Problems with clones


Dear Artist,

These days artists are receiving emails like this: “We like to do business with you. We are skilled painters in Shenzhen, China. There are lots of talent painters working together in our studio. We can paint oil painting at every grade of different style, our price and service are very competitive, you can make more money than before if you buy oil paintings directly from us. The FOB prices can be $7 per copy for 20″ x 24″ and $12 for 24″ x 36″, if you are interested in, we can send some photos of our works to you, we also can paint exactly according to your any email pictures, it is very easy to do the international business now, looking forward to your reply.”


A view of a painting market in Dafen, Shenzhen. The paintings are advertised as ‘commodity art.’

As well as cheap copies of famous paintings for the world’s supermarkets, what these chaps have in mind is that you go golfing while they make your stuff — at less cost than you might normally pay for a couple of golf balls. They’d like you to think it’s the new reality of free trade.



Paintings being laid out to sun-dry in Dafen, Shenzhen. When Typhoon Neoguri tore through the area on a Saturday, an estimated 10,000 paintings were subsequently soaked.



I’ve seen a few fairly good copies of my own work, done without my permission. At first glance they look okay. At second glance the painters haven’t figured out the order I do things, and they’ve not rendered well the deviations and mannerisms that make my work somewhat distinctive. As clever as these guys are, they’ve not lived my struggles, and they’ve put in unpleasant struggles of their own. Can others see this? People tell me they can recognize my work from across the room. Many other painters can say the same. How sophisticated does a collector have to be to spot a phony? How greedy does a dealer have to get to sell one? How stupid do artists have to be to let themselves be cloned?


During the 1990’s half the paintings produced in Dafen factories were shipped to Wal-Mart locations overseas.

As many know, I’ve worked long and hard to thwart the Chinese copyists. A couple of years ago we managed to have replicas of more than 1200 Western painters removed from Eastern clone-sites. The various levels of governments were of no help in this fight. Direct email appeals to the decency of the cloners worked, if only temporarily. These are talented, well-trained painters. Our efforts brought to mind some of the great principles: Put the devil to work in your work. Fill it with private magic. Use techniques and processes that are yours alone and tough to master. Do things that others can’t.

Best regards,


PS: “We can do good job for you and save you time.” (Chinese cloning website)


On average, Chinese factory artists earn $0.47USD per completed painting.

Esoterica: In China, the word “copyright” currently means the right to copy. We need to help the Chinese understand that world citizenship means more than a fast buck — it means respect, honour and integrity. There are more than 10,000 clone-painters in Shenzhen — all of them poorly paid. Artists need to reply to these Chinese emails and let it be known that they do not want their work cloned under any circumstances. Chinese artists need to be encouraged to be their own artists. Many have seen this light and have achieved international acclaim at prices that do not perpetuate poverty in either art or ethics.



A Great Leap Sideways — The Problems with clones


Over 10,000 Chinese painters occupy the city of Dafen, Shenzhen. Five million oil paintings a year are created here for foreign markets.


There are regular competitions held, with 100 or more painters all racing to see who can finish a copy of the same portrait or landscape the fastest. The quickest of the Dafen, Shenzhen artisans can complete up to 30 paintings a day.


Reproduced copy of Picasso’s Self-Portrait with a Palette









Merit in originals
by Michael Mayer, Hong Kong


original painting by Chinese artist Zhu Shiliang

I was recently in the painter’s village in Shenzhen where they make these copies. It is truly amazing what they can do, and the prices they offer. Much of it is obviously rubbish, and the discerning buyer knows the difference. I was, however, also able to get a nice, original watercolour for around US$15. There are many artists producing original work in the Western style that merits more than a second look.



Personal vision is paramount
by Luann Udell, Keene, NH, USA


“Meadow Pond IV”
mixed media wall hanging
by Luann Udell

I’m often asked to give artist presentations on my work. Afterwards, there’s always someone who, inspired by my art and words, comes forward and asks if they can make horses, too. (Or combine fiber with polymer, or some variation of my work.) I’ve learned this desire must be addressed kindly but honestly, and immediately. I tell them if they feel the need to make horses, that’s their own personal decision. But I don’t need help getting MY work out into the world — I can make plenty! And what the world really needs is their very own, very personal vision made real — not more copies of mine.


