Monday, May 9, 2011

Sign Language

To sign or not to sign. That is the question. For many artists, signing their work is a question of pride, integrity, and ownership. For other artists, a signature is like a period; a statement that the piece of art is completed. There are some major artists that sign all their work, usually in the bottom right corner. Their signature becomes an integral part of the artwork. Some artists seem to sign some works and not others. And there are artists that never seem to sign their work at all. My choice has been to sign all my work, but on the reverse side for 2-dimensional pieces and on the underside for assemblage and sculpture.

The Art of the Signature

Jackson Pollock

Roy Lichtenstein

Robert Motherwell

Jasper Johns

Alexander Calder

Christo

Willem De Kooning

Andy Warhol

Franz Kline

Robert Rauschenberg

Jean Dubuffet

How many of you sign your work? How many do not? And where? And why?

44 comments:

Dyche Designs said...

Personally I think my signature messes with the look of a piece so I sign all my artwork on the back.

Sharmon Davidson said...

It's really interesting to see these artists' signatures all together; they form a work of art, themselves. In answer to your intriguing questions, I do sign my work on the front, in most cases. To me, it's a record of ownership- a way of saying "I made this". It is also like a period at the end of a sentence (I like that metaphor), because I don't sign it until I consider it "finished."

Dayna Collins said...

My preference is to sign my pieces on the back, although I've taken classes where the instructors have encouraged us to sign on the front.

La Dolce Vita said...

I was looking for your signature at the bottom of these greats!! I always sign my work, don't you? I always think that my signature is part of the art work itself....

Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

I sign my name and the year on the back, sometimes adding the name of the piece if I feel like it.

I never sign on the front because I feel it messes up the composition. So many artists make beautiful art only to (IMHO) mess it up with a big scrawling signature that detracts from the piece.

I want people to see the work, not my name. That's what the backside is for!

Dave said...

I always sign...as a way of "claiming" and of stating that I'm done. I try to sign in the lower right corner when I can..but if I can't then on the back...particularly photographs.

I have always liked how ink painters sign not only with their "crop" but also with a poem or saying...as part of their composition...

angryparsnip said...

I always sign my paintings but sometimes I feel a signature mess up the cards I make.
I think it is important to sign your work so now I sign them with a gray ink. I always sign the back of the card with my name, my companies name and title of the artwork.

cheers, parsnip

Amy said...

No!

nope!

i don't care one whit for an artists signature on anything I buy, and I seriously

Really Seriously

doubt that anyone cares in the least

to be visually assaulted with my signature.

Lisa said...

signature styles say a lot about the artist.. I always sign on the back as I don't think my signature compliments the look of my pieces...

jill zaheer said...

Most of my work I sign in the front, often in the lower right corner but i have signed the lower left corner if the spacing is better. It's usually a sign that I've finished my work. If I go back to make changes, i usually paint over my name until the piece is finished and then sign again. If the artwork is small, i may sign on the back. On larger canvases, i often take a small section and decorate the back of the canvas with something representing thoughts I had while making the artwork. This is my own personal signature for my artwork.

layers said...

How fascinating to see all the examples of famous artists and their signatures. I sign all my paintings on the right bottom corner- but I try to keep it small and unobtrusive and NOT fancy - not really a part of the painting-- I also do not think it is a good idea to add letters as most people would not know that AWS means American Watercolor Society--also NOT the date either-- as it 'dates' the work.

sf said...

I find Calder's to be OH SO beautiful.
My usual is just my initials.

Pam McKnight said...

When I painted I always signed in the lower corner... which side... was dependent on the composition. Now that I make assemblages, I try to remember to sign it somewhere but lots of times I forget!

