Signing a piece is a gesture of approval and an acknowledgement of finishing. It’s important. A good signature can enhance a painting and a bad …

Signing a piece is a gesture of approval and an acknowledgement of finishing. It’s important. A good signature can enhance a painting and a bad one, really, really detract. So it’s something to give some thought to. My signature has evolved over time. When I started painting, I signed my whole name and signed pretty much like I signed my checks. Over time, I’ve dropped my first name and sign with only my last. This is not because I’m trying to disguise the fact that I’m a women, but because it’s more pleasing to me.

How I sign pastels
Placement in lower right corner


Here are a few things to consider when signing your pieces

  1. Design – Give thought to what your signature is made up of. My signature now is more of a “mark” a logotype than my legal signature. The letters are always canted to the left and simple strokes stand in for the letters. This has really evolved over time.
  2. Size – I give some consideration to the size of the signature. It of course depends on the size of the piece. I make the scale of the signature appropriate to the size of the painting.
  3. Media – I usually sign my pastels with a Nupastel, but will sometimes use a regular pencil or a Carb Othello pastel pencil. I sign my paintings in whatever medium I’m using and try to do it before they are varnished so the signature doesn’t have a mat finish that is different from the rest of the piece.
  4. Color and Value – I want my signature to be visible, but I don’t want it to stick out like a sore thumb. I usually avoid black and pick something middle value. Lately, I’ve found a middle red to be satisfying.
  5. Placement – Again, I want the signature to be visible, but not first read, so I’m not hiding it and I’m not letting it scream either. I usually place it in either the lower left or right corner. I place mine on a horizontal, I don’t place it on an angle. This is personal preference.

I also don’t put all the letters I’ve earned after my name, like PSA, MC etc. I really don’t think most buyers really care and it messes up the look of my signature. Again, this is just my personal preference!

Happy Painting!!

7 Responses

  1. Marla, you're blessed to have a sort of unique last name. With a last name like "Richardson," signing only the last name doesn't work. There are several hundred "Brenda Richardsons" in the USA and around 50 in Michigan alone. So I usually use "Brenda S.K. Richardson". My favorite is "Brenda S. Kerster Richardson" – uniquely me, but — alas, too long. Any ideas?

  2. Excellent info and perspective. A painter friend of mine's last name was a long Greek name, which he shortened to Gian. Another painter I know adopted a more pseudonymn since her early days of art…three letter first name and three letter last and her large paintings have the first and last name stacked with her smaller pieces only her 3-letter last name. It took me awhile to get to the place where I could use an alias for my creative work.

  3. Awesome post. I can't stand it when people start doing weird things with their signatures, like putting them across the sky of a landscape (yes, I've seen it). I don't understand why anyone would want their signature to be the first thing that the viewer notices. I just find it annoying. There are plenty of people who disagree as demonstrated at a critique group meeting I attended where some of the people were pretty passionate that it was fine to sign with a contrasting color and large flowing script most of the way up the side of a landscape. On the flip side, one of the plein air competitions I've done asked that artists not sign their work. Well, I suppose that for judging it's a nice idea, but not so much afterwards when the buyer wants a signature on a framed pastel in another city 3 hours away from here. I'm with you- mid toned, and in scale with the piece.

  4. This is an excellent post Marla, and very timely for me as I am changing the way I sign my work. I am looking forward to your workshop this weekend. I've waited a long time to take one from you…what a treat for me!! See you soon and yes, I would like help with signing!

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