illustrations on internet under the name Daniela Kurebayashi, because I have Japanese roots. I’ve been struggling if I’m going in the right way because it’s a hard name to spell and to be remembered.
      Also I’m working on a children’s illustration book and I haven’t tried to publish it yet because of that issue.
      Should I try a different name?

  14. interesting topic. My surname (‘Faludy’) is Hungarian, and isn’t spelt at all like it’s pronounced, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. my grandfather was famous in Hungary as a poet, so he always comes up before me in search engines for my surname, but that’s ok…one day I hope to be well known enough to come up first..then I’ll know I’m doing well!
    I was thinking, an offshoot discussion to this one could be the way that one signs work..i.e should I be signing paintings with the same signature as I sign bank cheques, letters etc? should I have one uniform signature for everything..? If so i would have to change my signature on my passport, bank card, everything..is this necessary?

    1. I believe art should have a unique signature, not the way you would sign your name on a check. For some of my paintings, the most beautiful and ethereal ones, I won’t even sign the canvas face… it would take away from the art.

      Oh, and Jon Cavill is not my real name.
      It’s a mashup of Cam Villar, which is hard to say and spell.

  15. My birth name was Marie Cieniewicz and my art career began 34 years ago in PA. My entire single life most people could not say or spell my name. I would always say my name and then say “I’ll spell it”. My Mom, (now deceased) was also a pretty well known oil painter and instructor there in Berks County. I married a Schweitzer 26 years ago, and did not lose any amount of letters in my name! You would think it would have been easier to say and spell, but most people can not. I went from signing my paintings Marie Cieniewicz to M. Cieniewicz Schweitzer. Before my Mom got sick and Alzheimer’s robbed her thinking, she advised me to “sign your paintings just one word. I think it should be “Marishka” “. She mentioned several famous one word artists and the impact and ease of one unique word for a name. I am of Polish descent is Marishka is the name by which my family called me when I was growing up. Neighborhood friends and close high school friends also called me Marishka or some version of, like “Rishkie” or “Rischka”. When my Mom said this to me, I thought this was a great idea and would solve this major name dilemna for me. I felt that in a way, Marishka is actually a version of Marie Schweitzer too. I was exhibitting, but felt uncomfortable and afraid to change right then. Several years passed, my Mom passed, I moved from the East to AZ, where no one knew me and I started to do a lot of work with decorators doing murals and faux finishing and less easel painting. I moved again10 years ago to northern NV where I knew no one again. 4 years ago when I was contemplating that I was 3 yrs. away from turning 50, I made the decision that no matter what, I was returning to making my living full time by my fine art. This renaissance was also perfect timing for me to begin using Marishka as my brushname. For me, I believe it was the right move. I have gotten into 4 galleries since using my brushname, and they all love it. I have only recently gotten on FaceBook where I use my maiden name and mariied name for my personal profile. Having moved several times it has made it easy to reconnect with many people from my home town. My art biz page is Marishka Fine Art, which is also my website domain. It has not been easy, but I have used it exclusively for over 4 years and try to keep up with postings to keep me on the google search. The actress Mariska Hartigay will always come up when searching Marishka, which is my biggest hurdle.

  16. I wanted to recommend that artists use their name consistently. I’ve helped produce and hang group juried shows and am always amazed at how many artists leave it up to the venue as to whether to use “Rebecca” or “Becky’, or whether to include a middle initial. They have it one way on their artwork and another on the paperwork. As for my own unusual name, I’m glad to have it even though I am always called “Rainy!” And that’s a whole ‘nuther subject: how to correct people who mispronounce your name at shows. I once had a gallery owner revert to calling me “Rainy” as she introduced me to people at my own show. When I had the chance to privately correct her, she was angry!

    1. I’ve had people who won’t don’t use All 3 of my names (1st, maiden & married) or even my intials. I’ve found some do it out of meanest since they know how importion my maiden being used is to me. Stick to your guns !

  17. Maybe this was addressed….what if you have used your name for many years and have a following and don’t want to loose them with a change? Can you get them on board with a name change? Also, I have a writer friend that uses S. before her name and you have to really know her to know what the S. stands for. She did it after a divorce and went back to her maiden name. But it peeks intrest.

  18. I use my real name since I’ve been told since I was very young that I should grow up to be an artist, actress or romance writer with a name like Scarlett Rose. I’ve opted for the artist career and I have been successful in designing Celtic knotwork and teaching for quilters. I’ve authored two books on Celtic applique and I have a third book, Merlin’s Keystone, which is a Celtic design book for artists and craftspeople that will be published in the spring.
    I didn’t really have any problems with my name for the longest time, other than finding out that there is a Christian Rock group called Scarlet Rose. I turn down any invitations to perform at concerts! They have their dot com domain name and sometimes people get confused because I have two t’s in my domain name.
    However, I recently found out that a young female wrestler has started using “Scarlett Rose” as her professional name. She wrestles in a red leotard! So now I’m also refusing to send out autographed pictures of myself.

