Video – Ask a Gallery Owner: Where to sign your artwork

In this video, I discuss the question of whether or not signatures are important on artwork. I share my opinion that signatures are important in the sense that collectors buying original artwork anticipate finding a signature somewhere on the work. I also share my opinion that where you sign or how you sign is a matter of personal preference. Ultimately, it is up to the artist to decide how they want to sign their work.

How do you sign your art? Have you struggled with your signature? Have questions you would like me to answer in future sessions? Leave a comment below!

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

22 Comments

  1. Hi Jason, on a diptych, do I sign it on the front only on the 2nd panel? with sig on back for both panels? The art is representational, and is not meant to be seen independently

  2. Sign your work! I have owned and run a gallery for 40 years. Almost inevitably when a person decides to purchase a work, the next question is where is it signed. I have been told young artsts don’t want to sign their work- know it will impact your sales.

  3. I sign my work with a stylized initial on the lower right corner.I have for several years. However, I leave a full signature on the back with the serial number of the piece. I work in pastels and oil pastels, so the signature can be smudged on the front. I use permanent ink on the back. I thought about using the ink on the front but didn’t care for the way it looks. Thus opting for the full signature on the back. What are your thoughts on this?

  4. For my younger years, and I have no idea how I decided this was the thing to do, I did not sign my name. I eventually learned, at the request of my collectors, to sign my work, using my first name because it’s unique and short…a small but important detail, our signature!

  5. Thank you for this topic. It’s been bugging me!
    A teacher I have says to sign it on the back,
    but collectors/buyers want the sig on the front.
    I like the idea of signing on the front right bottom, and now I feel confident to do just that, because of your shared experience.
    Thanks again.

  6. I sign and print my name on the back of my work.
    Occasionally, but not very often i print it on the front.
    My signature is not readable, but I have been told by gallerists that they love it,.
    So i do sign my works but always print my name under my signatures.

  7. I always sign my work the same way without too much fanfare. I agree with you that collectors want to see the signature. I am also proud to produce my hard earned work and I am thrilled to see my name on it!

  8. Since I do western art, I designed a “Cattle Brand”which I had made into a rubber Then on the back, I sign my name and title the art. I figured the brand looked good, fit the subject matter, and was recognizeable. then the signature onthe back was the identification. I’ve had people ask me to put the stamp on older pieces, even when my signature is already on it. They seem to like it so far. Does this sound okay to you?

  9. I’ve struggled but I’ve made up my mind. It’s not about me it’s about the art- signature on the back.

  10. Often if my work remains in my studio or home, I don’t necessarily sign it, but not because I don’t think signatures are important. It has more to do with the struggle to reconcile the signature with the composition of the work. But once I know a piece is going in a show, or to a buyer I almost always overcome my resistance and find a way to sign it. Where and how I sign varies according to the medium, the composition and the size of the work. With smaller works I often just use my initials and I don’t always use the same medium as the work itself. I have been known to sign oils in pencil, acrylic and watercolor works in ink, and I use oil stick on other works. I find brushes awkward and nerve-wracking with which to make a signature. I also often print my name and the title of the work on the back. I am proud of my work I want people to know who did it. On a few occasions, I forgot to sign works and buyers brought them back to me for a signature. I happily complied and I think that is evidence that buyers and collectors do care about the presence of an artist’s signature. I think one of the masters of the artist signature was without-a-doubt Vincent van Gogh. His simple Vincent, often incorporated into the composition of the work is brilliant.

  11. I started selling before I married and signed my first and last name and date because that’s what we were told to do. Then I married, and added his last name. Then I married a second time, dropped the previous married name and added the new last name, which is rather long. By that time, I had stopped painting and was only doing drawings so I could do a discreet signature that was still legible.

    Now I’m painting again and discovered that signing my now long name with a brush took up too much room and drew attention (plus it was difficult and I’m old enough to detest useless work), so…. I just sign my initials in a kind of logo style on the front and sign the needed details in pencil on the back.

    I use pencil because I don’t trust ink to not fade with the years. Yes, indelible ink does fade.

  12. Question to anyone: I primarily use gallery-wrapped canvases, and started to sign on the back on the stretcher bar. Does this pose a problem? Or should I sign on the back of the canvas itself?

  13. Great question! Good to know a gallerist’s and their collectors’ pov.

    I’m disappointed when I see art I like and can’t find out whose it is. I’d like to follow up by checking out more of that artist’s work online, and there’s no way to do so. Enough said – note to self!

    In the past I wasn’t totally fussed about signing right away (or at all) but in recent years I’ve begun to do it once I decide it is finished – right there and then, for my own sake. It is a “rite of passage” for the artwork. I allow it to be finished, and complete. I take a stand for it, and move on to another work. It also helps me remember when I made it (!) and chart my progress in various ways.

    Where and how? Wherever it works. I’ve signed on the edges of gallery wraps, on the front (mostly on the lower edge somewhere) in a subtle paint shade, or in pencil, depending on the medium. And always on the back, though that is not seen in a work under glass with mats etc. I agree with Ginny, the material has got to be paint or pencil …though pencil is easily removed. I sometimes put acrylic over it to “fix” it, like on the back of wood panels.

    I have variedly put initials (paint) or written out (pencil) which I probably should firm up to be consistent. So, yes, I’m proud to put my name on my work, yet definitely want it to be low key.

    A “certificate of authenticity” seems WAY too crass, but Saatchi online suggests it. What are your thoughts, Jason – anyone?

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a certificate of authenticity. When I was a picture framer, we used to make folders for them and adhere the certificate to the back of the piece quite often. I kinda forgot about it until your post. Now I’m thinking I should make COAs for my originals too. I think the buyer appreciate it and there’s nothing crass about it. What do you all think?

  14. I sign it in the front, and I incorporate it into the design somehow so it is subtle, you kind of have to look for my signature to find it.

    My issue is this:
    When I was married, I used to paint, and then sign my work with my initials TM. Then I got divorced and went back to my maiden name, but thought what if I get married again someday and I have to change my initials again? People will be confused. So I started signing my work Lovely11. I was born on the 11th day of the 11th month in 74 (7+4=11). Also, almost everyone I know has some kind of art moniker. But then I had a couple of people who have no affiliation with galleries or artists, tell me I need to sign my name- Tara Weeks. They said people want art by me, they don’t know who Lovely11 is. So now I just started signing it Tara Lynn Weeks. And I have one piece that I put Lovely11 and my whole name in it. What do you all think? Should I keep signing it Lovely11 or should I sign my full name Tara Lynn Weeks. I’m not famous or anything so it doesn’t matter if I pivot now. Thank you

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