Why I Sign With a Stylized Letter C
As part of my copyright information on each piece of art, I am required to sign my name or otherwise indicate who I am. On small pieces or on interior monochromes it sometimes just feels easier to sign my full name, David A. Cherry. (The middle name is Alan.) On larger, more important pieces I prefer to sign with a stylized letter C. I blush to admit that I chose to do so primarily because Michael Whelan was doing it. He was my hero, and I thought it was so amazingly cool, just typical of Whelan to think of doing something like that. By nature I am not a follower. But I couldn’t resist this. I worked out my own symbol and was instantly thrilled with it. I still like it. After all this time, it just feels comfortable and right.
Using a symbol has other advantages besides looking cool. A fair portion of my yearly workload consisted of book covers. Big Apple Art Directors did not like it if you signed a painting where it would show on a book cover (unless you were Frank Frazetta – and I definitely was not, darn it). They would go to great lengths to be sure no one could see your signature. They would sometimes put text over it or crop the painting so the offending signature was entirely removed. I have heard it theorized that the art directors did not want other art directors to know who you were, so you would not be “stolen” away by offers of more money. I think refusing to allow an artist to receive credit for his work is a poor business practice. I must say, however, that one explanation for the practice made sense to me.
One art director brought up the fact that, especially in Science Fiction and Fantasy, a cover is a window into another world, kind of like a glimpse into an action movie. It is, in a way, theater, which, as I will discuss in a later blog, is why we use realist styles – to make the fantasy believable. And seeing a signature is a blatant slap in the face with the fact that this is not a window into another world. It is just a piece of art. In essence, allowing the signature to be seen breaks the fourth wall. All of which brings me to my other big reason for using a symbol. It is much easier to hide. And being hidden, it is much less likely to be a jarring element or to break the fourth wall. I have hidden my signature in all sorts of places in my paintings – in background architecture, as a design element on a character’s bracelet, in a headdress or necklace. Doing so is my compromise between my rights as an independent creator and my mission to use my creation to build and maintain the fourth wall.