Judge the buyers
by Tamsin Stead, Phuket, Thailand


“No. 10” 1950
oil painting, 229.2 x 146.4 cm
by Mark Rothko

I live in Thailand and there are copies everywhere. But the type of customer who would be content to put one of these copy paintings on their walls, are most decidedly not the kind who would buy an original painting! Of course there are always going to be the people who don’t mind spending a small amount of money on a copy for their homes! Hey, each to their own, if they don’t mind the embarrassment. The people who really know about art wouldn’t be seen dead with one of these things on their walls. You can’t really blame the copyists; they’re just trying to make a living — usually under some artists’ version of a pimp, for very little money. I think it comes down to who you personally want to own your art. You may very well, of course, prefer your potential customer to have the good taste to buy an original, or, you don’t give a damn about the total lack of taste that some people possess. And no, I’ve never been tempted to buy one of these copies here. Although, just for a laugh, I asked one particularly hustling Madam, who’d grabbed hold of my arm and asked what artist I liked, if she had any Rothkos! You should have seen the green blob, no under-painting, with a white blob slapped underneath!


Culture clash
by Kristin Newton, Tokyo, Japan


“Sun and moon”
glass sculpture
by Kristin Newton

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that the East & West really don’t understand each other at all. Rather like the right and left brains, they are on completely different tracks. It’s quite true that in China, the word “copyright” currently means the right to copy, but historically that is how art has been taught in Asia. They don’t feel that it is cheating. In addition, that is how each child learns the Chinese “alphabet” of 4000 characters, which is an art in itself. According to Oliver Sacks, something like 90% of Chinese have perfect pitch, as opposed to 20% or less of English speakers. This is due in large part to the fact that Chinese is a tonal language, rather like music. Learning Chinese is great exercise for the brain!

Looking at Western capitalism from a different viewpoint, it seems like making a fast buck is a desirable quality, to be admired. I think America, in particular, really needs to understand that world citizenship means more than a fast buck — it means respect, honor and integrity. Canada is a better example. The Chinese are very materialistic and making money is one of their most admired goals in life. I’m sure the Chinese artists feel they are performing a needed service in the world. As you said, there are more than 10,000 clone-painters in Shenzhen — all of them poorly paid. Most laborers of any sort in China are poorly paid compared to our standards. They are just trying to make a living and since they are just considered laborers, not “artists,” it’s probably hard for them to understand the emotions we feel toward our art. But just think, there are no doubt more than 10,000 painters in the West who are poorly paid. What parent is happy to hear that their child wants to become an artist? The first response is usually, “But how will you make a living?” — a valid concern.

When I was in Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago, the biggest art fair ever held here was the talk of the town. Thousands of people were attending. I’ve been coming to Hong Kong since 1981 and I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe China will bring renewed appreciation of art to the West. Are people buying art because they genuinely like it or because they think of it like the stock market? Direct communication is the best way to achieve understanding. I wonder if there is any way to have an international artists’ gathering in Shenzhen or would it just cause fist fights? Or someone could set up a factory in the West to make reproductions of Chinese artists’ paintings? The clash of cultures always brings change!

There is 1 comment for Culture clash by Kristin Newton

From: Dee Milliken — Jun 10, 2008

“I think America, in particular, really needs to understand that world citizenship means more than a fast buck — it means respect, honor and integrity. Canada is a better example. The Chinese are very materialistic and making money is one of their most admired goals in life”.

quoting Tinker Bachant above, I have to say that I am also confused by that statement.

Having lived in and visited several countries, witnessed the variable degrees of materialisticness; (is that a word?, forgive me if I just made that up, but its been a long day) I’d have to say Canadians tend to be less materialistic than our neighbours to the South.


