In last week’s post, I discussed the three things artists need to consider before signing a painting: placement, tonality and style. Once these have been determined, the question becomes which product to use for signing.
Since pastel never dries to form a hard shell surface like an oil and acrylic painting, the ability to amend or entirely remove a signature can become problematic. This leads many pastelists to feel intimidated by an activity that should be filled with confident authorship. With practice and the possible use of alternative materials, any signature apprehension can be overcome.
Using Pastels: If you wish to sign a pastel painting with pastel, there are a few factors that should be considered:
- Surface tooth. The toothier the surface, the easier it is to apply more pastel and have a bold crisp appearing signature.
- The amount of pastel already laid down in the area. Depending on the volume of pastel laid down in the area, you may need to adjust the relative hardness or softness of the stick used for signing. Some artists will gently remove a heavy layer of pastel from the signature area by smudging. Alternatively, the area can be lightly sprayed with workable fixative to set the pastel. Fixative does not have to be applied to the entire painting and if you are concerned about overspray, lay the painting flat and position glassine, or any blocking paper, over the painting exposing only the signature area.
- The relative softness of the pastel stick to be used for signing. The softer and larger the pastel stick, the easier it is to create a signature of monumental proportion. For finer lines many prefer small, harder pastel sticks. These can be sharpened with a razor blade or, depending on the stick, gently sharpened with a pencil sharpener. Pastel pencils are another option. There are now many fine pastel pencil brands available that are soft enough to leave a bold mark while still being easily sharpened.
Using Graphite, Conte or Charcoal: For ease of control, many artists sign their paintings with a simple drawing pencil. The softer the pencil lead, the darker the signature appears. This works best if the signature area does not have a heavy layer of pastel. If it does, use a very soft lead pencil, such as a 6B. Since I typically work on a sanded pastel surface, which has a lot of tooth, I use a common 2B or HB pencil. They are easy to sharpen and control, bolstering my signature confidence. Conte crayons and various forms of compressed charcoal, both stick and pencil, will work as well.
Using Ink or Gouache: Some artists have used ink or gouache paint thinly applied with a fine haired brush. The only real consideration is that the signature be visible and that the product being used be archival. It is wise to create a test sheet utilizing the surface, approximate volume of laid down pastel, and the materials to be used for signing in advance of placing it on your painting. Better to do a couple of signature test runs before final commitment.