Saturday, October 15, 2011

How to sign an art print

This month the Making A Mark Poll is about signing artwork.  I've also created a new resources for artists website - How to sign a painting and other fine art - which is providing to be very popular.  This morning I added a new section to it relating to How to sign a fine art print.
An artist's name on a print can increase the price by two or more times, and creators generally view signing and numbering works as a valuable source of income for themselves.What's the value of a signature on an art print - Daniel Grant - Huffington Post
The Do's and Don'ts of Signatures for Printmakers

Here's a summary of the conventions - and a few tips about what NOT to do

Printmakers should do these
  • DO sign using a sharp pencil
  • DO only sign the fine art print if you are happy with the quality of it - the artist's signature is the mark of "approval" and also attests to its authenticity
  • DO sign a limited edition print near the bottom edge of the print - on the bottom right hand side
  • DO mark the edition number and the edition size at the same time - on the bottom left hand side (eg #4 /25 indicates this is the fourth print of a limited edition of 25 and that no more prints will be made)
  • DO add a title if appropriate - in between the signature and the edition number
  • DO sign any artwork which is to be reproduced as a giclee within the image to be reproduced (ie it's best to avoid being accused of trying to imitate limited edition prints.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with giclee prints but they're not the same as fine art prints which are hand-pulled)
  • DO use a monogram if you want to be traditional.  The practice of signing prints with names is relatively recent.
Albrecht Durer's monogram - used on his etchings

It's best to avoid doing these
  • DO NOT sign using a pen.  Convention dictates this is inappropriate and oddly it might make it more vulnerable to fraud as signatures can be printed - but pencil can't!
  • DO NOT sign if you are unhappy with the print - you should deface or destroy it to stop it being sold if you want to maintain the status of your work
  • DO NOT sign prints which are not hand-pulled and/or are unlimited editions of a reproduction in the same way as a limited edition fine art print.  The convention to maintain the distinction between these two different sorts of prints is that 
    • limited edition fine art prints are signed and 
    • unlimited reproduction prints are NOT signed outside the image in a way which mimics the limited edition print
  • DO NOT sign blank sheets of paper
Signing blank pieces of paper occurs when the economic value of the print lies in the signature.  Certain artists (eg Dali) are well known for having done this in the past and this has now undermined the secondary market for their prints.

You can contribute to the opinion poll about signing your artwork - you will find this in the right hand column

I did my best to research this topic thoroughly - but I'd love to hear any views or tips from printmakers on this topic.

It seems to me that achieving a sensible distinction between limited editions of giclee prints and a hand-pulled fine art limited edition print is easier said than done.


Elisha said...

Thanks! That is a really good point about the pen vs pencil signatures.

Andrea said...

I do mosaic art right now so I am not sure how to sign them lol. I am going to leave my link just trying to build blog relations. What does nofollow mean? I just started a blog on mosaic art

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I've seen mosaic art signed in the media that the mosaics are pressed into. I think this a monogram mosaic would work great though!

"Nofollow" means That Blogger automatically codes all links left in comments so that they don't count for the purposes of building links to websites or blogs. Basically that means leaving a link to your blog on a Blogger blog doesn't help it at all.

Sue Pownall said...

Great post Katherine.

"It seems to me that achieving a sensible distinction between limited editions of giclee prints and a hand-pulled fine art limited edition print is easier said than done." I agree as my recent prints are giclee but there is not anywhere within the image area to sign. I am however, telling everyone they are giclee.

Cecca said...

Great clear guidelines, sounds good to me. Have you got any advice on Artist's proofs, test proofs, variable proofs and the use of AP, TP, VP etc? I'm just getting into printmaking and any advice would be helpful. Thanks, Cecca :-)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I've seen renowned artists signed artist's proofs and they've either had AP or Artist's proof after the signature. They are NOT numbered.

Tear up test proofs? Aren't these normally annotated with what needs to happen next to make them work as a proper proof? I've also seen these crossed through after they've been actioned so they can't be sold.

I guess they could be made part of the edition if they "work" to the required standard and then signed in the normal way.

I'm not sure what you mean by variable proofs - ones that didn't quite work?

Jono Doiron said...

Thank you for your information.

_ said...

I have a really goofy question. Say you have a monotype. It's an edition of one print--but it is a print-- do you label that? 1/1? I've seen 'AP' for 'artist proof', etc., is there a shorthand for 'unique print'?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Now that is a good question. I guess you'd sign it the same way you'd sign any other unique artwork - and then take a good quality photograph of it and file it!

_ said...

...I'm really sorry, I don't know what that 'same way' is (unless you mean, just sign it, but I mean the edition number on the lower left of a print, opposite the signature, that can have additional letters designating if it's a proof or whatnot). Is there an accepted notation for monotypes that denotes them as single-print editions? Or do you just write 1/1 and assume that the certificate (which of course also states that there is no master extant) is enough? I've been searching for over a month and gotten lots on everything but monotypes. For monoprints you apparently do "varied edition" or "EV #/total" to distinguish them from identical multiples), but there's nothing out there on how to label the print category if a print is unique. Sorry if this is irrelevant, it's just, everything else has such a concrete convention for how it's done, so it seems odd for there to be no accepted way for this.

Peter Russell said...

Really good post.

Simon Wright said...

Great post but I have a problem regarding the use of a pencil and not a pen. I have Giclee prints taken from a painting to sell as a limited edition of 85. The trouble is that because they are on semimatte paper a pencil will not make a mark. I have an o.h.p. fine line pen but am afraid to do the wrong thing. What do you suggest ?...

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Don't use semi-matte paper - and always make sure you can sign a paper before placing an order?

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