Did you know that Albrecht Dürer was one of the first artists to start signing his art? Hi. My name is Carrie and today on Artist Strong, we’re going to answer the question should you sign your art?
During the Renaissance, most artists actually did not sign their artwork. Part of that was because they were hired by patrons to create art for their homes, and their name was known well enough within an art community or by the people hiring them they didn’t feel like they need to put their name down on anything.
There is one story about Michelangelo, however, when he created his masterpiece: the sculpture that’s called La Pietà. (This work is now in the Vatican.) He had overheard people admiring it and giving credit to another artist for that sculpture. That made him kind of cranky, so he went back in and carved across Mary’s chest his name, Michelangelo, to make sure that everyone knew that it was his work. That’s one of our first stories of people signing their art.
Another Renaissance artist, a Dutch master, Jan van Eyck, was also one of the first people to start signing his art. One reason this happened, especially in the Northern Renaissance, is you had people all of a sudden in the middle class, who were now starting to collect and buy artwork.
It wasn’t just the super wealthy like the Church or other people in high places of power who wanted art for their homes. Artists created art that was a little smaller and portable. What better way to make sure people knew that you were the artist? Van Eyck started doing it so that when people saw his work, they knew it was his. In a lot of ways, that’s a branding decision being made.
I’ve seen a lot of articles out there that give you rules about whether or not you should sign your art. One of the major arguments that I see is that art historians say it’s going to help provenance. It’s going to help us prove throughout history that this is your work. If we always have your signature, we’ll know it’s yours even after you’re dead.
Some people are annoyed by this while others feel a lot of pressure that every work they create then has to be perfect because they’re putting their name to it and because it might be in the history books (the secret wish, anyway!). Well, if this is pressuring you so that you don’t make art: stop signing your art.
I mean it.
This is a silly reason for us to not be making. I know I felt that pressure myself. Sometimes we place elevated pressure on ourselves: every mark we make should be perfect, because (whisper) what if art historians could look at it?
If we have left this world, it doesn’t really matter now, does it?
I want you to be making. That’s the most important thing to me. Don’t follow arbitrary rules that people give you online. Don’t even follow my rules. Find something that speaks to your heart and if it feels good to sign your work, then go for it.
I would recommend that if you are branding or trying to promote and sell your art that you have a consistent signature. I can’t say that I do yet and I need to be better at it and take my own advice. But if you really want people to recognize your work, it’s not just the style of your art that helps do that, right? Your signature can act as a kind of logo for your work and help people who don’t know you learn about you.
If someone sees your artwork at a friend’s home and they’re like, “Oh, who’s Carrie?” for example, it could start a dialog that gets you a new collector. That being said, I want you to break those rules if they don’t fit for you. Do what feels right for you. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You don’t always have to put it in the bottom left corner. I’ve seen lots of artists agonize over this and lose time on their actual art making because they’re worried about how they sign their work. It certainly doesn’t matter if you don’t finish any work!
This might have not been the answer you expected today, but that’s my answer to your question: should you sign your art?
Be Creatively Courageous: share in the comments below do you sign your art and if you do, do you have a unique way that you do that? What’s your signature style of adding a signature to your art? Share it in the comments below. If you don’t sign your art, tell us about that too. Why doesn’t it feel right to you?
I’d love to hear more from you and I look forward to talking to you in the comments below this video. Have a great days, guys, and please share this video if you feel someone else will benefit from it. Bye.
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