08/25/2004: "Signing Your Artwork, a Question"
This question was posted in my guestbook tonight:
Question: I'm taking an art class and the instructor told us that we could not sign on the front of our work. She said that you can't sign the front unless you were an established artist. Does anyone agree with this and are there any rules justifying that statement? I think that if you made it and it is no one else's work than you can sign it even if you are a new artist. Who knows, maybe someday you will be famous and then you can't claim your work from when you first started. shell
My initial response is "what the F@*!?"
I've *never* heard that you can't sign the front of your work unless you're an "established" artist (whatever that means). I don't know what others have been taught but personally, I think for an instructor to tell a student not to sign their work is ridiculous.
The only exceptions I can think of are:
1. If you're doing reproductions of other famous works of art as a study. For example, if your instructor had you try and replicate a Monet or the Mona Lisa or something...then you probably wouldn't want to sign it because it would only be a study...but from how you phrased your question it sounds like you're talking about your own original work and that the reason you were told not to sign it is because you aren't well known yet.
2. I have read stories about well known artists who sell paintings for thousands of dollars only to have old crappy work from school resurface to humiliate them. My work has changed a lot since art school but I'm not embarrassed by any of it and I actually enjoy seeing the progression that my work has gone through. There were times I did stuff I thought was brilliant at the time that makes me cringe a little now, but not to the extent I'd want to disown it.
My advice would be that if you are happy with the work that you are doing and don't think you'll regret having it resurface when you get your retrospective at the MOMA, then tell your instructor that you stand by your work and that you would like to sign them regardless of your current lack of celebrity. After all, we are all students of art. No matter how "established" you are, we all continue to learn (hopefully) for our entire artistic careers. I have a feeling that 10 years from now, the work I'm doing now will make me cringe as well...that doesn't mean I don't want the credit for it. It may be crap, but it's my crap damn it!
What advice would the rest of you give?