Sunday, November 2, 2008

Name Change

I've often wondered why Vincent Van Gogh signed only his first name. After this weekend, I think I know the reason.

Let me just say that I love my last name. Scarborough.

It sounds good. Rolls off the tongue in a nice way. You can even get a little snooty with it if you like: Scahhhborough.

It's problematic for some folks, however. They give it another couple of 'o's, an extra 'r', or even another 's' in the middle. As for me, I've never had a hard time with the spelling. The letters come together just like it sounds.

Until recently.

Let me just say that I have been a pastel artist for nearly 20 years. After a pastel piece is finished, I sign it using a school bus yellow, Ticonderoga #2 pencil. It lets me almost draw the name out, even allowing for a little flourish at the end. P Scarborough. I skip most of my first name. Twelve letters is enough to scrawl across the bottom of any painting.

A year and a half ago I took up with oils after a very long absence. The issue of my signature became, well, an issue.

Managing P Scarborough with a pencil is one thing. Getting it out of a size 0 paintbrush dipped in oil paint is another thing entirely. It requires a great deal of concentration to match up dipping/holding on to the brush properly/spelling the name/using readable penmanship skills.

It happened first a couple of months ago. Marcy, master framer at Graham Gallery, noticed first. There were only eleven letters in my signature. I had misspelled my own name.

Concentrating so completely on getting the brush to make all those curly lines, I neglected to actually read what I'd written.

Okay, hardy-har-har. So that painting is now worth a million because the artist didn't get her own name correct. But the thing is, that only works one time. And I did it again this weekend. Twice.

So, I appreciate Vincent's approach. However, I can see the same problems arising with my first name, Patricia. And using just my initial doesn't seem like a good idea. One lonely P on the bottom of a painting just seems to invite trouble. I'm thinking of changing my name to something more easily spelled with a brush. Maybe a symbol, like Prince uses. A swoosh would be excellent, but I think it's taken.

Would a thumbprint work?
White Bark, 5 x 7 oil, P. Scarborough (spell checked)


Dustin said...


If you're not aware of this, try signing your wet paintings using a ballpoint pen. It lifts the paint off the canvas leaving a very nice, legible line. (the pen does NOT need to be out of ink)

Or, wait until your paintings are dry and sign them using paint thinned with liquin to the consistency of ink.

Great work and keep 'em coming. I especially liked the plein air painting of the storm!

Patty said...

Thanks Dustin, I can't believe I hadn't remembered that from your class! Folks, Dustin is a monster in the wildlife genre. See for yourself at

Karine said...

I love the new painting in your header, Patty. Beautiful, with great movement.

I wait for my oil paintings to dry, and then use a sharpie. No kidding. You could also devise a "stamp" of some kind, that you use interchangeably with your signature. Like potters do. That's what I do for tiny paintings.

Judy Mackey said...

Hi Patricia, I've been wondering recently about names to use for art. Especially since it's been said that women artist don't get as much recognition? And what about women artists who get a name change from marriage or divorce. Writers use alias - I wonder if artist should too.
I've used a gold pen to sign my name and found that it wiped off when I brushed on varnish...
p.s. Love the painting on your title.

Nancy and the fatties said...

I admit I have struggled with the old signature in oil thing for years. I will have to experiment with a sharpy - that's an interesting idea.
Love your new work Patty, very stormy and mood inspiring! I listed you under Artists I Admire on my new art blog. : ) happy painting!

Patricia said...

Karine - excellent idea!

Judy - I too have read that women artists don't get as much credit as their male counterparts, or as much money for their art. I would hope that a patron would fall in love with the art, and then look to see how it was signed. I must admit that is one of the reasons I use a first initial only.
I don't know why an artist couldn't use any name they wanted as long as they were consistant and built up a body of work under one name. Writers do it all the time. Maybe pick something sort of unisex, like Kim or Lynn. Kim Lynn!