Tuesday, October 04, 2011

POLL: Do you sign and date your artwork?

Artists have a variety of practices in relation to signing and dating their artwork.  This month's Making A Mark Poll invites you to comment on what your own personal practice is!

The question you're being asked in October is Do you sign and date your artwork?  The options in the poll differentiate between all artwork and artwork for sale and between signing and initialing.  They also allow you to indicate whether you also date your artwork
  • yes - always sign all artwork
  • yes - always sign and date all artwork
  • yes - sign all artwork "for sale"
  • yes - sign and date all artwork "for sale"
  • yes - initial artwork
  • yes - initial and date all artwork
  • yes - but only when I remember!
  • I neither sign nor date my artwork
I've also created a new website How to Sign a Painting to provide a resource which offers a structured introduction to artists signatures for:
  • ARTISTS who want to know more about the best way to sign and date a work of art
  • ARTISTS who want help with signatures for specific media (this needs some more work!)
  • ART LOVERS AND COLLECTORS who want to know more the signatures of artists from the past and present
It also includes three slightly different polls which expand on this topic:
Do let me know what your own thoughts are on this topic.  Also I'd be very pleased to hear about any websites which you think are a useful resource.

I aim to summarise best practice after analysing the results of the poll.

You have until 30th October to complete the poll - which you can find in the side column just above "For Your Information". The analysis of the results will be posted on 31st October.

I'm just wondering how many of you are going to 'fess up to not always remembering to sign your artwork before you frame it! ;)

For the record my own personal practice in general is to:
  • use small and clear initials on the front of all artwork for sale (when I don't forget!)
  • also sign and date all artwork for sale on the reverse
So - what do you do?


  1. Hi,I always sign with my initials bottom right then date on back just to keep track.

  2. Hi Katherine
    These days I always sign and date...and yes sometimes as I'm framing or varnishing. I think it's important and considerate, especially if the piece survives into the far future, and who doesn't want that? Recently I started signing on the back as well, sometimes adding a brief description of circumstances or facts pertinent to the painting.

  3. I have a stamp of my signature which i print on the front of work and then I hand sign and date on the back, maybe with the name of the work or a message after the work is sold or given away. I don't like my handwritten signature on the front of a piece of work- I can't handle the pressure and I'll always bodge it so prefer the aesthetic of a consistent stamp. I back it up with a real one on the reverse. I dont consider my work of enough value to need strict signature procedures for the sake of long term authenticity and conservation.

  4. Chuck - I also like to say something about the subject of the painting and how it came about if relevant

    Lianne - that's a good point. I've often looked at those stamps and wished I could come up with a better monogram for my initials! I know just how to do it if I my initials were AD! ;)

  5. My initials are my signature for the artwork, so yes I sign everything (front and title and sign on the back of the canvas and on the stretcher)

    I do not date because some collectors and galleries are funny about "recent" work. But I have a thorough database with everything dated so there is reference for future.

  6. ps. My initials are TM, so does that mean all my work is trademarked? heh.

  7. I sign work that is for sale on the front using small clear letters. For flower silk paintings I usually write under a petal, leaf or stem, following its shape for other media at the bottom on one side. If it very small I might just put initials. I photograph all work for sale so have the date with the digital photo(occasionally I forget)
    If I am sketching out of doors I put the date.
    Work for sale has a printed label on the back.
    I rarely write on the back unless it is for a friend or if someone who has commissioned a work has asked me to.
    I like the idea of a stamp.

  8. teeheehee

    I think that only works if you sign TM TM! ;)

  9. I sign all work for sale, when I think about it I put the title and date in pencil at the back on the stretcher bar, I’m a bit reluctant to write on the back of the canvas.

    My work is fairly minimalist (and my name quite long!) so I sign vertically in a low contrasting colour at the bottom right corner of the painting, so it almost looks like subtle Japanese writing :-)


  10. After reading this article a couple years back I realized the importance of the signature. Take it seriously! Which I now do. Only occasionally do I forget to sign, usually because of a tight deadline.

    It's for provenance and the collector. If someone buys your art they must like it and would want it signed.

    I sign the front, always the same, bottom left or right depending on which corner makes more sense. I sign it last name and date, legibly but not loud or distracting.

    On the back I write (not sign) the title, my name and date. Panels; on the back of the panel itself. Canvas: on the stretcher bars, NOT the frame with could separate from the artwork someday.
    I write with permanent marker so it won't fade (although it doesn't see light), pencil is permanent but can be erased. I'll use pencil for pencil drawings of course, trying to always follow the rule of same medium. Prints would be different.

    For the collector I put a signed plate on the back of the finished framed art (the paper dust jacket) so it is always visible after framing, with specs and my thoughts on that specific painting. Collectors love that personal touch and without them I'm out of business.

    Lianne, it's ok to only sign back but remember you don't know what will come later, someday your work may indeed be 'value enough'. You can't go back in time to fix it. Do it now.

    Don't make someone's (future) job tough.

    I wrote a lot but I consider this to be an important subject, not an afterthought.
    The article is more in depth.


  11. Thanks for the comment david

    The link you highlighted to the artbusiness.com article is already included (with others) in my new website How to Sign a Painting

    It also has more polls!

  12. I always sign my work, usually just before it's sold or due to be hung!

    Like most, I add the date, full signature and some info on the back.

    I never sign work that I'm not happy with!!!

  13. I sign with my first name only, small in the corner with the year.

    Just starting to add title, my name & date to reverse.

  14. Hi Katherine,
    This is an issue I have been working on myself. When I was young and then when I began painting again (38 years later) I signed with just my first name. Lately I have been signing with first two initials and last name. My husband's grandfather was a fairly well-known American painter/sculptor, so I didn't want to use my married last name alone (that is what he often did). I did toy with signing just my maiden name, but that isn't really my name now. I also sign and date the back of the painting (I don't date the front signature). Thank you for your blog!

  15. I chose "Sign and date artwork for sale" because I often forget to sign sketches, although I am trying to get better with that. Very occassionally I forget to sign an original - but it is rare.
    I typically sign in either the lower right or left corner. I sign with a brush in a non-staining watercolor. Non-staining because it sometimes takes more than one try to get it right. (Signing with a brush is a challenge!)
    Earlier this year I was accepted into a juried show that required a signature on the front of all work. That was the first I had ever heard fo that stipulation.

  16. Stacy - it occurs to me that the stipulated signature requirement might in some way be connected to concerns about originality and authenticity. Maybe?


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