The artist’s signature is such a small part of a painting, but it carries huge weight! Today we’re talking about why you should sign your art, how to sign your art, and why I think signing your art is an important part of the process of really owning the title of “artist.” You (yes, you!) are an artist!! So you should be signing your art. I had some hangups that led me on a journey from not signing my art, to signing it with an illegible scribble, to now proudly signing my artwork whether I sell it or not! On today’s episode, I talk about my journey as well as discuss some different ways to sign your art.
Please take a minute to rate the podcast 5-stars on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Plus, don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode.
Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. Thank you so much for joining me today, we are talking all about how to sign your art. I didn’t think too much about signing my art in the beginning of my art journey. But I then recognized it was because I was a bit self conscious about it. I don’t know, I just felt some sort of a block, or that my art wasn’t good enough to sign and I didn’t know whether to make it legible or illegible. Since then, I think my thinking has evolved a lot. So I think it’s worth a podcast episode on how to sign your art, what your options are, and why it’s important.
So let’s go ahead and jump right in to our Review of the Week. This one comes to us from LisaLucky. She says “Great podcast! I recently found your wonderful podcast, I have been looking for someone who understands the challenge of being an artist, you are speaking right to me. Thank you.” Oh, Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to leave me that kind Review. You can’t see me right now, but I am grinning ear to ear. Thank you for those kind words. To everyone else out there, please leave me a Review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or wherever you listen to this podcast. It would mean a lot to me and help us reach even more artists out there who are beginning their painting journeys. Alright.
Jumping back to our topic: should you sign your paintings? The answer is yes! A lot of new artists and self taught artists aren’t sure if they should sign their art yet. I think we all want to sign our art eventually. And when we’re proud of a piece of art, I think a signature is a natural way to cap it off and mark its completion. But no matter what you’re making the answer to the question, “should you sign your paintings?” is yes, you should always sign your art. And you know what, if you’re thinking, “Well, my art isn’t very good, yet.” It doesn’t matter. It’s you, it’s your creation, sign it! If nothing else, it’s just a way to practice calling yourself an artist and taking up that space in the world and practice being proud of your art. No matter how good you think it is or not, it is a part of your journey. It’s a part of what’s going to make you even better. But you know, if you don’t think your art is very good, maybe take 24 hours, step away from it for a little bit, and then come back and take a look. I’m guessing it’s probably better than you think! Or you learned a lot in making that art and it’s going to inform the next piece of art you make.
So I’m saying you should sign your paintings, but let’s talk about why you should sign your painting. Well, one, it is a way to take pride in your work. Even if you don’t think it’s your best ever, it’s still your piece of art. It’s your creation. And it’s something you should be proud of. But the big reason to sign your painting is to let people know who did it. When someone else is looking at your painting. Maybe it’s just years from now, and it’s pulled out of your house. It’s found in a drawer somewhere. It lets everybody know it’s yours! And then you know, if you really hit it big as an artist, you then get to track your past pieces and those collectors who have your early work, they know it’s yours, they can identify it as yours. I think it’s very important information. If for nothing else, just for you to practice saying I’m an artist, this is my work and practice taking pride in it. Because I think that’s a big part of being an artist is we have to embody what we think of as an artist like we have to step into that ourselves. And sometimes that’s hard, especially as a Self Taught Artist, we don’t want to claim that title. We don’t want to take up that space. Nope, you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it, you have to claim that for yourself, or else, nobody else is going to take you seriously. So start today.
So when should you sign your painting is another question. You might be wondering, this one, I think, whenever you think your painting is done. As soon as you finish it, that’s the perfect time to sign it. The other thing that’s important is you should sign it before you put any UV spray or protectant or varnish on the painting (if that is a part of your process). Your signature signifies that painting is finished. So technically speaking, you probably shouldn’t sign it until it’s completed and you know you won’t be adding anything more to it. But that being said, there’s definitely been a few times when I’ve signed a piece, let it rest for a few days, and then come back and added a little something something. It’s just so hard to call it done. In general, you should sign it when you’re done. It is important to get it under the varnish. If you put that on your pieces, just so that it’s a part of the painting, it’s clearly was done at the same time, and it will age the same way. You would hate to sign on top of the varnish, and then it’s not protected, and then maybe the paint gets a little wonky after time. That’s not that great.
So what to sign with? Well, the easiest thing to sign your artwork with is the medium that you used to paint the art in the first place. That’s always a solid option. You know me, I paint mostly in acrylics. So I tend to go in with a small paintbrush and a color from my palette that I think won’t distract too much and go in and sign. However, my favorite way to sign is actually a Posca paint pen, I get one of the thin ones and I use that. The downside is I don’t have that in a ton of colors. So, you know, that just limits me a little bit in terms of what color I can use to sign with. So in a perfect world, I think I’d be really patient and dedicated to painting it on with a tiny paintbrush. But man, that Posca pen is just so easy. I don’t know if you guys have tried Posca paint pens, they are fantastic. I think they’re the best and only paint pen that I really use just because the quality is so much better. Sure, they are a little bit more expensive. But, man, a good paint pen is worth two bad paint pens in my world.
