February 17, 2012


Artists produce thousands of drawings. Most of them are conceptual or drawings needed for refinement prior to beginning the “final” for a particular project. Most artists don’t sign everything they draw. I gave a drawing to a friend and they asked me why I hadn’t signed it. I didn’t know how to answer. Truthfully, I felt that signing a quick sketch was pretentious. Shortly after, I saw some really beautiful drawings by Marc Davis which he had drawn at the Los Angeles Zoo on Andreas Dejas‘ blog. I noticed a wonderful monogram stamp. I was inspired!

I created my own monogram which you may have seen on the concept drawings I did for Six Wives of Henry VIII and William.

It’s not a new concept and I’m assuming Davis was inspired by Asian artists who have applied their seals on prints and drawings.

Asian Seals and Chops
East Asian cultures have been using a seal in the place of a signature for centuries. Usually, the mark is made using a red paste-like ink. The common term for these seals is ‘chop’ and basically has the equivalent meaning of a stamp. Shapes are usually circular or square. The square shape denotes stability and is usually reserved for contracts and legally binding business documents and the circular shape used by businesses generally since the circle denotes the flow of money.

This is the seal on the label of my Chinese brush set.

People might have three different chops: one for bank transactions, one for documents and legal matters and one for invitations and cards. Chops are usually carved in stone, wood or sometimes even metal.

A Chinese brush set that’s too nice for me to use! The small porcelain container on the left contains the red paste for applying the seal and the uncarved chop is propped up on the right side of the set.

A Japanese calligrapher I met told me that signatures are not common practice and that even if all the parties are present, a business deal will not be completed if all chops are not present as well.