No signature!

Dear Artist, I recently had the pleasure and responsibility of jurying an international show. The first stage was online in the jurors’ homes using a simple system where entries were presented by enlargeable thumbnails. A move of the cursor enlarged portions of the image once again. I purposely didn’t enlarge the signature area. Voting was a matter of clicking “yes” or “no” below the image. There were 380 entries — the quality was dauntingly high. We three jurors were unknown to one another and from different “persuasions.” Nevertheless, as tallied by the show’s presenter, our selection of 80 works more or less coincided. This morning, we three jurors met for the first time to choose the prize winners. The 80 paintings were nicely hung with no tagging or other info. The first thing I noticed was that perhaps a third of them had no signature. I’ve seen this before, but this was the first time there were so many. I can understand why painters might want to have their paintings juried on merit alone. I wondered if some of the artists were intending to drop by the gallery and sign their work just before the show. Not practical, I figured — some painters were geographically challenged. Could there be other reasons for the omission? Fear of gender discrimination? Age? Race? Degree of baldness? I was stumped. I always thought signing was an artist’s honour and guarantee of authenticity. The show’s presenter told me not signing nowadays was “just a trend.” This afternoon, when I got home, I phoned a couple of my dealers. One told me the artist’s signature is part of her brand — important particularly to collectors who may want to own an artist’s various periods. “Besides, collectors have their own insecurities,” he said. “They feel uncomfortable thinking that such and such isn’t an actual Frank Bloggs, even though they think it might be. And they want their friends to read for themselves of their Frank Bloggs ownership.” “Painters who don’t sign their work on the front are less likely to make sales,” said another dealer. It seems that some discriminating connoisseurs tend to think an unsigned painting may be less valued by the artist. Even a painting signed on the wraparound may be suspect. This evening, while signing my name on a painting, I was thinking I might stop signing my cheques. Best regards, Robert PS: “A painting without a signature is like a Big Mac without a pickle.” (Gallery owner) Esoterica: I guess something must be said for the mystique of an unsigned painting. Is the artist so important and his style so recognizable that no signature is necessary? Do the cognoscenti gain smug satisfaction and pleasure by “knowing” what we regular peons cannot even read? To us knuckle-draggers, is the artist saying, “Poo on you”? Come to think of it, over at MOMA, I had noticed that the Rothkos weren’t signed. Nor were many of the Lichtensteins and the Warhols. What’s the matter with those guys? Don’t they want to get known?   Astounding situation by Jim van Geet, Australia  

original painting
by Jim van Geet

No signature! Absolutely astounding! Down here in the Antipodes it is a phenomenon which has not yet reared its ugly head. Having judged a number of shows, as well as staying in the loop of exhibitions, the only times I’ve encountered it is when the work was quite sub-standard and/or student’s work. Which begs the question of “why show at all?” Only at the stratospheric top end of easily recognizable brands could it be countenanced.       There are 6 comments for Astounding situation by Jim van Geet
From: Rick Rotante — Oct 15, 2012

Jim – very nice piece. The balance of negative and positive space is very zen.

From: Mike Barr — Oct 15, 2012

Hi Jim Very true. It is rare for paintings to be shown in Australia without a signature. Not having a signature doesn’t make much sense on any front.

From: Barbara Umland — Oct 16, 2012
From: Bob Northway — Oct 16, 2012

Lets be clear now, what we all call a painters signature is nothing like a legal signature , it’s normally just some printed letters. So your argument on it acting as a kind of authenticity gets thrown out of the window. Also what are the chances now in this over populated world that two painters will have the same name and signature ? I would also like to know what your feelings are on alas , as some of us painters can’t even use our real names due to excessive USA trademark rules and threats of legal action?

From: Michele Bottaro — Oct 16, 2012

In art school, my teacher said signing was “in the past.” My husband had fits over that. My instructor declared signing one’s paintings was not being done any longer, that the artist’s signature interferes with the image. In my mind, a signature is fine on a painting that exists harmoniously in the image. If the image is very simple and a signature would be distracting, it doesn’t make sense to put a signature on the face of it. I’m thinking of Albers or other graphically linear artists. Would you want to see a signature on, say, the front of a minimalist painting? I don’t think so.

From: Anonymous — Jun 29, 2013

It’s only about 600 years since painters starting to sign paintings, hailing a new understanding of the importance of the painter as an individual. For the times before that paintings will have to be understood as being significant for a community, as an expression significant for a time and region. Signing paintings today is making a statement that as a painter you still want to be understood as that kind of post-renaissance painter. But as a painter I also have a choice to make the opposite statement: that I don’t really care that not signing (and building up a brand) may mean I sell less – and the fact that down the line people may not be able to say with certainty if a painting was effectively made by me is something I’d like to encourage, rather than prevent… In this respect not signing my paintings has nothing to do with aesthetic values (like: it would spoil the impression). It is a statement about which tradition of painting I would like to see myself in.

  Not signing not uncommon by Ted Lederer (Elliott Louis Gallery), Vancouver, BC, Canada   As a gallery owner of 12 years, I am seeing more and more artists not sign their work on the front. However, I have never seen artists not sign their name somewhere on the piece (unless they forget in the heat of preparing for an exhibition). Usually, when unsigned on the front the work is signed on the back. I for one insist every work be signed somewhere, but I don’t care where. I have seen no evidence to support the comment that works unsigned on the front do not sell as well. In fact, over the years, I have seen many, many paintings degraded by poor choices the artist made in signing their name on the front. I think it fair to say that most of the unsigned work I see is of non-objective abstract art where the artist felt a signature would interrupt the piece. There are 2 comments for Not signing not uncommon by Ted Lederer (Elliott Louis Gallery)
From: Karen — Oct 16, 2012

I can see how with some abstract work, there could be an argument for not signing as it would interrupt the flow of the piece. That said, most work needs to be signed. An abstract that is on a gallery could be signed on the side……. or a piece very discreetly signed with a colour not that different to the background.

From: Jim Carpenter — Oct 16, 2012

I can see how signing an abstract piece might limit how one decides to hang the painting. I was fascinated by a series of 4 small Motherwell works hung in a square in which 3 of the works were signed on the lower right and the forth was signed on the upper left. I wondered if that one painting was hung upside down, but if the painting were turned so the signature was on the lower right like the other 3 then the signature would be upside down. I don’t know what Motherwell’s motive was, but the placement of the signature did cause at least this viewer to question which way is up on an abstract and the role of the signature beyond just telling us who created the work.

  A copy in Asia by Catherine Chin, Singapore   I was quite taken by your comments on art work without signatures. In Southeast Asia where I live, when a painting is unsigned it means it is not an original work but a copy of another more well- known artist’s work. It will therefore command a fraction of the price of an original, signed work. I will be travelling to Saigon next week where this is a normal practice for young artists. I have seen this in Beijing and Shanghai as well.     Bio on the back? by Tom Hoffmann, Seattle, WA, USA  

“La Soledad, Oaxaca”
watercolour painting
by Tom Hoffmann

I read your comments about the “no signature” phenomenon immediately after reading an email about a watercolor society show I’ll be in. The message from the show stressed the need for my artist’s bio to be attached to the back of the painting. My gut response was, “I won’t include a bio. My painting should speak for itself.” I’ve always resisted the resume/bio/artist’s statement jive, feeling that none of that should matter, but I do sign my work. The juxtaposition of the emails showed me a connection I hadn’t ever thought of: if a record of my accomplishments or my intentions is irrelevant to the work itself, what does it matter who painted the picture? The painting is what it is, good, bad, or indifferent, with or without any ID. And yet… If I see a painting I particularly like, the first thing I want to know is where I can see more of that artist’s work. I don’t care at all where the artist went to college, or which banks have her work in their collection, but I’d be frustrated if there were no signature. If the work meets the artist’s standards well enough to be hung, then it is worthy of the certification a signature provides. It’s a bit like saying, “I’m Frank Bloggs, and I approve of this painting.” There are 6 comments for Bio on the back? by Tom Hoffmann
From: Norman Pitt — Oct 15, 2012

Gorgeous painting Tom, reflected light, you can just feel the heat on that facade

From: Michael McDevitt — Oct 15, 2012

Makes me think of JSS. Very nice!