Pixilated Pino
by Pixie Glore, Spain


“Chefchaouen Street”
watercolour painting
by Pixie Glore


“Morning Breeze”
original painting
24 x 18 inches
by Pino

Sometimes we must take a stand. I once refused to put work in a gallery that was selling Chinese copies even thought they were well done and very cheap. There was an incredible copy of a Pino — reputed to be by the smiling face in the photo from China. The gallery owner didn’t know who Pino was and I suggested she look him up. Then I had her look at the painting real close where she could see the digital pixelation that had been painted over. She was selling it as an original for $200. I never went back to that gallery and they have since gone out of business.


Protest for needed change
by Anna Payne, The Woodlands, TX, USA


oil painting
by Anna Payne

What gives anyone the right to sell copies of others’ artistic endeavors without permission! That is theft. I think the world art community needs to have its voice heard. Maybe when all galleries hang a black flag in protest. I recently heard about an artist that was on a US government sponsored trip to teach artists in China to paint and to be creative. Your tax dollars and mine, earned through long hours at the easel, pay for such trips and then certain Chinese artists turn around and sell our work for nothing. After all, their government seemed to be shocked when the international community spoke up about their human rights violations. We need to make these changes through protest.


Weakening of the spirit
by Mary Chang

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

It is our own greed for a fast buck that can give someone the permission to go ahead and reproduce our work — unless they steal it. This is a global problem, from corporate America to sweatshop factories around the world. It is the weakening of the spirit, desperation.


Slight alterations in replication
by Diane Overmyer, Goshen, IN, USA


bronze sculpture
16 x 10 inches
by Diane Overmyer

I was at National Sculpture Society gathering in Loveland, Colorado several years ago and they had a session on this topic. The clones in this case were changed very slightly. The organizers of the session had photos of well known sculptors’ work. We viewed slides of the cloned work along side of the originals. As I remember, one of Jane DeDecker’s sculptures with several children and a dog was copied quite closely. The dog, however, had been moved and one of the children’s heads was looking in a different direction. I could see big differences in the way each piece had been executed, but I too wondered if the average person could tell the difference.



Art is a unique journey
by Loraine Wellman, Richmond, BC, Canada


original painting
by Loraine Wellman

What a bizarre idea! The whole point of being an artist is to make art.

As Ted Orland says in The View From the Studio Door, “Making art, like having children, is one way of making life worth living. And artworks, like children, are assays of our lives and a measure of the things we hold important. For those who would make art, the basic proposition is crystal clear: Finding the work you are meant to do is the central challenge of artmaking — and making that work is the central challenge of life.”

No clone can have the same spirit of the artist that is in the original. Most of us can’t really copy our own works! Who can remember exactly every decision that was made in the throws of creativity? My daughter now has the large painting of “Albert,” her cat, while she is living elsewhere and Albert stays with me. A friend, who has never met Albert, looked at the painting and said “He is very loyal.” That’s true — and somehow, it came across in the painting. A “clone” would just be another cat without personality.


Feeding the demand for decorative paintings
by Jancke-Christoff Combrinck, South Africa


“Franschhoek Vineyards”
oil painting
by Jancke-Christoff Combrinck

The marketing of art, like most other commodities, is subjected to market forces of supply and demand. As an artist, one should ask oneself how one creates an appreciation (demand) for one’s work.

In our very limited South African market for instance, the snake of mass-produced poor quality Far Eastern art has reared its ugly head, distributed amongst others no less than frame moulding companies that ironically make a large cut of their profits from local artists! As you are probably aware a new previously disadvantaged middle class has emerged with little or no background pertaining to art. Guess where most of this “junk” (excuse the pun) is destined for? Not the sort of art education to build good cultural and aesthetic value systems. This does not mean that many members of our middle class are not educated, thinking and appreciative individuals who can recognize good art when they see it. For the top class earners who can not, it may be a case of “you get what you pay for,” and a new Mercedes is higher on the priority list than a good work of art, but then, it has always been like this. It boils down to personal values. If one has not grown up in a climate of art and art education, where will you get art appreciation from?

