Whistler’s dilemma


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Bob Whistler of Brainerd, Minnesota, wrote, “I’ve been a painter for nine years and I sign my work ‘Whistler.’ I put my full name and date on the back. James McNeill Whistler, a distant relation, signed his paintings in different ways during his lifetime. Early works had his full name and date. For a while he signed Whistler with date and lastly with the abstract ‘W,’ which became the butterfly. How should I sign my work?”

Thanks, Bob. Unfortunately, most people who have the name of a great one are thought to be imposters. However, when handled wisely, you can reap the Whistler benefit and still be your own man. Not that you were thinking about it, but it’s important not to adopt any device or logo that is anywhere near Whistler’s butterfly. The best idea is to be straight up and sign your whole name. You don’t want anyone to think you’re coat-tailing. Whistler alone is not enough. I suggest a clearly lettered Robert W. Whistler. No confusion. Honest goods.

Nowadays, with so many artists out and about, your name is mighty important. I believe in including first names so there is at least the suggestion of familiarity and friendliness. Further, in a name like Joseph Smith, a third or middle name will distinguish him from the Mormon guy and make him findable on the Net. Joseph Gascoyne Smith.

Clarity of signature is valuable too. While mystery is fine, and it’s dynamite to have folks recognize your “signature” by looking at your work, to be able to see and read clearly is an appreciated courtesy. Even a roaring ego like Picasso valued clarity, and he wrote it large to match. Only later, when he was a household name, did he reduce to initials. Singular names, monikers and avatars like Cosmos, Crumpet and Christo (Christo is a combination of two artists) can appear smug and artificial nowadays. Singular names work better for rock stars where glitz is more important than content. In my experience, a return to quality art is taking place, and names are cooperating.

I’m not saying artists should join the flock — we need to maintain our individualism at all costs. Who can blame Mary Brown for signing “Paintergirl”? On the other hand, while cute, “Paintergirl” has a slight odour of merchandising. Maybe she should think twice. Signatures should be neither condescending nor vernacular. After all, it’s called “fine art” — and it’s getting finer. Unless your genuine name happens to be George Stink, it’s best to hang your life on what you were given. Incidentally, some of the Stinks I used to know put it all behind them and changed their name to Stunk.

Best regards,


PS: “Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Esoterica: Back in the old days, John Singer Sargent got away with an inept scrawl, barely legible on some of his works. It was part of his calculated mystique of appearing casual. “Genius,” said Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “is the power to express individuality.” A name may be ordinary, but these days, as long as someone can google it up and discover work that vibrates with individualism, you’ve got it made.


Scrawl abandoned
by John Crowther, Los Angeles, CA, USA


“Whistler’s Mother”
ink drawing
by John Crowther

This posting is doubly significant to me. One, because I only recently changed the signature with which I sign cartoons, from the scrawl I’ve been using to something readable. Now that my work is being picked up by various websites and publications, I wanted people to know who did it. Two, I just completed the attached cartoon in the past few days (mindful, of course, that “Whistler’s Mother” is not really the official title).



There is 1 comment for Scrawl abandoned by John Crowther

From: Vernita — Jan 23, 2009

Hello John, your cartoons were bound to be noticed. They’re really great, and it’s been great fun watching you from the start. How you continue to turn out good humor day after day is quite amazing. Keep up the good work!


Commodified signatures?
by Ruth Rodgers, Lakeside, ON, Canada


Several years ago I bought a large painting by a student in the Fine Art program at the college where I worked. The student had not signed the work, but when I asked that he do so, his teacher intervened, saying that they discouraged students from signing work on the front of the canvas on the grounds that signatures had become “commodified.” I thought this was a bit of nonsense, and again asked the student to sign the work on the front of the canvas (if he was comfortable doing so), which he did, with one wary eye on his professor.

(RG Note) Thanks, Ruth. Puerile pedagogic puffery.