For watercolor, sometimes I will use a Sakura Pigma Micron, that tends to be a pretty good choice. It has a very, very fine tip. It’s acid free, it’s archival, and it does come in multiple colors. I only have it in black, but I’ve seen it at the store in multiple colors. So that is another option for you. But don’t let materials slow you down. Really just use whatever you use to paint your artwork with that works just fine.
Hmm, so how you should sign your painting? That is really the big question. And the answer here is however you want to sign it! There’s no right answer. There’s no correct way to sign a painting, which sometimes makes it harder to decide what you want to do because there is no clear black and white answer. There are however, a lot of strong opinions out there about what to do. And, you know, I’m going to add my opinion into the mix. But what’s most important is that your signature should feel authentic and right to you. And it should fit you and your style. So if you like it, and you’re happy with it, then it’s the right signature.
You know, unfortunately, far too many artists treat signing their art as an afterthought. Or, just something like signing a check, or writing their name on a piece of homework or something; You just put your name on it like it hardly even matters. My biggest opinion and this is actually a slightly new opinion for me is that you should sign your name legibly. I used to sign pretty illegibly and I think I did that because I was hiding a little bit. And I was I was kind of afraid, in some subconscious part of me to put my name out there and really claim that piece of art as mine, and part of me and putting artists in my identity.
The problem with it being illegible is that I have a lot of pieces of art in a bunch of different states around the country right now being enjoyed in their homes and that makes me so happy. But when a visitor to someone’s home comes over and sees my art and sees it on the wall. They don’t know what the signature is, like the only person who could identify my signature, my old signature is me, and maybe people who already own my art and really, you know, care and look deeply, which it’s probably just me. And anybody outside of me or my immediate inner circle would have no idea that that’s a Lauren Kristine Art original, they wouldn’t know how to find me if they wanted more art, if they were just looking at it on the wall.
So my new opinion is that you should sign your art legibly. So that if someone is over at somebody’s house, and they see one of your paintings up on the wall, or a piece of art you created, that they should be able to look at it and then Google your name and find you. That is my new goal. Using that as a branding mark, because my art looks great, I’m so happy and thrilled that it’s out creating joy on people’s walls. But it would be even better if when someone took the time to appreciate that art, they knew it was me. So that if they wanted to, they could come find me or follow me on social media or look at my other art.
My number one rule is you should always sign your art. I think the number two rule for me is you should sign your name clearly enough so that anyone can read it. Now, there’s another option that you could sign your art illegibly on the front, and then on the back, you could put more details there. And that’s what I have done. So if someone pulled my art off the wall, they could then find out who I was from looking on the back. But, you know, most home visitors are not going to go and pull someone’s art off the wall to find out who did it. So you know, that’s, that’s kind of my my two cents there.
It’s taken me years to fully step into this mindset. I’d heard multiple different philosophies on signing your art. I took the easy path which was sort of a illegible scribble because that was easier for me. So at least I was signing my art, that’s great. But now I’m stepping into this new chapter of really owning it, and loving my art because it’s awesome and I love making art. I love putting it out into the world. So I’m just in this new chapter right now where I am owning that and owning my identity as an artist. Yes, I have a multifaceted identity, but artist is a part of it. So I’m signing my work proudly now.
Now, I say signing my art proudly and I talk about making it legible. But there is a fine line between making your signature legible and making it stand out a little too much. And that always worried me a little bit because I don’t want to be showy. I don’t want to be flashy and overwhelm the piece of art because that’s not the point. My signature should never be so bold or overbearing that it it detracts from the art itself, or distracts you from the composition that I’ve so carefully laid out, or interfere with the colors, or anything else. I think your signature should blend in enough with its surroundings and look like it belongs on the piece a little bit, whether that’s using a thoughtful color, or making it the right size.
Sometimes, if possible, I’ll blend it in with whatever’s going on in the piece. For example, if I have a piece and the vase is sitting on a table, but it’s a little askew, you know, sometimes I’ll tuck my signature into the vase, instead of putting it on the table where my signature would be very, very exposed. But it all depends on the composition and what I feel is right for that particular piece. So, in general, you know, it’s, it’s a careful balance, it’s a careful line to walk, but I trust you. You’re going to make a great decision for your art and you’re going to make that choice in the right way.
