Category Archives: Art show posts

Signing artwork or not signing your art

Signing of Prints: (Or not signing your art)

I have recently visited numerous indoor group photography exhibits, not art shows, that do not have the artist signature showing on the front of the prints or mats so that it is visible. At these photography exhibits, the artist name is displayed on the accompanying art title card. This is now becoming very common with the reasons I have been given by photographers is that the signature distracts from the viewing of the art.

This reason does not make sense to me but I have heard it multiple times. For me, adding an original signature of the artist to the artist art work is traditional and also serves a purpose that is not distracting. I originally said a few years ago in this article “What’s next, are the painters no longer going to paint their signature on their art”, but since then I have seen this with different painters.

On my recent trip to California, I saw some paintings without a signature on them at a few different small galleries. These are mostly young artists and the artist tell me that their teachers are telling them not to sign their paintings since it distracts from the art. I do not understand this trend since when I see paintings in higher end galleries or museums, they seem to be all signed. I have never heard a customer complain that the signature distracts from the viewing of the art. I hope these artist are placing there names on the back of the artwork.

I personally do not understand this trend, since if I ask a customer if they would like one of my photographs with an artist signature on the mat or not I would think close to 100% of customers would want the artist signature. I feel that the artist signature should display in some manner from the front either on the print or mat. I now additionally sign the back of the photographic print, in the white border area, with an archival thin line pen even though this artist signature does not show when displayed. The reason for this is in case the photograph has its mat replaced in the future, the artist signature is still associated with the print with the idea that the artist personally approved this print and this is not a later reprint.

Now that I said my viewpoint, I sometimes do not sign some of my photographs under certain conditions. When a quantity of larger sized prints are ordered for a commercial client and they are doing the framing themselves, I will ask them if they want the photographs to be signed. If they do, I will pick a place in the lower right image area that the entire signature will show up on, such as in a lighter area. I also do not put the signature at the very bottom of the image, so the framer does not cover part of the signature up with the matting.

I also drop ship my larger canvas prints directly from the printer to the customer since postage twice of a 32″ x 48″ canvas can be expensive and I do not want to pass these costs to the customer. In both these situations, if the customer does not get a signature on the front of the art piece, I send along a separate printed Certificate of Authenticity of each piece of art that has the artist signature on it. The customer can then attach the certificate to the back of the wrapped canvas print or for prints, to the back of the frame. While I do not currently add a digital signature to my art, this would be one way to handle these situations.

Art show display booth







For painters, in additional to the artist signature, I see some of them paint a copyright symbol and date on the front of there paintings. I personally think having a copyright symbol on a painting is unnecessary and I see no purpose for this. You already own the copyright by painting the art piece. Most buyers of artwork understand that they are only purchasing the artwork to display as art and the purchase does not include any other rights to copy the artwork for any reason.

On the subject of painting a date, of the painting creation year, on the painting front, why would painters do this.  If a buyer sees a painting with a date 5 years old, they may not buy it even if they liked it because they may feel that the artist could not sell it before over numerous years and wonder what is wrong with it. Never give a buyer a reason to not purchase your painting. If you must supply this information, put the date on the back of the artwork as informational for those that value this information such as museums. The wood bars or paper backing makes a great surface to add this information.


Art show lighting

Art Show Lighting:

Some shows will be at night and lighting is required.  Many times, new artist do not think to bring lighting and show their artwork in the dark or with a flashlight.  If a show is going on after sunset, you should ask if they will be providing electricity.  If they do provide electricity, ask them if there will an additional charge.

You will need to bring lights, a Power Strip with a surge protector and extra Extension Cords.  I also bring extra bulbs in case one breaks.  Many smaller shows do not supply electricity.  Most shows will not allow generators since they make a lot of noise.

I have a simple system for power that consists of the following items. A deep cycle battery or marine battery that you can purchase locally, A Battery Charger, Power Inverter with 2 plugs (12 volt battery to 120 volt plugs) and lights of your choosing that use CFL or LCD bulbs.  Optionally you can purchase a Battery Box which makes it easier to transport the heavy battery with a strap handle.

The compact flash bulbs put out 60w of light but use about 15w of power.  One charged marine battery will run 6-10 lights the whole night but you do need to remember to charge the battery before the show.  I also find lights with an arm that has a large clip on the end useful (Clip Lamp with Adjustable Arm Link). You can attach these to many areas of the tent on the bars or on a table edge and point them to light up specific areas.

When choosing CFL or LED bulbs, you now have the choice of selecting bulbs with the color temperature that your art looks best at. Some CFL or LED bulbs put out light similar to regular incandescent bulbs with others looking more warm or daylight balanced. The LCD bulbs used to be expensive but are now cost effective when you need to draw minimum power from your battery. A sample CFL bulb that is daylight balanced is the EcoSmart 60W Equivalent 5000K Spiral CFL Light Bulb, Daylight. A sample LED bulb that is daylight balanced is the 60W Equivalent Daylight 5000k LED Light Bulb.

The picture below  shows the color difference between daylight 5000k lighting on the left side and soft white 3000k lighting on the right. The Kelvin (k) color of your lighting can effect the color of your product on display.


I have seen so many different lighting methods from ineffective Christmas lights, flashlights and candles to well designed lighting arrangements.  I suggest you check out some night time local art shows and see what other artists are doing. If your booth is lit well and other booths near you are not lit as well, the customers may be more attracted to your booth like moths to a flame.

Note:  If you have an art show related question for an artist at an art show, the artists are usually very helpful and will share their experience with you.  If they have a customer, you should let them help the customer before continuing your questions with them.


