To Sign Or Not To Sign

Digital artwork called Dancing In A Blue Dress.

A digital painting by Ronnie McInnes Dancing In A Blue Dress © 2016.

The above digital painting is one of my most favourite creations. Or I should write, of my own creations. Like almost every one of my paintings, digital or acrylic, it has been signed. Signing work is a choice, it's certainly my choice, but signing art isn't for everyone.

In a wee corner of our livingroom sits my easel, paints, brushes, pc and printers. Basically what I call my studio space. It's nothing spectacular but it has a nice big window. My corner is in a great position for natural lighting. When I'm working on a painting, whether it be digital or acrylic on canvas, my family can see what I'm doing (if they happen to be in the living room). They're all familiar with my process too. If you were to ask any of my family members when I might be finished, even my youngest child, you'd get the same answer. Once I've signed it. By signing I say "I am happy to stop there." My signature acts as a stamp of approval. It means the work has passed the final quality checks and has been given the ok by it's creator.

I haven't always signed my work. When I drew (and I did so a lot) growing up I never signed anything. The first of my paintings that have my signature dates back to 2001. Until that point I had never thought my work had enough value to sign it. But as my skillset and my confidence grew, so did the amount of value I hold for my work. In came the signature. Hey it was good enough for Picasso and Van Gogh, so it's good enough for me.

Signatures are things I've discussed with other creative people before, ranging from artists and crafters to photographers and they all have their own opinions (and that's great - nothing wrong with having your own opinion I reckon). My most recent discussion on the matter was yesterday. I popped into Whitburn (a little village in West Lothian) to pick up a bunch of my paintings that had been exhibited there. While I was in wrapping my canvasses with bubble wrap the gallery owner started a conversation with me about my signature. He said "Please don't be offended by this, but I think your signature is a bit big." I certainly didn't take offense, but I didn't agree with him either.

Some of you may agree with the gallery owner, some might not. But here's why I sign my work like I do. Usually you'll find my signature in a bottom corner of the artwork, occupying some dead space. I make sure the signature stands out against the colours of the dead space and I choose the signature colour from somewhere else in the painting. To tie it in with another part of the painting and make it stand out. I don't usually encroach on the main composition. I have occasionally added shadows, reflections or other details to the signature, symbolising the value and importance I place on my little initials. Admittedly though I don't have to put my signature on the front, many artists sign the work on the back or sides. But I choose to for the simple reason that I have had the copyright of my work infringed in the past. On two separate occasions I have found work (one artwork and one photograph I had taken) used in magazines with neither my consent nor the slightest mention of my name within the magazine content. So I make sure I sign all my work to reduce the risk of copyright theft. Plus it's big enough and bold enough to be seen (in print too) without causing a distraction to my eye.

Also, as a businessman my signature acts as branding which helps my own customers and potential customers identify my work. Some people like to say "It distracts me from the main composition of the artwork." They may say something similar. Yet it's often the same people who are wearing logos on their clothing, who have a number of logos on their car and who watch tv with a brand right beneath the screen, but funnily enough they don't seem to get distracted by those logos. Why is my signature any more distracting than these bits of branding? It's not in my opinion.

A recent digital painting I created on commission was for a child who plays rugby. In the composition the boy was being tackled by another player of similar age and size. Within my original reference photo were 18 logos and that's just the gear on two boys and the rugby ball that they were using. 18 for goodness sake. Safe to say I didn't include all 18 in my artwork because they actually were too distracting to the composition (plus I don't want to advertise on their behalf for free using my business). Instead I included just 4 and I signed the work too of course.

Whether you sign or not and where or how you sign is up to you, but make the choice for your own reasons.

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