June 24, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

How to Name Your Art Business

One of the first steps an artist makes when turning professional is to decide on an art business name, and many new artists make this more complicated than it should be.

Allow me to bottom line this entire article: If you are a fine artist, your first choice is to always use your given name for marketing your original art.

You Are an Artist, Not a Company

Art history is a history of individual artists, not of company names. Since my master’s degree is in art history, I naturally want you to use your name when promoting your art.

Using a company name puts you in league with all of the companies out there who are manufacturing and promoting unremarkable products. You’re different. Art is different. Art is not a mass-produced product.

Painting by Dianna Fritzler
©Dianna Fritzler, Disco Lemonade I. Oil on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

Using your name for your business name tells the world that your art is elevated from the stuff they can pick up at Target or Pier One. It says “This is made by hand, and not just any hand, but the hand of an artist.”

While it may seem safer to hide behind a business name, playing it safe won't get you too far in your art career.

I understand it isn't always this easy. There are sometimes reasons for not using your own name, including, as I've learned, reasons of physical and emotional safety.

[ See Use Another Name for Your Art Business ]

Setting aside these very real concerns for the moment, the most frequent arguments against using given names for an art business are the following.

  • My name is too common / Someone else already owns the URL with my name [And she’s a porno star!]
  • My name is too hard to spell
  • I sign my name as X on my paintings, but I want to be known as Y

Let's consider these objections one by one.

Prefer to Listen?

Music by Wildermiss.

My Name is Too Common

If you think your name is too common, you have a couple of options for naming your art business.

You can change it (Hey, it’s been done!) as long as you haven't already built a reputation with your given name. Or you can embrace it and distinguish it somehow. Add your middle name, your middle initial, or your maiden name.

Here's how that might play out with your name and possible URL. When this article was first published in an earlier version, I used Jim Harris to illustrate my point, so we'll stick with this real-life example. (I haven't checked on the availability or use of any of these, but that's not important to the argument.)

Sculpture by James Harris
©James Harris, Crucifix. Basswood, 36 x 24 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

Jim I. Harris : jimiharris.com
James I. Harris : jamesiharris.com
Jim Harris : jimharrisculpture.com
James Harris : jamesharrisfineart.com

In the end, Jim chose to be known as James Harris professionally and use JamesIHarris.com. After all, a URL is just a web address. It doesn't matter that it might be slightly different than what is on his business card, website banner, or marketing material.

Jim was concerned that James was too formal and that everyone knew him as Jim. We all know that Jim is a shortened form of James. We aren’t surprised that someone’s professional name is James and prefers to be called Jim in everyday conversation.

If you have one of these names (Peter/Pete, Robert/Rob, Michael/Mike, Katherine/Kate, Margaret/Meg, Jessica/Jessie), you can tap into variations of your name—as long as you’re comfortable being known by that moniker.

You could also default to your initials, like Lindsay Obermeyer, whose art is featured below [ lbostudio.com ].

Then there is the opposite problem expressed by artists who struggle with using their names for their art business.

My Name is Hard to Spell or Remember

As someone whose name is rarely spelled correctly (Alison, Allison, Allyson, Stansfield, Stanfill, . . . ) I get where you're coming from!

Still, use your name, even when it is frequently misspelled.

If you think your name is too difficult to spell, take solace in the fact that you probably have it easier than artists who have common names. You are more likely to stand out with an unusual name. Think Toyin Oji Odutola, Kehinde Wiley, or Yayoi Kusama.

To simplify matters when deciding on a URL, you might add “art,” “fine art” or “studio” to the end of your first or last name, but always keep your name prominent on the pages of the site. You are an individual, not a dot com.

Dianna Fritzler, whose art is at the top of this post, isn't an unusual name, but she has 2 “n”s in her first name. Nobody remembers that! Her website is dfritzlerart.com.

Now for the final concern….