From: Sally Chupick — Oct 16, 2012

Couldn’t agree more, Tom. Beautiful watercolour.

From: Brian Seed — Oct 16, 2012

I think the idea of a bio on the back of paintings makes sense. We’re not all professional artists with web sites etc., so doesn’t it provide info to the purchaser to a least know a bit about the artist and what awards they may have received? However,I’m not much in favor of artist’s statements.

From: Jan Ross — Oct 16, 2012

Wonderful painting, Tom! If I were to see it in a gallery, I would definitely want to see more of your work. My thinking is if an artist is pleased with his/her painting, there should be no hesitancy in signing it. Admittedly, there have been times when I’ve been on a ‘roll’ creating numerous successful pieces, and simply forgot to sign them!

From: Carolyn Watson — Oct 17, 2012

I was recently in a show at our local gallery. They covered the signatures on the paintings with tape so the judge couldn’t see them. It worked fine, no problem. The judge knows me, and after the show he told me he gave one of the awards because he thought it looked like my work and thought he was giving me an award. Even his prejudice didn’t work and he ended up doing the right thing anyway!.

  To heck with it! by Suzanne Thompson, Frankfort, KY, USA  

“Moon over water”
fabric art by
Suzanne Thompson

I am not a painter, but most of my work is “signable.” I have been convinced that signing is better than not signing. I resisted signing on the front because I work very hard to make an aesthetically cohesive image; putting my name in some negative space just doesn’t seem right. It is negative space for a reason. I am signing my new work; at first it was as a cartoonist signs theirs, where you have to look for it. My most recent I just said, “To heck with it” and semi-boldly signed in the lower right corner, smack-dab on the edge of my precious negative space. It only hurt a little. I would like to have a conversation with Mr. Warhol about why he didn’t always sign his. I would hope he would use my excuse as it relates to the graphic rather than painterly images in his work. I’m afraid, however, his answer would be, “Oh, honey, if you don’t know by looking at it that it’s mine, you don’t deserve to know!”     Signed ‘Anonymous’ by Alex Nodopaka, Lake Forest, CA, USA  

“Blue light special”
mixed media
by Alex Nodopaka

Let it be known that most Russian artists almost never signed on the front of their paintings. They did it on the canvas back and in my opinion that’s where any written information ought to be. My only concession is to paint in conspicuously the initials of the artist on the front right or left corner with a full signature on the canvas back and the stretcher bar. And if the name is as common as Smith then add the mother’s maiden name…lol This applies also to the smaller paintings especially with artists’ names exceeding the length of admiration. On the other hand, I have been signing “Anonymous” all unsigned paintings I have ever come across. I admit it has improved my sales and by the same token pulled those artists from sure oblivion. So next time you find a painting signed “Anonymous” you’ll know who did it. By the same token I made those artists better known than they ever hoped to be. Nothing like a good Latin name on a decent canvas! There are 2 comments for Signed ‘Anonymous’ by Alex Nodopaka
From: Jackie Knott — Oct 16, 2012

“…. with artists’ names exceeding the length of admiration.” That’s the funniest line I have read in some time. I specifically remember one signature fully half the width of the painting.

From: Tatjana — Oct 17, 2012

My Russian iconography teacher signed his icons with his full name on the very edge in micriscopic letters so you could only find it if you are looking for it.

  No ‘up’ side by Nola Russell, Victoria, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Nola Russell

I don’t sign any of my “abstract” work on the front. I sign and put the month of completion on the back (it can take several months to complete a painting). These works are either based on colour theory experiments or represent music and consist of large blocks of colour (some blending — but within a blocked space). There is absolutely no way that a signature would not affect the look of the work. Often, a signature would diminish any effect that should occur when the painting is viewed. And, there is nowhere to hide a signature within the blocks either. So … I sign on the back, because the work is more important than me (or my signature). Additionally, many of these works have no “up.” A signature is usually a good indication of where the artist believes “up” to be on an abstract work. Since I often hang my paintings at various angles and many of them are not rectangular, I don’t want to influence the viewer/possible owner into thinking that it won’t fit into almost any space or that their personal taste is upside down or sideways. Turn it any way you want … that’s “up.” There is 1 comment for No ‘up’ side by Nola Russell
From: Tikiwheats — Oct 16, 2012

I absolutely agree w/you about our abstract works of art – my favorites seem to be my abstracts – I think because there has been a lot of inner joy when creating them. Most can be hang in any direction, so I also sign on the back. Other paintings I’m totally sure why I hesitate to sign-don’t want to ugly it up – but if Monet had not scralled his name on the front of his pieces I would be very disappointed-I think its a confidence thing – I’m getting over it…slowly…

  Signing monkey business by Tony Angell, Seattle, Washington, USA  

“Migrating Loons”
bronze sculpture
by Tony Angell

Given the degree of replication being done (both with and without the artist’s permission) of artist’s work in China, do you suppose that the artist might have a moment of conscience and decide to leave it unsigned inasmuch as they really had it done by someone else? I am speculating here, but given the degree of wannabe sculptors that have flooded the market with work that is computer completed or based only on something the artist sent to a stone carver in Nanging (rough sketches or, even worse, examples being cement statues from a garden supply yard), there may be some other motives here in leaving the work unsigned. On the other hand, I have sent out bronze work that was given such attention (or lack of) that my signature and edition number were both ground off. I gather from a Russian friend that many of the painters in his country feel that to sign them is too egocentric. The painting alone should represent the full “signature” of the artist. By the way, have you ever forgotten to sign a piece? I must admit that I have as I of course leave the signature for the point at which I’m ready to step away from a work. Sometimes this is a protracted process and once when I did get back to it I was so relieved to ship it that it arrived unsigned. Yes, he sent it back for a signature.   Dealer cover up by Rena Bierman, Cochrane, AB, Canada  

oil painting
by Rena Bierman

I visited a gallery in September that displayed paintings without a signature upon the gallery owner’s/manager’s request. He even mused with covering up the signatures that were already on paintings with tape somehow so that people who were in the gallery couldn’t type in the artist’s name on their phone, search the net for the artist’s website and then later purchase the artist’s work directly. The owner spent 40 minutes explaining this omission and his reasons for trying to push it so that no artists he represents would have their name displayed. Quite disturbing, I thought, and so thought the artist friend I had gallery touring with me. Is it legal to cover up the name of the creator of a work who owns the copyright of the image? Can you imagine buying a CD and not knowing the name of the musician until after you have purchased it? Going to a concert without knowing who you will hear? Not being allowed to know who is the composer or song writer of a certain piece? Going to a movie and not knowing who the actors are? When you see a movie, there is a long string of “credits” going to the people involved in producing it. “Credit” should go to the creator of any piece of art in my opinion. I found the idea ludicrous even though I could understand that technology poses options for the buyers and a challenge for galleries. Perhaps artists represented by galleries need to be instructed on how to be loyal to the very people who represent their work and not to be the gallery’s competition. Instead, be their business partner. (RG note) Thanks, Rena. Any dealer who put a fig leaf over part of mine would be toast. There are 2 comments for Dealer cover up by Rena Bierman
From: Louis White — Oct 17, 2012

Hi Rena, in which city is this gallery if you don’t mind me asking?

