Saturday, April 4, 2015

Art Business: Name Change, Game Change - Update

The butterfly "chop" of The Artist Formerly Known as Whistler

I've had so much feedback on my question about changing my professional name that I felt I needed to write a followup post.  I don't have time to reply to each one.  But believe me, I do appreciate your response!

About half the comments were in favor of the change with the remainder dissenting.  Opinions were strong, whatever the stance.   Those in favor were mostly in alignment with my reasons for changing; for the others, the top issue was that I might confuse collectors and followers and hurt my continuing success as an artist.  Many came from women who have dealt with a name change because of marriage or divorce.

Several also gave suggestions.  Here are a few:

"Is this an April Fool's joke?"  Uh, no.  I posted the original blog post on April 3.

"I do think your existing name is very nice, though.  How about M. Chelsey Johnson?"  In this case, the reader misspelled my middle name—exactly what I am trying to avoid.  I'll add that this wasn't the only commentor who misspelled it.  Point proven.

"Have you thought about using a chop?" A chop is a seal that is used to stamp a painting, often used in place of a signature.  You'll see it on Asian artwork as pictographs or logograms.  Whistler used a butterfly.  But just putting my chop on a painting won't work.  A glyph can't be used in marketing when everyone else is using the Roman alphabet to create a pronounceable name.  The musical artist Prince found that changing his stage name to a symbol didn't work very well; so now we call him The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

"The three-name-thing worked for John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase."  Yes, but today we have Twitter and the necessity of fitting one's name into a space the length of which is dictated by a software programmer raised in the era of MTV and ADD.  My Twitter handle is @mchesleyjohnson.  I'd prefer my whole brand, @michaelchesleyjohnson—but sorry, says Twitter, that's too long.

There are other many excellent comments, which you can find at the end of my previous post or on my Facebook studio page:

I do like my name.  It's a family name and has a great deal of personal meaning for me.  But as I wrote in my previous blog post, it has caused a number of problems professionally.  I do agree that it is hard to build a brand from scratch.  But I have a plan!

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