Dating your artwork

Pre — going back to , is all negative. While I have refrigerated aging negatives for years — the color films do falter with age like my libido. The best of all my film works have been digitized anyway — so that is not my worry. Even as technologies progress, between each transition is a period where you can transpose your older works into the newer formats of archiving. Still it is a daunting dilemma to face with all certainty. Even a painter wants digital artifacts of their work to be held within the estate for as long as protections by law are available.

That could be taken offensively by those who care about animals. I always think and act as a guardian towards my kindred beings, never as their owner. RG note Thanks, Barbara. I also apologized to Dorothy and Stanley. We are all way too sensitive these days, BUT…point made. Good creative writing uses imagery. Robert used to refer to bad paintings as Schnauzers and I barked at him for being a dog-racist.


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I know intentions today are more market-driven than in the days of our predecessors, but I continue to think of painting as a product of my journey rather than inventory and so I date my work so that it can be chronologically placed within my total oeuvre. When I see a piece from years ago, it is informative to see where I was as an artist when that piece was done. As to my collectors I find they appreciate being able to pinpoint where that particular piece fits in the journey.

I would put the date on the back for my own and future reference, leave it off the front. I put a code on the back, and keep a spreadsheet with the info, including date. This also helps exactly identify a painting. I started in acrylics, tried watercolors, now in oils, sometimes do drawings. I started with wildlife realism, toyed with abstractions, mostly do still life now. I was better back then with some things, better with other things now! Most people women working in fiber, especially quilters, put a label on the back.

I date everything on the front. I only finish a few pieces a year. I want to remember what year I finished something that may have taken several years from start to finish, in an ongoing timeline, and it gives credibility to both me and the piece. And I want everybody else to know what year I finished it too.

There are only hundreds of pieces- not thousands. For the record, and my own, I encrypt the date in my inventory number that I list on the back of the painting. It is a 4 digit number, the first two numbers are my age and the second is the order in the year it was completed. So, the first painting I painted the year I turned 49 for example, the number was That way I at least have a vague record of when the work was completed for posterity.

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Some day when I am dead, hopefully someone will unlock the code for my major museum retrospective. I love the idea of helping who ever curates my posthumous collection. Nobody NOW seems to care that much! Maybe you get asked this every day. And I am fresh out of ways to convince myself that people mean well when they say it. Never mind that even good friends ask this over lunch. Never mind that they could get the answer from my blog, newsletter or website with just a few clicks to links I strategically place.

And never mind that I feel judged every time I am asked, as if my worth as an artist is directly linked to how well I am selling and how much I get for a painting in any given moment. Is this the only profession where people feel they are feigning genuine interest by asking you how much money you make? And what is a good way to answer them? RG note Thanks, Debra.

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There are many who compulsively need to know about the money. By the look in his eye I could see he was realizing that I was eking out more than he was. When one extra item such as a signature is added to a painting, it can possibly throw the entire balance of the painting off kilter.

It is a quiet fact that most beginning artists who are right-handed tend to want to sign their paintings on the lower right hand corner. Conversely, a left-handed artist tends to want to sign their paintings on the lower left side. This seems to come automatically from the balance of the mind, and who knows, perhaps the universe.

If it makes the look of the painting feel too heavy, that is not the place for the signature. In their excitement, I always remind them that the top corners might not always be the best place… it is a must that this process of checking all four corners be used before signing each painting.

I agree with you about signing where you feel the balance works best. I was shown a neat idea by Carol Lynn Davidson, to get a piece of transparent film a little larger than the space you would need to write your signature, write your signature on it with a permanent marker. I hope you are reading this Carol Lynn. I have a sheet of clear plastic with my signature on the corner made with a fine tipped permanent marker.

To determine where to sign my name on a finished work, I move the signature around always somewhere at or near the bottom to find out where my eye likes it best. That is where I do the final signing. I organize art retreats. All entrants have to do it submit their name and contact information here and they will be entered for the contest.

Everyone who enters will be kept informed about our future retreats. RG note Thanks, Keith. Good luck with your contest. I am always curious about where the workshops are when you show us the photos of them. Some places are mentioned,but not the country or if in the USA, the state they are in. Could you give us a little more idea in the title? A hot tip for signing dogs: Take a nail scissors and carefully clip your signature into the right flank of the animal. If it is facing the wrong way, you can use force to get it in a suitable position.

Enhance your signature with sheep or food dye. It is also a nice idea to include your middle names. Paintings based on familiar paragons such as Caravaggio or Matisse should not be signed on the front so as to preserve the illusion of great value for as long as possible. I title and sign everything on the back side of the canvas. I never date anything. Leave it for the overly anal critics and lecturers of the future to argue over which came first.