From: Rena Bierman — Oct 26, 2012

Louis, to answer you question for the location of the gallery I spoke of with regards to the absence of signatures on original artwork … it was in Vancouver.

  The integrated signature by Paul Paquette, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Stanley Park Seawall”
original painting
by Paul Paquette

This letter made me think of some of the artists who do sign their paintings… and probably shouldn’t! I refer to those artists who finish off an otherwise fine painting by signing it as if they were signing a giant novelty cheque, or at the other end of the spectrum, those who scrawl their names with clumsy bloated lettering creating the impression they are either semi-literate or descended from Neanderthals. >As you suggest, we should consider the signature to be a vital component of the artwork itself as well as a potential selling point for collectors. I believe that in developing our skills as artists we should make a conscious effort to develop a signature that is unique, as well as being elegant, unobtrusive and readable. Something which contributes to the finished artwork rather than detracting or distracting from it. There are 4 comments for The integrated signature by Paul Paquette
From: Catherine — Oct 16, 2012

Love this painting Paul!

From: Iola Benton — Oct 16, 2012

I agree with you:”…the signature to be a vital component of the artwork itself as well as a potential point for collectors” I can see that you follow this statement in your own vital and beautiful paintings. Congratulations!

From: Bob — Oct 17, 2012

Very funny! Every time I am signing my painting with a tiny brush I feel as if I indeed descended from Neanderthals! Your comment will probably stick with me for a long time! LOL!

From: Anonymous — Oct 17, 2012

Beautiful colours!


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for No signature!

From: Dave C. — Oct 11, 2012

The only time I’ve hesitated to sign my works is when doing a small daily painting. The small size 5×7 or 6×6 can seem to make the signature look gigantic and one thing I DON’T want is for my signature to become a focal point on the painting. I’ve been looking for a fine or extra-fine tip oil based paint marker that I can use to sign these paintings, but I have yet to find one I like. Maybe I could go with an idea that I’ve seen used by other artists and use one of those Japanese or Chinese stamps. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Well, maybe not.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Oct 11, 2012

Not wanting my signatures to be obtrusive, I usually inscribe it modestly in pencil right into the wet paint.

From: BEMiller — Oct 11, 2012

When I was starting art classes, many of my teachers emphasized NOT signing our artworks. We were told it is presumptuous and overly-vain to sign your artwork when you are a beginner. We were told you should not sign your artwork until you become more ‘well-known.’ Perhaps a third of the artists had teachers with a similar philosophy?

From: Eric Burgess-Ray — Oct 11, 2012

I feel that the signature of the artist is important, but I never put my name on a painting that is a study of another artist’s work.

From: lalitha — Oct 11, 2012

I have never signed my works, thinking that I am not ”good enough” or not “well known”, though I have been proud of what I have been doing and how I have been growing. But I have signed only when the buyer particularly wanted my signature though I am just an emerging artist.This post made me think again, probably I will start signing my work with pride for just creating it. Thank you!

From: Alana Dill — Oct 11, 2012
From: Lori Fairchild — Oct 11, 2012

Isn’t this a bit of a safety issue as well? No signed work also makes it so much easier to be a victim of theft in the computer world where many pieces of art are now submitted for competition. Just another aspect to the importance of a signature. I sign and date my practice pieces even so I can see my growth. Not so much the power of the pen as an acknowledgement that it is finished and I finished it.

From: Katherine Tyrrell — Oct 12, 2012
From: Paula Dougherty — Oct 12, 2012

“Real-itivity.” When it is important to one to sign one’s name, one will. When it is not, one will not. That is, if one is given the option in the first place. It has been the same throughout history. With a complicated, elongated surname, I go both ways — depending. And, initials are also an option.

From: Lori Anne Boocks — Oct 12, 2012

I recently applied for my state’s visual arts grant, and the guidelines stipulated “No signatures or legible names may appear in the digital images or the application will be disqualified.” Luckily I hadn’t signed the pieces yet. When I told my gallery director that I had signed the backs instead, she said she was glad as that’s her preference. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but for large paintings in my location (Washington, DC area), I don’t see as many with signatures on the front.

From: DM — Oct 12, 2012

I sign, and in other ways, authenticate my paintings on the back side. For one thing, I have a very “unartistic” signature, whether using a pen or a brush. Most important to me is the presentation. Everything I place on the canvas is there for a purpose — even if it seems at first incongruous. I see a signature as a distraction — perhaps even a flaw. ~DM

From: Doug Mays — Oct 12, 2012

Paint it, sign it, frame it, sell it.

From: ReneW — Oct 12, 2012

I wonder what the art world would have been like if none of the impressionists or prior masters had signed their work? When an artist puts his or her name on a piece helps date the work. I have two paintings by James Green, Californian Watercolorist. Without his name on the painting I would have no idea who made the painting nor would I understand the provenance of the work. It is important to me and to collectors of his work.

From: Carolyn Dawn Good — Oct 12, 2012

What’s in a name? I have seen perfectly interesting paintings or drawings signed with a terrible signature that completely ruins the entire piece. It again falls into the EGO realm and yes now that everything is branded… but there was a time when painting was for development and inner exploration. NOT for commercial object making for decoration of someone living room or collection. I was blessed with a silly name for an art career. That is a Carolyn Dawn Good painting. Gender is a huge thing too. My art advisor and mentor Karen Gunderson advised me to sign and market as cdgood. I guess it depends WHY you are making the work. There is still a huge gender bias even after all these years.

From: Michèle LaRose — Oct 12, 2012

I used to sign my paintings on the front but found the signatures to be more and more obtrusive. I find it difficult to paint in a signature neatly with a brush and am often disappointed with the result. It never seems to fit the composition. So I now sign them on the back and leave the front to the composition I have created. I am also put off by big signatures in others’ work, which often take over centre stage. I think there is something backward about the artist’s identity being more important than the image itself. It seems to cater to the market more than to main purpose of art, which is to connect with others. If it does that, the identity of the producer won’t be hidden for long!

From: Russ Hogger — Oct 12, 2012

In a lot of cases an artist’s style becomes their signature, I still like to sign mine though.

From: Shaina — Oct 12, 2012

I only ever sign my paintings on the back. My style is such that even a small mark in the corner would compromise the integrity of the image. To my knowledge, no one has ever complained that they weren’t signed on the front.

From: Eve Bennett — Oct 12, 2012

When I make my art I do not have a gallery, a viewer or the future of the piece in mind. Often the work is a part of several works that are about an idea or concept. The surface of the work is being used for the image and to sign it would change the “concept” and bring in another element. I do sign it on the side or on the back. I leave it to future painting “detectives” to figure out the authenticity if it comes to that… Thank you for your writings. You almost always cause me to think about ideas from a different viewpoint! Be well, Eve Bennett

From: Karen Baker Thumm — Oct 12, 2012

My parents bought a large abstract unsigned painting by a local artist many years ago. At one time they tried to get the artist to come sign the painting in order to increase its value. He refused. When my parents were gone, I found that this unsigned painting had no value and ended up donating it to the University art museum where he had been a faculty member. We were lucky that they accepted it. Otherwise, it would have gone to a landfill. As an artist, I just don’t see any upside to not signing a painting. It’s as if you have no pride in your own work.