  19. When I moved to California 14 years ago I reinvented myself…i changed my name from Kathy Kidd to Kathryn Hansen…my grandfathers name. I didn’t want to use my ex-husbands last name. I have never legally changed it as i had small children at the time. I’ve often thought about it but never had any problems cashing checks from art sales with Kathryn Hansen, so I’ve never bothered!!

  20. Maria Bennett Hock

    I have tried to consistently use my full name…Maria Bennett Hock but find that a lot of people do not include Bennett. I usually put down Maria Bennett as my first name and Hock as my last name…otherwise I end up being categorized under the “B’s” instead of the “H’s” I was thinking it was all too confusing and about to reconsider my decision when I came across this thread. I will definitely keep my maiden name in there and just insist that people use it.

  21. Interesting timing for me–I have been considering changing my website and all of my marketing materials to my actual name, “Lea Keohane.” That’s KO-hane, it’s Irish, not Hawaiian 😉 In college I signed things Lea K. which eventually just turned to LeaK, then to LeaKArts. But as I get older I’m feeling like I want to just use my name. I’m not sure why, exactly, maybe it feels more professional. But then of course I have to deal with the spelling/pronunciation issue. I’m still not sure what to do.

  22. I tried for over a year to go from my difficult married name to just my first and middle name, spelled out, as a full name. It felt good to me, very personal. I am still married, but having my art name ‘all’ mine seemed right.
    I have since seen that it hasn’t even come close to catching on, plus I’ve now seen some things online from someone of that same name that I do not wish to be connected with. so since the short version didn’t work anyhow, I”m back to using the first and middle initial, and my long last name. some think it sounds ‘artsy’, and that it is an asset. but no one can spell it, and saying it takes a few tries. how to get people to my website if they can’t spell it? I don’t really like any of my above options!

    1. cmay, you can set up several domain names with spellings you think people might use then set those domain names up to “point” or re-direct to your real web site. I’ve done that and it works well.

  23. My birth name is extremely common. So much so, in fact, we have a group on Facebook. It made life very difficult for collectors to find me. When I decided to take my art seriously, instead of just treating it as a hobby, I changed my name to “Ysmay.”
    “Ysmay” was purely a marketing decision, and I picked it because it is very uncommon. With the exception of two name origin websites, I own the whole first page of Google.
    Changing my name was the best thing I did for my art career, and entrepreneurial career.
    People who hear it always ask me how to spell it, and people who only see it always ask me how to pronounce it. It is a good conversation starter, and I find I am more memorable to people now than when I was just “Liz.”
    If you’re in the same boat, and you need to change your name, I suggest you do some research so you don’t end up with the same exact name as a serial killer or some other unrepeatable person. After all, your name is your brand.

  24. You make some good points, however, if you think of some singers, they seem to go by their artist names without many issues. I guess they are trying to solve the second problem, i.e., replace their common name with something more catchy and that people will remember.
    There is another pro about using an artist name and that is privacy. Especially on the net, you might be known by your artist name but not by your face, which might help you get around without being prodded all the time!
    I guess the main thing is trying to stick to one artist name, rather than change that all the time, as that will really make it confusing.

  25. Just in time!
    Alyson, sometimes I feel like you can read my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about my names. I’m married but decided to keep my maiden name “Perez” for the art world because “Miller” is not that exotic. My artwork is ethnic and I want people connecting to it with my last name because Sikiu doesn’t sound latin at all, so Sikiu Perez is how people have known me. A latina, making latin art!
    Now, few year ago I registered Sikiu Clay Designs to do business but I find the name too commercial for the fine art world, don’t you think? As Erika I also have a more affordable art that I sell on Etsy so I’m thinking on leaving Sikiu Clay Designs for the Etsy stuff and keeping Sikiu Perez for the sculptural work. Thank to the last posts I think that would be a healthy solution to my dilemma.
    I should ask in my bank if they’ll cash a check on Sikiu Perez when I’m Sikiu Miller on my license, bank account, etc. I heard before that you can register your maiden name as DBA. I hope that’s possible.

  26. I dropped my middle name along time ago using my maiden name in its place. It has been very helpful as an artist. It separates me as an artist from the daytime teacher that I am. I think it gives something unusual to go in between two very common names. I have been thinking of using my given name – Angelia – as another signiture for a different style of art that I am starting.