There are 2 comments for Commodified signatures? by Ruth Rodgers

From: Grace Ireland Cowling — Jan 23, 2009

Non signing seems to go away back to at least the 1800s. It seems that art schools disallowed the practice on commissioned works so that the pupil remained anonymous and the school received credit.

This seems to have carried over into my paternal grandfather’s paintings. Although he became Principal of the Hamilton Art School in 1886 and taught J.E.H. MacDonald, none of his paintings, now family treasures, are signed, front nor back. They are considered worthless even though history would agree that at least one piece of his work should be in the collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

From: Doug MacBean — Jan 23, 2009

As a Hamilton artist, I would like to see a history of Hamilton artists. Those who precede me can often inspire or at least, inform. Such a loss, for a work to be unknown.

I can comprehend lack of artists’ confidence when finished works go unsigned. But a policy by learning institutions to not sign, is detrimental to everyone. Like a cheque, there is no demonstrative value, until a signature is applied. Perhaps a simple “copy” alongside the signature would lessen the fear of plagiarism?


Signature sells
by Dwight Williams, Meridian, ID, USA


“South Garden, Athelhampton Hall”
watercolour painting
by Dwight Williams

After painting watercolors in my area (and sometimes beyond to include some of the world) for over forty years, I am pretty well known around here. Some times, facetiously, I tell people I give the paintings away and sell my signature. Unfortunately there is some truth to this. There are a lot of whiz-bang painters around but they are often ignored because they are not as well known as the old guy who beat them to the game. Sometimes, though, someone new catches on because their work is really unique. I am not bothered by the competition at this late date, but rather really like it because it means that at least part of the public is seeing what’s going on.

There is 1 comment for Signature sells by Dwight Williams

From: Ken Flitton — Jan 23, 2009

I really like your watercolour. Keep it up! Never mind the signature, the work speaks for itself.


Unusual is good
by Louise Francke, NC, USA


“Westward Ho”
original painting
by Louise Francke

I fortunately have a very unusual Maiden name, Zjawin, which I use as part of my “art signature.” Since this name is so unusual in its spelling and pronunciation for those not knowing how to approach a J following a Z, I was hesitant to use it. Until a gallery director said she both remembered my work and associated it with that unusual name which I should keep using. Now, I am proud of my name and its meaning “seer of apparitions” fits my art.


Symbol as identity
by Sam Liberman, Sacramento, CA, USA


“Don’t Bring Lulu”
pastel painting
by Sam Liberman

I thought I had solved the problem of signatures, but now I will have to think about it again. I have a longish name, and I have been uncomfortable about taking up too much of the page with the signature, not to mention that it takes a while to paint it. I have a long, distracting signature, and I dislike the scribble. I tried a number of devices and finally arrived at the Hebrew letter ‘shem,’ my first initial, inside a box with the lower right corner of the box cut off. It is a combination of a simplified chop and an initial that I don’t know anyone else uses. The shape kind of relates to the shape of the surface. It is simple enough to reproduce each time, and I can use whatever color I think fits in. I also sign the pastels on the back in pencil.

The question is whether or not this is too confusing or mysterious or otherwise seems to be covering up my identity.

There is 1 comment for Symbol as identity by Sam Liberman

From: Anonymous — Jan 23, 2009

A clear legible signature is always best.


Make signature legible
by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA


“Lunker Hideaway”
acrylic and collage painting
by Nina Allen Freeman

Wonderful subject, signatures! My pet peeve is tiny little signatures hidden somewhere in the painting so that the viewer has to send out a search party for it. Is the painter ashamed of his or her work? The other pet peeve is signatures so carelessly written that it is illegible and the artist is incognito.

Proudly let people know who you are in an appropriate size and place in the painting. When I’m looking at paintings I like I want to know who that talented person is who did it and learn the name so I will remember it the next time I encounter it.