You can sign your painting anywhere. I’d say the most common place that I see it is the bottom right. But that being said, a lot of people like the bottom left as well. I see some people who mat their work, and they sign the mat. But of course, the downside of that is if the collector ever swaps out the mat, then you kind of lose your signature on that, and that collector might be sad to lose your signature as well. So typically, I’d say somewhere on the bottom is most common. However, there’s a lot of artists that do include their signature in what’s going on in the piece. So maybe they tuck it in the foliage, or into whatever’s going on in their art, where they can put it in in the right spot for them, whatever they decide, is the right spot.
One thing I will note is that, you might want to leave some space on paper artwork, especially, and not sign the very bottom of the piece of art. And that is to make room for the mat. You don’t want someone to mat the piece, which does, you know, come in a little bit ever so slightly, maybe quarter to half an inch into the piece. So you know, you would hate for your signature to be hidden. So anytime I’m working on paper, I try to give myself a little leeway and not sign in the very, very bottom of the page so that the mat won’t hide it. Because a lot of people will mat artwork that is on paper.
No matter what you put on the front of the piece, I do say flip it over and also sign the back of your work. I typically put additional information on the back of the painting. It’s a great place to add the title, which I always do. I always title my art, I’ll add the date, I will add my website and my Instagram handle sometimes. Let’s see, what else do I add? I’ll sign it again, but I, I make it very clear who I am and where you can find me. So at a minimum, I’d say put your printed name and the year. If you’re a little fancier than that, go for it. I’ve also seen some artists that will tape or tuck a business card into the back of a canvas. So that’s another option.
It’s it’s really up to you. It’s whatever you want it to be. That’s that’s the overall answer here. But you know, just some food for thought is what I’m providing today. Okay, so signature wise what I actually sign on the front is Lauren Kristine, and that’s sort of my artists name. I mean, it’s my real name too. But you know, it’s my artists name, so that’s what I put. There’s so many options and it’s common for signatures to include some part of the artist’s name. You can put the date on the front if you want to, some artists do that.
Let’s talk about some of the variations that I’ve seen most frequently. Some people will do first name only or last name only. Depending on how common your name is, that can make it easy to find you or not. Some people obviously do their full name, some people do their initials or an initial with their last name. You know, like a first initial and last name, some people will use a made up moniker or a stage name, if you will. Some people use cursive, some people use print. Some people also actually get a stamp, or a symbol, or use a non-letter representation of their name or some sort of a symbol that represents them. So, just lots of options. Again, no right answer, no wrong answer, just a lot of choices! A lot of choices.
Overall, I’d tell you, try to be consistent. That doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with your signature forever. That’s not what I’m saying. I just think, try it out for a little while, you know, don’t change your signature every painting. But if you if your views evolve, your signature can evolve and change over time as well and that is okay. The goal should be that you’re working toward trying to find something that works for you, and then commit to it. Your signature does become a part of your style and it will help collectors and other people to identify your work. You know, my my signature has been all over the map in the last few years. So again, this is something that’s just going to evolve and change with time.
Especially in the beginning, as you’re getting started as an artist, that’s when you’re going to be trying on a lot of things for size. All of those things help to point you in the right direction. Now I think I have an artist signature that I really like.
My final point is to remember that you are in charge, you are the artist, you are the creator. You make all the decisions about your art, and you’re going to decide what is right for your art and your style. There’s a lot of different opinions out there. There’s a lot of strong opinions on signatures and people are going to try to tell you there’s a right way and a wrong way. You know, that’s not true. I have opinions on the matter, but they’re not rules. They’re not truths. It’s ultimately up to you, the artist, to decide what you want to do, what’s right for you, and what’s right for your painting.
The number one thing is sign your art! Just start practicing that even if it’s not comfortable yet for you. Because I do think it’s going to help you to step into your artist mentality in a new way, and that’s what I want for you. I want you to be able to step into your art and embrace it fully because I think that you’re going to be able to see that in your art.
Were drawn to people with passions, and art is your passion (Clearly! You’re listening to my podcast or you want it to be your passion.) So step into that, own it, own how you are an artist and this is your work and you’re proud of it. Just repeat that to yourself if you don’t believe it yet. You’re going to get there.
That is it for my musings on signatures today. I think I probably covered most of it. Again, you do what’s right for you. I hope wherever you’re listening to this, you are surrounded by art or making art right now, or dreaming up your next art piece as I am right this minute. So, on that note, I think It’s time for me to go paint. I wish you a wonderful day and very Happy Creating, my friends! Until next time!
Help the Podcast Grow!
Review | Reviews matter a lot! When you leave a five star review on Apple Podcasts, it encourages other artists to check out the podcast and join the fun. Plus, it makes me smile!
Share | If you loved an episode, could you share it on your Instagram story today? Or, tell a friend about the podcast? Every share makes a difference and helps us to connect with other artists who are looking for resources.
Latest Podcast Episodes: