To sign or not to sign . . . that is the question

A recent email thread – what’s your opinion? Post in the comments.

The Question:


I’m so glad you were a presenter again in this year’s Telesummit. You provided a great deal of value. I’m sure many who participated are very grateful.

I do have a question. In your experience of selling art, have you noticed any impact on whether or not 2-D artists sign their work in a way the signature is visible? My paintings and mixed media work are abstract. I’ve thought a signature detracts from the work. I do sign, title and give the dimensions of my work (not the date) on the back. Should I re-think my signature practice?

– Tom

My Response:


Thanks for the email. I wish I could give you statistics on your question (“You are 29.75% more likely to sell your art if you include your signature on the front of a piece”) but statistics like that are hard to come by in this business. What I can tell you is that over the years I have had artists who don’t sign their work on the front and I perceived some hesitation among collectors about the work because of it. I can’t say for sure that it prevented any sales, but my attitude is “why risk it?” Art buyers are accustomed to signatures visible on the front of work, and typically in the lower right corner. My tendency would be to give them what they are used to.

You can minimize the aesthetic impact of the signature though by keeping it small and discrete, and by using low-contrast color.


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  1. Thanks, Jason. I’m truly grateful for your response and guidance concerning my question about signing my work. I know others at the smARTist Telesummit had the same question. I’ll share this with them.

  2. I too got a lot out of your presentation on Smartist, Jason. I typically free-motion quilt my name and the year on the lower right corner of my fiber pieces, but I also provide a label on the back with Title, date, dimensions, and all my contact info. Thanks again for a great talk. I will be implementing many of your suggestions in my marketing program.

  3. I also do abstract work and dislike the look of a signature. I don’t think my name is beautiful or even interesting to look at per se …. I find that my compromise is to do a very small signature, in a reasonable color in the lower right hand side. I want it visible to those who look for it but at 10 -12 feet away it tends to disappear.

  4. I am baffled why any artist would NOT want to sign. It’s free advertising! It’s presumption to assume everyone can identify your work by your style. Even in a collector’s home, when their friends see it, you should be proclaiming your name to them (potential new collectors) so they don’t have to ask, “Who did this lovely piece of art?” I like my collectors to remember my name without having to turn the piece around to see it. I’m amazed at how many people I have asked for the name of an artist they purchased a piece from, and they can’t remember it. How much more likely they won’t remember it if you don’t have it signed… legibly… on the front. They need reminding… names are something many of us have a hard time with.. the older we get, the more it happens! As creative folk, we can always find a way to creatively put our name on a painting that looks good.

  5. Jason,
    I always sign and title my photography. I title on the bottom left corner and sign on the bottom right. It is on the mat and in small print in pencil. I have been told by some galleries that for entry into a juried that this not be done. Supposedly so the judge will not be biased. If that is the case I will not enter the show. I figure if Edwin Weston, Ansel Adams and many other greats signed their work, it is good enough for me.

  6. “Required” may be a little strong. That sounds like being strong-armed. How about “encouraged” to sign their names . . .? Strongly encouraged.
    LLB, Charlotte, NC

  7. If I sign it’s only for figurative work, since abstracts sometimes get rotated by the final buyer when they display them. Seeing my signature in a different corner and vertical, looks a bit strange.

  8. I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately. When i sell one on one I tend to sign and date (just the year) , my photography. I have been wondering though if i should also sign my work on my website, either by electronically adding my signature or if I should leave it with out, the only thing about doing this, is that it’ll add a bit more work for me, not much, but it’ll be an extra step to finalize my work.

    So it comes down to this for me, are the only customers lucky enough to have my work “autographed” the ones that I deal with personalty? and not the ones that buy from my site? Well, im still debating on that part, preferably I would love everyone to have my work signed, I feel as though it would be more complete and it’ll give every client that satisfaction and importance of owning a “great master piece” if you will and knowing that it separates my work from any other they already have hanging on their walls.

  9. Always sign the front of your artwork as a way of authenticating it. Can’t write in paint? Use a pen. Don’t like the look of your signature? This was my problem…make your initials into a rebus [representational logo-style image]. Mine is a 1cm rectangle in silver ink with a full diagonal and a half diagonal line= ‘K’ and a hoop= ‘P’. This you will find on the bottom left of all of my framed artworks. On the gallery wrapped artworks it is on the left edge
    BUT I sign, date & number the back of the canvas in indelible black ink.

  10. I also paint abstractly with the intention of the buyer to have to ability to rotate the paintings occasionally, so a signature in the bottom right would indicate only one orientation. I sign on the back. But this is a troubling question that plagues me still.

  11. I had someone buy a painting from me because he saw a painting of mine at an office. He was able to clearly see my signature and searched me on the internet. A few years ago I changed my signature so it was readable, glad I did!
    I understand some don’t want to sign the front, but you may be missing out on a sale. These days anyone can find you easly via internet, assuming you have a website.

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