  27. I am trying to decide now, my name is VERY common, I myself no 3 others with the same name as myself :/ So trying to decide what to sign my art as/make my artist name. I am thinking possibly Patricia May as that is my 2 middle names. But then feel i don’t want to loose myself (my actual name) completely Currently i have signed S.Taylor on paintings So maybe just that. I also have an online presence/avatar, which is nothing to do with my art but i am known as Red Trixie so even considered that. But i just can’t decide! What would you suggest?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      It doesn’t matter how you SIGN the work, Sarah.
      How do you want to be known in the history books?

  28. clint sanchez-navarrete

    So I too have a long name that poses problems… For starters my dads last name is already a basque hyphenated last name “Sanchez-Navarrete” my first name is Clint.
    Clint Sanchez-Navarrete just doesn’t work for me at all…. thanks to mom throwing in the very un latino last name that won’t gel with the last.
    So I was working with CS-Navarrete for a short while however it’s hard for people to get the hyphen and in terms of social media platforms almost no site or application allows for a hyphen except for tumblr out of all the ones I use (instagram / twitter / facebook) and find it confusing and aesthetically not pleasing having to use the underscore.. I’ve already had several people raise questions about the hyphen and underscore.
    *Might I add that there are a million Sanchez’s, not as many Navarrete’s but still significant making it impossible to lock down names I want on social media and websites which leads me to the last idea…. the most current is:
    I’m entertaining the idea of just using one name. But dropping a vowel which still lets my last name read normally, looks unique and sets me apart and from what i’ve researched is actually a very rare variation of my last name “Navarrete”
    I think NVARRETE reads well, looks nice typographically and is much easier to own in all aspects across the board in social media with no history of other visual artists/painters etc. using the name.
    My question to you is, how do you feel about artists solely going by 1 name even if they aren’t a street artist or recording artist / singer? In the fine are realm do you feel you can be taken serious choosing to only to use one name as in the past many greats only used their last? Ie: Dali, Picasso, Matisse ?
    I’m pretty comfortable with the idea and my family seems okay with it out of respect to them I asked their opinion. I was going to trademark and also LLC the name for business purposes as a working fine artist.
    any thoughts or advice you can give please?
    thank you very much.
    “Nvarrete” ?

    1. clint sanchez-navarrete

      I don’t think Clint Sanchez-Navarrete rolls off the tongue well at all or feels cohesive… just doesn’t sound good to me at all.
      You answered my question with a question.
      any advice regarding the use of just the 2nd portion of my last name?

    2. Yep, because I didn’t understand WHY. I still like the whole thing, but if you want to forever be known as Clint Navarrete, that’s fine, too.
      On the other hand I’m not crazy about single names. Seems kind of gimmicky. Gimmicks aren’t always bad, but this one doesn’t sit right with me. It seems that your reasons for doing so are forced.
      Do what you think is best, though. Do what feels right.

  29. Nick Name (obvious pseudonym)

    This is such a frustrating issue. I have been using my nickname ( a shorter version of my first name) together with my surname to create an online presence for my music. I use to put my music under a band name but many years ago discovered several bands with the same name so rather than deal with possible legalities in the future, I just started using my nickname.
    This has all been fine and dandy however, after completing my studies, my teachers identified me under my full name. All my creative work was submitted under my full name. I have uploaded my creative “professional” work under that full name and have begun creating a website with that full name. The problem is I had a stronger following under my nickname and my music is still under that name.
    Arrrgh! What do I do? It looks really messy and confusing.
    I think both works can compliment each other but the “professional” work may be affected by my weirder, less corporate, stuff.
    It’s one big headache and it’s causing me to procrastinate.
    Also, is it ok to have a pseudonym for my fun/personal stuff eg. Concert video footage of my favourite bands etc. How do I relate this to my actual create work and my professional work?
    Any advice would be seriously appreciated, no one else understands my dilemma:(

    1. I guess I don’t understand why you don’t demand that your teachers call you by your nick name.
      My rule of thumb is to use the name that you want to be known as in the history books.