As far as copies of art are concerned, I am of the opinion that they seem to replace prints to a certain extent. I ask myself: Who are the buyers of these copies, and are they sold on price as major enticement? Will these buyers buy my work at the prices I demand instead of the copies? Do these works have any positive merit to the public buying it, i.e. are they not more acceptable than the “junk” that has no meaning beyond the pre-iconographic? Could copies of good art consequently contribute to the owner’s awareness of better art, and his subsequent investment in good art? To the uninformed, owning a good copy painted “originally” at a low price could surely be pretty tempting as a status or decorative possession. At best some poor craftsman is making a living somewhere instead of starving.

We live in a throwaway world, and paintings could also be subjected to this culture. Is it not perhaps a case of buying a cheapie now, and throw it away when you change furniture, and buy another cheapie to go with the new decor. Millions of copies are sold annually because of a very real demand. This is the reality. Can we as artists do anything, not only to stop the wave of mass reproductions to reach our markets, but to educate the people to buy better art? Good honest art has an energy that will be recognized and experienced by the informed and sensitive spectator. Quality shows.


Most of the world does it
by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic


“Fate/ Destiny”
walnut, plum and poplar sculpture
by Norman Ridenour

Teaching abroad for 16 years: Czechs, Uzbeks, Sudanese, Kahziks, etc, all of my fairly westernized students have led me to believe that the Western concept of intellectual property is a bit esoteric in most of the world. Plagiarism, computer translation in an English writing class, and “helping,” are accepted. The goal is only result, process is unimportant. Part of it is that the western concept of the individual, his work, his ideas and consequent rewards are a bit odd for many societies. A pair of business psychologists, one American and one Japanese, were discussing books about leadership. The Japanese commented on JFKs, , that in Japanese society these ‘heros’ would be locked up as pathologically dangerous, because of their obsessive individualism. There is great variation around the world in values and how values become integrated into action.

Then many years ago in California I sent drawings of a furniture project to an interior designer with my bid. Everything had a copyright notice on each page. She gave the drawings to two fellows who knew the local market so they could to take the drawings around to competition to get a better price. Fortunately they took them to my best friend. When confronted with the situation the reply was, “There are no new ideas, why are you upset?” I left a quick nasty message on one answering machine, the fellow’s lawyer calls me and warns me about making threats and when I explained what had happened, he too was blaze about it. Yes, being ripped off is a pain in the neck or lower but most of the world does it.


Famous American artists doing it
by Karen Baker Thumm, MI, USA

I had a very unpleasant email exchange with one of these “We’ll paint your art for you” people just this week. I asked specifically whether they were offering to paint paintings for me to sell as my own or if they were offering to sell me paintings to fill my booth at shows. The answer was that they were offering to paint paintings that I would sell as my own. When I protested that this would be highly unethical for me to do and a few other comments about their lack of respect of copyrights, I got a hot reply.

The guy claimed that he does business with many well known artists in this country whom he is personal friends with. The Chinese artists paint 80% of the painting, and the American artist finishes up the 20% and sells it as his/her original art. He claims this is a long tradition in art history for assistants to do part of paintings. Then he told me to go to art school for ten years and THEN try selling my art. Ouch!

I told him that I’d rather keep my integrity than indulge in such a deceptive and unethical practice since MY government doesn’t pay to send me to art school for ten years. I didn’t hear from him again, and it makes me wonder how many other artists he hears from who take issue with what the Chinese are doing.

Do you suppose that what he says is true; famous American artists are hiring the Chinese to paint their paintings for them? Or was that a lot of face saving bologna?

(RG note) Thanks, Karen. If they are, they’re not letting on. Wouldn’t be good for business. We’ve never had a letter from anyone, even from “anonymous,” claiming a relationship with a Chinese cloner. Maybe that type of “famous American artist” doesn’t subscribe to the Twice-Weekly letter. But if we ever do get such a letter, we will certainly publish it, whether the relationship was found to be positive or negative. Anonymity is always protected if we’re asked.

There is 1 comment for Famous American artists doing it by Karen Baker Thumm

From: Diane — Jun 10, 2008

This is in response to Karen Baker Thumm’s note about American artist’s selling work the done in China. I am quite certain that I have seen this on more than one occasion at an art fair. I have even asked an artist about it, but of course they flat out denied it. To me it all goes back to the process. I do my art work first and formost for my own pleasure. Someone who participates in this type activity is not an artist at all!