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting topic to explore and one I haven't given much thought to. I seem to only sign work I am most proud of and keep it small and include a date for the year it was done. I wonder if most people expect to see a signature--I think I do. I assume most really famous artists do sign their work in a visible location and maybe a buyer might feel cheated not to get one. I don't think it ever detracts from the composition except when I see a huge signatures and then I think the artist got a little full of themself. But Picasso's were kind of big, his work was daring, maybe his signature was saying I think this is great, and it was.

rebeca trevino said...

what a great question! i have been struggling with this for months . . . i always WANT to sign (and date) but sometimes i forget. maybe nobody cares today, but maybe someday, somebody will care, or maybe i sign just for internal personal reasons, or for reasons of pride in my work, or to keep my inventory straight. who knows . . .to me, it signiies the finish to a piece, the end of weeks of struggle, the signal that i am happy with the result, and now i am sending it off into the world to find it's way.

Annie said...

This makes a tiny show in itself. I always look at the signatures but thanks for cropping these and making me look even closer.

urbandon (Don Pezzano) said...

I like to sign my art pieces and larger jewellery pieces. Bottom right hand corner front seams like a tradition that I like to follow. For me it indicates that the piece is finished.

lyle baxter said...

yes, I initial my work! this is my work and I'm not ashamed of it! bottom right hand corner even tho I'm left handed! an interesting question and some interesting answers!

Found art blog said...

Paintings, I sign on the front usually bottom right hand corner. It's mine, even if it's cr*p, it's my cr*p and i want the world to know it!!

Karin Bartimole said...

I love seeing all these signatures!
Like some others have said, I do use my signature as the final mark I make. It only goes down when I feel fully complete, but I do try to integrate or camouflage it whether its 2 or 3D. Because my name is long and cumbersome, and can take up so much room, it becomes distracting to me otherwise. I'm very inconsistent about where it goes! I resign the backs of 2D work, because sometimes I can't find where I've nuanced it myself and buyers always want a signature on original art, in my experience.
Fascinating reading everyone's responses :)

Laura said...

Great questions and I love to see the signatures all in a row...Rauschenburg my favorite...
I sign my work with a simple last name and usually down in the right corner..

*jean* said...

yes, i sign...depends on the size of the piece as to where though...i made my initials into a chinese chop-like gesture...

Kim Hambric said...

My work is almost always signed on the back. Most of my works are quite small, and I feel the signature would alter the piece. (Or maybe I just don't have the guts!!)

Marit said...

I have been thinking about this months ago - and decided to go sign all my work. But I forget... I guess that's because I work in a book (art journal) and it feels weired to sign every page. But if I ever would decide to make a canvas, I'd definitely sign it somewhere. (Just initials maybe?

Julie Shackson said...

I don't mind signing the back, if it is important to someone that it is signed at all. However, I always see the front as an illusion, a different dimension, a space with depth, and where one can suspend one's disbelief. Signing the front brings the work back to two dimensions, and the viewer back to mundane reality.
Having said that, I love the series of signatures at the top; probably because I love signatures themselves!

laura said...

Thank you Seth! The photos of these artists' signatures are exciting, inspiring and fascinating. They are my favorites.

IrelandBrady said...

I sign all of my finished pieces on the front in the lower right hand corner (in most cases). With the title, date completed and my signature on the back.

I have actually had people ask me to resign a print just so they'd have my "real" signature on the piece as opposed to the printed signature.

When an artist omits his/her signature its like saying they weren't happy with the results; ergo, why would I want a piece they didn't even have enough pride in to sign their name? To me a signature is the artist's stamp of approval.

Designers always have their logo (signature) on their pieces, without their label (logo/signature) on their items the public cannot be assured the item is the designers product. Its an endorsement that the piece is authentic, an artist's signature on the piece is his/her endorsement that the piece is authentic.

To each his/her own opinion, this is just my personal
view. Thanks!

Lynn said...

Since my work is mostly fiber I sew my name in the lower right hand corner. On some fabrics it doesn't work so it's on the back with a story about the quilt in print on fabric.

I do it because I consider it art and I saw that it was what other artists did. LOL Really!

Dina said...

You know, I don't sign b/c I just don't remember. No complicated reasoning, no ideology...just forgetfulness. I need to sign stuff more often.

