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What Do You Write On Your Artwork?

Signature on the front of a painting
Signature on the front of a painting

So, your artwork is completed, and it’s time to sign it, what else should you write on your artwork? Well first, let’s talk about why you should even sign your artwork! Art is not only a creative thing, it’s a original creative property. You own the rights to this creation and certainly there is no better way in beginning your proof than signing it or making your mark.

If this is a painting, it’s best to do this within the imagine itself, but with a work on canvas, at the very least, if you do not sign it on the front, sign it on the back. Also, do not sign it on the stretcher bars, they can be removed from the canvas leaving no identification on the painting itself. Sign it somewhere on the canvas. If this is another type of artwork, be it pottery, sculpture, etc., the same as far as signing your work, should apply.

The one other mark you could consider making on your artwork, but has not been required since 1989, is the Circle C which looks like this - © The Circle C is a nationally and internationally recognized symbol and part of United States copyright law. I still use the Circle C, but I write it on the back next to a second signature and with other information.

So, while I am copyright protected at this point, I have chosen for decades to additionally write on the canvas on the back, All copyrights reserved by artist. My primary reason for doing this is to let those who may not have a grasp of copyright law understand that regardless of this, the copyrights are mine. There are many who think because they have purchased a piece of art, that they now own the copyrights or the right to do what they please, as in make their own prints, greeting cards, etc. This is not the case, unless they have permission from (you) the artist in writing, stating that they have indeed purchased those rights and trust me, that’s a legal battle you will win. I charge for the right to any copyrights.

PaintingBackCopyright, title and inventory number infomation on the back of a painting

Another thing you may include is the date the art was completed. I do see those who write the date next to their name, and while there’s no legal need to do so, this is up to you. I personally do not date my artwork, especially on the front in the painting, but I do date only the commissions I do on the back. I frankly don’t date the front because it can prove to be a detriment in selling or showing your work not created in that calendar year. If customers don’t see a date, they don’t care, but if they see that happens to be three years old, they may care, and while it shouldn’t make any difference, you may find that it does. Choose what you feel is best for you.

Speaking of commissions, when I create a commission painting, very often I not only provide all of the information mentioned, but I even write the clients name. As an example, the back of the painting might look like this - “Autumn on Johnson’s Farm” By Tom Neel © All copyrights reserved by artist. Commission for Richard Johnson 2017.

The last thing I always include on the back of every painting I do, is my own inventory number. You can make that number whatever you wish, but this number corresponds with an inventory sheet for my records which includes the title, date, size, medium, gallery information or clients name, when it sold, etc and it also includes a photo of the artwork.

I have had customers through the years search and find me just wanting current values for insurance purposes. Often, I have no knowledge of them because they bought a painting of mine from a gallery, which sometimes may even no longer exist. Years may have past, memories dwindle, but my inventory system allows me to remind myself that the painting sold at XYZ Gallery in 2002, for $$ amount and the other info I need to assist them. I’ve had three paintings destroyed or damaged in house fires. Inventory information has been very helpful in all of these cases.

All of this is up to you the artist, but three decades of experience has proven it to be useful to me.

Live an artful life,