From: juanita smith — Oct 12, 2012

I recently purchased a painting done by a popular artist ( now deceased) but it was not signed. He was a friend and a mentor to me so I had to have a piece of his work. The best way for me to afford a painting of his was to buy something unsigned and done at one of our life drawing sessions (3 hours). His wife wrote on the wrapper that she was confirming it as authentic. I know it is authentic and don’t plan on selling it. Hopefully my children won’t either. His style IS his signature should someone down the line chance to question it. Several of the framers that I have used for my own work have been reluctant to frame an unsigned piece until I can back and sign it. I use one initial and my last name worked very unobtrusively into the work because I am not big on flashy signatures. You have to look hard to find it but it is there…well usually! I don’t feel a signature is really important so I do sometimes forget….or perhaps I am insecure about my work.

From: Pamela K — Oct 12, 2012

I have always signed my work. My only art teacher replied, ‘An unsigned work is unfinished.’, when I said I was not important enough to sign my painting.

From: Peter Kiidumae — Oct 12, 2012

So, it sounds like quite a few painters don’t want to sign their work because they feel they are not “well known” enough. How is it they ever expect to become well known if nobody knows who painted the work? I don’t get it.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Oct 12, 2012

No matter what kind of signature I use, folks look at the painting, then comment that the signature is not good looking. Erghhhh.

From: Darla — Oct 12, 2012

I find the signatures on my works which are in my possession extremely annoying. Even in a solo show, I see my name on the wall, on printed materials and on every single painting and label. My name repeated gazillion times drawing attention to itself and away from the art. It’s just silly, don’t you think? But when a single piece goes off into the world, it had to be signed because how else is anyone going to identify it as mine? I don’t expect people to turn the painting around, remove backing etc. to do detective work. They should just enjoy the art and be able to easily track me down if they wish. The signature has to be on the front and done in a tasteful manner. Ideally I would keep all works unsigned until the moment they are leaving me. Regarding the style of the signature – it’s hilarious to see an abstract piece with a signature that should belong to a Victorian watercolor. So we should try to match our signature style with the style of our art. BTW, the people in your show may know that jurors vote differently for people they know…if I ever lost my mind and entered a juried show, I probably wouldn’t sign the work.

From: Sam Liberman — Oct 12, 2012
From: Rick Rotante — Oct 12, 2012

This may sound egotistical but it took me years to perfect my signature to where it is today. In the beginning I used first and last name and I signed a bit too large (youth!) But I gave it much thought and struggle. I tried to make marks that were 1-me,2-artistic and 3-appropriately sized. The odd thing about my signature today is students and buyers tell me what a unique name I have and it looks good on the painting. Whatever mark you make,make it your own. It will pay off in the end when you start to sell. It does matter to buyers.

From: Russ Hogger — Oct 13, 2012

I used to sign my work with my surname, now I like to sign my paintings with my first name. A change is as good as a rest.

From: Patti Borden — Oct 13, 2012

A triptych I painted can be hung vertically or horizontally. I didn’t want a signature to dictate the direction it is hung in. They are signed and numbered on the back to indicate my preference of the order (not direction) they are hung in.

From: Elle Fagan — Oct 13, 2012

“It seems that some discriminating connoisseurs tend to think an unsigned painting may be less valued by the artist.” Oh yes….and I sometimes think to refuse to sign my art UNLESS it EARNS my holy signature by getting itself sold.

From: Judy Singer — Oct 13, 2012

The artists that you mention who don’t sign on the front do so because the signature is a visual element that doesn’t work well with the artwork. I am surprised that you would make fun of an artist’s right to make an aesthetic choice. A signature on one of my stained, gently nuanced paintings is visually jarring. I know because I have tried, with no luck. I would have issues with a gallery owner who says they can’t sell my paintings without a signature on the front. Actually, I would run the other way.

From: Stephanie Vagvolgyi — Oct 13, 2012

On the other hand, we’ve all seen paintings with signatures in red splashed across the bottom so obtrusively, one wonders about the size of the artist’s insecurity complex. Or signed up the side, vertically, signalling “Look at me, I’m different!” Perhaps the ones that don’t sign on the front don’t wish to intrude on the composition… I’ve settled for small initials in one corner where the full name might be too much. Perhaps this is a sign of my own insecurity….

From: Peter W Brown — Oct 13, 2012

My reason for not signing the face of my paintings is that my paintings tend to be rather small. I am concerned with every square centimeter in terms of the overall composition. At the request of a dealer, I have experimented with my initials down it the corner, but to me it looked like graffiti. The signature seemed an invasion. The paintings are signed on the back, where I have room not only for my signature, but for my full name, the title of the work, the medium, the date, the place on earth I made the painting, and my home town. I paint on panels, so I am not worried about bleed through. If a painter actually knows what he or she is doing, that artist is possibly sending out a message of great duration. Some of the very first oil paintings still exist after 700 years. What does a name in a corner mean to the people down the road of history? If it is important, they will certainly look at the back.

From: Jan Werdin — Oct 13, 2012

Several years back I was in the Geogia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM. Not a one of her works were signed!

From: Leslie Tejada — Oct 13, 2012

I don’t sign my paintings on the front because it detracts from the appearance of the painting stylistically, and because the signature is a little jolt to the viewer, bringing him back into the room, when I hope he’ll “lose” himself in the world of the painting. I suspect that Rothko felt the same, and maybe Lichtenstein. I’ve never had a gallery owner mention that my signature isn’t on the front. It has nothing to do with “ego.” In fact, the opposite. It can feel as if something more universal flows through us artists when we really connect. How can we sign that?

From: Rick Rotante — Oct 13, 2012

Firstly regarding your esoterica: The Rothkos, Lichtensteins and the Warhols- they are not signed perhaps because they weren’t made by the respective artists(?). Just a thought! Buyers want to know who they are buying. In fact, its a badge of honor to show off a signature. I informed my wife that in the event of my untimely death, to burn everything that is not signed. I always sign the work I would be proud to show. Anything else goes to the trash heap. I can understand if your work is so unique and distinctive, you may not need to sign it, but even then many famous works have been attributed to other artists due to this egotistical oversight.

From: Patricia Martens — Oct 13, 2012

I am not the least bit talented but get so excited watching you as you make it look so easy. Since retiring I have moved over my sewing machine and added a painting desk and started accumulating art supplies , attending classes, and just trying. Everything I do is so lacking but I keep trying.I mostly white out my efforts saving a few only a few. I have watched your clips and see you start a painting with a grey background (or white) and painting a perfect composition they do a mysterious wash with a rag and paint again adding just as much or more color and time. This must be the critical finished process everyone talks about. I called Opus to ask them what the wash is and they said, ‘ probably a transparent fluid medium’. Is this something that you add a phyllo color, not a cadmium , in a purchases medium or is it a watered down color on a rag? I am currently taking evening classes at Shadbolt, a figure drawing and an acrylic course trying to do something every day. I am wondering if I need to find private lessons to progress faster. Do you have workshops for beginners?

From: Frances Ferdinands — Oct 13, 2012

Artists have been signing their paintings on the back for over 50 years. I don’t think this to be a “trend”. I don’t particularly think my signature on the front adds anything to my paintings, and may be a detractor. I have signed my work “en verso” for 30 years, and have never encountered a dealer saying that it would make it harder to sell. Possibly in “traditional” galleries this may be the case.

From: Karla Pearce — Oct 13, 2012

When I went to art school I was taught not to sign my paintings. I didn’t for years after graduating until one day I realized that it was just stupid. To this day I think art instructors tell their students not to sign their paintings so they will never compete with them in the market. It’s like some kind of sick elitist joke.