I Don't Sign My Name to My Art That Way

You do not have to sign your art with the full name you choose to be known as.

A signature is just a mark, just as a URL is just a web address. You can sign your art with whatever feels natural.

Painting by Lindsay Obermeyer
©Lindsay Obermeyer, Vertebral Body. Gouache painting on paper, 8.5 x 11 inches. Used with permission. Photo credit Larry Sanders.

For example, I have signed my name “AB Stanfield” since I was a teenager. “Alyson Stanfield” was just too long to write out and the y in my first name seemed to interrupt the flow of writing it out. So, AB Stanfield it is. Signing my full name is awkward. But, I chose “Alyson B. Stanfield” as my professional name. I didn’t fear there would ever be too many Alyson Stanfields around, but I’m kind of attached to my middle name, so I always wanted the B in there.

Need more to go on?

Other Artists Share Their Naming Experiences

I asked artists how they decided on their professional names. Read their insights. In particular, read what women wrote in the comments. There is solid evidence that all women should use their maiden names.

Did you make the mistake of taking your spouse’s name and now wish to shed it? Try this approach.

Even though you select a name by which you would like to be known, it doesn't mean that careless people will abide by your wishes. Sometimes, people make up their own names for you. Read my suggestion for handling this.

The big question to answer is: How do you want to go down in the history books? The choice is yours! Nobody else can select your art business name for you. But you have to select one and use it everywhere with conviction.

I know from experience that even after reading this, you may still have concerns or be confused. Please tell me what those are in the comments.

Music by Wildermiss.

This post is a compilation of posts that were published starting in 2008, which were added to a post originally published on November 29, 2010. The original comments from 2010 are intact.

55 comments add a comment
  • Peter Ahrens

    The problem I had was that my domain name was already taken. There was a Peter Ahrens out there that was using the .com address for his djing website. The .com.au was free and I took that since I’m Australian, but I hope I don’t lose traffic because I don’t have the preferred domain name.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      What about peterahrensart.com ?

    • Peter Ahrens

      I didn’t think about that one, but it would be easier to describe my work as photography (even though it is fine art photography) than art. http://www.peterahrensphotography.com becomes that bit too long, though!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Could do ahrensphotography.com ??
      I haven’t seen the work, so I’m not sure. I don’t distinguish between art and photography and think “photography” in the name might imply a for-hire photographer.

    • Kathleen Eggert

      My husband and I started out together as Eggert Glass, pre-internet. We now have individual bodies of work which are showcased on our website: Eggertglass.com. I want to do a facebook fan page for the business and can’t decide if we should share one Eggert Glass Art fb page or have one each, i.e., Kathleen Eggert Glass Art and Dale Eggert Glass Art.

    • Bridget Clifford

      This is a really great guide to finding a Great name for your art business but if after following this guide you still can’t come up with a name I’d suggest you read this free ebook with detailed explanation of the points in this guide.

  • Meltemi

    The Art Studio of Meltemi was an obvious choice for my art studio. Meltemi is the Greek Summer Wind. Most of my ‘Traditional/Representational art’ is based on Greek inspirations. This Meltemiart Domain name was available. Given the number of Meltemi’s in the Greek connection I was totally surprised to find even this name available. My own name was already taken by 134 UK based Phil Kendall’s alone. Also see my blog @ meltemiart.com for more on ‘Meltemi’.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Meltemi: Do you find Greek-lovers find your site fairly easily because of that? How popular a word is it?
      So, do people call you Phil or Meltemi? I think that would be confusing.

