Signing dating artwork

Advice and a poll about dating as well as signing the front of your artwork.
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I never date anything. Leave it for the overly anal critics and lecturers of the future to argue over which came first. In the end, which is more important? The name is not the product. I recently acquired two watercolors by James Green.

Signing and dating

Both are signed in the lower right corner with complementary color. However, nowhere are they dated. With the help of people on the Internet I have a window of when he may have painted them. This artist passed away in With my own work I tend to sign in the lower right but will sign in the lower left. I date it on the back in pencil with a short note about the inspiration for the painting.

How and Why to Sign Your Artwork

I work in watercolor so that is easy. I advise my students to sign their work either the lower left or right in a clear and readable manner and not to hide it in the design. I usually wait to sign my paintings until after they are photographed because I enter several competitions each year. My earlier paintings are dated, but I no longer do this for the reasons you, Robert, gave above.

I disagree with any conscious decision to leave off the date to avoid works being judged stale if they do not sell quickly. Thanks for a great article. I make sure my composition includes my signature so there is no conflict. I always want to know when things were brought into being.

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I date my work on the back…usually including the month. I like signing W. Dealers request paintings not to be dated as a selling strategy which makes their work easier. That is similar to requesting the edges and back of the canvas to be neat, framing to be done in a certain way etc. Unfortunately many hours in the studio get wasted on that kind of formatting work. It takes less time not to date the work, then having to erase it later after shipping it back and forth several times. In the ideal world, we would just create a piece of art and not worry about anything else sublime.

In the real world we have to cooperate with other people, and find compromising strategies and work around solutions dull. I like to make this dull part pleasant, friendly and respectful.

James Gurney

The archives are kept accurate and can be shared. I think signing on front is extremely distracting and ruins the painting. I sign on the back with date, and time, that is quite useful. I sign my works and up until a couple of years ago, dated them as well. Now my initials and last name are sufficient. Signing in lights or darks may fade into the painting but cadmium red solves that nicely. It tells me that I have made the best work I can.

As for works with dates, I never put a date on a work expressly because I believe a work is new until it is exhibited or sold. For my money it is part of a body of work done over a lifetime all of which is valid as part of an artists portfolio. I strongly believe that its the artist job to paint and let others worry about time frame.

Signing and dating is important only for those who keep records of such facts. When it was done is of no consequence- to me. I follow your example for signing and not dating. This could pose a problem. Also, is it inappropriate to use a title more than once? Thanks for all your valuable help!

I take exception to both…especially the signing. I have taught seminars about the early Taos painters to and found that the great Victor Higgins as well as others often did not date their work for the reason that you stated. This has made it difficult for the art historians. The gallery and the buyer can then have this information if needed but it will not be on the painting. I agree with Robert about not dating your paintings as well as signing unobtrusively and in the same place — lower right.

I paint an under color on all of my paintings and since I paint pretty thickly I scratch my signature into the wet paint. If I am painting an abstract on a gallery wrapped canvas and I think the signature might distract from the design I will scratch my signature on the side of the canvas. I also keep a file that has the date of the paintings in case I get inquiries although I have never had anyone ask for that. On some older paintings that I put the date on the back side I have gone back and gessoed over the date. I agree that clients might make a judgment about a painting with an older date even though it is still a good painting.

Look at art history, see what others have done before our times, when commerce and all the nonsense that comes with it leans heavily on artists. I was shocked to see North American artists sign their name with the addition of the copyright symbol! How deep can you drop? I know the dividing line is far from clear, and that all good art as to do with money, but still… I prefer to sign my paintings, either full name, or initials, plus the date. To be sure, I sign the back and add the date, even day-month-year if I feel that it the moment or encounter was an important one.

If finished in one sitting I might scratch my name with the back of my brush in the wet paint. I agree with Robert, unobtrusive and clear. Some artists sign with a grand flourish: Currently, I sign very small and include a web url — this has caused some issues with galleries saying they want sales to come through to them.

I have given commissions to galleries in their territories, even though I know the customer has found me on the web. Here is the deal though, with some notable exceptions, galleries come and go and relationships with galleries change over time, and ultimately I want interested people to find me. Some galleries also wanted me to take down my website. Though everyone calls me a painter I am photographic based and work in limited editions, and I also sign and date originals on the back printing archival pieces as needed. The plate sign on the front has the date when I finished the piece.