From: Nikki Coulombe — Oct 13, 2012

Signing on the side and/or the back of the artwork is better than not at all. I completely agree that artists should sign their work somewhere, but nothing is uglier than a signature that is so large or stylized that it dominates the entire piece. Since we work so hard to ensure that a composition is balanced, if not equally considered, throwing in the element of a signature can disrupt the visual flow, and even the emotional response. If my usual signature distracts in any way, I’ll try work it into the scene by making it a shade darker or lighter than the background, or will paint it to merge in as part of the scene. Signing to bring attention intentionally to a certain part of the composition can draw viewers in – or throw them out! Depending on the painting’s style or subject, a signature hidden amongst the objects can become part of the interest of the whole, inviting the viewer to find it. When this still doesn’t work either, I digitally superimpose my signature after having scanned it, changing background colors according to the artwork. If that piece is entered into a competition, the superimposed signature will be obvious to the judges, but subtle as possible, and noted in the details.

From: Carl Nelson — Oct 13, 2012

For me it was too much of a hassle trying to work the signature into the composition so that it didn’t stick out and become like two worlds arguing with each other.

From: Rosemary Fischer — Oct 13, 2012

Signatures on the painting are a distraction from viewing the work. More often than not that is the first thing most viewers look for and I also feel that signatures break up the continuity of the painting. I do sign on the reverse of the canvas and I feel my work has an initial unprejudiced impact when free of my signature on the front of the painting. Yes, the pioneer abstract painters initiated the ‘no signature’ practice. Let the ‘beholder’ be free of any prejudice when viewing an artist’s work. I am an avid reader of the Twice-Weekly Letter, and didn’t begin painting until almost 60. Now @ 82 I love it more&more&still learning.

From: David Mosier — Oct 13, 2012

You’re hilarious, Robert! Love and appreciate what you’re doing – thanks so much!

From: Nina Meledandri — Oct 13, 2012

Why the mystery about not signing? Some people simply feel that each and every element on the picture plane is important and that a signature distracts from or even worse alters the overall impact of the work. I believe the brain activity involved in looking/seeing is interrupted by “reading”, I feel so strongly about this that when participating in online photo communities I never “friend” someone who uses watermarks (no matter how much I like their work), I simply don’t want to be distracted by extraneous words when viewing images. I sign on the back; no dealer has ever suggested to me that I am de-valuing my work by this practice.

From: Rose Marie Lucci — Oct 13, 2012

I wonder if they were just buried signatures. I tend to make my signature part of the image by incorporating it in the calligraphy or design of a piece. It has to be looked for to find.

From: Sylvia Roman — Oct 13, 2012

I used to sign my abstract paintings on the front of the painting. However, I now sign them on the back of the painting. I found a number of buyers insist on hanging their purchases upside down or sideways or any direction but the one I think is “up”. And who am I to tell the client they are wrong? I now sign the work on the front only when requested and instructed where to place my signature….

From: Pete Gagan — Oct 13, 2012

Not signing paintings is not a new thing as you probably know. JMW Turner, (1775-1859) didn’t usually sign his paintings. Mind you, he wasn’t much of a marketer either, as most of his paintings were still in his house when he died. These, collected for unpaid taxes, became the basis of the Turner Gallery in London. I have been enjoying your Twice Weekly letters, even though I am no artist as you know. I am, however, going to paint the rad shell of my 1921 Stutz Bearcat one of these days. It should be red rather than black. Colour matching is difficult for the non-artistic, though.

From: Judy Sahders — Oct 13, 2012

I have on occasion had to sign my work on the side. Sometimes the signature helps the painting and other times I have felt that there just wasn’t the right place. But I have never not signed a piece. Sometimes when I watch “Antique Road Show”, I see people bring in an old painting wondering if it is worth anything. Sometimes it doesn’t have a signature. They seem to identify it because of style or technique, but there is always a little doubt. I guess if you have a unique style (Warhol) then that is your signature. I am not there yet. So I think I will continue to sign my work.

From: Jean Harris — Oct 13, 2012

I think the main reason artists don’t sign paintings is because the signature becomes part of the composition. I can certainly see why a minimalist painter like Rothko would not sign for that reason. Personally, I sometimes sign on the front but if I feel it will detract from the overall composition I sign on the back.

From: Yos Joseph tTany — Oct 13, 2012

The reason I would leave my signature out of the surface is the work when done, was too intricate, too perfect in its tiniest movement to allow any additional drawing, including a signature. Generally most of my signatures are hidden because of that reason.

From: Patti Borden — Oct 13, 2012

I often don’t sign the front of my paintings. It is because I paint many nonrepresentational abstracts that could be hung vertically or horizontally and I leave it up to the buyer to choose how it will look best on their wall. However, if I feel an abstract painting is best viewed in one direction I do sign the front. Needless to say I sign on the back of the canvases that aren’t signed on the front.

From: Odette Nicholson — Oct 13, 2012

I am wondering about the view of the artist not wanting their signature to interfere with the sum total view of the painted image. I find words, letters, numbers, dates and signatures distracting. I never sign the front of my work. I do know for a fact that juror selections are swayed by knowing who’s work they are seeing. As for dealers it’s their job to ‘inform’ their clients of who’s who and what’s what. Anyone who truly appreciates art won’t care if a signature is visible, the painted image needs to stand on its own as worthy of our glance.

From: Dena Cornett — Oct 13, 2012

Interesting reading but….I always request my hamburgers without a pickle.

From: Roxanne Colyer Clingman — Oct 13, 2012

When it comes to signing paintings, for the most part, adding a signature block slips my mind – until the framer mentions the omission and I make the correction. No reason. Mostly, it’s excitement to press on to the next adventure. I’m making the effort to sign and date work for my own discipline and records. I’ve also been thinking of a signature chop. I had no idea there was a trend. Finally, I’m on track as a statistic.

From: BJ Cleland — Oct 13, 2012

For years I have not been signing my painting. One reason is that I want the people to just see the painting without the added distraction of a signature. I just perfer not to sign my work. I have nothing against ones that sign or do not sign. When a show is put up my work has all the info and who I am.

From: Emily Bristow — Oct 13, 2012

I have always disliked signing my work. I think the image should speak for itself, all ego aside. I find signatures distracting and beside the point when it comes to the truth of the image itself. To me, it’s the art that’s important, not the cachet of owning a real “whoever”. I have had collectors request my signature, and I nearly always sign on the back.

From: Mira Kamada — Oct 13, 2012

I have two thoughts about not signing one’s finished painting. The first is that the signature mars the painting. No kidding! I have often struggled to find a suitable space to sign a painting without interfering with a ‘precious’ passage. The second reason is the issue of which last name should a woman use–her married name or her maiden name? Out of respect for my original family I have been torn by this dilemma. I now use only my first name on the front, and all my names on the back.

From: Douglas Kincaid — Oct 13, 2012

Good. I’ve always thought that most signatures ruin the picture. A big signature on the front of a painting is like wearing clothes covered in logos; it’s tacky and makes you look insecure. “Branding”, however useful a marketing tool, has nothing to do with artistic merit. When asked if she liked the earrings given to her as a gift, Edina replies, “I like them if they’re LaCroix.” So when confronted with a painting most people will look at the signature and think “I like it because it’s a Joe Bloggs”. Now, hopefully, the artist’s statement will start to go away too.

From: Ron Lindsey — Oct 13, 2012

Well, Richard Diebenkorn (one of my idols) only had a discreet “Rd” at the bottom of his paintings. He managed to be fairly collectable. Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings never seem to sport a signature.