In the end, which is more important? The name is not the product. I recently acquired two watercolors by James Green. Both are signed in the lower right corner with complementary color. However, nowhere are they dated. With the help of people on the Internet I have a window of when he may have painted them. This artist passed away in With my own work I tend to sign in the lower right but will sign in the lower left. I date it on the back in pencil with a short note about the inspiration for the painting.

I work in watercolor so that is easy. I advise my students to sign their work either the lower left or right in a clear and readable manner and not to hide it in the design. I usually wait to sign my paintings until after they are photographed because I enter several competitions each year. My earlier paintings are dated, but I no longer do this for the reasons you, Robert, gave above.

I disagree with any conscious decision to leave off the date to avoid works being judged stale if they do not sell quickly.

Dating your artwork

Thanks for a great article. I make sure my composition includes my signature so there is no conflict. I always want to know when things were brought into being. Books, music, movies, paintings, automobiles. I date my work on the back…usually including the month. I like signing W. Dealers request paintings not to be dated as a selling strategy which makes their work easier. That is similar to requesting the edges and back of the canvas to be neat, framing to be done in a certain way etc.

Unfortunately many hours in the studio get wasted on that kind of formatting work. It takes less time not to date the work, then having to erase it later after shipping it back and forth several times. In the ideal world, we would just create a piece of art and not worry about anything else sublime.

In the real world we have to cooperate with other people, and find compromising strategies and work around solutions dull. I like to make this dull part pleasant, friendly and respectful. The archives are kept accurate and can be shared. I think signing on front is extremely distracting and ruins the painting. I sign on the back with date, and time, that is quite useful.

I sign my works and up until a couple of years ago, dated them as well. Now my initials and last name are sufficient. Signing in lights or darks may fade into the painting but cadmium red solves that nicely. It tells me that I have made the best work I can. As for works with dates, I never put a date on a work expressly because I believe a work is new until it is exhibited or sold.

For my money it is part of a body of work done over a lifetime all of which is valid as part of an artists portfolio. I strongly believe that its the artist job to paint and let others worry about time frame. Signing and dating is important only for those who keep records of such facts. When it was done is of no consequence- to me. I follow your example for signing and not dating. This could pose a problem. Also, is it inappropriate to use a title more than once? Thanks for all your valuable help! I take exception to both…especially the signing.

Signing and dating

I have taught seminars about the early Taos painters to and found that the great Victor Higgins as well as others often did not date their work for the reason that you stated. This has made it difficult for the art historians. The gallery and the buyer can then have this information if needed but it will not be on the painting.

I agree with Robert about not dating your paintings as well as signing unobtrusively and in the same place — lower right. I paint an under color on all of my paintings and since I paint pretty thickly I scratch my signature into the wet paint.

If I am painting an abstract on a gallery wrapped canvas and I think the signature might distract from the design I will scratch my signature on the side of the canvas. I also keep a file that has the date of the paintings in case I get inquiries although I have never had anyone ask for that. On some older paintings that I put the date on the back side I have gone back and gessoed over the date. I agree that clients might make a judgment about a painting with an older date even though it is still a good painting.

Look at art history, see what others have done before our times, when commerce and all the nonsense that comes with it leans heavily on artists. I was shocked to see North American artists sign their name with the addition of the copyright symbol! How deep can you drop? I know the dividing line is far from clear, and that all good art as to do with money, but still… I prefer to sign my paintings, either full name, or initials, plus the date.

To be sure, I sign the back and add the date, even day-month-year if I feel that it the moment or encounter was an important one. If finished in one sitting I might scratch my name with the back of my brush in the wet paint. I agree with Robert, unobtrusive and clear. Some artists sign with a grand flourish: Currently, I sign very small and include a web url — this has caused some issues with galleries saying they want sales to come through to them.

I have given commissions to galleries in their territories, even though I know the customer has found me on the web. Here is the deal though, with some notable exceptions, galleries come and go and relationships with galleries change over time, and ultimately I want interested people to find me. Some galleries also wanted me to take down my website. Though everyone calls me a painter I am photographic based and work in limited editions, and I also sign and date originals on the back printing archival pieces as needed. The plate sign on the front has the date when I finished the piece.

So my pieces currently have a plate sign with date the image was created and url small left or right which ever is better for the piece. On the back I sign again, number and indicate the inventory number of the piece. If I found the correct gallery to act as a master distributor, I might change these practices and take down my website or better yet have the gallery be the only contact on the website. There are times when he has actually improved my paintings by deepening the saturation of certain hues. Do they number their prints as well understanding that there is no real reason for doing so?

