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Friday, 16 May 2014


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I'm disgraphic -- I have some serious issues with my right hand and can barely manage an illegible scrawl of printed capital letters. This is a problem in that we give away many prints of my work to donors and the like, and the folks who do that want me to sign them. Ain't gonna happen. So we have worked out a system whereby our creative director or one of our admins signs my prints. I have to say they look really good! Much better than I could ever do. even when I was younger. But I do have to hide my checkbook when I'm in the office, just in case... :)

Thus adding to the rarity of signed Mike Johnston prints !

My father in law does a bit of woodworking. One Christmas, we gave him a "Made by " branding iron that he now uses to burnish his name onto the back of his projects.

I don't know that I agree that a stamp is as good as a signature, in cases where a valuable print could be forged (and presumably, so could the stamp), but I doubt it would have practical implications very often.

The more I think of it, signatures on collectibles are a funny thing. Many years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) collected porcelain figurines of the famous clown, Emmett Kelly, Jr. He was apparently under contract to make appearances on behalf of the company that made the figurines and sign them. The signature doesn't make the figurine any more appealing to look at (probably the contrary is true). It supposedly adds to their value (though at this point, they're no longer "collectible" and my wife probably should have sold them 20 years ago !) All it really says is: somebody signed this.

I remember being excited to buy a biography at an estate sale that was signed by the subject of the book. Only when I got it home did I realize that the "signature" was printed and is present in every copy of the book. (Whoops).

It is strange how we value signatures ...

If you do switch to a stamp, your earlier work will constitute a sort of meta-limited-edition: Prints Signed By Mike. Too bad you didn't think of this before the sale, and raise prices accordingly.

The downside of success. I should have such problems.

I like the rubber stamp idea. Works well for inkjet prints but what type of ink works best on the back of silver gelatin prints? I've seen some photographers stamp a separate piece of paper that they glue to the back of the print, but this seems klugie

Now I have to figure out what my stamp should look like. Should it be funky and a bit of the wall to reflect my personality, or very plain and business like. Ummmm

Use a little penknife, knick yourself and sign in blood instead.

Silversmiths had a special mark, maybe something like that.

You might also want to consider an embossing stamp. If you can handle a manual stapler, you can handle an embossing stamp. The image is a bas-relief impression into the paper, which looks quite tasteful and distinctive. Because they require no ink, they are 100% archival. They run from $30-50, depending on size, and last a lifetime.

I don't wish to be peevish, especially not with you Mike, but is the American for cheque really check? I'm just asking, checking it out so to speak.

No need to sign the print? Good news for me because I don't leave any white space when I put the print in a matte.

I always include a letter giving details of the picture but now I guess I gotta start looking for stamps.

I'll wait for your ideas on stamps.

What you need it something like this


I can understand that ! As an architect I have to signe each damn blueprints of every plans and papers for a given work. Sometimes when I enter the office of the client, I can find a meter high, all over the floor of a big office, of folders full of those printed things I have to signe (as the client). It can take a full day !

At the end of such sessions I don't any more recognize what a signature is about? I didn't even think about it or I wouldn't be able to keep the rhythm and the proper signature.
In time my signature has evolved, simple quick but with a peculiar quirk that I can repeat endlessly without any peculiar mood...

Even in our keyboard days, I still keep handwriting, a bit like drawing, as an exercice of calligraphy. I fill notebooks with thoughts, with theory , with designs in written form... Sometimes, years after I fall again on such notebook and I'm amazed of how "good" I was years before ! Sort of autosatisfaction through memory lane !

In fact, I'm in love with tools, either photographic, or pens, or pencils. When new, I have to break them down by using them endlessly, fascinated by the results, whether words, pictures or drawings !
Then, of course, I bury everything in a deep drawer quickly covered by layers of stuff, to be rediscovered later... Sort of a game between myself and myself !

Hi Mike. I have been through the mill on stamping prints. I don't like sticking labels to them as there is always the possibility of damage, and it prevents dry mounting. I'm very happy with an ink called 'stazon'. It can be got in pads for rubber stamps, and it dries in a little while on non porous surfaces (e.g. the back of inkjet or RC photo paper). Also, it is fully permanent. Most stamp inks rub off photo paper, even after a long while. One small thing: pick a fairly light colour, as it could show through if the print is backlit, or on a white mount. I have two stamps, one for standard work, and one for art prints. I'll mail you copies of the stamps if you wish?

