Saturday, May 29, 2010

What does the artist's signature reveal?

'Gold mini canvas' #8 4x4" © 2010 Shayla Perreault Newcomb.

O'Keeffe "aspired to a style that was timeless, universal and above all, impersonal. For this reason, like Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich, she did not sign her paintings." Georgia O'Keefe- The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum p 99

Some ways artists use the signature:

  1. self-expression
  2. as a design element
  3. as advertising
  4. part of the composition
  5. a clue to the meaning of the painting
  6. proof of authenticity
  7. proof of completion
  8. branding
  9. rebelling against a trend
  10. to romanticize the artist
There's also a whole slew of reasons not to sign or to not have the signature on the front. Last year I stopped signing my paintings and I lost at least one sale because of it. It's not just artists that have an opinion about the signature, but collectors, galleries, and the public do as well. Now I've found a compromise I'm happy with and I sign the backs. Signing the front throws off the composition and the meaning in my paintings. To me it says, "This painting is about me" and while a part of me always goes into a painting, the principle meaning in my paintings is not about me. If my paintings change, the signature may change too.

What is your signature preference? What do you think that reveals about you?


Tracy said...

Hi, Shayla! It's great to be back in blogland after our 2-week trip! Very much enjoying catching up on your recent posts, and this topic is very interesting! I like your idea of signing on the back, leaving the canvas all about the work. I make sketches all the time for my designs which I do sign, but then no one really sees these. I do this as a completion. For some time I've taken to putting a "signature" on the photos I post online, but try so do so discreetly, not wanting to detract from the subject of the photo. I feel my photos as little works of art, so I sign them, they are mine, but I do not feel I possess the entirely, the subject being open to all, like a gift. Much to ponder on this topic! Happy Weekend, my friend :o) ((HUGS))

Roberta said...

I do sign my works, but I dislike my signature so much that I often think I shouldn't. I often wonder how other artist's develop a signature that suits their work so well; or do most dislike theirs as much as me!

DJ said...

I've always wrestled with signing my artwork: Does it truly make it more valuable, as most say? But I also agree with you, that it takes away from the composition in many cases.
Signing the back makes sense, for now.
Good call~

patrice said...

Hi Shayla..

I was already a follower, but now it's official. Great post.

When I saw Jonathan Borofsky's work years ago and realized the benefits of numbering, rather than dating works, I was bummed that I'd never thought of it. His works number well into the hundred-thousands and counting. I like the idea also, because it gives one perspective on just how many "creations" are out there after they've left the studio. One need only keep a log with titles, etc.

Funny how galleries and the public only want to see the newest and latest works - even if they are "the same" (in style, theme, image) as other work. I no longer date my work, but I do sign it with my full name... (heh) ...just like a serial killer, I think it's more likely to be remembered/recognized...
patricelynneyoung, the serial artist...

Margaret Ryall said...

Hi Shayla. I'm recovering from my opening today but this topic is one I have strong feelings about. I gave up signing on the front. My signature although dainty still bugged me. I felt it interfered with the composition. Then I started to look for ways to integrate my signature into the composition. Finally I began to sign my work on the back. This is my solution. I like Patrice's idea of numbering too.

mansuetude said...

i have a few peices i have asked the artist to sign on the back... and i have an envelope of some correspondence behind one too, taped back there--because we lose track of the little daily things of a point in life, and we move on; its nice to have those things together.

Its not just a painting but a journey of one life responding to living and then another life taking that object as process into a new unfolding of shared understanding between the two people on one landscape of world/society/mind/imagination.

thanks for the quote on my blog--it made me feel wealthy with Ecstacy experienced, and with peace.

nancy said...

first, i LOVE this painting, is it for sale??? second, your signature is part of you and IF YOU decide that it should be on the back or just your initals or whatever,
that's up to you. when you start trying to please or paint for someone you loose a bit of your artist freedom, every painting, drawing, piece of jewelry i make,
i make for my self, to please me and if it never sells i'm happy to keep it forever or give it away.
just my two cents!!
nancy donaldson
my art IS my meditation, my therapy

MiKa Art said...

wow, another thing I've never thought about.. I think I sign when I feel "that's it!". (When I feel like the painting is done, and it is not mine to play around with it anymore)

I think that as a buyer/collector, I really hope the artists sign their work somewhere!

Shayla said...

Tracy, you were very much missed and your check-ins were appreciated. Your first signing habit sound like a comforting ritual and I like what you said about your photos being a "gift".

Roberta, I think you're right. Some artists develop their signature to go with the spirit of their work. I imagine that takes a lot of work (I love the way Klimt signed his name in a gold square). I would also like to know if many artists dislike their signatures.

DJ, thanks. It was my gallery director that asked me to "at least sign the back" and I thought that made good sense.

Patrice, thanks for making it official :) I'd never thought of an inventory system that counted the number of artworks out there. I like that. It would show people how prolific an artist is. Thanks for sharing, I'm going to switch over to that system when I redo my inventory. HAH! The serial artist! I love it!! Hmmm.... have you seen Art School Confidential? ;)

Margaret, you must be tired out from all your travels and the opening. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I feel the same way. My signature is pretty, and I've worked out a messy version too, but for many reasons it bugs me on the front of my current work.

Mansuetude, I'm glad you like the poem, and that it gave you a feeling of abundance. It's brought me peace too. Thanks too for sharing your thoughts. They're so beautifully expressed, I know I'll quote you on that some day :)

Nancy, thank you for asking. Most of these already have homes (l or 2 left), but there will be another set like these for sale. I'm going to pm you a few more details.

Mika, I love your signature. It fits the artwork perfectly.

picciolo said...

I think it depends on both the artist and the painting, but I don't think it should be the first thing you see certainly. I think signing yours on the back is a good idea, I can see why you wouldn't want to compromise the composition.
: )

constance said...

hey there Shayla! A great topic to ponder upon.

Liberty said...

great post Shayla (not to mention wonderful painting).
I had always been taught that one 'should' sign and date their paintings and, for years, I did.

Then I took a few years break from art and, upon return, haven't been able to bring myself to sign a single painting!
It feels like it would mess it up, distract and detract from the painting itself. I don't want it to be about me at all.

Even in my last art years before this spell, I had gotten down to just signing my paintings with a tiny, lower case letter of my first name and the year in the form of 2 digits ie e. 03
Now even that feels like too much but I do like the idea of signing the back somewhere.

Thank you for this thought-provoking post!