The Evolution of a Signature

Recently I began to wonder if an artist could change the way in which they sign their artwork. Naturally, I Googled it. I didn’t exactly find what I was expecting or hoping to find (“yes” or “no”), but I did come across some interesting perspectives. I guess what I really wanted to know was: could using a different signature affect your body of work in a negative way? The conclusion I came to was that it should not. Henri Matisse had seven known signatures, and other artists even more. When it comes to assessing a piece as part of an artist’s body of work, the style of the work will likely speak for itself. And a particular way of signing could potentially show the work as part of a certain period in one’s career.

When I started out, I used to sign my full name. I would always put my signature in weird places, working it into the curves of whatever I had drawn. Sometimes, for no particular reason, I signed my initials in various ways. In the past, there was no thought behind changing up my signature. I simply did whatever I felt like at the time. I suppose I was having fun. I didn’t even realize just how many different ways I have signed my name on my artwork until I started looking.

When I got married last year and changed my name, I started out by signing my initials. I wasn’t happy with how that looked, so I came up with a monogram instead. I still think it’s cool but it might be more appropriate as a logo. One site made me think about the importance of having a legible signature. That way, someone can readily identify the work as yours and also (in this day and age) easily look you up online.

I don’t think my signature has really “evolved” in any kind of linear way (though hopefully my work itself has). Unnoticed by me, it was just always changing. If I had to give an artist starting out advice about how to sign their work, I would tell them: do what feels right to you. If it’s fun to hide your signature within your artwork, signing differently every time, do that. If you prefer a more orderly approach, that’s okay too. And do consider dating your work, either next to your signature or on the back of the piece. Someday you (or someone else!) will want to know when you made it.

Here are some more things to know about artist signatures.

Signatures
Just some of the variations of my artist signature, starting from the early 2000s

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A few examples of old sketches signed in different ways/ places.

Lately I have been using a standard bottom-right approach for my signature, but looking back at these makes me remember the whimsy and creativity that used to be a part of something as simple as signing my name. I’m sure there are plenty of artists who don’t give signing a second thought. But ultimately your signature does end up being a part of each piece. What that signature says is up to you.