Neither strikes me as particularly honest. I recently saw several Monet works in the same place. They were all signed with the same signature. But some were signed on the right, some on the left, and some in the middle. The coloration of the bottom portion of the paintings seemed to be the deciding factor: I have a friend who paints abstracts that signs on the back so that the buyer can hang in the direction they like best.

Her compositions are so good that they can hang in almost any position. I now sign my first initial and last nameMClements--because it's shorter and easier and it is not as neat and perfect as I used to make it. I used to sign almost like calligraphy--I was a 3rd grade teacher and it showed in my writing at that time. I used to date my paintings, but no longer do that for reasons listed above.

Age shouldn't matter, but I think customers might wonder why it is still there. If it hasn't sold before, something must be wrong with it. Actually it might be one of my best paintings that has been hanging in my own home or something. I think it is good to keep a record of your paintings with date, medium, photo, who bought it from you--some history in a notebook or on your computer--I'm not good at that--but plan on being better about it this year.

I always sign on the front. I also sometimes write the first name of the model and or where I painted it. If it's a landscape I may note where. I like the dates on paintings. I don't think I've been an artist very long until I look at some of the early work that I dated. An old date is definitely a barrier to sale while you are still working and evolving your style.

So no, I no longer date my work. Marsha Clements TurtleCreek Art Glass Thanks for sharing your experiences, and opinions here concerning signing and dating art! I do almost exclusively Digital Visual Art so this comes in handy. Kirk Mathew Gatzka Thanks for sharing that Kirk! This is a very cool signing tip! On all of my paintings I have put my glyph made up of my first and last initials. I have also signed my watercolors in the border with the title, I have done the same in pencil at the bottom of the painting itself.

I used to rely on the glyph, but, have seen the same image on work by other KW's. On my photos I had added a largish watermark, but, got tired of either saving a clean copy or photoshopping it out, so I now hide several watermarks 96 pixels wide in different spots.

If I ever get to sell any I will sign them on the back. As I have a little name M Shaw I sign on the front and this fits almost anywhere. Use a colour used in the painting so it tones in. I then sign fully on the back Margaret Shaw, with date and Media. C Kaufman and date last 2 digits of year on the front of the painting.

Usually ends up in the bottom right hand corner. Sometimes I paint a quick sketch on back of painting. Artists who sign their paintings with a felt pen. It must take a bit of practice to sign in the same medium you are working in. Maybe if I modify my signature it will look better in paint, but so far I just crap it up every time and then get a pencil out What do you this of artists that have a stamp made with an iconic signature of their name but not their actual signature?

My cousin does this and his name is certainly identifiable and he can always "match" any painting perfectly Signing a painting is, for me, a part of the ritual of painting. When I sign a painting it brings closure - it means "The painting is done! Kellee, I practiced writing my signature in the medium.

Finding the right size brush, the right consistency of paint, figuring out what I wanted the J to look like. When I switched from watercolor to acrylic I changed my signature from cursive to block script. And that took practice too - so don't be frustrated by signing in the medium - just practice doing it on a scrap - a big scrap! I do find it frustrating to go to a show and see unsigned paintings. I went to one recently and could not distinguish who painted what because the artists' styles were similar and none of the paintings were signed.

Over the years, my signature has become a part of the composition of my artworks, and I affix it as soon as I feel completely connected to the piece. I also put the date month and year because I regret so much not having done so on my early pieces as a child. Thank you for sharing such great tips. I learned how to sign my painting using this video - http: I am too excited!!! Thank-you for your comment!

I certainly wish I had signed them! I created an autograph that was not too eye-catching , since it could possibly distract from the artwork. My signature is easy to read. If my name could be identifiable, then I would have simply defeated the whole purpose of having an artist autograph in the first place.

If you are an artist who prefers to use initials on the front, it will be a good idea to include your full signature on the back of the artwork. I made sure not to sign too close to the edge. When my paintings and drawings are eventually framed , my signature will not be hidden by being too close to the border. I also find that I have to crop some images slightly when photographing art for prints and display on the web. To account for this cropping, I needed to have my autograph a little further inside the composition.

I am signing my paintings immediately after I finish them , while the paint is still wet. Doing so will also make it very difficult for forgers to reproduce them. I am using the same medium that I used for my artwork. This is very obvious. My signature for my oil paintings are done with oil paint, and my drawings — graphite.

Please state your opinions below. Posted by Graham Matthews. Artist Advice and Tips , Artist Issues.