I got a question from another artist after I posted something “from the #showyourwork file” this week on Instagram. (By the way, I wrote about “The #ShowYourWork Ethic” on this blog in July 2018.)
And in the message exchange that followed, which I was grateful for because it prompted me to review things I say and mean, and practices I practice, I ended up sharing the fact that I sign, essentially, everything I create. And why I do.
It’s not just what I show in galleries. Not just what I put on Instagram. Not just what I consider “good enough.” But I sign works I create in my sketchbooks and journals, and wherever else, too.
HERE’S WHY I SIGN EVERYTHING I CREATE
Taking Ownership. Of the good, the bad and the meh. I own it. I take responsibility for the work. Whatever it has become, it’s mine and it’s part of my creative practice, my process of learning and growing.
Calling It Done. Identifying the moment of completion with artwork can be a challenge. Leonardo da Vinci is often credited with saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
When I put my mark — a monogram — on a sketch, a journal filled with recent weeks’ writings, a framed gallery piece, or a digital design on my iPad, I’m saying, “This is it. I’m calling this done.” Because I must. Letting go is part of the practice.
I choose the moment to sign, and then I move forward before my overactive mind can drag me into that ever-looming thicket of doubts and second-guessing, which will prove fruitless in the end anyway, because I’ll still be left with needing to choose a subjective moment to say, “It’s done.”
It All Counts. I mark my works whether they ever will see the light of public view or not. Whether they deserve to hang in a gallery or not. I have detached the act and intentions of signing my work from the process of editing what I want to put out for public consumption.
Artists’ signatures have been used as seals of approval throughout history. I choose not to put that pressure on myself and my experience of creativity, which really is about the light-filled aha-moments of creating and the meandering process more than it is the few-and-far-between anti-climactic moments of “finished” outcomes.
Putting my monogram on a piece is my way of honoring each step in the creative process, of acknowledging the intrinsic value of each work, rather than allowing my signature to be a threshold which determines, “that creation counts; this one does not.”
They all count.
They all are a step in the neverending creative process. To adapt da Vinci’s sentiment, it’s not only art that is never finished, but the ever-growing body of work and the life and, ultimately, the artist themself who, likewise, is never finished.
And one more thought, to be clear …
Signing my work does not eliminate the editing process; in other words, just because I sign a piece does not mean it’s what I would choose for a gallery show.
In fact, of all that I create (and sign), I make public a small fraction, say, on this blog or on my Instagram page. A smaller fraction still goes into my online shop. And yet a smaller fraction sees gallery walls.
But none of that necessary process of editing gets to limit how I feel about the worth of my creative energies and time, and my gratitude and joy in the work.
(Not that gratitude and joy are all I feel in the process, but self-flagellation seems like a topic for another day, maybe. And I’ve talked about impostor syndrome before.)
The bottom line: My signature, or monogram, is a way of honoring the process and the gifts, of honoring the present moment. It’s not the barrier to entry; it’s the badge we earn for even daring to do the work our heart implores us to do.
Monogram Design: Adam Williams