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.