So my pieces currently have a plate sign with date the image was created and url small left or right which ever is better for the piece. On the back I sign again, number and indicate the inventory number of the piece. If I found the correct gallery to act as a master distributor, I might change these practices and take down my website or better yet have the gallery be the only contact on the website.

There are times when he has actually improved my paintings by deepening the saturation of certain hues. Do they number their prints as well understanding that there is no real reason for doing so? Neither strikes me as particularly honest. I recently saw several Monet works in the same place. They were all signed with the same signature. But some were signed on the right, some on the left, and some in the middle.

The coloration of the bottom portion of the paintings seemed to be the deciding factor: I agree with all of your comments about where to put a signature and if you should put one on a painting and also dates. Sorry, folks, but if you have to ask questions like this, find another profession. I just wanted to thank you for your clear and well-stated input on this often debated subject. I mostly work in glass, and have followed my many predecessors lead by unobtrusively dating my work on the bottom, but I believe I will stop doing that immediately.

I will also make a point in my paintings to be much more consistent with my signature — your thoughts on this make excellent sense. When I was in art school they kept telling us not to sign the front of the painting because it was pretentious and I noticed other artists from other art schools doing the same thing, even a high school student I met.

Out from under the art school thumb, I now sign the front of my paintings and also date them because the buyers request it, that made my decision for me.

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Most of my work is small and precise. The idea of putting my name on it, on the front of it, just feels silly. My composition is the painting, my name is on the back of the panel, and then on the backing of the frame. Having paid much attention to the painting itself, and having ample space to include my name, data, and address on the back, why would I then chose to deface a square inch on the front with my signature?

Such data on the back of the painting adds a personal touch though I also agree with a discreet lower left or right corner front signatures. Perhaps you intentionally did not comment on it to stir up conversation , but would not a signing thereon be of value in any copyright dispute? Some years ago you remarked to another artist that having an older,dated work hang in a commercial gallery might make a potential buyer think of stale buns in a bakery.

I took that to heart and immediately stopped dating my pottery. I now cringe a bit when I turn over an older piece and see a date on the bottom. Unless you know what your are looking at, it is practically indecipherable. The signature itself gives the feeling of additional haste. Was this a ploy? My problem is my last name is too long, in my handwriting anyway. So I thought up a simple sign, but then who would know what that sign means. Signing and dating artwork is a matter of convention.

Personally I find signatures on paintings to be obtrusive and intrusive to the process of immersion in considering the impact of the work. In fine art printmaking not reproductions the convention of signing in pencil, giving edition number and title is somewhat less disruptive of the viewing enjoyment. Personally dislike signing my own work, because it is not important that I did them, but the impact the work may have on another. If someone wants me to sign the front of a painting, I do so reluctantly, while holding my nose, so there are few of my signed painting floating around, includng one which ended up in a second-hand furniture store That little experience reminded me to remain humble, and to set little stock in the illusion that my work will have legs into the future, or have anything beyond fleeting importance.

To me, an unsigned painting is an unfinished painting, floating somewhere in limbo between being approved by the artist and destined for the dump… Not only that, I always consider placement of signature as carefully as I might any other element of the composition. I do tend to date my signatures on oil paintings as I find most clients prefer this and so do I but on my watercolours and drawings I confine things to initials only.

I like your easel and description. I will usually sign my work in a somewhat unobtrusive manner, usually on the lower right side. I like red ocher so long as the color does not detract. This works nicely for the neighborhood in which I live and work, however we really must be aware of the times in which we live, Peter Waters has a good point. One must be prepared to deal with copyright disputes. Several times now I have found my work showing up in places and in forms for which I did not give permission and felt embarrassed by the use.

I also clearly spell out reproduction rights in my bill of sale. As a side point, I have done a reasonable amount of restoration work. I am also something of an amateur historian so I get asked to look at old paintings a lot. I like to be able to do some research and tell something about a nice old painting that has been in someones family for some time.