There is 1 comment for Make signature legible by Nina Allen Freeman

From: Anonymous — Jan 23, 2009

Well, it’s not really up to “what people like to see”, but what the collectors want. I would disregard any oppinion which doesn’t come from a buyer.


Signatures lump into view
by Kate Lehman Landishaw, USA


original painting
by Kate Lehman Landishaw

My dilemma about signing my work is visual: After creating the work, I don’t like the additional line of calligraphic symbols becoming part of it. My handwriting is OK (legible, adequate, even with a modest flair) as a signature on written work, but I just don’t care to add its particular visual substance to my artwork. Nor do I like to see most artists’ signatures — give or take Picasso and Matisse, for whom it’s impossible to separate their iconic lines into “mere” names from the value symbolism they represent — lumping into my field of view. I sometimes wonder how much of that is a holdover from realizing “girl artists” aren’t as valuable as the boys . . . psychology can be nasty stuff!!!!!


Gift to gallery
by Susan Burns, Douglasville, GA, USA


original painting, 36 x 36 inches
by Susan Burns

I signed with only my last name until 6 or 7 years ago. One day, I signed both first and last names on a canvas that was sent to a gallery. I received a call from the gallery owner, asking me to not ever, ever sign both names on a canvas again, because art buyers could find me on the Internet, and not buy from him. When an art buyer calls me, I always ask where they

have seen my work. I give the gallery, where my work was seen, a gift of a small percentage because I feel they have earned it, and, of course, now I sign with both names, clearly.

There is 1 comment for Gift to gallery by Susan Burns

From: Anonymous — Jan 23, 2009

Good for you! Letting the gallery decide your artistic fate would have been a slap in the muse’s face. Just yesterday I tried to Google an artist whose work I had found in “International Artist” magazine. All I could find was the representing gallery and the artist’s work was lost in the maze of ‘clicks’. Pity.


Reason for full name signing
by Pat Dolan, State College, PA, USA


fiber art
by Pat Dolan

I totally agree that artists should put their full name on their work. Here is a story that exemplifies one reason why:

This week I received an email asking if I am the Patricia Gangl Dolan who painted a watercolor of a farm house in 1981. Included was a photo of the watercolor. Yes, indeed, I am the artist of that piece — although long forgotten! She purchased it in an antique shop in NJ. I painted and sold it while living in rural, upstate PA. Then we moved to central NJ, and now to central PA. I’ve changed my medium to fiber art, although now that I’m back in PA, watercolor is begging to be used to capture the rural scenery of this area.

Just how the new owner located me is unclear — maybe she was searching all the Pat and Patricia Dolan’s on the web. How long she searched is also unknown. But she now knows I’m still alive and working. And I know my art has been appreciated and has found a new home and a new frame.

And yes, I do put all my contact information on the backs of my work — full address, phone number, email address. My name is how people find me, and if they like my work I want them to find me!

There is 1 comment for Reason for full name signing by Pat Dolan

From: Patti Cliffton — Jan 23, 2009

I can totally relate… had a person send me an email of a painting he had found in the Goodwill! He was putting a new frame on it and was thrilled that I was the same person. It was an early watercolor and now I am working mostly in oils. He found me on my website.


Hidden gender
by Brigitte Nowak, Toronto, ON, Canada


“Green canoe, lazy ripples”
original painting
by Brigitte Nowak

I sign my work with my first initial and last name, sometimes including the year. While the times may well be changing, when I started out, women’s art was taken less seriously, and often valued less highly, than that of men. Using only my first initial gave my work a genderless identity, and, in my opinion, called on the viewer to make judgments about the work, rather than the artist.

Having been a painter before becoming a wife, I kept my own name (yes, I know, it’s not mine, it’s my father’s, but at least I was born with it) when I married, before it became common to do so. My husband has gotten used to being addressed by my name at art show openings. For women, trying to build an art career is difficult enough without confusing one’s collectors by becoming someone else in mid-career.

