Signing your work

Q. As an oil painter, I find it a real challenge to paint a neat-looking signature on canvas. Is there something other than oil paint that I can use for signing my paintings?

A. You can sign a painting several different ways. I favor using a panel stretcher for oil paintings, so I can sign my paintings in pencil—even if there’s the slight chance that someone might erase the signature—and then cover my bases by attaching an informative label to the stretcher bars plywood backing I use for the canvases.

If the paint is still wet when you’re ready to sign it, you could also scratch your name and the date into the wet paint. I sometimes use a sharpened chopstick or the end of a paintbrush for that purpose. If the paint is already dry, you could apply a thin layer of wet paint and scratch into that before it dries.

Some of my friends use marker pens to do the job. If you choose to do this, you’ll have to find a solvent-based pen (Sharpie brand markers, made by Sanford, will do the trick) that sticks to the oil paint, and that has some claim of light durability. Otherwise, you could find the signature smearing or fading over time.

If none of those options appeals to you, you could get a small pointed brush and some oil paint thinned with medium and just practice on canvas until you can paint a signature that you find acceptable.

A native of Bavaria, Germany, Heli Hofmann received her initial artistic training in private schools. Her early inspiration came from Expressionist painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Alexei von Jawlensky, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Gabriele Munter. Hofmann’s paintings have garnered a number of awards, and can be found in private collections in Germany, Austria, Italy, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States. Now living in La Jolla, California, she’s represented in that city by The Artists Gallery. Visit her Web site at

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