Saturday, March 20, 2010

Your Signature

Above is the signature from the Ewing Farm painting I posted last night. One of the commenters asked me if there was a story behind my signature. I don't really think there is, other than that I have done a whole lot of them. Here though, are some pointers on signatures.
  • Sign on a dried canvas, so you can wipe it out and do it until it is right
  • Use a rigger or small sable brush.
  • Sign legibly, I can't imagine why an artist would have an unreadable signature. If people like the picture you want them to know who you are.
  • Sign the thing neatly, many parts of a painting may not receive close scrutiny, but the signature will.
  • The signature should be level. It will be next to the rabbet of the frame. If it is crooked that will show and look sloppy.
  • I think a signature should be large enough and clear enough to be easily read, even in reduction.
  • I date my larger paintings. When they come up for auction and they are old, I am glad they are dated.
  • Always sign in the lower left hand corner unless there is a good design reason not to.
  • Don't try to develop too stylish a signature. Your signature will develop in paint, just the way your handwriting did.
  • I often sign in red. Many of the historic painters did this and I like the way it looks.

22 comments:

mariandioguardi.com said...

Good Morning and a happy first day of Spring to everyone.

I know that some artists just recoil at the thought of dating a painting.I've been told that they are afraid that people won't buy their "Old Work" and so they have been told never to date a painting.
However, I've dated my paintings before I even started signing them. I have NEVER had anyone refer to one of my paintings as my "old work" and I have never lost a sale due to a date. So is the warning to "never date a painting" have anything to do with anything? Does it have to do with galleries?

billspaintingmn said...

Very good Stape!
I should draw a cartoon of me laying on a couch, and Freud saying,"Sign 'William' not 'Bill!'
I've always felt Bill looks wrong, yet most people call me Bill.
Acually they call me Sweet Old Bill
(Sometimes they just use the initials!) ha

Susan Renee Lammers said...

Good post concerning "The signature". I once heard Arne Westerman say the same thing about an artist's signature. He said it was free cheap advertising. He said do it large, capital letters are easy to read, and in red! Red shows up the most. I like to put my signature on the opposite side of my center of interest. I scratch my signature in with the back of my brush on my copper panel before the paint is dry. My signature glows from the copper underneath. Not sure if it easy to read. May have to work on this!

Tim said...

Mindreader, thats what you are man. Just this morning I was wondering about signatures, and why mine look god-awful. Its because Ive done as many signatures as I have done "sellable" paintings. I need more practice!

Another tip is not to sign the painting in the very corner. Leave about 2 cm all around. I did this until my father pointed out to me that it would be half covered by the frame! Stupid mistake, but hey, I had to make it to find out!

I have to say, large, over the top swishy script signatures have no place on artwork. Often "lipstick on a pig" comes to mind. Discreet is the word!

willek said...

When I've done something all in one shot and everything is still wet, I like to scratch it into the p[aint with the back of the brush, Otherwise, I sign em with paint. I like to pick a color that will not clash with the picture and that looks like a part of the picture until someone looks. Until I read your previous post on signatures, I used my initials and the year. Now I use the whole name and the year. Good advise.

Carol Nelson said...

I sign my work CDNelson, using my first two initials. Somewhere I heard that there is a bias AGAINST women artists in juried shows, and it is better to sign initials so one's gender remains unknown.

Have you heard that one?

Deb said...

why the right hand corner?

Steve said...

"Always sign in the lower right hand corner unless there is a good design reason not to."

Ewing Farm is signed in the lower left. Was the design issue that on the right the signature might be half in the road, half in the grass...or that it would be in one of the thin horizontal shadows?

Mary Byrom said...

I dislike signatures on most paintings. I don't like calligraphy mixed up with all the other visual information on the surface. The painting usually looks better without text on it. I have to make myself sign it. People want your signature on the front.(I think they have been brain washed.) There were artists who hid their signature in the painting. There were and are artists who use little stamps of initials and symbols. (Whistler) There are a few Sargents where the signature actually looks good up at the top. Where did signing the painting on the front come from?

Barbara Carr said...

Today I got to see an actual, in-person, Stape signature on a painting. It's the Vermont Barnyard, posted on Feb 13. The painting looks great on the web, but in person it's awesome! The color is rich and juicy and I couldn't see any sign of all those "corrections." Excellent signature, and dated, too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian;
I don't have a lot of old work. When I do I have been known to eliminate the date.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill:
I think you should use whichever, but they should be legible. A first or two initials is good too.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Renee:
Will the copper corrode where you scratch through to it making the sig hard to read?
...................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Tim;
All of MY pigs wear red lipstick!
........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek:
Sounds like a wise decision. You could actually use Willek too.
...................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Carol:
Forgive me but I am going to be a little controversial. Wouldn't it be better for the public to see paintings signed by a woman. That way they would be aware of women artists.I don't know if the market has a prejudice against women, it might, but I am not in a position to know.
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb;
I am sorry that was a typo.
I went back and changed it.I of course meant the left. I was tired I guess.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Steve:
No it was an example of me being flaky. I meant the lower left of course.
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary;
I don't know where it came from but it is centuries old. I think not signing your paintings would be marketing suicide.Their brains are OK.
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Barbara:
Thank you. I liked that one.
............Stape

Dot Courson said...

Okay then - WHY the left side?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Dot;
Left is right and right is wrong. I suppose it is because we read from left to right. But it is a convention. there that we commonly look for the signature to be. There is another reason too. It is easier to start the signature at the right place and end it where it ends, then to start it in just the right place so it ends before the right hand rabbet of the frame.
..............Stape