From: Therese Bur — Oct 13, 2012

Perhaps artists juried in this manner don’t sign because they wish to be judged by the merits of their work alone, and not upon their history, or any affiliation with the prospective judges?

From: Mona Youssef — Oct 13, 2012

Stop signing your cheques is exactly, equal to not signing on one’s painting! It is as well; equal to not acknowledging, in public, that our children are ours! I have met artists who sign on the back of a painting, even though there is still signature, but I would prefer to have it on the front. Why shying away from saying “This is my artwork that I am proud of and this is my stamp as guarantee for my potential buyers”? Very true that art collectors request all gathered information related to an artwork wishing to purchase. Information is not simply in providing title and dimensions of the paintings, but the actual documents including history, copyrights, dates of creation, place and motive even witness if could be provided, etc. etc. My art collectors told me that he was very happy to only receive my paintings but his wife was more interested in collecting all the documents of those paintings as they were the real deal for her. I am familiar with the electronic system for jurying artwork internationally, as I used it several times. Some curators used screen stickers above the names to avoid favoritism, gender discrimination, age, race, prejudice and even joyously or disputes later on with which I agree. Jury is only imperfect human opinionated with expert eye for art.

From: H Margret — Oct 13, 2012

The Georgia O’Keeffe’s are also unsigned. Didn’t hurt her unbelievably great career as a woman painter! She has her own museum, too. The branding on Rothko’s work is so strong he didn’t need a signature. Wow. How many of us can say that about our work?

From: Dewey Zimmerman — Oct 13, 2012

RE:- Signatures on paintings. If an artist is called into the gallery to sign the painting they know it is sold and can collect their money and in some cases meet the buyer. Some galleries are lax in informing the artists of the sale and unless the artist does a physical check they don’t know the painting is sold.

From: Maryse Maynard — Oct 13, 2012

Many of us sign our work on the back simply because we work in media that do not allow us the opportunity to mark the front or there is just not the right space for it. I found, as a painter, I had no problem signing the front spaces of my oils but I am a multi-media artist now who’s many layers of information leave little opportunity to have a consistency of signature throughout the series. I always indicate to the public that the signature and relevant information is signed on the back. My current use of old printer’s trays works best this way.

From: Naomi Shriber — Oct 13, 2012

When I finally finish a painting and have decided there are no more glaring mistakes in color and composition, I am proud to sign my name.

From: Peter Pook — Oct 13, 2012

Based on about 80% of the work I see in the more “avante” galleries in Toronto I too would not want my name associated with what is hanging on the wall. I think PT Barnum got it right, especially for art customers, when he said “there is a sucker borne every minute”.

From: Theresa Bayer — Oct 13, 2012

It’s not that hard to “hide” the signature and blend it in with the painting, especially if it’s one word. I have done it that way many times. It’s there if you look for it, but a juror probably wouldn’t have time.

From: Karen Hoiness — Oct 13, 2012

I do not believe artists such as Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman or Agnes Martin signed there work on the front of the canvas. I think that the Abstract Expressionists chose not to sign their work on the front. I studied at the University of Alberta in the ’80s. I would consider it a hotbed of Abstract Expressionism at that time. Clement Greenburg was considered the ultimate in Criticism. I don’t sign my purely Abstract work on the front. I do sign my more realistic works on the front.

From: Jeanne Kasten — Oct 13, 2012

Although my only formal teacher was my brother, he always insisted that I sign my work but NOT let the signature distract from the work. I’ve always been prejudiced against artists who put their signature in a place or size that makes the eye go directly to it. I think that’s just tacky, like the author’s name on the book cover being in a larger font than the title of the book. You can guess I don’t read many best-sellers. (Granted, I know the author doesn’t design the cover, but it’s the same theory). It says “HEY! I’m IMPORTANT! Oh, by the way, I made this.” Since my art is intricate designs, I either sign on the edge of the mat or hide the signature and date inside the design.

From: Dorothea Tortilla — Oct 13, 2012

As someone who signs my work on the back of the panels, I can only speculate that some artists, like me, think a “name” signed on the front “interferes” and distracts from the work itself.

From: Louise Francke — Oct 13, 2012

For years I signed my works with title, media, type of varnish, date completed on the rear; but, when my gallery said people wanted to see the signature on the front, I started to sign there. Since I have been producing small 4″x 4″ abstracts, the signature becomes much more problematic. The signage just detracts and distracts from the work itself; so, I have returned to signing on the rear of the work and also on the packaging.

From: Adria Arch — Oct 13, 2012

I really have to differ with you here about the whole signature debate. I never sign the front of my paintings, nor do most artists in my circle of artists committed to non-representation. I believe that the main reason is that a signature completely destroys the illusion of space you are trying to create in a painting. I sign on the back of my work. I think that signing your work in the world of the more representational art world is still fine. It just depends on which art world you want to be part of. Now there’s a topic, the many “art worlds”.

From: Joyce Morris — Oct 13, 2012

Some artists don’t sign and date their work because juryed shows often specify that entries must be work executed within the past two or three years. I know a professional artist printmaker whose art was recognizable and because of his reputation he always won a prize but the pieces he entered were in fact decades old. He didn’t fool anybody but nobody challenged him on it either.

From: Jan Corcoran — Oct 13, 2012

I was curious after reading the letter regarding signing work on the front as to what type of images were not being signed. I don’t sign my abstracts on the front for the simple reason that they can be viewed either vertically or horizontally. I rotate my work as I paint so usually, not always, the “right” way is determined by the viewer and what they see in the work. I believe Picasso said that once you sign your work that means it is finished. He signed very few of his works on the front. My work is always signed on the back and representational on the front. I will sign an abstract on the front at a client’s request.

From: Durinda Cheek — Oct 13, 2012

Well, I wouldn’t want to purchase a David Leffel or Richard Schmid without a signature. Is it that no one cares if an abstract or nonobjective painting is signed because they are buying it only for the color and size?

From: Kathy Rennell Forbes — Oct 13, 2012

Upon taking some additional art classes at college, I was surprised to learn that many US college professors teach that artists should not sign their paintings. When asked why not, the answer was that “your work should be recognizable by your style”. But how is a young artist newly graduated that recognizable or unique? I agree this is a trend and that most artists and collectors want a signed painting.

From: Tina Mammoser — Oct 13, 2012

I’m hearing more high- and mid-level galleries saying abstract/minimalist art shouldn’t have a signature. My own gallery has asked me to consider leaving it off the front after collector comments that it was distracting. In fact I’ve even heard that a signature on a work can make the artist (again, abstract, simple work) look less experienced. All interesting opinions.

From: Ruth Addinall — Oct 13, 2012

I frequently find the signature on a painting a distraction so have always signed on the back. In a way, who cares who made the picture. I quite like that in Medieval times the artist/craftsperson was anonymous.

From: Tiit Raid — Oct 13, 2012

I haven’t signed my paintings for years. I stopped doing it because the signature seemed get in the way, it had nothing to do with the image. And perhaps this is also why Rothko, Lichtenstein, Warhol and others do not do it. I have nothing against signing the face-side of work provided it is part of the visual structure. If not having a signature reduces sales perhaps there is something other than the quality work involved here. Certainly I want to be known, as does my dealer, but it is for the work and not the ‘penmanship’.

From: Joseph Jahn — Oct 13, 2012

A good laugh with that one. My gallery always checks, “Did you sign these?”. Not on the back as always, but on the front. The only reason I ever hesitate in signing is that the balance of the painting may be effected, so sometime the signature moves a bit there of there. My gallery, at least, wants the *name* on the front. One more for your list. Checks? What century is this ?