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Problems with clones



From: Rick Rotante — Jun 09, 2008

The problem of knockoffs, for me, starts with the importers, the buyers for the Wal-Mart chains and others like them who import art from abroad. They are the ones who select work from China or wherever to sell in their stores in the U.S. I have little doubt that a serious art collector is going to be purchasing what may seem a “masterpiece” from any of these sources. We will never stop anyone from copying any item created by man for which there is a market.

So cloning is ranked very lower on the problem scale to among the non-serious art collectors and to the buyers who want to purchase pieces that match their sofas. They are looking for something “pretty” or “colorful” to fill a wall space. These buyers are not interested or are they knowledgeable about the copying going on. Nor are they interested in who gets copied or if they are getting a knockoff. They are looking for a cheap print to hide a nail hole. The artist is really the only loser here. Since art is not taken seriously among the population of the U.S. not too much importance is attached to stealing ones artwork. In fact, America is notorious for stealing as all governments are. In business, we covet and reward those who successfully do it. National secrets, industrial secrets, hollywood star secrets, governmental shenanigans are all acceptable to steal, so why not artwork. It’s only a painting for crying-out-loud. The world won’t be changed by a little art forgery. And look at all the Chinese painters we’re feeding. They have families to feed too. And they only make .47 cents for each copy. Give them a break.

Movies, books, clothing designs rank much higher on the “not-to-steal” scale than artwork. Unless your name is so famous that your estate will crucify any interlopers trying to cash in on your good name. Go Mickey.

So unless Art moves up on the importance scale say above computers, then and only then will those in power take notice and step in to make a change in the system. For those who will never acquire enough fame and wealth to fight these copyists, we are left to create the fodder for this mill and in doing, hope we stay under their radar.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jun 09, 2008

Rick, well said. China is a very poor country, not comparable with North America, we tend to forget that. I am also convinced that the people who purchase clones will never buy original art. I think that only the North American production of clones is seriously affected by Chinese clones.

From: Sue Cole — Jun 09, 2008

You see these paintings being sold at Fairs all the time for $20 for a pretty big painting (18 x 24 or larger). Up here, they even use fake “Alaskan” names. Knock offs of famous Alaskan artists that would sell for thousands of dollars for a genuine one, but most of the people that are buying them could care less about “genuine” art – like Rick said, they just want a “couch painting” – something to go with their couch. As with a lot of people, their taste is all in their mouth.

We do what we can. I make art because I enjoy it, not to get rich, although I try to at least make my costs back, plus a little more whenever possible. The gallery owners are charging higher and higher commissions now – 50% up here in Fairbanks, AK, so that it’s hard to make anything after you’ve paid for the matting and framing costs and the shipping to get the materials here in the first place, since most of the local art stores don’t always carry what you want, or if they do, it’s very expensive.

I like making art because it puts me in my right brain and I like that feeling. I like the play of color against color and am getting more and more into abstract art, partly because I have a tremor and cannot always do tight detail, nor do I want to anymore.

From: Christine — Jun 10, 2008

I have read that there are some artists on Ebay who get their paintings done in the Far East, then have them shipped back so that they can add the last finishing touches plus signature. It is so sad, that they cannot find individual creativity within themselves. Art and music are spiritual things, which is why they are always exploited for earthly ends such as money. I am not a professional, but I take time and care in making my pictures; however I doubt if anyone would want to copy mine. It must be so awful to see others copying your work and making money off your back.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Jun 10, 2008

Numerous artists have written to you, complaining about how hard it is to get into galleries, how hard it is to find time to paint, how hard it is to find things to paint … the column about the Chinese artists who make 47 cents per painting, likely painting 10, 12 or more hours per day certainly puts things in perspective.

The Chinese painters working in these art factories are no different from those working in other factories, producing other cheap knock-offs at rock-bottom prices. They are not producing art, though they may be well-trained, and well able to copy what is put before them. It would be interesting to see what they would come up with if taken away from their production line. I suspect that they may not even be able to produce original art, paintings that reflect their imagination, hopes, dreams and demons. While major art magazines are now filled with ads for gallery shows for Chinese artists, it is probably safe to say that the majority of the 10,000 Chinese artists working in these clone-studios will never be among them.

