I have a landscape painting in my office. I love it because I don’t have any windows so it makes me feel like I am looking outside at the sky. I’m not kidding, it really works. Another reason I have it prominently displayed is – I don’t know who painted it! I’ve had several visitors ask me about my mystery painting – some have wanted to buy it – but I can’t tell them any charming stories about the artist, I can’t explain when it was created or what exact mediums were used or what the creator was thinking about. It is unsigned.
A friend brought it to me and asked me to identify the artist but I don’t recognize the style so I couldn’t help. We decided to leave it hanging in my office in case someone stops in and says, “Wow, that’s a nifty painting by Susie X – I love her work.” So far it hasn’t happened but I live in hope.
This mystery painting is one of the reasons I always encourage artists to sign their work and date it! Seriously, why wouldn’t you?
I spoke to an art student who informed me that she was philosophically opposed to signing her work because that made it into a “commodity” and was thus, “selling out”. I love the ideal of making work to clarify your unique and tortured soul in a world gone mad but let’s get real for a second. Are you making work for yourself only or are you also hoping to communicate with other humans? If you plan to cover your walls with your work and never show it to anyone else, it’s your art – enjoy your delicious obscurity. But if you would like to pay an occasional electric bill or even become wildly celebrated and collected – signing and dating your work is very important.
An artist told me he didn’t feel as though he was “good enough” to sign his work because he wasn’t a “real artist”. If you make art, you are an artist, you may be a horrible artist but you still deserve the description. If you think you are terrible, keep making work until you are better. Take lessons from someone you admire, try a different medium, just decide not to make value judgments and enjoy making what you make. You are the only one who draws like you or puts colors together like you. Celebrate your unique thumbprint. Sign that painting! (more…)