Putting my name on my work indicates pride of achievement, as well as completion. The galleries that have my work insist that paintings be signed, but having spent much time trying to create an illusion in my paintings, I will often sign my work so it becomes part of the image. That way, those who wish can seek out my signature; while I appreciate recognition, I prefer to present my images and ideas rather than myself.


Appreciating the painter
by Carole Ann Borges, Knoxville, TN, USA

I have two beautiful paintings. One has no name at all and the other has only a last name and date I can’t read. I imagine these are not valuable paintings on an open market, but they are both lovely and precious to me. I would like to know the painter’s name because I really appreciate the work and would like to appreciate the person who created it. It would also help me research who the painter was, if they were local I could probably trace them through local archives or word of mouth via the artistic community. I think this is an important topic. Because of my experience with these two paintings I prefer buying ones with a legible full name and date. Sometimes I think a small paper on the back giving a little history of the author would also be a nice touch. I’ve bought paintings at flea markets with these labels and it is very easy to research the painter and her work.


How to satisfy collectors?
by Alice Wofford, Sherwood, AR, USA


“Daughter’s Roommate”
porcelain painting
by Alice Wofford

I started signing my name very, very tiny, even making it part of the design because I was so ashamed of what my work looked like. It was clean, just very small. I also put my name and date on the back of my work — both china and canvas so if anyone wanted to know more they could find me and of course know when the item was painted.

After deciding that and I had progressed to the point that I didn’t mind owning up to being the artist, I started enlarging my name and people who collect my work had a fit. They wanted me to keep the tiny signature, said it was a trademark, so I went back to the small but clear writing.

With collectors wanting the tiny signature and yet others saying that one must have a larger clearer signature, how can both be satisfied?


Andrew Wyeth
by Doug Walker, Calgary, AB, Canada


original painting
by Doug Walker

It is rare that I write on any subject, yet Andrew Wyeth had such an effect on me, that l thought it would be appropriate to share these words:

My Hero — by Doug Walker

When I started painting on the last days of November 1979 it was not long until I was introduced to the works of Andrew Wyeth. It was a casual introduction at first, as the person I was studying art under was a great fan of this watercolour master. The borrowing of books that portrayed Wyeth’s works and the sketching of his sketches was where it started for me.

The attraction to his work was great, after I came to understand and have some proficiency with my own art. There was a rural back ground that was a thread throughout his work which I could immediately understand as it coincided with my own upbringing. Wyeth’s portraying of the vastness and isolation of a country location and its objects was what attracted me to much of his work. Yet he owned the moment in that the understanding of the subject was on a personal and intimate basis. Another way of expressing this is that Wyeth had an understanding of loneliness and was able to convey this feeling through his work. Even when doing work of subjects like Carl or Helga, there was this feeling of isolation and distance in these people. I know that these personalities that Wyeth painted would not have done well in a more urban environment. I think that this can also be said about Wyeth himself.

One can comment on each painting, even each stroke, yet on hearing of his death I was touched with the thought that I did not know him in person yet walked with him through his art. As I write this, to no one in particular, I have books of his works on the table. I am immediately taken back to areas of my art career, as humble in comparison as it was, and admit he was my hero. He will be in my heart, forever.




Mission Canyon Bougainvillea

oil painting
by Laurel Mines, CA, USA


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Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Whistler’s dilemma



From: Jan Corcoran — Jan 20, 2009

I have struggled with putting my name on the front of my work for years and, as silly as it sounds, I can’t seem to get it small or legible enough so have given up and put it on the back. The other reason I don’t sign the front is when I am working in abstract my work can be shown from horizontal or vertical or upside down so, because a signature acts as an anchor, it doesn’t work with my abstracts.

From: MJ Cunningham — Jan 20, 2009

Your comment:

Todays letter brings me to the question of what do you use to sign your work? I’ve been using just MJ (Mary Jane) for years since my name is long and my handwriting horrible and too large. Also my work is usually textural (oils, acrylic, collage) non objective and I’ve never found anything that just flows. All of a sudden, MJ seems somewhat gimmicky and I would like to include my last name.

