Friday Tips: Where Goest Thy Signature?

Below is a recent question by a painter who had limited edition prints published, only to find herself in a quandary.  My answer follows.

Q:  Recently I had limited-edition giclée prints done of one of my paintings. When the prints arrived, I noted that my signature and date no longer appeared in the lower right corner of the prints as they had on the original. When I queried the printer, he responded, “Having two signatures on a piece (one in the composition and one signed) is tacky.”  What is your opinion?

A:  This decision is, in my opinion, strictly up to the artist, who owns the painting and therefore the copyright to ALL images made of it–unless someone duped you into signing away the copyright, something I never advocate. 

This is not the decision of the printer, at least not if you’re the one footing the bill.  However if you signed a one-time copyright agreement with the printer, and if the printer is footing the bill, then this issue will have to be resolved between both parties, assuming it’s an issue at all.  It really shouldn’t be.

Most painters who have S/N prints made of their work opt to include the signature in the image.  They then either sign and number near the signature, or on the opposite side of the print.  Where one signs is simply a matter of personal preference, or where you feel it will look best on the varying images.  It’s not necessarily always in the same place each time.  But in general, you will wind up signing somewhere near the bottom, in the left-hand or right-hand corner.

Retaining the signature as part of the print tells buyers that the piece is a reproduction of an original.  As your career grows, this will make a signed print of greater value to your collectors.  Will it eventually become “priceless?”  Ah, that depends on the level of your talent, the winds of fate, and how well your reps market you.  Either way, that’s something you probably won’t learn about until after you’ve joined that great artist’s colony in the sky.

Bon chance.

6 thoughts on “Friday Tips: Where Goest Thy Signature?

  1. I have always thought that an artist should sign each individual work so that they have actually touched the art. this gives it some intrinsic value even if it’s a reproduction. I sign all my sculptures including bronzes even though somtimes my signature comes thru from the wax. But I have always wondered if there is a required order of copyright signage? Is it signature, copyright symbol, year? I have seen it many different ways, but that’s the order I have used for the last 30 years!

  2. I sign my original oils on the lower right corner. I leave that signature intact when I reproduce for my giclees. I s/n the giclee on the lower left corner with permanent oil-based marker in gold. It’s subtle yet readable. This way the giclee doesn’t scream PRINT.

  3. T: The truth is, there is no one standard. That’s the odd thing about the art world: the lack of consistent standards. It’s also one of the beauties of it. But where bronzes are concerned, I’d say your practice is fine. The only thing I advise in bronzes, oils, and all the rest? NEVER insert the year. Let the historians bother with that after you’ve passed. If you bother with it now, some collectors will come to believe that the work they’re considering has grown stale. Yes, I’ve actually witnessed this. The alternative is to simply list the year of creation in the Certificate of Authenticity.

    S: Indeed, subtlety goes much further than overloud pronouncement, whether in originals or reproductions.

    Now if you’ll forgive me, it’s Saturday night. I’ve got a bottle of bourbon lookin lonesome, and a woman lookin the same. I’d better get off this damned computer.

  4. I’m still suprised that the printer omitted the original signature. To do this they had to alter the orginal in some way..yes? That seems more tacky than having the 2 signatures.

  5. Very good webpage you have here and best greetings to all your visitors.

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