Thematically, I’m trending on the topic of invisibility with my posts as of late. I am embarrassed to admit that after getting a degree at an accredited private art school and practicing my craft for over a decade, that I didn’t bother to sign my name when I put my work out into the world. As a graphic designer, I figured that I had no business signing my work on commercial projects because at the end of the day, the client owned the rights to what I had made for them. Even if that was all fine and good, I had an entirely different reason for not signing my artwork. It had to do with the following bundle of insecurities:
- I didn’t think that I was a legitimate artist (See post on imposter syndrome)
- I was more interested in creating the work than getting credit for it.
- Didn’t think that anyone else cared whether my name appeared or didn’t appear on my work. Maybe they just cared about the work and not about the person who made it?
- On some level, having to be accountable for my work meant that people might question it. I wasn’t sure I had answers or a voice to defend what I had made.
- I didn’t think my work was good enough to warrant letting others know it was mine.
- Got used to being invisible—I got to a point where I didn’t even notice anymore that my name wasn’t on my work. (Talk about being checked out because you’ve got issues.)
One day, a good friend of mine who is now my sweetheart and a successful fine artist asked me why I don’t sign my work. I think my reply went something like, “Do you think I should sign my work?” He said, “Absolutely!” At that point I had to go back to my bulleted list and deal with why I couldn’t show up for myself enough to declare my presence in the actualization of my own creativity. This is the stuff that clinical psychologists spend thousands of hours chewing on with their clients. While some issues require big fixes, this one was remarkably simple. It began by signing my work with a capital letter L that appeared on 2000 silk screened shirts for a client project. Since then, my rendition of an L has appeared on everything that I make and on my fine art, I also include my age after the L as a personal way of tracking my own work and progress. Kinda quirky, but works for me.
My next big step had to do with putting my name on my office door, which you would think is an absolute no brainer, but not to this invisibility loving creative. Ironically enough, my current office is in a building full of therapists. I’m the only non-therapist present and so when I had to set the type for everyone’s names on the door, mine appeared too, sandwiched between all those psychologists. I still remember the day the decal man came from the sign company and I felt equal parts enthusiasm and fear at the idea of seeing my name in vinyl on the door for everyone to see. That strangers would know what I did for a living was oddly scary to me. At the same time, I knew that I had to get over my weird “stuff,” so that I could get on with my life.
As I’ve shifted away from being invisible to being seen and wanting to be seen, I’m no longer even content with using my script L as an identifier anymore. One letter doesn’t let the world know who I am and so moving forward, I’m going to put my full name (first and last) on everything that I make. Now I like the idea of letting the world know that I was here because the day will come when I won’t be but my work will remain. I want people to be able to find me and I’d love to talk to them about the work if that interests them.
This “issue,” is not specific to me and is an all too classic symptom of artistic behavior. The reason I know this is because I see my creative friends playing invisibile all the time, except now I find myself asking them, “Why didn’t you sign your work?” In an effort to understand more about this very topic, I did some research and came across a fantastic blog post by Alan Bamberger who is an art consultant and gives voice to the realities and implications of not signing your work and the correlation that has with valuing what you create. I highly recommend reading his post.
Sometimes it can be really difficult to show up for ourselves, but the few seconds that it takes to sign your name isn’t a big ask or a huge commitment, but is something that will transcend the passage of time.