From: Stan Dark — Oct 13, 2012

I’ve never thought to much about it but when I finish a painting I set it aside to dry further before signing. Later I find that I have several paintings stacked without signatures. My wife has called me on it before when she was going to varnish a group and found most weren’t signed. When it comes to drawings the signature is added before it leaves the table. I like signing a drawing but always struggle when signing with a brush.

From: Shirley Peters — Oct 13, 2012

This issue has been a big one for me. At art school we were discouraged from signing the paintings, except on the back. The reason given was that the signature was an interruption to the picture, not a part of it. In one painting, I had a four inch ‘S” as a part of a montage, and the teacher said “That is a good signature for you, as it is a part of the composition.” On the other hand, my dad made me promise I would always sign my work.. as he was of the traditional school. So now I do sign, but the signature is half hidden in the shadows, and the audience has to look for it. My buyers seem to like this.

From: Sonja Donnelly — Oct 13, 2012

I have been painting for many years and do not sign my art. Instead, I use a hand painted chop that becomes a part of my painting. It does not distract, but instead adds to the overall design. It is a prominent part of the painting and has definitely become my brand. It is easy to identify, and therefor quite memorable. Anyone not familiar with my work often asks about it. The next time they see my work they are quite apt to recognize it. It’s on all that I do including drawings. I believe that this type of signature is quite affective, and express my distinctive style of painting. I do of course sign the back along with the title of the painting to ensure it’s authenticity.

From: Gary Eddington — Oct 13, 2012

My most favourite piece is a chrome banana that I could not bring myself to sign. I wanted to achieve the illusion of perfection. I also was very well documented, by making it in the college foundry. I was told that casting a single piece without a big hole was impossible. Until tonight I always felt that I should have signed it. I seriously considered signing it inside so that it could only be seen by X-ray . I have thought of signing the peel but even there, I did not.

From: Robert Stickloon — Oct 13, 2012

I see the signature as a compositional element since it is on the surface of the painting along with everything else. Sometimes it works as such and I include it, and sometimes it looks way over conspicuous, so I sign the work on the back.

From: S.K. Sahni — Oct 13, 2012

Mostly I do not sign my works as I find my work either has no place for the signature or signature would disturb its composition. Normally my work is complete in itself and does not allow any addition of any sort. More over my style is my signature. I face no problem on this account. However, at the back of canvas, I write all the particulars of the work including my name.

From: Gwyneth Sleuth — Oct 13, 2012

A few years ago, after taking early retirement, I attended a nearby university which was alleged to have a “great art department”. The Drawing teacher informed the young students (and this rather mature interloper, “moi”) that artists no longer sign their work on the front. The signature now belongs on the back of the drawing/painting. When I asked “Why?” for the very reasons you cited, Robert, he merely said “today’s artists prefer it that way”. Was there a widespread questionnaire on the matter, do you think?

From: Charles Pyle — Oct 13, 2012

Perhaps it is modesty, but LARGE and intrusive signatures are just gauche. Owners of art, appreciators of art, should be taken by the image first and then look for the artist’s name.

From: Richard Mazzarino — Oct 13, 2012

If you don’t sign you work somewhere, believe me the gallery owner will put someone else’s name on it to get rid of it. And it won’t be yours. Don’t sign at your peril. When the Rothko’s and Lichtenstein’s et al were painting, they had gallery representation so everyone knew who they were. Oh, by the way, has anyone looked on the backs of these to see if they signed there? Warhol didn’t sign his because he plagiarized everyone and feared he’d be sued. Even as distinctive an artist as Picasso or Rembrandt, signed their work. It would be the same as an author not signing his/her manuscript. Be proud of your work. Not signing is the same as signing “anonymous” on these pages. Take responsibility for your life and your work.

From: Mike Barr — Oct 13, 2012

I think it goes without saying that if someone buys a ‘Robert Genn’ for $20,000 then they will want your signature on it. Imagine showing friends their Robert Genn original and then not being able to show them a signature. The boast-value of the painting plummets! The same principle applies for lesser-known artists too. I had a complaint recently off a collector that the ‘Mike’ in my signature looks like ‘Mark’ and could I fix it up. The point being he told me, was that he wanted it known that he has a ‘Mike Barr’ not some guy called Mark. In addition, the signature is the artist’s stamp-of-approval that the work is indeed their creation and that they are happy with it. Signatures are the next thing a viewer looks for when looking at a painting. It is disappointing not being able to see who painted the work. Viewers actually like to think they know who has painted it and then have it confirmed by the signature! Of course, there is the aspect of the signature being a kind of artist’s logo too and in this respect it should be legible. I like looking at readable signatures that have an artistic flare too and this takes practice. Years ago I did about a hundred test signatures to get it right and have used it every since.

From: Christina Lewis Preece — Oct 13, 2012

I went to the University of Waterloo, and we were told by the professors not to sign … it was implied that signing took away from the art, so from then on I’ve signed on the back. I was in a show last year where one of my professors of late was a juror … word had it that she chastised (at least) one artist who had signed their work.

From: James Goodliff — Oct 13, 2012

I hate signing paintings, and yet have found it to be absolutely crucial to my sales.. serious collectors look for it, some artists use a form of authenticity, many sign on the back nowadays – but as I said – I have found collectors look for that sig.

From: Kim Newell — Oct 13, 2012

I do conceptual art and think the signature detracts from the piece.

From: Jane Whittlesey — Oct 13, 2012

Gender discrimination. I sign my paintings with the most masculine signature I can muster.

From: Theresa Bayer — Oct 14, 2012

Years and years ago in college they taught us not to sign our paintings on the front. That was for grading purposes, so they could grade on the merit of the work alone. Once you’re out of college, do what you want with your signature, whatever works for you. You don’t have to do ANYTHING the way they taught it in art school.

From: Roger Davis — Oct 14, 2012

Knowing the identity of the artist must affect a judges reaction to a painting to some extent. Providing the judges are human beings, it must be so. I suspect even saints make biased judgments, though they may later pray for forgiveness.

From: Krista Gowland — Oct 14, 2012

I may be able to shed some light on the no signature conundrum. I can tell you an art instructor at an art college I attended made comments about not wanting to see the signature as it defaced the art work and actively recommended to put it on the back of the piece. the comment was the current practise was to not put it on the front (this was 9 years ago). However, signing the back can pose a problem as well. I know of a painting which was given to a friend which had a large happy birthday scrawled in permanent marker on the back. The net result being twenty years later there is a ghost image on the front from the solvent based marker eventually carrying through to the front. The instructor I spoke of signs the plywood the canvas is stretched on but if plywood and canvas ever get parted from each other there is an identification problem in the offing.

From: Carol Beth Icard — Oct 14, 2012

One thing you didn’t mention in this letter is that a signature also becomes part of the composition, particularly in minimal or abstract work. I only sign on the back because I feel my name is a distraction I can’t live with. Am I known? No. Do I sell my work? yes.

From: Jimpsie Ayres — Oct 14, 2012

Imagine my surprise and delight when I read your missive about mediocrity. Thank you! I might not be the next Matisse, but I do know a big ole pile of bad, amateurish art when I see it. And man, am I — and the rest of my friends who are professionals as well– sick of seeing it! Thank you for decrying this comedic, tragic state of affairs.

From: Alexandre Dupuis — Oct 14, 2012

An unsigned painting is not finished. An unfinished painting is not dutiable, and I think, not taxable. Good?