Art shows: Selling matted photographs

Selling matted prints:

I sometimes print new images in the smaller sizes, mat them and place them in the print rack. I then see what the customer response is.  If a specific art piece gets a good response or sells in the smaller size, I then print that image up in a larger size.

You do not want to make 2 or 10 of the same images and size with the idea that if you sell one you have a replacement so you do not run out.  Start off with one or one of the same images in two sizes to see if it is popular with the customers.  If you have a selected group of photographs that sell more often, then I would have a spare replacement print for just those images. For full time traveling artist, you need to have more duplicate prints.

If the customer is looking for a smaller or larger print of a photograph they see, let them know you can custom print it for them and mail them the print.  In this situation, I charge a reasonable shipping cost. Many people traveling do not want to carry larger artwork with them. If they live out of State and you mail it to them, you most likely do not need to charge sales tax which makes up for the additional shipping costs. You just cannot keep every image in stock of all sizes.  The availability to print on demand and this mailing option is how I handle this.   Larger prints can be rolled up in a tube for mailing and do not need to be mailed flat.

On special orders sometimes custom packing and mailing can be time consuming and expensive for larger flat prints. If the customer is local, I find it more convenient to make an appointment and just drop it off at their house. The customers do not seem to mind and still pay a delivery fee that is equivalent or less than any shipping costs.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch








How many different sizes for matted prints:  The general rule is that you do not want the sizes to be too close to each other or the customer will most likely select the lower cost smaller size.  For photography, the size usually refers to the outside mat size and not the print image size.  Popular mat sizes are 8×10, 11×14 and 16×20 or 18×24 and larger.  If you sell note cards, you may not sell many 8×10 matted prints since the note cards are cheaper and may be close in size.

If a customer wants to only purchase the larger matted print they see in a frame.  I am happy to remove the frame and sell them the matted print only.  Many customers know they can frame it themselves at a lower cost or they may prefer another frame color or style. Take the money for the sale and then let the customer know to come back a little later and you will have the matted print ready for them to pick up. It helps to have a few Clear Bags of various sizes for this purpose since most shopping bags are not designed or will fit large flat art items.

I see many artist display matted prints in a print rack or other container and have many of them on their side so the image is not upright. Many artist seem to be OK by this and even if they notice it do not correct the situation even when the container will fit the prints in both directions. I feel it is always better for the customer to see the artwork as it would be displayed on a wall. For some reason, this bothers me since I have never been to a gallery and seen work displayed on its side. I recommend as part of your final setup check that you go through your print racks and look for sideways prints.

Sometimes when I exhibit my art in alternate gallery locations such as a coffee house or other business, I may have two different prices on a framed art title card, one price for the artwork framed and a lower price for non-framed. I am in the job of selling art, not frames and I try to be flexible when it comes to trying to meet the customer’s needs and price points.

While most artist sell matted prints with the standard 4-ply mat board backing, some do use 3/8″ foam core as the backing behind a matted print. Foam core is thicker and with the total combined thickness of the top mat, print and the foam core backing, the matted prints will not fit into many standard frames that the customer may purchase. The ability to not use a frame that the customer bought because the print matting is too thick, could upset the customer and cause them to purchase a more expensive custom frame.

I feel that using foam core backing makes the prints in the print rack seem more high end for some reason and could be beneficial when just used as a support backing, in a clear bag, to an unmated print or original painting that is not attached to the foam core. Another issue with foam core is that you can not get as many prints in the print rack since they take up more room.

For matted prints which could include photography or other mediums such as matted watercolors or prints of paintings, I try to keep the outside mat size to a standard frame size.  If they buy a matted print for $70.00, they may be upset if they need to spend another $135.00 on a custom frame at twice the price of a standard frame. A happy customer is more likely to be a repeat customer that might start collecting your art. As a selling feature, I often inform the customers that my mats are a standard size and this gives them the option to purchase a less expensive ready-made frame instead of a custom frame.

Unsold Matted Prints:

How I handle matted prints that have not sold: I currently have three sizes of matted prints and refer to my 11 x 14 mat size here in this example. I currently carefully take the prints out of my 11 x 14 mats that have not sold for a while. The actual image is 7 x 10.5 being printed on 8 x 12 photo paper. I then reuse the old 11 x 14 mat (top and backing board) by placing a new print image in the mat and protect it with a new 11 x 14 Clear Bag. I use archival double stick tape to hold my mats together and it is possible to just run your finger between the two parts of the old mat and separate the two pieces without harming the mat. Since the cost of the mats is more than the actual print image, I can save a lot of money by reusing my older mats that are in perfect condition.








I used to write, with a pencil, the image title on the lower left section of the mat below the image. This caused a problem in which I could not reuse the mat with a new image so I no longer do this. I now have the image title on the Bio information sheet on the back of my matted prints. I still have my signature on my mat fronts but that only limits to the image replacement to be of the same vertical or horizontal format.

What I do with my old removed prints: In this case the outside photo paper dimensions are 8 x 12 with a 7 x 10.5 image showing with a white border. I ordered some Clear Bags in the specific size of 8 x 12 and also ordered some 8 x 12 mat backing board. I simply take the Clear Bag and put in the backing board and print and seal the bag. I place these prints in a separate bin and sell them for $19.95 instead of the matted version which sells for about twice the price.

I find that this helps sell my older prints and also give the customer, on a lower budget, another price point that might work for them. You can also use this method of selling prints with no top custom cut mat and just a backing board and Clear Bag for odd sized prints such as panoramic’s or just larger prints such as 16 x 20 size or larger. Some customers purchasing larger unframed prints would be interested in handling the framing themselves.