    • Meltemi

      Hi Alyson,
      Meltemi? About 387,000 mentions on Google
      Meltemi art?About 49,000…
      Art Studio Meltemi? about 18,000
      Meltemi Phil Kendall? about 4,300
      Yes I agree the name is a bit of a problem that is why Phil kendall aka
      Meltemi/ Meltemi aka Phil Kendall has to be it for me. Either way it makes
      the mark on the historical record of the world. Meltemi has been my online
      nome de plume for the last five years and many simply call me Mel.
      Greek’s and their use of the internet is a slow & expensive development for
      them…but I get some traffic from them.
      The art started as a retirement activity without any commercial intent then
      the commercial bug in me cut-in. then I learned how to build a website, add
      the ecommerce, add the blog. My mornings are the business side [unless a
      commission is on-going] the afternoons are the dedicated studio time. the
      studio is a beautiful 8′ x 10′ summer house in my garden at home.
      I have the best job in the world, I am an artist.

  • When I was single, I signed only my first name, Sari…When I got married I added my new last name, Grove to the signing…I keep my banking still in my maiden last name for economic safety…Online, I use GroveCanada, which has worked well to push both name & location…I registered GroveCanada as a business, with both Joseph & I as partners…I like to include both of us, since we are both artists, & again, online, for personal safety…(also, I like the Christo & Jeanne-Claude thing)…

  • Over the years (since high school) my friends started to call me Jenny Schu when my real last name was Schumaker. It stuck through college and I had started to introduce myself to people in that manner because it was easy. In art school pretty much everyone including professors and staff knew me as that name so I stuck with it. I’m not sure who I have to thank for giving me my business name at this point!
    I got married 1.5 years ago and in the excitement I changed my social media, e-mail title, etc to Jenny “Schu” Behler. What a mistake! The first press release that went out with that on it made change everything back to Jenny Schu and the married name is just a formality. I did purchase jennybehler.com though because I meet potential clients through my husband and it seems to be working well since it goes right to jennyschu.com
    I’m glad to know that keeping the long-time known name is better than trying to change it due to getting married, thanks!

  • Quel pseudo utiliser pour promouvoir son activité artistique ? | Art Deco Online

  • Chastity

    I am working on starting my own page to sell my art work on. I’ve been pondering business names for a little while and can’t seem to quite “fall in love with any.” I want something creative. The name that keeps coming back to me is ‘ A Brush Above the Rest.’ Any ideas?


    Hello! I am starting my own business as well and I’ve actually been selling my artwork like crazy. My name on my facebook page is shondaleann (my first name Shonda and middle Leann). What do you think? I have two children who were born on the same date(no not twins) Dayne is 10 and Rylee is 4 and their birthday is December 7th. was maybe calling my business something that represents that also. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  • Sue Dickson

    Finding this blog has been very helpful and fun (sharing some of the humorous experiences). I am in the process of deciding how to name my DBA. After reading all the posted input- I will be using my name.
    I do both art (several mediums) and photography. Concerned on the length of the name and would like feedback. Sue Dickson Art and Photography, Sue Dickson Nature Art and Photography, Sue Dickson Studio Creations. Thoughts??

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Why do you need a DBA, Sue?
      I’d stick with Sue Dickson Art. That about covers it all.

  • What an interesting discussion. For over 10yrs I was one half of Tate Sisters – myself and my sister’s maiden name is Tate, we lived in London, we worked together and the name worked well especially with several famous galleries with the same name – people remembered us and we had many sales. Even if we were to google our own individual names our Tate Sister website would pop up on the 1st page.
    Unfortunately when I moved to the states in 2005 she was unable to compromise or work well as a team. In 2010 I broke free and became – Project M. My actual name is way too long and I saw this as a new “project”. Hoping perhaps we’d get back together again at some point n the future…..
    It feels like I have had to start from the beginning again as I was not allowed to share my new name with my old client list. However I’m just starting to get some recognition (some press, print sales and painting inquiries) – I feel the work in the end shines through. I’m slowly getting a new body of work together and hoping things will get better in the future. A name is important, but I think it’s up to each individual circumstance for things to work.

