Module 9 — Your Signature

Artists often sign their work, but not all artists do so in an obvious way. Some painters have a prominent signature in one corner of the painting. Others hide it a bit, or even put it on the back of a piece, so it doesn’t interfere with the viewer’s experience of the painting itself. 

And then there is your “signature style”. Have you ever noticed that we often act as if we have to consciously choose a personal style, but if you’re in a class or workshop, it’s pretty easy to tell, even in a fairly short time, who painted what? 

Module 9 Thinking Prompt—Your (Actual) Artist’s Signature

How much does it matter who painted a painting? Is that just something for really famous artists, or is it always important? 

As an artist, do you want to make sure viewers can find and read your signature easily? Or do you prefer to make it less conspicuous, or put it on the side or back of the work? If you put your signature on the back of work that is then matted and framed, does it matter that it’s no longer visible without removing the work from the frame, or do you just want to be sure it’s there for archival reasons?

How much do you care, as an art collector, whether the artist’s signature is visible on the front of the painting? Why?

Do you think it’s true that many people want to buy or own artwork because they feel a personal connection to the artist? If most of the people who buy or own your work do have a personal connection (e.g., friends and family, mostly) do you think that reflects on the quality of your work? (In other words, do you feel you need to appeal to complete strangers for your work to have value?)

Why do you buy/collect the art you collect? 

What, besides your actual signature, do you think makes up your “signature style”? (If you can’t think of anything, ask other people!) To what extent do you think artists can or should choose their painting style, as opposed to simply allowing it to emerge naturally? If you don’t consciously choose your style, do you choose parts of it? 

Is it true that artists should only make one recognizable style of work? Why or why not?

Module 9 Activity Prompt—Your Signature Style

Most of us don’t set out to copy someone else’s style entirely, but we are influenced by what other artists have done and often pick up and adapt elements or characteristics of another artist’s style. Another common influence is something that we discover or that accidentally happens in our own work, that we then decide to repeat or make more prominent.

Take a simple scene and try consciously paint it in various styles. These might be styles you invent, or you can mimic some aspects of the style of another artist or artwork (famous or not). 

Some examples:

  • I will use only straight lines and polygonal shapes.
  • Instead of large washes, I will build up larger areas with overlapping small brushmarks.
  • I will use only hard-edged shapes; no gradients or soft edges
  • I will use mostly soft, wet-in-wet shapes, with a few lines or calligraphic strokes to define the most important shapes. 
  • I will eliminate suggestions of form and turn everything into a flat, two-dimensional shape.
  • I will use decorative patterns to distinguish different parts of the scene. 

Note: If you can’t think of anything else, pears are always great for an exercise like this, or stylized people. Or, use a simple version of a painting you’ve already created. 

Notice which aspects of these various styles feel most natural or most like they fit you. Are these always the same things that you like to look at? Or, to turn the question around, if you like the look of some aspect of another artist’s style, does that usually mean you will also enjoy making work like that?

Module 9 Journaling Together Video

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