From: Joyce Goden — Jan 20, 2009

I have been signing my work J. Goden for years, (I did not want to influence the looked with the fact I was a women).


Ever been to a White House dinner? Few of us have, but it’s an occasion certainly for one to mind one’s p’s and q’s.

This same thought was on the minds of several Vermont friends of Calvin Coolidge as they dined one night with the President. The dinner passed uneventfully until coffee was served.

President Coolidge poured his coffee into his saucer, so the guests did the same. Coolidge added cream and sugar, so the guests did the same. Then Coolidge leaned over and gave his to the cat!

From: Pat Dolan — Jan 20, 2009

I totally agree that artists should put their full name on their work. Here is a story that exemplifies one reason why:

This week I received an email asking if I am the Patricia Gangl Dolan who painted a watercolor of a farm house in 1981. Included was a photo of the watercolor. Yes, indeed, I am the artist of that piece – although long forgotten! She purchased it in an antique shop in NJ. I painted and sold it while living in rural, upstate PA. Then we moved to central NJ, and now to central PA. I’ve changed my medium to fiber art, although now that I’m back in PA, watercolor is begging to be used to capture the rural scenery of this area.

Just how the new owner located me is unclear – maybe she was searching all the Pat and Patricia Dolan’s on the web. How long she searched is also unknown. But she now knows I’m still alive and working. And I know my art has been appreciated and has found a new home and a new frame.

And yes, I do put all my contact information on the backs of my work – full address, phone number, email address. My name is how people find me and if they like my work, I want them to find me!

From: Daniela Ionesco — Jan 20, 2009

I can perfectly understand the problem, for 30 years people ask me if I am relative to E. Ionesco; at least I always put Daniela in front of Ionesco, it make me nervous all this questions because I find that some people was malicious but I learnd to answer and be myself without nerves. The most important are the work that we do, the name, bah!, how many names from the 20 century will really be retained ? Not so many, we still have the right to live and be creatives.

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 20, 2009

” a rose by any name will still smell as sweet” (stolen from W. Shakespeare) but we are not roses.

Especially when it comes to recognition, all you have really is your name. Also honor, integrity, truth, justice and the American (Canadian) way. All these hang on your name. Without our good name we are just…hey, you?! Be proud of your name. shout it from the rooftops, sign it big on your work (but not too big)

The world has changed today an I felt like letting go a little. There I got it out.

R I C K R O T A N T E !

From: sittingbytheriver — Jan 20, 2009

I NEVER sign my work on the front, and no one I know does either. My signature has nothing to do with my paintings, and I consider a signature inappropriate. As far as Sargent goes, I have seen many of his paintings. They sure don’t look “casual” to me.

From: Miriam Katz — Jan 20, 2009

The advice once given to me by another artist is to sign my work with my first initial and my last name. I was told that even today, in the 21st century, work by male artists generally command a higher price, and if I can avoid disclosing my gender in this way, I stand a better chance at success. The same advice-giver also feels that if we date a piece and choose to archive it, potential clients may question why it has not yet sold. As always, I would love to learn your perspective on these points. Do you feel there is any truth to the above?

From: Russ Hogger — Jan 21, 2009

I hope I don’t sound too bumptious talking about my name. It’s not the greatist sounding name in the world but it is rather unique. The history of the name Hogger goes back to the time when the Vikings invaded Britain. Some say that it’s a derivative of the Danish name Haggar. Then another explanation says that my ancestors specialized in hog farming. I don’t know who to believe, but what I do know is that you wont find many of us in the phone book. I realise my name is not as glamourous as names like, Love, Kiss, Romance, but it is certainly an improvment on Stink. I feel good about my name and it’s the only one I’ve got. I sign my paintings with just my surname in a color that fits in with the over-all color scheme of the painting.

