What's In A Name: Part II

I must admit, I was a little surprised when I heard the comment, "Oh, you’re the artist who signs his work in different places.” After I was able to push my ego aside and let the words sink in, I began to consider both my motivation for signing paintings the way I do and the impact that ultimately has on my work.

I majored in studio art at Arizona State back in the early nineties. During my time there, I learned a great deal about the fundamentals of art composition, not to mention a plethora of information rounding out the curriculum. As a college student and young artist beginning to seriously consider a career, I allowed the influences of other established artists to serve as a guide for my emerging style. Elements of Picasso, Monet and some of the Bay Area Painters (from the 1940s to the 60s) influenced my use of color, composition, subject matter, and even my signature. While studying and learning from work by my favorite painters, I did not have a difficult time finding their name residing on the front side of any given composition. Though some were more boldly marked than others, all the artists seemed to integrate their name into the design itself, either as a stamp of approval or a cleverly disguised element within the painting.

Recalling the times when I began to consider how this all factored into my work, I remember a particular class where the instructor was speaking specifically about signatures. She told me to find interesting places to put my name and “just go with it”; there didn’t have to be any consistency for placement, just make it interesting. Based on her guidance, in addition to what I had observed through other artists, I began to sign my work in strategic places within the composition, where it was noticeable without being obtrusive.

After I completed college, I returned to Denver and played in a rock band for awhile. My art took a backseat and it wasn’t until a few years later that I began painting again. In reestablishing myself as a visual artist, I felt both my skills and focus had atrophied from my hiatus. Thus, for a while, I opted not to sign any work, going the route of Michelangelo who rarely signed his pieces. This brought about criticism from those who misunderstood my intentions as being ego-driven; as if a twenty-something painter who had never shown his work publicly would think his work to be instantly recognizable without a signature. I was also prodded by those who believed in my work to begin signing it again. They would ask me, “How will somebody know this is a Jared Steinberg if there is no name on it?” Eventually, I realized they were right. After I regained my artistic confidence, I began to add my signature again in the mid-nineties.

Since then, I have continued to find “interesting places” to sign my work, at times fusing my name into a painting so it is barely noticeable while other times allowing it to be more conspicuous, thereby serving a more important role in the composition. The prominence and positioning of my autograph has always been contingent on the painting itself. Sometimes, however, even after careful consideration, it can be difficult to anticipate the impact of a single brushstroke, let alone a full-on signature. I hadn’t really thought about any of this until recently, when it was again brought to my attention at a recent event.

To be continued…