From: Linda McCoy — Oct 15, 2012

Strolling through an antique mall in Michigan I came upon an original watercolor, stopping me in my tracks. No signature on the front, it looked like it was from the 1800’s. It was framed with no marking on the paper backing, I purchased it hoping the artist had signed the work on the back of the watercolor paper. He or she didn’t. I did the usual, Google searches until I made myself crazy. While I love looking at the piece, I wish it was signed, as I think it might be valuable to my children one day. My next step is to find someone who can possibly identify the artist. Long story short, why should an artist put the collector though hoops? I have signed many of my own works on the back, but I do sign each piece.

From: anonymous — Oct 15, 2012

For the people who are heading well known organizations, it is very difficult to write personal comments without casting that opinion on the organization they are viewed to represent. From that reason, I often post comments anonymously. What I write is the same as what I would write if I put my own name on it.

From: B.Stevens — Oct 15, 2012

to anonymous –B.S! is what you write if you won’t identify yourself and no one cares.

From: Gavin Logan — Oct 15, 2012

“Anonymous” is useful as it can protect other people’s sensitivity, reputations, and their livelihood.

From: Janet Sheen — Oct 15, 2012

I sign my paintings on the front. But I also create a gesso box on the back of the painting in which I paint the painting’s title, medium, a coded number which dates the painting for my own filing system and again, my name clearly printed. I also occasionally put my signature in cursive. My framer and gallery owner really appreciate this extra courtesy on the back as it makes less chance of an error on their part. Also, many framers place a brown paper cover over the back hiding this information – but the information is never truly lost by this method. I know many locals can recognize my style regardless of change of subject matter, but to me signing signifies my completion and that I am proud of the work I exhibit.

From: ReneW — Oct 16, 2012

I want to make one last comment. I know several painters who sign their paintings with an initial and their last name. They are female artists but don’t want to reveal their sex, especially in art competitions. It is felt that being female may influence the judges subjectivity. Leaving the signature off is intentional.

From: Frank Nicholas — Oct 16, 2012

My great watercolor teacher, Marian Ortolf Bagley, once said that if you don’t like your painting, don’t sign it. I bought into that idea for some years, but then, began to loosen my standards a bit. I discovered while going through my stacks of paintings, that some really nice paintings weren’t signed… so I signed them. Another discovery was that some of the paintings I had signed, I no longer liked. Hmmm? As I teach children, I encourage them to sign and date their drawings and paintings. They start out with big, bold signatures that almost overpower their artwork. They now are working toward smaller signatures. Anna came to me in class a few weeks ago and wanted me to help her sign her name like I do. Several girls joined into the session, and together they all improved. I’ve taught them what I was taught, and right now, until they mature, signatures on their paintings are in.

From: Jacqueline Kinsey — Oct 16, 2012

For some artists that don’t sign their work or sign it- but it ends up ruining the work…maybe they are just too lazy to create an appropriate signature?! C’mon! Your artists! Take some time and develop a signature that goes with most of your work-type. Take the time to incorporate it into the piece! Work on it! To me, an unsigned work makes it equivalent to the junk they sell at Walmart! Who knows who did it and where it came from? Having a signature is a big part of your marketing! Your brand. If you don’t want to sign your work, then don’t bother trying to sell it. What’s the point? My art teachers also taught…the piece is not finished if its not signed. I like the idea of using a pencil and signing right into the wet paint! Maybe I should try that. If you have a monochrome abstract piece, you could sign it in the same color as the background, so that it is barely noticeable. Get creative….and always sign the back too…in pencil, I’ve heard, is the best. Not sure exactly why…but I’ve been told that over time, it will not interfere with the paint etc. or something like that. Basically, have some pride in your work. Especially those of you that have said you are not confident yet. Get confident. Signing might just help you in that department! Happy creating!

From: Ken Krug — Oct 16, 2012

A somewhat large, approximately 40×30″ oil painting of sunflowers I did in high school in the early ’70s, (Medford, NJ USA) was stolen from the main lobby display case. The trail grows cold. There were no clues. ( just in case) I don’t know whyI didn’t sign it. At the time I may felt it would have egotistical. I didn’t give it much thought. I sometimes wonder who took it, what happened, and where it may be now. I wish I had signed it.

From: Lynn W. — Oct 16, 2012

If a painting is signed on the back, does the artist need to seal the canvas or are they chancing the possibility of the signature bleeding onto the front backwards? Honest question….

From: Lisa M. — Oct 17, 2012

Wow, not signing my art is unthinkable. I agree that not signing must be a new trend. But if you want to attract collectors or have work in galleries, not signing your pieces just isn’t logical or profitable.

From: anon — Oct 19, 2012

Not signing on the front is an art school convention designed by instructors to keep student egos in check. Professional artists who persist with the habit shoot themselves in the foot.

From: Ken Krug — Oct 19, 2012

Lynn, I might consider sealing a small area with acrylic medium on the back and sign/put info on it somewhere safe along the perimeter. As with any technical questions of this nature, (not that it’s that technical) I would say to read up on it, do some research to make sure it would present no problems.

From: Kristin Herzog — Oct 19, 2012

I’m wondering if you just didn’t find the signature on first look. My paintings all have signatures, but I try to make them as unobtrusive as possible so it does not distract from the work itself. I also sign on the back so there is no question.

From: Janet Pelletier — Oct 26, 2012

I don’t sign my work on the front because my work tends to be spare and I feel it detracts from the overall design of the image. Also it can be difficult to add a signature to a mixed media piece. The idea that I lessen the monetary value of my work by not signing on the front……what this amounts to saying is that an artwork’s brand is more important than its visual integrity.

From: Ann Engel — Oct 26, 2012

I sign canvases on the reverse as I feel the painted area can be spoiled for a viewer to suddenly ‘bump’ into a ‘foreign body’ on the picture surface.

From: Nobody — Sep 19, 2013

I care about the painting, not the painter. I used to sign my work when I was fifteen and didn’t know any better. Nobody taught me not to sign, just as nobody taught me to paint in the first place. It’s something I have developed a strong distaste for on my own. A signature on the front speaks of ego, desire for recognition, as well as the business like mind of an artist who is not only okay with but actively wants to brand their art. Not to mention how ugly it is on a purely aesthetic level. I go a step further and whatever art I have on my computer, I always photoshop the signature out. Of course I only keep the photoshopped results for personal use. As for my own work, I don’t believe art to be a product for sale, so I couldn’t care less what collectors want or ‘value’. If that’s why you paint, you’re missing the point entirely. And as for the ‘stamp of approval’ point, if the painting is finished and not burned on a bonfire and still exists, this is the best stamp of approval I can think of. No need for a signature when if I didn’t approve of a painting it would most certainly be decimated.

From: Mary — Dec 22, 2013

Hello..I have a very old oil painting and as I try to read one signature I come across another signiture. In total I think I have come across 5 or so. The painting is a view of Paris from the hills maybe mid 1800’s . Did the Bande Noire ever work collectively on a painting? Thanks

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Aqua watercolour

watercolour painting by Pol Ledent, Houyet, Belgium

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Heike Covell of Facebook who wrote, “I always sign my paintings — I wouldn’t want anyone else to sign them.” And also Lea Magruder of Facebook who wrote, “I have a chop.” And also John Murphy who wrote, “As a painter, every painting I hang I do so proudly and want everyone to enjoy. One thing I have always remembered: it’s the Eye of the Beholder that makes it the Best; the signature gives its Value.” And also Ramon Tombril who wrote, “Signing a painting is an egotistical conceit that ought to be abandoned.” And also Leo Revell who wrote, “People are beginning to buy ‘no name’ brands.”