While there is much to be said for considering the earth as a large village, in which we all reside, your repeated efforts to keep your own work, and that of other Western artists, from being duplicated by Chinese clone-painters, suggests that the Chinese have a different world view of human beings as individuals, of the value of original ideas, of the meaning of “art”. Your comment that “we need to help the Chinese understand that world citizenship means … respect, honour and integrity”, is a Western-focussed sentiment. We should also help them to understand that when they pollute the planet, we all suffer. We should help them to understand that we consider lives lost to an earthquake, mine collapse, SARS or flood to be a tragedy, not a form of population control. But when one has a population of 1.3 billion, it is the collective masses which are the power. The individual, and what they produce, really doesn’t matter much, and isn’t celebrated under their system. Yes, in our world, we celebrate the making of magic, the uniqueness of creation, the joy of individual achievement. The Chinese value these achievements only because we do: they wouldn’t be copying Western paintings if they couldn’t sell them back to us.

Yes, there are Chinese artists who have achieved international acclaim. We celebrate their original vision and sophisticated execution, but do the Chinese? Is it possible that the Chinese see greater value in the 10,000 clone-painters bringing in Western currency collectively, than in the individual whose work gets ink in western media? And if one of the 10,000 flies the art-factory coop and does achieve individual “success”, there are likely at least 100 equally accomplished “artists” willing to take their place on the art-factory floor. Scary

From: Tinker Bachant — Jun 10, 2008

RE: this comment by Kristin Newton, “I think America, in particular, really needs to understand that world citizenship means more than a fast buck — it means respect, honor and integrity. Canada is a better example. The Chinese are very materialistic and making money is one of their most admired goals in life”.

I’m a little confused by this statement. Isn’t it one and the same?

From: Jennifer Horsley — Jun 10, 2008

I, for one, can not afford to buy original works…couldn’t even afford to buy my own paintings which aren’t even expensive (yet). Luckily, having been raised in an artist family, I’m able to fill the walls of my home with original paintings by my grandfather, my tables and shelves with sculptures and pottery by my aunts. Not everyone is so lucky. Most people I know at my income level have no choice but to go to the WalMarts and purchase what is affordable to them. I am not condoning clone painting. But there will always be a market for inexpensive art and with the economy in a downturn, it will be even more difficult for Western artists to sell their original works. I think this will be a never-ending battle with the clone painters.

From: Brad Greek — Jun 10, 2008

I’m really on the fence with all of this. I believe that the art factories in China are supplying artists a paying place to mass produce art and also giving them the skills to paint their own work. We emerging artists would love to get paid to learn how to paint. It sounds like a little envy here. And also I understand that we don’t want someone else making a buck off of our images. Yet in this mass of images available in the world, isn’t it also an honor to be chosen as art worthy of being cloned. I know I would feel honored if I was being cloned in a huge art factory. Amazing. I believe if you took money and greed out of the picture you could see the honor in being cloned. I also feel that those artists in those factories wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have the desire and passion for art. Also I believe that a lot of people here are forgetting that most of the work bought at WalMart is a published artist’s work. And that 50% of art is purchased at retail stores. Only 5-10% of the population buys original art. I see so much degrading going on here, we are in this world together. Maybe I would have different views on all of this if I was able to sell everything that I created and had everything I needed through the sells of my work. But until then I’m going to support all artists no matter what their habits or cultures are.

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 10, 2008

Jennifer and Brad – I don’t usually respond to individual comments. I firmly believe in the right to have their own opinion, but, Jennifer – anyone can buy inexpensive “original” art for as little as $10 dollars. Go to any fairs, out door exhibits. I even reduce my small works in order to be available to those on “short” incomes. In fact, I sell a lot of pieces for under a hundred dollar every time I do an outdoor show.

Brad- cloning is not an honor, it’s theft. If you found your work in a gallery selling A- for more than you charge and B- selling without just compensation to you, you would not think it an honor. If this was so ethical to do, why is it other American artists are not making a cottage industry from it?