From: Gainor Roberts — Jan 21, 2009

My dilemma started for me as a teen-ager and the inevitable notion that my last name would change when I married (woman’s liberation was not around at the time!). I started to sign with just my first name, as it was unusual and I had enough ego to wrestle with the issue of not wanting a husband to have any credit for my work! Later, when married I was grateful that I had started to do this in my teens, especially as I divorced and remarried. It could have been very confusing had I adopted their last names, which I did once and never again! Later, as I evolved I adapted my signature as my “logo” and use it on all my brochures, cards, and website. It may be a bit contrived but as a graphic artist and fine artist it suits me. The bigger issue is for very small works where I do not want the distraction of a signature….I have resorted to using my first initial and the date…very tiny. I hate large and prominent signatures as my eye is immediately drawn there and not to the work itself.

From: Bill — Jan 21, 2009

I recently purchased a very nice small watercolor — a multi-color wet-in-wet sky being crossed by Canada Geese — at a thrift shop. Very pleased to have found it, I was nonplussed by the signature, which was merely the initials LGY. While the lack of a clear signature doesn’t mitigate delight with the image, it’s still disappointing not to have a name to put with the work. (Honestly, I can’t tell you why it’s more satisfying to be able to say that something was painted by Geraldine Smith instead of GMS, or LGY, but it seems to be so.)

From: jottingyouanote — Jan 21, 2009

To “sittingbytheriver” — Your signature has everything to do with your painting. If you can’t see that maybe you should remain ‘sittingbytheriver”. Many paintings over time have the backs covered. I don’t know how this came about -esthetics I guess to cover the yellow ageing stains that might occur.

Most won’t take the time to turn over the work to see if or who painted it. I’ve signed on the back when there was no appropriate area to sign on the front and have had buyers ask me to re-sign on the front. c’est la vie.

From: Joyce Goden — Jan 21, 2009

Miriam, I think its still true, male artists are more noted than females.

I had a couple of paintings of my husbands with me at a show a few years back. A couple of boating people started admiring a seascape, I told them my husband painted it…

The women said of course it was painted by a man.

Since that day I sign my work J Goden. I don’t want to influence the looker with gender issues. I just want them to just look at the work.

I do put alot of info on the back, full name, year sold (not painted) medium, and a number of authenticity (I keep a record of all these).

Goden is my married name shortened from Godenswager before marriage.

I remember two very sweet older ladies in a gallery one day. One had a painting of mine in her arms, the other looked at it and said, “Oh!, your buying a Goden”…-that made me chuckle.

From: Liron — Jan 21, 2009
From: Ann Bennett — Jan 21, 2009

I understood it was better not to sign the front of a painting because you are taking any ego out of it when you put it out into the world.

As to my signature, my name is Ann Bennett (quite common, my bank has 8 Ann Bennetts). I was given a middle name of Valerie, which I have never used. Would it be better to use it? I had a married name of Selden (my husband died) so I went back to my maiden name. Would that be better to use, or the initial?

From: Rosemarie Manson — Jan 21, 2009

My grand daughter, Sophia, dubbed me ‘Painter girl’ back in 2006, when she was in first grade. I cherish that name: she identifies me with creativity and exploration of art materials. What an honor!

From: Sarah G. Phillips — Jan 21, 2009

How do you decide where to sign your name? Is it okay to use pen on watercolour painting? Must the signature be in the same medium as the painting? I have been advised by one gallery not to put the date on the painting. Is this good advise? She told me they had trouble selling something with a date that was 2 or 3 years old.

From: Jim Cowan — Jan 21, 2009

Has Bob Whistler done any paintings of his mother ?

From: Catherine Wells Ratcliffe — Jan 21, 2009

I had just been reading Andrew Wyeth’s obituary, and so that painting family was in my mind. Each of them, N. C., Andrew and Jamie have all maintained their individuality and integrity as artists while sharing the same great name, and, I imagine all signed their own names in their own unique way, distinguishing themselves from each other.

What fun to have such a great ancestor!

From: Lorraine Khachatourians — Jan 21, 2009

Oh yes, how to sign one’s name. I have struggled with this too. My first and last name together total 22 letters, almost as long as the alphabet. I have been using my initials plus last name instead, which brings it down to 16. I have to use small, block capitals to make it readable. I would love to use my first name, but then would have to use the initial of my last name, which I find too casual. So I have decided that I will put my whole name on the back of the work and use the 16 letter signature. When I have a very small work, I resort to three initials. The full name on the back should help, I hope.

From: Jerry Hardesty — Jan 21, 2009
From: Virginia Wieringa — Jan 22, 2009

I have learned to embrace my name. I’m very Googleable and I’m the only Virginia Wieringa on Facebook. Your face, Robert, (or profile actually) on Facebook looks very good. I’m officially a fan. While I’m delighted with my unique name, my last name is not very unique in this area of Michigan settled by the Dutch. The irony is that in a gallery with 25 artists (Fire and Water ART Showroom, Lowell MI), Lisa Wierenga is on the wall across from me. She spells her last name differently. This has led to much hilarity. (She begged to disagree when I told her she was spelling it wrong.) Our family refers to ourselves as “two-eyed Wieringas” (or 2 “i’d”). I’m often asked if Lisa’s my sister or daughter. She’s a gifted artist who works in pastels and carves beautiful gourds and I would be glad to claim her as relation, but even better than that, she’s a colleague and a friend. Our gallery has other repeated first and last names and it’s become quite a running joke.

From: John Ferrie — Jan 22, 2009

Dear Robert,

When you are building your brand, and lets face it, that is what we are all doing. You have to have your signature on it or you just become one of those unknown artists with a little bit of talent. The buzz in the art world when people are talking about their collections is rarely ever about the painting, but more about the artist. When you are an artist, people always want to tell you who’s paintings they have in their home. I have yet to hear someone say “I only collect paintings of landscapes” or “I only buy paintings done in blue”. They always list off the artists names like it was a grocery list. When I was in art school, many of the artists would not sign their work. Some said they couldn’t be bothered, others were shy. I think a signature is a crucial thing as it is the finishing touch to a piece. I would never let a painting out of my studio without my bold red signature in the lower left hand corner with my branded underscore bronze finishing…

But that is just me.

From: June O. Underwood — Jan 22, 2009

I sign my paintings JOU, in homage (or at least as a bow in the direction of) Picasso, who used a Parisian journal in his collages and “JOU” was often the bit that he ripped out and pasted on the canvas. Why not? Then I put my full name on the back, just in case anyone wonders.

From: Jill Paris Rody — Jan 22, 2009

Keeping my maiden name (because I was known for my art before I married) has helped long lost friends who knew me for my art in the ‘olden days’. AND, I love my name! It is a name that is catchy. I don’t use my first name because of the issues around gender however. But I have to admit the ‘style’ of my signature seems just as important as the name. I practiced writing it for a long time till I found something that would ‘flow’ easily. I like my signature to look as ‘comfortable’ as my paintings.

From: Janet Best Badger — Jan 23, 2009

I married young, so left my maiden name behind a long time ago. I used Janet Badger for a long time, until I moved to my current city and discovered there is another woman of that name residing here. So I am now including my middle name, which was also the family name of my mother, and my great-aunt, whose artistic talent I have inherited. I will always aspire to being “the Best.”

From: Brad Greek — Jan 23, 2009

It is all about promoting you as a brand as John Ferrie has mentioned. To not sign your work is causing you to miss out on the recognition you try to achieve. How and where you sign it isn’t as important as long as you make sure that when someone looks at your work, they know it’s yours. That means that everyone around the world, not just in your neighborhood. So put your name on it!

From: Toni Ciserella — Jan 23, 2009

I sign my full name. I try to keep it in the right hand corner of a painting. I am a woman and proud of it, but my name suggests otherwise. I had a gentleman purchase a painting of mine from a restaurant/gallery where I worked. When I ran into him one day, I asked how he was enjoying his painting. He said, “I had been looking at that painting for weeks and I just had to have it. I think he is a great painter and I wanted one of his works.” I asked him “do you know Toni?” and he said “yes, he lives in town and is married to that blond woman.”

It is not the first time I have had my gender switched. Although I look very much woman; in both my writing and my painting I have been mistaken for a man. My full name of which I rarely ever use is Antoinette Beatrice Ciserella. Maybe I should start signing my work like that! What do you think?

From: Suzette Fram — Jan 23, 2009

We paint to express ourselves and share our vision with the world. Why on earth would we not want to own up to that and put our name on the front of the work where everyone can see it? If you buy a framed work, you will not see the back of the painting unless you unframe it, so a signature on the back is a hidden signature.

I believe in signing my work to proudly proclaim ‘I did this,’ but never date my work. I also believe that a buyer will be reluctant to buy a piece that is a few years old if he can see the date right on the front of the painting; he will think that since it has not sold, it must not be as good as other work.

From: Karen Martin Sampson — Jan 23, 2009

Karen Louise Martin is my birth name. I used just Karen Martin before my first marriage, then added my married name as I found that Karen Martin was very common. (Oh to have been named something glamorous, jazzy, unique, or romantic!) I kept the Martin to honour my father who was artistic and encouraged me to be an artist. After my first marriage broke up after more than 20 years I began to just use Karen Martin but another Karen Martin, also a portrait painter like me, wrote and said people were getting the two of us confused (her work is wonderful, by the way). When I remarried six years ago I tacked on my new last name, Sampson, which I like very much and isn’t nearly as long as my first married name was. I am slowly gaining recognition again with the new name but I keep my website as karenmartinarts.com so people can find me. Also I do other subjects besides portraits and I want that to be clear.

From: Amanda Carder — Jan 24, 2009
From: Paula Timpson — Jan 24, 2009








so free



believing in peace

love and hope

for the world





From: Aula Bell — Jan 24, 2009

I am still unsure of where to sign my name on a picture. I choose the bottom right hand corner and try to hide it but still leave it visible. Is this the contemporary way to do it? Somehow I always miss this part of an Art presentation. A discussion and suggestions would be welcome, Aula

From: Jerry Conrad — Jan 24, 2009

Boy do I connect with this one. As a small time collector I have many pieces for which I’d love a companion but the signatures are so fuzzy I often can’t figure out who made them. Memory? Hey look, I’m an old guy so forget it. (sorry about that pun I just couldn’t resist it)

From: Lona — Jan 25, 2009

I find a signature useful for calling a painting “done”. It helps me avoid overworking a piece since I am very cautious about working on something already signed. I also find that I use the signature as one last part of the composition and put it in different places, depending on the composition of the painting. Since my first name is not that common, I sign only with my first name, which avoids the problem of my last name changes over a lifetime.

From: Cathy Smith — Jan 26, 2009

Originally I used my full name, then initial and surname. A couple of years ago I switched to a four stylized initials, and have stuck to that since. I’d reckon with a name like Smith, something more individual, and hopefully a more artistic looking signature-logo, might be better?

From: Diane Stewart — Jan 29, 2009

This is a signature Question. I am have a show in late February. It will feature my work from over 30 years and I had a name change. My later works are signed Diane Stewart. Early work Diane Foster. Should I leave these as they are or add my recent name to existing pieces. In retrospect I suppose I should have kept the same name throughout but it’s too late for that. Will someone who knows please respond by a person e-mail to DD2arts1@aol.com ? Thanks

From: Lorna Effler — Feb 14, 2009



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