ART*ticulation said...

The signature you have put up are art. My signature is not art. I had always prided myself on good hand writing and my sig is still :>) So I initial the front right bottom and sign title and date the back.
Interesting that when I'm at a show and a tag has fallen off the wall with the artists name. I'm always looking for the sig if I don't know the artists style.

Parabolic Muse said...

I happen to love signatures. I do sign with my initials, but do not have my 'official' signature going yet. I just bought one of Michelle Ward's pieces, and the signature is stunning and integrated with the piece. And your signature is on every one of my collection, and it's perfectly in character with your work. It's branding. I will definitely sign on the front when I have mine 'ready'.

Marilyn said...

Seth, you pose such simple yet interesting questions. I sign sometimes on the front and sometimes on the back - particularly if it is abstract. Never know how someone will want to position the art.

Renee Howell said...

i sign. on the front. An interesting question - because i send my kids out the door with their father's last name (we are married), not mine. I'm very fine with that decision, it gives the kids and me some unbranded freedom. And yet, I want to brand my creative art with my name. Hmmm- think I'll need some wine to figure this thought out. thanks - I think, Seth.

OH - and LOVE your photos. I LOVE the art of the signature! another piece of someone's heart and art.

Diana Trout {Nan.DT@verizon.net} said...

great question, Seth. It was great to look at the signatures in a row. I've always loved de Kooning's signature. It is part of his work for me.

On the backs of my canvas works, I do a drawing and put my signature. Works on paper, I sneak it in somewhere.

I do like to see an artist's signature somewhere only so that I can remember the artist's name.

Leslie said...

I sign the back of my books . . . with an engraver! I have a little symbol that I use. I figure even if it's only family who looks at it someday and wonders who made it.

Judy Wise said...

I sign realistic work on the front and non-objective on the back. I find a signature on a non-objective work to be disconcerting unless it is very small and lovely (like the ones you've shown).

Twigart said...

I always have a debate with myself over this issue. Most of my painted pieces aren't signed at the moment because i have yet to win the argument with myself either way.

I'll be reading all the comments with much interest!

Patti said...

What a fabulous 'art' collection - can't wait to check a few of them out. My husband has a solo show this fall and has finished several new pieces - the signing issue came up and he's in the process of making that decision:) Think it will be on the wood frame perhaps...

I need orange said...

I find that a signature can be a serious distraction from the work. When there is a lot of contrast between the signature and what's behind it, or the signature is large............

Let me look for it, and find it, but otherwise, leave it off.

I have declined to purchase work with too-visible signatures............

Lisa Hoffman said...

I sign my paintings and some of visual journal pages. I do NOT sign my sign line, but I often try to attach a card or a way for my customers to get in touch via email. On all my bad work, I sign YOUR name.

Holly Dean said...

I sign my paintings on the bottom right, front, unless it interferes with the composition... in which case I move it. I sign my handmade blank journals on the inside front cover and 3D art where appropriate for the piece. I think it is important to sign your work. It adds importance to the piece both for the artist and the collector :)

alteredbits said...

i never used to sign anything, now i either sign in the lower right of flat pieces, or right edge of a thick canvas. i sign the back for fabric pieces or assemblages. or tiny pieces. i put my name and the year, sometimes the title with it (title on back only, always). i love this collection of signatures you've shared. mine is kind of boring, but definitely unique. :)

Veronica Funk said...

I sign at the bottom right in a complimentary colour and have been complimented for it by patrons who prefer that signatures be visible, an integral part of the art. Though I always found it interesting that Georgia O'Keeffe never signed her work at all. Particularly the flowers - she wanted the patron to have the opportunity to hang the work in any direction that pleased them.

Gillian McMurray said...

What an interesting article. I do sign my work but I wish I didn't have to . My signature, which is actually just my initials, is like a giant blot on something beautiful (when I'm happy with my finished art). Even if I make it really small or try to put it in a less obvious place I always feel it takes away from the drawing or painting.