Don’t be misled that due to over-population, acts of god or governmental interference that it’s okay to steal. If your income were effect, it would be a different story.

China and other countries do have different standards as to what is right and wrong. I won’t debate that. Even in America, if your poverty level or homeless your standards to get by will be altered greatly. I would do whatever to feed my family. But none of this justifies stealing from someone artist or otherwise. We are losing our ethics.

From: Kathleen — Jun 10, 2008

My 25 year-old nephew and I were wandering around a touristy town in Missouri when we came upon an establishment selling these knock-offs. He, being the nephew of an artist (me) looked at these very carefully and came back with the conclusion that they were really very bad copies. He is, by profession a police officer and may have higher levels of visual perception, but I really don’t think so. That said he identified differences such as the intensity of color, sloppy highlights, and colors that were too raw. If these copyists can’t fool a young man with no formal art training, they aren’t fooling anyone else. Additonally, I would like to note that this gallery was empty of consumers while near-by art galleries dealing in local originals were actually crowded.

From: Brad Greek — Jun 10, 2008

I believe that there isn’t any stopping it, it’s going to happen. Use it to your advantage if possible, make people aware of those that are cloning your work, and that it isn’t your original. I guess we are feeling what the music industry is feeling about all the theft to the free downloading of their music. Or an author whose book is read then passed along to others to read, or the taping of movies and burning of dvd’s. Just to name a few types of artists that are ripped off daily by everyone in the world. That includes the great people of the United States. We visual artists are very peculiar about our work. Which there isn’t anything wrong with that, but sometimes we need to get over ourselves in thinking that what we create is All there is!! There is more to art than the all mighty Buck. Art is used for many great causes and support a lot of benefits. And most time is cloned over and over again for mere peanuts to the artist if anything at all. I annouce here and now, that anyone in the world can use, clone, rip off, reproduce any image I have. Because I have the security in knowing, myself, that those images will benefit those that use them. If they can help feed a child or support some research or just make some fat cat more money, go for it. I know that I can’t stop them from doing it anyways. Ok…who needs an image!!

From: Brad Greek — Jun 10, 2008

P.S. As far as ethics goes, as an artist I don’t believe in copying others work to make a buck. But realize the benefits of studying others work as in a learning situation.

From: Cassandra James — Jun 10, 2008

I allowed and encouraged beginning students at an eastern art college to make master studies for the boost in morale and self-esteem, and simply the learning of technique and how art has been made. No need to start over at the beginning and do it all again – but learn about it, move on pretty quickly and advance the artistic language down the road a bit. That’s my goal and I can’t think of a better one. I paint for the experience of making each painting, and so am not concerned about what happens to the paintings when I’m finished with them. Just keep them around long enough to learn all I can from each one, and move on.

From: Catherine Robertson — Jun 10, 2008

May I add, – “Shame on Wal-Mart !”

From: Thomas Greaves — Jun 11, 2008

Why do we produce ‘art’ anyway?

Some of us do it because we enjoy the process, some of us do it because we wish to share our perception with the world. Yet others do it BECAUSE THEY WANT TO EARN A FEW BUCKS!!!

I get the impression that most of the respondents here fall into the last of those categories.

A number of them have expressed the word ‘greed’, and yet they appear to be the very ones who are most involved in its practice.

Art is about expressing our perception of life and the world in which we live. Unless we are driven by the desire to make bucks, then what matter the means by which our vision is shared.

This issue is not about our work being copied, it’s about LOSING A BUCK!!!

From: Theresa Bayer — Jun 11, 2008

Borrowing from Chinese philosophy to illustrate a point: Copying is yin; originality is yang. East and West are polarized when it comes to making art. We all need a bit of balance. The West could use a little more discipline — copying in order to learn perfectly legit, especially if you quote the master in your signature, as in “After Leonardo”. The East could do with more joy and freedom, and that comes with originality. If West and East could each take a page from each other’s book (to use a Western metaphor) wouldn’t that be fun? I’d LOVE to see what original concepts and images those Chinese artists could come up with!