  30. Hi Alyson,
    First off, I’m new to your website, and It has already become quite useful to me. I’ll be visiting a lot! Second, I’m hoping you or someone who reads this can shed some light on my situation. I’ve built a brand with my pseudonym or artist name as a singer/songwriter. However, I want to conduct business as a graphic designer with this name, as well as eventually sell my own fine art prints under the same name. How does one go about doing this legally without it causing any problems in the future? I was told getting a DBA certificate would solve this problem, but I attempted that via legalzoom and they said the name you’re registering has to be a derivative of your legal name. For example if your name is Jane Smith, you can get a DBA for Jane Smith Art, but can’t get a DBA for an entirely different name like Erica Foster, as this would supposedly mean you’re doing business fraud. That’s definitely not my intention and thought the DBA was to make that clear. Very confused as to what to do, or if there is anything I have to do. Are there steps artists have to take to sell their artwork under their pseudonyms, or do you just conduct business with your legal name and just present yourself to the public as your artist name?
    There are many reasons I don’t use my legal name. One of the main reasons is privacy. I don’t want my real name all over the internet. I don’t mind if I’m all over the internet with my artist name, though. Even so, I barely share personal information online. Another thing, my legal name is usually misspelled and mispronounced. It’s not cool enough to have to deal with that. This is why I created an artist name for myself in the first place. I have no intention of legally changing my name to my artist name as this would defeat the purpose of keeping my privacy.
    Please advise.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Jean: You need a lawyer.
      But let me ask: Do you really want to go down in the history books with someone else’s name?

    2. Thanks for your reply, Alyson! I’m going to look into getting a lawyer’s advice about this.
      I don’t really see it as using someone else’s name. It’s my name – what people call me by (besides family). It’s just not my legal name.

    3. I’m sure if I go down in the history books as La Baie (The Berry) they will also have my real name also right along side.

  31. You do know that artists have been changing their names for some time now when they felt it necessary, right? Pablo Picasso was born Pablo Ruiz, but he took his mother’s maiden name, Picasso, since Ruiz was so common. He is well-known to the world as Pablo Picasso, not Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, and there’s no evidence whatsoever that it ended up bothering him.
    Heck, there’s nothing to say that people who want to change their names have to hide their real names from everyone.
    I probably won’t go down in the history books (and neither will many other artists), but if I did I have to admit being known by another name wouldn’t bother me at all. I’m not that attached to my real name, and tbh if they do somehow talk about me in the history books even if it’s under a pseudonym or something it’d still be ME they’d be talking about. 🙂
    Anyways, I think unless you come up against the specific problems these other people are having, you might not really understand it. For example, if there was a well-known artist/designer with your exact name and a bunch of other lesser-known artists who also share your name including one who lives within the same small town you live in you’d probably begin to worry about getting anywheres with your real name like some people do. It’s really only a matter of perspective, I suspect.

  32. Rebecca Dierickx-Taylor

    Hello Alyson,
    I am new to this site—just found it today! I found it by searching for what to do about my artist name. Which brings me to my situation. My maiden name is “Dierickx”. I was married for a short time and later divorced. That last name was “Pelletier”. I didn’t change back to my maiden name after the divorce because I had a BSN and it would have been a big pain with my degrees and certifications to switch. I since remarried (so the marriage license has “Pelletier” not my maiden name) and I now have a COMMON last name “Taylor”. I’m known as Mrs. Taylor at my children’s schools. I didn’t become an artist until my kids were in middle school. My BFA degree has “Rebecca A. Taylor”. My instructor’s told me “Rebecca Taylor” is too common and there is a fashion designer that will always come up before me in Google search. They suggested I add my maiden name for my artwork. So I have. Here are my questions:
    1) I’ve been hyphenating Dierickx-Taylor—but haven’t legally changed—Do I need to legally to hyphenate?
    2) How do I sign my paintings? Rebecca Dierickx-Taylor is VERY long on a small piece.
    3) What to do for a website name? One of my instructors suggested NOT using my maiden name for the web address because most people will not be able to spell. So I didn’t. I used byrebecca.com. I’ve regretted that because I don’t think it sounds professional. I’m also seriously thinking of changing to a different website like FASO because the person who made my site is not updating it well—but that is a different matter. If I were going to change sites this would be a good time to get it right.
    You are probably tired of this topic—but any insight would help!!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      1) You don’t need to do anything legally as far as I understand.
      2) It doesn’t matter in the least. You can sign them “Fred” if you want.
      3) You’d be better served with “art” in your URL somewhere. RebeccaDTaylorArt.com or some such thing.
      The comment about people not finding you under Rebecca Taylor followed up by people not being about to spell Dierickx must have confused the heck out of you. They negate one another.

  33. Rebecca Dierickx-Taylor

    Thank you!!!
    Yes–the comment about people not finding me with just “Taylor” and then being told spelling “Dierickx” would be too hard was confusing and frustrating!!

  34. I am a professional artist. I want to remove part of my last name. Sherman to Sher. I want to remove the patriarchal history in the name. Thoughts? Worried about confusing clients etc.

