Friday, 1 May 2009

What do you put at the back of your painting?

Why should you bother putting anything at the back of your painting as it will be out of sight when your work is hung? Think again.

Imagine that you sold a painting to someone you don’t know. The painting features in good place in their living room because they love it. Years later, some of their friends compliment your buyer about their taste and really would like to buy a painting by the same artist (you). Your collector goes to the painting, tries to decipher the signature, but is not sure about the name. There is no contact details, no address… You just lost a sale.

Currently, I use the following process:

  • For oil painting on canvas: I stick a label at the top of the frame with the indication of then title of the painting, the medium, my name and the address of my website.

  • For watercolours: At the back of the watercolour itself, I write the type of paper used, the dimensions of the work, the title as well as other relevant information (like the location of the subject). This is not visible, but in case the watercolour is transferred to another frame, the information will follow. I then stick a label on the backing of the frame with the indication of then title of the painting, the medium, my name and the address of my website (same as for oil paintings). In addition, I try to also stick my business card.

One thing to consider is that the work may be separated from its frame for all sorts of reason. It is therefore good practice, if you put information on the frame, to also put some information at the back of the work itself or on the stretcher for an oil painting or an acrylic painting.

What other artists do

Richard McKinley wrote a very interesting entry on Keeping Records of Your Paintings. A photo of the back of one of his pastel paintings shows what he puts on the back of each work: the code he uses in his inventory, title, medium, his name and copyright symbol. He also adds a printed artist statement and glass care information when he is using specialty glazing.

Shirley Williams, on her blog, described her process for cataloguing her work in her article How I Catalogue my Paintings
. She signs the backs of the paintings with her copyright year. She also attach a label with her name, the painting name, ID #, Media, Dimensions and Copyright.

I would be interested to hear about your own practice. Please share with other readers what you put at the back of your work by using the “Comments” section at the end of this post.

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Shirley Williams said...

Hi Benoit
Thanks for mentioning me in your Blog. Good article.
Shirley Williams

Jim Serrett said...

Interesting post, I wish I could be as organized as Shirley Williams to catalog all of my work.
I do put info on the back, often notes to myself about medium, varnish and techniques.
Panels I normally sign again and make a comment about the subject source.