Where Do I Put It?

Written by Lu

Painting by Chen Hongshou.

Probably the most common question from beginning artists is where to put a seal on their art. Someone once told me that a perfect work of art consisted of a perfect painting, with perfect calligraphy, and a perfect seal impression—all arranged into a perfect design. Any one, if off, can ruin the work. A lot of pressure for an aspiring artist. Basically, there are no rules and a seal, or seals, can go anywhere. The fear, and very real risk, is that a misplaced seal can ruin an otherwise finished artwork. One way to take the guesswork out of the process is to make an impression of your seal, preferably on the same paper as the art, cut it/them out and, using removable artist’s tape, stick them to the artwork—moving them around until you find the best arrangement. It helps to tack or tape the artwork to a wall so you can get some distance away from it and see how the seals look in the design; it’s harder to see the whole composition with the artwork laying on a table. This technique also works for signatures or any text to be used on your painting.

The still life above is a painting by Chen Hongshou (1598-1652). The small potted pine tree seems to be pointing toward the seal and signature to the left. Put your finger over the signature and seal and see how much less interesting the composition is without them. Would you have put them somewhere else?

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