  35. Here’s one for you. I’m an Interrelated Media Artist and go by my name which is the same as a more famous Norwegian Artist. As I’ve just graduated I’m still trying to build a name for myself so to speak.
    I get emails alll the time looking for the other artist, even through my website (our work doesn’t look similar)
    I’m wondering if I changed my name to a variation ( V. Baird) if that would even lesson the confusion or not.

  36. Thanks for all of this! I was born Sarah Maxfeldt. I am the only one in existence with that name. I married a Robinson and felt guilty that that I couldn’t let go of my old name. I’ll definitely be sticking with my maiden name rather than be one of thousands since Sarah is so common. I was thinking of just signing S Maxfeldt?

  37. Hello everyone. I need an advice on this subject. I’m an artist from Novi Sad, Serbia. My name is too long, hard to pronounce. I am at the beginning of my career. My first name is Dragana, which is pretty hard to pronounce. Short version of that name in my country is Gaga, which obviously, would be a problem to use since there is already a worldly famous artist that goes by that name. I have some friends from UK and Australia calling me simply ‘D’, but guess that’s too short for signing a painting. My maiden name sounds russian, although it isn’t, and the married name is very long (9 letters). I thought of using my mothers’ maiden name, because it is rare, but it is an extinct nobility surname and I don’t want to seam pretentious. At the moment I am using my married name initials, but that also doesn’t feel right. There is an exibition coming soon, my works will be displayed and seen by broader circle of public and I have this dillema. Please help!

  38. Hi – I have exactly this issue.

    I am a British artist who traded under my maiden name for past 20 years but it is not a great surname with slightly rude connotations- HISCOCK – yes that’s right Karen HISCOCK

    So more recently I had double barrelled it with my legal married name of Lawrence (to match my two children too) but having divorced 10 years ago and about to re- marry a lovely new man Mr King, I quite fancy changing my name properly to Karen King which has a nice ring to it. My children are both over 16 now too so I don’t mind losing that ‘connection’ too much now.

    I have changed my work quite a lot recently and wondered if it would be a good idea to re-launch my new work with my new name or whether I should continue to double barrel it so I become Karen HISCOCK-KING?

    What do you think?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Sorry to say this, but I like the idea of keeping your maiden name, Karen. Own it!

  39. Hi! I am a published composer/song writer & pianist with three albums. The albums are published under my previous married name and I am really regretting using his name. Because I was afraid to switch names and I want to keep my followers and listeners, I published a new album last year with that same name. Now I am really wanting to change it to something more unique though keeping my first name. (And I don’t want to use my maiden name.)
    Do you think that if I republish my newest work under a new last name it will be too risky? It’s more of an emotional thing, as I am happily re-married and it feels bad using an ex’s name on my art/music.

    Thank you so much for your ideas!

    <3 Denise (dba Denise Young)

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Hi, Denise. Thanks for stopping in. Take a page out of John Mellencamp’s book and start introducing your maiden name. First he was John Cougar. Then John Cougar Mellencamp. Now just John Mellencamp. That should provide a nice transition for you. Good luck!

  40. Siân-Louise Kapoor

    I don’t know if this thread is still being looked at but my birth name is Siân-Louise Ryan and I’m of British-Irish descent.

    I’m now married to an Indian man and reside in India also. My new married name is Kapoor. My name is unique, but many Indian people (sometimes even British as my first name is of Celtic origin) cannot say or spell my first name (even if I remove the punctuation â from my name and write it as Sian-Louise or if I drop the ‘-Louise’ and just say Sian as some of my own family call me).

    Indians have given me the nickname Sia which is an alternative way of spelling Siya – one of their female goddesses. It is already the first 3 letters of my own name. Should I rebrand myself as Sia Kapoor/Siya Kapoor to try and be quicker and easier for a wider variety of people to say and remember or stick to Siân-Louise Kapoor?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Oops – we missed your comment, Sia. I say stick to your birth name (I always prefer women use birth names to married names, but that’s up to you). It’s different!

  41. I am making a print someone requested of an old painting that I had signed by brush with my initials and married last name. I have since divorced and gone back to my maiden last name. What are the rules about which way to sign the print in pencil underneath, or should the printer photographically remove the defunct last name and just leave my initials on the image, to match what I would sign?
    The two initials painted are those of my current first and last name. My printer is good at his work, but how ethical is it for him to change ANYTHING about an image that I created, including my signature during the year I painted the original?
    Or…Should I sign BOTH names in pencil below?

    1. You can sign it any way you like, Diane. I wouldn’t change anything in the print. Sign the name you use now — own it. Pencil below. Hope this helps!

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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