What's In A Name: Part III

I take into account each element that goes into my paintings, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Sometimes, however, even after careful consideration, it can be difficult to anticipate the impact of a single brushstroke, let alone a signature. I hadn’t really thought about any of this until recently, when it was brought to my attention at a recent event.

Speaking to an audience of thirty-three, I felt confident as the subject matter expert of my own artwork which was displayed around us in the gallery. As I conducted the presentation, several members of the group let it be known they were also artists, or at least dabbled in the arts enough to bring up interesting topics for discussion.

One of the first questions asked was the difference and similarities between oils and other paints, particularly acrylics. I explained how I favored oils because of their drying and chemical properties in addition to their traditional and historical significance. One woman insisted the two were very similar and proceeded to share her knowledge of how she mixed the two on canvas. I clarified that acrylics should be applied first. Mixing the two in any other way causes the paint to warp or flake off entirely, due to the respective drying and chemical properties of each medium.

I continued my presentation, describing my approach to painting. At one point, I explained that I employ all six hues in my work. The woman was perplexed by this and stated there were far more colors than that. I replied that I was referring to the major colors of the spectrum.

When the presentation was over, the group dispersed to privately view the exhibition. I was talking with a friend when my new artist friend approached us.

“Your paintings disturb me,” she interrupted.

I asked her why that was, as the majority of the work shown was from my most recent Interludes Series, depicting solitary musical instruments. I couldn’t imagine what would be so disturbing about them.

“Your signature is too prominent. It gets in the way and destroys the illusion. It ruins the composition and frankly, I don’t like it at all.”

I was stunned by the comment. My signage had made an impact, as she truly appeared upset, but there was little I could do other than hear her out with a smile.

“You are supposed to sign your work on the back of the canvas- never on the front! When artists signed their name on the front, they’d find a rock or some clever place where you can barely see it.”

Really? I thought to myself. Maybe I should just put rocks in all of my paintings. I wanted to find a rock at that very moment… to hide under. What about Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, let alone my instruction back in art school? Though I understood where she was coming from, I found her argument to be a little slanted.

I thanked her for her point of view before she walked away, and continued to discuss the matter further with my friend. Frankly, the whole exchange bothered me. It certainly has never been my intention to allow my signature to detract from the painting itself. My friend brought up an interesting point that really made sense to me. She said I should let my style become my signature. After spending some time since then considering her point of view, in addition to everything else discussed in this blog series, I have come up with a new way to sign my work that I believe successfully integrates this concept with an actual signature on my canvasses. Feel free to ask me about it next time you see me.

On a side note, after the event ended, the group invited me to lunch with them. As luck would have it, my new critic was the only ride available to the restaurant. Once we finished lunch, the group dispersed to head home with their rides. I looked around for mine, but could not find her. I walked down the street where we parked the car to find it conspicuously absent. As I walked home that afternoon, I chuckled to myself, thinking my signature had really offended her that much.