Things I Learned as an Oil Painter: Thing #19

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maccski's avatar
Thing #19 is one of those weird little tips that I've been picking up piece by piece as my art career develops:

Sign it on the front and write the title, year and your name on the back.

Let's break it down into thinglets:
  • Thinglet 19a: Sign it. Sounds blindingly obvious, but a huge number of artists (including me and maybe including you) hate signing paintings. I think there are several different reasons for this aversion - mine is that I like to paint loose and signing is like as un-loose as it gets. Other artists have deeper reasons, like they don't want to be the centre of attention or feel that the work is not worthy. If you're very private about your art and  have no intention of getting your stuff out there then you can ignore this post. If you'd like to share your work with the world then the world needs to know who painted it.
  • Thinglet 19b: Use your name. Another obvious sounding one, but unless you're already widely known by a symbol, stick to your name. Again, the world needs to know who painted your art and if they're not "in" on your symbol/code/avatar then you may miss out on something somewhere down the line when opportunity knocks, but doesn't know your name.
  • Thinglet 19c: On the front. It's where people expect to see your signature. If you sign on the side, because you don't frame your work, then somebody, sometime, might frame it and your work becomes anonymous.
  • Thinglet 19d: Title, year and your name on the back. I used to date all my work (down to the month) on the front along with my signature. A wise professional artist told me that people can be strangely fickle and like to buy really old or really new art. Kind-of-old-ish art doesn't really do it for them, regardless of it's other charms. Dating it on the back will allow you to tag the piece for those who are truly interested without putting off the fickle crowd. Putting the title and your name on the back can be handy because often galleries or exhibitors will require this info and its good to have it already there by course of habit. It's also nice if future owners of the piece know the title...
Admittedly I could be biased about the benefits of signing because I have a unique family name: Kelavey. There are only 6 people in the world with that name that I know of. When folks see that name on a painting they can quickly figure out that I painted it (as long as they have access to Google).

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KanatSanat's avatar
I don't like signing because my name doesn't leave much room for the painting :-/
glunac's avatar
Funny when I went for art lesson this was our 1st class, "How to make YOUR signature", we practiced over & over with a signature brush on a practice canvas. We were not allowed to start painting until we had this down with precision.

I tried & tried to form the word "Gloria" & it just wouldn't come, finally she said maybe the person you are in your everyday life is NOT who you are as an artist.

She too explained why the placing of the signature was important.

On the back, I number my pieces (the 1st painting I ever created being #1 etc.), write the title, my name, the date, if it's an acrylic, oil, or oil pastel & if it's varnished or not, I even write the size of the stretch canvas or paper. Just makes it easier to have all the info. handy.

I have met artist who don't believe in signing their pieces, they think it's vain-ish & detracts from the overall view.
citypainter's avatar
You're so lucky to have a unique name. Imagine my dismay when I started painting cityscapes around downtown Toronto and putting them online, and then found out there's already an established painter with my exact same full name, Gary Smith, who also paints similarly-themed cityscapes of the neighbourhoods near me. He's more established and has even painted murals around the area. It's super annoying, to him as well, I'm sure. Middle initials help a bit but they're awkward.
maccski's avatar
I can imagine how annoying that would be! Its sounds like you might need a "brush name"...
secretplanet's avatar
the lady that runs my gallery is a Nolan: the same name as the very famous australian painter Sidney Nolan. that makes her Nolan Gallery sound pretty upmarket, since we live close to Sidney Nolan's stamping ground! so it can work, having the same or similar name to somebody famous!
having said that, my name Gilham sounds like a hobbit sirname..
citypainter's avatar
True, I guess the name similarity could swing both ways. Something about having a unique identity seems ideal, though.
secretplanet's avatar
i agree: we all want to be unique! most of us anyway! and if i can't be unique, cool will do!
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