If I signed prints I wouldn't use the same signature that I use to sign cheques, but I rather like the rubber stamp idea. It's still done by hand.

the other thing to try might be a wax seal; drip some wax onto the back of the print, and press your TOP signet ring into it. It would prove that the print has been in your possession and has your approval. I'm only half joking.

If you're going to stamp them, maybe get one that makes a imprint (no idea the techy name for them) readable from the front of the print. Needs to be simple but a friend has one and it looks IMO, very classy. YMMV of course!

I am reading the Queen's signature as "Your Loving Mistress, Elizabeth". Really? To whom was that letter sent?

While I suspect writing by hand more regularly would reduce cramping, I really like the stamp idea.

Since they're no longer teaching cursive writing in many schools I wonder how future artists will sign things. Or how anyone else will either, for that matter. Have we come full circle where people will be making marks instead of signing documents?

"Handwriting itself is supposed to be a sort of fingerprint. There are ... charlatans who claim to decode personality traits from a person's handwriting."

I read a few books on the subject back in the late 70s and decided to pay someone to analyze my handwriting - a woman who apparently did this on a regular basis for corporations who wanted to have further insight into a job applicant's personality traits. She gave me a three page analysis that was, shall we say, scary accurate.

I often think that the beautiful Asian style red-ink stamp as signature is often (to my eyes) so much nicer than a traditional scribble... I have one that a friend bought in Beijing with something that should be the interpretation of my name that I really love. If I go back there sometime I will try to have a real one, in hardwood; some of them are quite a piece of art in themselves. Artsy, old watermarks... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_%28East_Asia%29

Glad to know I'm not alone getting the 'yips'. When I was working I would sign so many documents in the course of a project it was second nature....no problem. Now I'm retired I sign very few documents, mostly forms and I get the yips....even after practising prior to signing. They all look different! No problem signing electronically......Peter Filtness. (Is that considered a signature? probably not legally)

I had a brutally scribbly handwriting a couple of years ago. By this time in 2012 I got myself a fountain pen and I am now much better.

I want to write some birthday congratulation letters to a couple of good friends. People of my generation nowadays don't expect this and it's quite sweet IMO actually.

I expected to do more handwriting than college notes. Should take more handwriting initiatives.
I do get also the yips when signing. I once did it perfectly but I tend to hesitate more now.

C'mon, Mike, we all know it's because you couldn't find the right pen!

Mike, it's also spelled affidavit - sorry to nag.

Some friends and I have switched to embossing stamps entirely. It's unobtrusive and no issues of ink off gassing and ruining prints.

Enviable penmanship: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMolEvB5EqA

Interesting; I've been using rubber stamps on the back of commercial prints since college, but I didn't think of it as equivalent to signing.


They are particular irritation which I encounter all too frequently. I live in a world of signatures by important, and would be, important people, Judges, Physicians, opposing attorneys. All of these folks sign their names frequently, correspondence, medical records daily for docs, legal documents, etc. I find the loops truly obnoxious. If you want to find the needy and weak ego, the attention seeking, self appointed very important person, then loops will often point them out as that is all which appears for a signature at the end of their missive or record. "Look at Me! I am so important that you should recognize my identity and my importance by child like loops alone." Never mind that ALL loops look pretty much the same. Never mind the pain in the butt burden placed on the reader who may have to do needless and tedious detective work to figure out who signed something. Sorry, folks. One's accomplishments are what speak to ability and worthiness of respect, not the affectation of a loop-de-loop substitute for a signature. What? Are they ashamed of their name, or possibly their penmanship?

This is the way business is done in Taiwan; everyone here has an official "chop", or stamp, that represents them. More and more, Western-style signatures are becoming acceptable for banks and the like, but for serious transactions, you must have a chop. Large corporations and other important entities have large, elaborate chops; an individual's might be the size of a large USB drive. Entire kung-fu movies have been made about the theft and recovery of an important chop.


Why note just initial the print? To my mind, this has three advantages:

1. It is shorter -- less opportunity to screw up.

2. Initials are (obviously) discrete letters. I think this presents less opportunities for the "yips" than longer, flowing lines.

3. Your handwriting for your initials does not have to (and often does not) match your general handwriting. Printing is entirely acceptable (maybe even preferred) over cursive. You can pick a way of writing when you initial prints that is easiest for you.

These three may sound like the same thing, but they are not. Consider the difference between writing the name "Jen" in cursive, vs. writing the initials "J.E.N." in print ("block") letters.

Best regards,

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