Monday, April 2, 2012

Sign Me Up

"Sunseekers" oil on linen panel 8x8-SOLD

Happy April and Early Spring Everyone!

As a painting teacher, I’m often asked about signing a painting so here are 10 tips I’ve gathered to help you the next time you finish a painting and are ready to own up to it with you signature:
  1. It’s not a legal contract but do sign your work. Legibly and on the front.  Today, I think signatures are more important than ever with our artwork having potentially an international audience when it’s shared across the Internet on websites, social media, etc.  
  2. Your signature is a helpful design element. Along those lines, keep your signature in scale with your painting.  I’ve seen many petite paintings 10x10 or smaller with bold signatures that would be better suited on a 30x40.  A magnifying glass type signature on a wall size abstract is also unbalanced.
  3. Your signature should “blend” stylistically if possible. You might want to practice a few different styles with brush on paper before you decide on one. For example, some artist’s signatures look really nice in cursive and others in block letters. Think clean and pleasing. Lately, I’ve been scratching with my favorite rubber “wipe out” too into wet paint (as seen in today's painting). I like that look as long as it’s fairly readable.
  4. If you’re planning to frame or mat your painting, be sure to sign your piece after you’ve popped in a frame. I see many signatures that too close to an edge that end up getting covered by the frame or mat. Especially now that frame and mat styles today can be quite wide.
  5. When I paint a larger abstract for example I can use my signature to add interest to a corner. Usually it’s the lower right, but not always.  I had a student who cleverly integrated their name into the painting (in this case on a wine bottle tag).  You don’t want to get too gimmicky, be we are artists and so consider creative solution when the opportunity presents itself.
  6. Thankfully, I have a fairly unusual 8 letter last name so I sign only with my last name.  Many artists I know with short or very common names add initials. I think this is a good idea for more specific identification. Imagine trying to research a beautiful oil painting you find at a flea market signed “Jones” on the Internet.
  7. What if you have are blessed with an unusual first name or your last name is very long or hyphenated? Then I think signing with your first name on the front might be a good option. Then you can add your full name on the back.  Same with initials or a “symbol” type signature-I would add my current legal name to the back or at least on a certificate attached to the back.
  8. What about adding a date to your signature? I see this too quite a bit at galleries and festivals and personally, I’m not a fan. I think it’s OK on the back but I think the front of the painting begins to look cluttered with too much info. It’s a painting not your art CV.
  9. Again, this may take some practice but you may want to sign in the same media you created the art in.  I’ll be honest I don’t always follow this advice. For example, I sign watercolors with Sharpies or pen and ink sometimes. But in general, it’s wise to have the signature be consistent and cohesive with your work for posterity.
  10. I’ve read that Marilyn Monroe always signed her name using a red pen. Consider a way to make your signature unique. Ideally you want your body of work to have a fairly consistent signature that easy for collectors to identify you.  
Thanks for stopping by and happy spring painting everyone!

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