Professional Practice: Why I Don’t Use an Alias

Professional Practice: Why I Don’t Use an Alias

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of creative people adopt aliases.

I can see the appeal of using an alias, especially if you’re a young artist. It can offer a certain level of anonymity when starting out. That said, I personally think this is a really bad idea. You should always just keep things simple and use your own name. Here’s why:

You want your work to be associated with you.
Your name is your brand. As you develop as an artist, you start to develop your own style. The way you draw a line, or make a brush mark, is like a fingerprint. You want people to associate your art with your name, not with an alias you thought was cool when you were nineteen.

It’s easier to develop a following.
The longer you work in the field, the more likely it is that people will begin to recognize your work. You’ll build a fan base, which is the best possible thing for you as an artist! It’s these fans that’ll support you and buy your work, whether it’s paintings, comics, whatever.  Don’t complicate your interaction with fans by using a fake name. It’s easier to introduce yourself to people when you use your real name.

You may be stuck with an alias, even after you outgrow it.
Changing your working alias may be confusing for fans and make it that much harder for people to find you.

It’s easier to meet people and clients.
When you’re out at conventions, seminars, or even the grocery store (you never know where you might run into a potential client), you’ll introduce yourself as…well, yourself.  Not as your alias.  It’s much more likely that when remembering you or looking you up, the potential client will look you up by your name.

Keeping and using your own name will help your career tremendously. As soon as you decide you want to be an artist, drop everything and do these three things.

  • Buy a URL using your real name, preferably a dot com.  Keep it simple –
  • Set up an e-mail address that’s simple and includes your name –  Set up your email through your own website so it’s easy for clients or art directors to track you down and recall your e-mail.
  • Stop using dopey handles when you interact with your peers in forums on in online communities. You guessed it: Switch over to ones that include your real name.

All of this will allow you to start being associated with your work and building lasting relationships. You just can’t go wrong using your own name from the start and avoiding an alias entirely!

Thanks for reading, folks. Stay tuned for the next Professional Practices.




i totally agree Jeremy. i never did figure out why people would actually do that. always seemed like someday you might have to try to prove in court – because of a copyright issue or something – that you had actually done the art. of course unless you legally change your name to ‘spud’ or whatever you were using as an alias. i always wanted to sign my own name, because i was never one with a born talent…i always had to work so hard to make a good piece of art that i wanted people to know that i was the artist of the piece. plus it always seemed somewhat childish to do the alias thing, but i did always want a nickname like they gave artists at Marvel in the sixties…. like Jack ‘king’ Kirby and the others.

Total agreement on all points. It also engenders trust, since an alias can give the impression of hiding somehow. I am against internet anonymity in general, since is feel it promotes antisocial behavior.
Good post.

Thanks for the comments, guys.

I never looked at it as a copyright issue, Tom, so that’s an interesting point.

And Keith, I definitely agree in terms of antisocial behavior – internet behavior is bad enough, but it is always worse in cases of anonymity.

We appreciate it!

You know, although there are many benefits to using your real name, there are some cons as well:
As a woman, if you brand yourself by the last name your father gave you, and then you get married and take your husband’s name, you introducing yourself by your husband’s name won’t do you much good of your website is under a different name. Same goes of you begin your artistic career while married, then get divorced. You’d still have to rebrand yourself.

Secondly, from an international standpoint, sometimes using your real name is difficult if other cultures or languages have a hard time pronouncing, spelling, or remembering your name.

Lastly and probably the big one, if your name is John Smith, and you Google your name, even if you add “artist” in the search, TONS of search results come up. Not only will people find it hard to pinpoint to you and your work, you also risk losing business to another John Smith.

Also, another thing about cultural barriers, Markus Yakovlevich Rotkovich used the pseudonym Mark Rothko in order to use a name without a Jewish ethnic marker.

J.K. Rowling used a pseudonym that God rid of her gender identity, in order to reduce gender stereotyping and to increase her chances or becoming a successful author who would be taken seriously from the very beginning.

Using your real name is great and all, but it also becomes a challenge when your gender or your ethnicity is apparent, when your marital status changes, or when your name is very common.

Hi Jeremy,
What would be the best course of action for an art field where the exact name as my given one has previously been taken by someone with the same birthname, who is working in more-or-less the exact same medium?

The Guitar Center database has at least 100 different individuals with the same name, btw!

Thanks Very Much!,


Hello Will!

Great question here. So, since you mention The Guitar Center, I’m reminded of two John Cale’s. One was with the Velvet Underground if I recall, then there was another singer/songwriter named John Cale (who wrote Clapton’s “Cocaine” and Lynard Skynard’s “Call Me the Breeze.”). I believe he decided to go by J.J. Cale instead to separate himself from the already active John Cale.

I think the main thing you need to do is decide on a name that you stick with. That’s really the main point – it’s a matter of consistency. Whatever name you choose, make sure it’s something you can live with using the rest of your professional life. Maybe you use your middle name? Or your full name including your middle name? Just stay consistent with whatever you choose.

Hope that helps!


Thank you so much!

I was trying to think of the most adjacent one possible, because art pro Michelle Gaugy over at Quora was really an advocate of real names or damn close at all costs.

It’s tough thinking that you -must- make the change to avoid confusion & build a base, but come up with something that’s still 100% you, and as she put it: you’d be comfortable being stuck with forever and also stuck in the history books.

Thanks very much for your expert perspective!

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