  • Loretta Stephenson

    A touchy subject in my house. Married for 35 years, have always been known by his last name. But it’s a long one, and I frequently paint small canvases. So, I often sign Retta, my art name for many years. He seems offended I don’t want to use “his” name. sigh.. does not understand…
    Now that I want to expand my business, I think I need to be more formal?? My blog and Facebook is “Art by Retta”. I’m wondering if I should change it all… start clean with my maiden name?? Loretta Brown, or I’d even prefer Retta Brown. Naturally (!) there is another Retta Brown “out there” already, with all versions of my name taken as domains. That’s why I grabbed up ArtByRetta while it was still available. Thanks for the discussion… food for thought.

  • […] “What name should I use?” is among the most-asked questions I receive. […]

  • Sandra

    I’m just getting started selling my work, and am not sure what I want to do as far as a name for my business or whatever. I won’t be using my married name, especially since it won’t be my legal name much longer. But my maiden name (Brower) doesn’t really sound right with any ideas I’ve come up with. I’ve considered using my daughter’s name, or a nickname I had as a child.

  • tarleya

    so im just starting out im !7 ( almost ) but ive sold quite a bit of my work now im thinking of advertising but i dont know what to call myself . if thought about “natarleyart”
    because that involves my first name well my fullname but it seems like a mouthful.
    i thought about “the blank canvas ” but thats taken.
    i sign my work with nktwose but it wouldnt seem right to have that as a big kinda name an you help me?

  • Larissa Cartier

    Hello, I’m trying to come up with a name to use for an online website. I’m an artist, sculpture, maker. My work is mostly horror related zombies monsters etc. the problem is that I wanted to use my name, but my last name is Cartier it’s causing issues. Any suggestions? Thanks

  • Katherine Cochensparger

    Hello. I am just beginning to go professional with my painting and have been contemplating this very issue. I have heard elsewhere as well that it is best for artists to go by their name in their branding. However, where the problem comes in is that my last name is Cochensparger. People I have known for years still misspell or mispronounce it or just avoid using it all together. On the one hand, it is memorable because people have to repeat it several times when they hear it. On the other hand, I fear that it will prove difficult in search engines or word of mouth for people to be able to find me. Any thoughts on this?

  • I would stick to your own name. Google searches these days sometimes spell check and it’s much easier to find things. I’m using a brand name now for several reasons, but it would be so much easier to have stuck with my maiden name. But after two years under Project M I’m just starting to get a small following :-)

  • Kit

    What about nicknames? And is there any reason not to use “Designs” instead of “Art”? I paint, but I also do macrame and woven wall hangings. I was thinking Kit Bek Designs.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Kit: It depends. If you are going after a sophisticated art audience, you wouldn’t use Designs. If you’re selling directly to people, it’s probably okay. How about Kit Bek Studio ?? That would cover it!

  • Sarah Rose Ruh

    Hello, I am just starting to show my work off to start to sell, but I am not sure what domain I would want I want to use my name but not certain about it. I was wondering if you had any ideas. I’m not sure who my focus audience or how I want to be seen yet. I am still trying to figure this all out.

  • Kesajarvi

    I am just starting to become professional in my local art community and am having a particularly difficult time coming up with a business name as I am a domestic violence survivor. I try to live life normally, but I have a child to protect and safety is the utmost importance. As such, I wanted anonymity, however, the alias I was using as a nonprofessional artist is Finnish and difficult to pronounce. I paint, sketch, ink and am generally versatile. I want my name associated with my art, but I want to keep that added layer of protection. Would anyone have suggestions or know of situations such as these? Thank you so much.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Kesajarvi: I understand your wanting to protect yourself and your child. I hope you get a chance to read the other articles I linked to, along with the comments on all of those posts. I think you might find some insights.

  • My name is usually frequent, but not in the artistic world. I was lucky to find free my domain name.
    When I made my first presentation, with my class group, I didn’t know what name to use.I was married a short time ago.I was a painter long before I got married. The teacher told me, “Don’t use your husband’s name.” It was a sign of empowerment as a woman, in a difficult environment for women.

