To pseudonym or to not pseudonym?
January 2, 2017 3:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm an aspiring illustrator who can't decide whether or not to use a pseudonym. Advice sought.

I've been kicking around whether or not to use a pseudonym for months and it's getting to the point where I'm delaying putting up a website and all that in order to figure this out. I did start a blog with an early attempt at a pseudonym that I now think sounds silly and so plan to abandon. This sort of thing is what I would like to avoid: serially adopting pseudonyms and then discarding them when I get tired of them.

My reasons for wanting to use a pseudonym are:

I've never been wild about my real name. It's long, hard to spell, pronounce and remember. It's also really unusual--only two of us on earth, that Google knows about--meaning that any bad art I put out there now will be forever connected to my name.

Not having any of my art and subsequent criticism linked to my real name seems like it would give me a boost of added confidence. I unfortunately care a lot--too much--about what people think of me. I have this awful recurring thought of a particular family member coming across my stuff and thinking, "Oh, look at what whistle pig is trying to do, how pathetic." Yes, I know that this is not healthy, but having a pseudonym would let me skirt that whole annoying issue entirely.

I keep thinking about "famous person whose birth name is long, hard to spell and remember and who now is known by their iconic pseudonym."

The reasons for using my real name:
I've been dwelling on this for months and cannot come up with a name that is a pure reflection of "me." I've thought up dozens of names, all of which are either too cute, too plain, too laughably sophisticated, taken by another artist, too alliterative, etc.

I would love to do something like use parts of my real name, such as Middle Name Last Name, but the initials are an unfortunate acronym. The current blog that I plan to abandon is linked to a name created by dropping parts of my first and last name. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but now sets my teeth on edge.

I suspect I'm using this issue as a delaying tactic. I'm hoping to make a decision within the next week or so that I can stick with, so that I can get on with things. Is there a clear answer here that I'm just too enmeshed with the issue to see?

Oh, and I don't have a "career" or anything where I would need to keep my artist life separate from my professional life.
posted by whistle pig to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You are way, way overthinking it. I go by my middle name online. I made that choice largely to avoid being found by a man I wanted to avoid. He simply hired a detective to hunt me down. It has in no way prevented relatives or others who had some weird ass interest in me from tracking down my online activities and yadda.

Using a pseudonym is zero protection from people being jerks to you. Assholes gonna asshole. I have found other methods more effective in dealing with that reality.

You might find my blog post here helpful as well. Please, just focus on doing the work. You don't even need to attach a name to it initially. You can just come up with some generic blog name and decide later how to name yourself on it.

posted by Michele in California at 3:18 PM on January 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Is there a clear answer here that I'm just too enmeshed with the issue to see?

You could just create a name for your blog/URL/studio/whatever, and then add an about the artist section that includes your real name later, if you feel like it? I know a handful of artists who started pseudonymously (with initials or a scribbled sig or a website-name watermark on their work), and now have their real name attached to their online art presence later. Their style has developed over time, and in some cases they've pared down/removed some earlier works that don't match with their aesthetic now.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:20 PM on January 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just doooooit. Something you like. I picked two and now I wish I'd stuck with a combo instead.
posted by tilde at 3:27 PM on January 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, I know that this is not healthy, but having a pseudonym

will not fix you.

You can't run away from yourself. If you can't own your art, it doesn't matter what name you don't own it under, you'll just keep on looking for reasons to not make it.

Fix the issues, which are separate from the name. The name is zero protection. You must assume you have no privacy, your aunt will see it eventually, and when you take away that imaginary safety net your primary reason for a name - any name - is a brand. If your legal name is uncatchy, ungoogleable, unwieldy, an offensive word in another language, too close to someone else's brand, then use a stage name. Make no serious effort to hide your true identity. Pick a new name for those reasons, not to magically make all your troubles disappear.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:34 PM on January 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

Use your real name. The important thing is the art. If your art is great, your name will be thought of as a great name. If your art is not so good, then no name can save it.
posted by Clotilde at 4:38 PM on January 2, 2017

I HATE my name. I changed my last name when I got married and it fixed none of my issues with it. I used pseudonyms and studio names for years. At 42 those do not reflect what I do now but I'm stuck with a website URL and name that what few clients and followers I have identify with my work. I started just using my initials and my last name, or hell -- just using my full name about five years ago. I still hate it but at least it says absolutely nothing about my art except I'm a person who makes some art. If you can simplify for a URL (like using your first name only, etc) go for it. Either way, go put your art out there. An unusual name could be a good thing.
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 5:11 PM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

As someone who hires illustrators, I hate pseudonyms. Mainly because in my experience, people who use pseudonyms aren't consistent, they get tired of one and want to use another, they destroy their own track record and can't build a platform for themselves. I am not only hiring an illustrator for their artwork; I am also hoping that their fans and followers will buy the product I am commissioning. Lack of consistency in their name also makes me concerned about what else they might be flaky about. It's a big red flag to a client.

I don't mind a consistent use of pseudonyms; I probably work with some folks and don't even realize they are using one. I also don't mind obfuscations like initials or a middle name. It's really the appearance of inconsistency and flakiness that is the problem for me. If you plan to try to make a business out of this, consider how you will address this with a client.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:22 PM on January 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

Think of it as branding yourself.
posted by zadcat at 5:23 PM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Go for the pseudonym. People can be dicks. I wonder if there are almost more people writing about (trashing) stuff than people actually making it, might be close. There's a hyper awareness of audience and reception, these days, anyway. Which is part of what's awful about this moment. But the freedom to use pseudonyms is what's great about it, imo. If something takes, it will (and there's not necessarily a knowable reason that something takes at any given time or not); that would be wonderful, stand behind it if you want (or stay with that pseudonym). If it doesn't go over so well, you can let it go, try again. The point is to get the idea out there. Sia did it in music, don't think it hurt Banksy for street art. If making things makes you happy, and that's what you think it'll take to give yourself permission to do it, go for it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:43 PM on January 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with xadcat. Think of it as a brand name.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:07 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with peanut_mcgillicuty's answer above (and I also hire illustrators).

But I think it also depends on what kind of illustration you do (comic, political/caricature, children's, editorial, advertising, scifi/fantasy, scientific, technical, etc.), and what your goal is ("I want online kudos from peers" vs. "I want to get illustration jobs and build this into a career").

If you're dealing with ad agencies or traditional publishing editors and art directors, a real name will probably work in your favor. Illustrations fields that are less mainstream (or less "commercial") will probably be more open to, if not outright demanding of, a pseudonym.

But regardless, peanut_mcgillicuty's point about consistency remains valid.
posted by Kabanos at 11:40 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Distributions/Plots for Social Sciences   |   Best places to swim in Miami? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.