Signed with consequences


Image Courtesy of Houstonia

A pen name versus a signed name. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Some may want to claim their artwork, but others may find safety behind a pseudonym, where they can see others’ unbiased opinions on their art without worrying about personal backlash.

Yasmin Kudrati-Plummer, Staff Writer

Title of Artwork? Check. File Upload? Check. Name?

The person filling out the form pauses for a moment before reading more. “Nicknames/pennames are also fine!” They sigh in relief before typing in a pseudonym.

A real name and a pen name, or pseudonym, are two very different options for how one can sign their artwork. They both have significant value–and significant drawbacks. TJ Artists, a Facebook page for Jefferson artists to submit their art pieces, allows people to use either.

As an artist, I’ve submitted many of my own drawings to TJ Artists under a pen name. However, I also publish my art publicly on my Instagram account. I would say that I’ve consequently experienced both the benefits and repercussions of posting named and unnamed artwork.

Pen names offer one main benefit: anonymity. Artists can submit artwork without fear of judgment being reflected on them. It also reduces the audience’s personal bias. Furthermore, pen names enable artists to submit multiple pieces of artwork under one name. This lets people know it’s the collective work of one artist, while still allowing the artist in question to remain anonymous.

Signed art, on the other hand, offers many benefits as well, such as being able to connect your art to your personal identity; getting direct comments, critique, and compliments from others; and being able to claim credit for your own artwork.

When I publish my art publicly on Instagram, I not only get replies but direct messages from other people my age telling me that they like my art, allowing me to forge personal connections with them. 

Yet when it comes to the option for me to pick between being known and mystery, I always pick mystery. I like people having an unbiased opinion of my art. It makes me glad to see people liking my art enough to comment on it, but not liking it just because they know who it’s from. 

Even though I prefer to use pseudonyms over my real name, I think it completely depends on the person. If the person submitting art wants the acknowledgment, then maybe using their real name would be better for them. On the other hand, if someone wants to hold on to safety and security, then that’s also completely reasonable.

On the TJ Artists page itself, the majority of art submissions utilize pseudonyms. An option of anonymity allows for a sense of comfort in the community. Further, it pushes more artists to submit, as they don’t have to be in fear of rejection in regards to their art.

The debate of pen names versus signed names is one that may never have a definitive answer. One thing’s for sure, though. Both options will continue to be used far into the future, and it’s important that artists have the freedom to choose.