  • Aghavni Jabian

    Would you recommend something different for people like me who do paint but also create Holiday items using paperclay ? My name is not the easiest to spell or pronounce

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Aghavni: Use your name for your fine art. Then maybe read that article about when to use a different name — for the paperclay work.

  • This is why my freelance graphic design is done as “Chrome47” and my fine art is done as me, Brad Blackman. That essentially makes Chrome47 a one-man design firm.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      But it doesn’t have to be a 1-man firm. Because it isn’t eponymous, you can bring in many people and also have a business property that is easier to sell.

  • Whew, big sigh of relief. I saw this title in my inbox and wondered if my nascent art business would have to undergo a name change at the tender age of 1 month! I’ve been an artist for 30 years, but never as a business. I always thought I’d use my name, even though it is a mouthful. As I was setting up accounts I added ‘fine art’ – if it’s going to be long just own it! So I am quite glad to see this post and all the comments. Thanks for the timely topic, Alyson, and the insights of all the commentary.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Kristen: Sorry I missed your comment previously. Yes! You’re safe. 😇 Good job!

  • Oh wow, I actually searched your book for guidance on this a month or two ago as I was redoing some marketing materials. My URL is christinegedye.com, but I often insert my maiden name, Olson (which is now my legal middle name) on my business card, postcards, stationery and other places, including my art FB page. While there are many reasons I liked holding onto Olson (including because my landscapes have a Scandinavian feel to them), it really felt long. In the end, I decided to simplify to just Christine Gedye and add Fine Art in smaller type. Unfortunately, I have not been able to make that change on my FB page, but I’m not sweating that one inconsistency. One marketing friend of mine recommended purchasing any URL that is close to mine and redirect from those to christinegedye.com, which is on my to-do list. Feeling grateful to have married into a very unusual last name, even if folks do stumble over the spelling sometimes.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Christine: Yes, you can absolutely purchase the other so people can find you. And your header on your website can have your full name. Have you tried requesting the name change through FB? I’ve seen so many people do it that I thought it was quite common.

  • I wish I had read this article years ago. I have changed my business name so many times in the last 30 years that the list is way too long to even admit too! And registered them all $$$ – never kept them up for more than a year or too. But in that process I also registered http://www.LorettaBusch.com and held on to it while messing around with other identities. I am finally sticking with my name and embracing that the introverted me has to be as bold as my art. I have to stop hiding online and behind the camera.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Loretta: We all make business mistakes that cost us energy and dollars. Owning a business is expensive! I’m glad you have this part settled.

  • Hello
    I find this article quite interesting – as well as the comments.
    I just recently splurged on a website through WordPress and was faced with choosing a domain name. My name is rather common, and I reasoned that I am not well known and have not sold anything so I was concerned that my name would not bring traffic to my page. So I chose createart.gallery.
    And as for signing my art- I haven’t any art from before I was married and having been married 38 years, I’ve almost forgotten my maiden name! ShCraig is usually how I sign.

  • My name is too long: Nayara Fernanda de Queiroz Ramos. I’m left with many doubts about which name I use, if NFQRamos, or just Nayara Queiroz or Nayara Ramos. My photographer sister adopted for her Nayane Queiroz, but for me it is not being the easiest to choose.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide, Nayara. What are the options?

  • KellyLyn Brunelle

    I married into a french canadian name that no one can pronounce- from Brunelle. I would love to use my full name (Kelly Lyn Brunelle) but it’s annoying that no one can say it correctly and it’s very long. What should I do? I do photography and wood art- burning, frames, etc…
    I really just wanted my initials KLB or Kelly Lyn, but having trouble adding an art catchy word that isn’t taken -please help! :(
    Thank you in advance

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Kelly Lyn: I address both married names and “difficult” names above. Use what you want to be known as forever. Only you can make this decision.

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