This motivates me to take digital images and a written record of the work, sometimes even while it is in progress, and include the provenience in an envelope attached inside of a canvas. I have always attached a piece of thin fabric or sometimes paper over the back of a canvas to keep out dust and bugs so its fairly easy to hide this envelope inside. I guess I hope that my work will be among those old paintings that will have been in someones family sometime in the future. Finally,I hate to see signatures that are little more than banners that detract from the work. Robt, you must have a big, healthy, sturdy, cushioned butt.

I need lots of padding and pillows or my traveling wedge to be comfortable polio at 3yrs. This is an excellent easel. Truly one of the more straight forward and uncomplicated easels that I have seen in a while. And you forgot to mention…a faithful companion by the chair…I find my dog a perfect studio friend. No name, no date, in full agreement.

Having a gallery, I can tell you stories of rejection because of an older date on the front or back. People do think they are dogs if not sold in a decent length of time. If you want to place them in your Raisonee in proper order, you may be able to do it yourself because you may still have all of them. Do your due diligence and take the time to start your own inventory list. Keep records of all pieces. Take a photo, so easy now that we have digital, add the name of the piece, the size and the person or gallery that it first went to, and the date with lastly, an inventory number that you can in years to come refer back to, to find out when you painted this beauty and finally, put the same inventory number on the back of the painting.

Easy and not much time involved if you do it one at a time as you paint them. People respect inventory numbers because it shows them you are a serious painter and may have painted at least one other painting. And having a gallery that does evaluations, collectors come in regularly after the garage sales close on Saturday and they have something that their mother owned forever? At the time, I was in graduate school pursuing an MA in painting no one said not to do this.

This collection of large tree paintings have had some, but very little, exposure in exhibitions. I am interested in exhibiting new paintings along with the older, original ones that influenced the new ones. I have just spent hours trying to cover up the dates on the fronts and backs of these paintings so that they may be accepted for future shows.

It makes me think that the paintings are not fairly judged for their quality. Any additional thoughts or advice? I laughed when I looked at the photo of your altar. You work as boxed in as I do, with junk on the floor, rags and sketches on random pieces of paper floating around and a pile of sketch books. My husband wonders how I can work in all that mess.


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I just have to put all my ideas and ruminations around me as I paint, so that I can channel them into my paintings. You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, By clearmarble June 19, Letters.

How and Why to Sign Your Artwork – The Art League Blog

Best regards, Robert PS: Nancy Cantelon — Jun 24, Dana S Whitney — Jun 22, I sign on the front, full name. It's a long name too but I think that using just my surname or initials would feel too general. I try to use a colour that doesn't stand out too much, but my name is clearly there and readable if you look for it. I never date work but I don't exhibit anything more than two years old. I always date my work, including sketches.

It's very useful when archiving work, you don't have to be famous for somebody to catalogue your past artwork, future generations of the family might take an interest long after you have gone. Also it's very useful when entering competitions to make sure you are keeping within the artwork age limits, I often loose track of when I painted something. I have a little watercolor from an unknown British artist c.

I bought it because it "spoke" to me. I would love to know exactly when and where it was painted. I have another watercolor from a moderately-successful artist who lived in New England, again purchased because it appealed to me. People always ask me when and where it was painted sometime between and I sign my work with my first two initials and last name. I write in pencil the month and year and where I painted it on the bottom border outside the painting.

I also have a code that indicates whether it was painted en plein air or from a photo I took. I do this because these are things people ask when they look at my work--if I didn't do it, I would forget eventually. I also do this because it records, for me, my growth as an artist. Only history will tell if I will be a noted artist.

In the meantime, my practice of dating and labeling really helps me and others who like to know the details and feel personally connected to an artist whose work they own. I add the year, but this is for commissioned portraits. And my signature and date are as small as I can make them. I've also heard numerous sources advise artists not to date their work on the front. I have a rather long name, so was glad to move the date to the back, it's less to fit into the painting now. My buyers buy what they like.

So far I've never had anyone express much interest in when something was painted, or care how 'new' it was. By making sure I keep good records and date things on the back, I can avoid any show rules that limit work to so many years old. Otherwise as others have said, it'd be easy to forget. I would never have given it any thought, truth be told. I seldom date completed work, but I do tend to date work that I'm developing, simply because it allows me to see the progress.

I sign my work on the front but print my name, the title of the piece and the date on the back. I always sign my last name and date on the front and like Billie Crain print my name title date on back. I don't worry much about the idea that galleries etc.