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 11, 2008

If you believe your work is worth nothing, it is worthless.

If you believe your ideas can be used without compensation, your skill, ability is worthless)

If you give away your worth, you will be considered worthless.

If you choose to do nothing while others benefit from your worth, you will be thought worthless.

If you don’t value your ability, then your ability is worthless.

You are considered worthless.

This isn’t only about art, this is true in life.

The world judges you by your worth. Who you are, what you do, all has value. You should respect that. In this society monetary compensation is that judge. I didn’t make up this system. I only try and live within it.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jun 11, 2008

…taking back my support for Rick’s views – I agreed with the part prior to him stepping on the soap box.

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 11, 2008

Tatjana – chicken!

From: Brad Greek — Jun 11, 2008

Rick, it is ok to want to defend your art, protect it from thieves if you can, that is normal. We artists are probably one of the most giving of humans on the planet. We jump through hoops, climp tall mountains, stand in the hot sun all day, etc… for the sake of our art. Then to have someone come along and make money off our hard earned efforts can make you lose your temper. Understandable. But to think that money is all there is at the end for all our efforts is sad. I believe art has a far greater good then to just make us a buck.

I guess all charities are worthless if you think that by donating our work away makes us and our art worthless. Or spending time teaching a class room full of kids a few things about art without pay makes me worthless, I’m ok with that. I’m not sure where you were headed with those statements, but I think I understand what you were trying to say. I’ve been an artist my entire life, do I make my living with it…no. Why? Maybe it’s worthless, maybe because I don’t live and breathe every minute on how I can make a buck from it. I do, how ever, spend all my free time painting and supporting every art related event that comes down the pike. We all have different paths that we’ve taken, it is what makes us all so unique. Just as Robert spends so much time supporting everyone here, being un-selfish isn’t worthless. Thanks again Robert

From: Jennifer Horsley — Jun 11, 2008

Well said, Brad. Well said.

From: DavidOB — Jun 11, 2008

When you donate something to charity I would hope you think it is of value, otherwise you are insulting the charity. Same goes for giving valuable time to work with children. If you get a feeling of satisfaction from a charitable contribution, you have received value in return.

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 12, 2008

Brad – my point is – do you work for a living? Do you get paid?
What you offer to your employer is worth money and he pays you for your effort. This is called working for a buck. Making money for your worth. I find it difficult to think you can’t grasp this concept. You live it everyday. Do you buy groceries? Clothes? Paint supplies? You pay for these because the manufacturers put a worth on their products and we pay it. I’m not trying to beat anyone over the head with this. If I choose to sell my work, I wish to get paid for it. Art is not an altruistic endeavor. I don’t get paid, I don’t eat, I can’t buy the goods I need to survive. As for charity or giving back, I do that voluntarily as you do. But don’t confuse work with charity. They are two separate things. The clones are stealing from “working artists” just the same as if your employer didn’t pay you your weekly wage.

From: Brad Greek — Jun 12, 2008

Rick, I do understand all the valid points that you have brought to the table. And with what you just said about getting paid for working a job, this was my original point about the artists in those cloning factories. It isn’t that the employees (the artists) are cloning to make a buck off of you work, they are merely getting paid to do a job. And learning the skills at the same time. I think we are on the same page, just in different books LOL. We both have been around this business a long time and have experienced many like and dis-like situations. This gives us both our opinions, but in the end we all have to stick together, no one else is going to go to bat for us.

And I do realize the need for the stoppage of those factories copying others work without concent or payment. And the need for the Orphan Bills to get straightened out. But like everything in life, if a thief wants it, he’ll get it. I’m not going to grow grey hairs over it.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jun 12, 2008

Rick – huh?

I agree with what you wrote in your first entry where you focused on who/why is buying copies and who/why is making them, but disagree with what you wrote as you kept elaborating on how we as artist should regard our work, which turned into preaching – anything wrong with that?

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 13, 2008

Tatjana- this site isn’t about you or me, so this is my last personal response. If you wish to pursue this use and I would be happy to explain myself further. I wasn’t preaching and the “chicken” remark was a joke.

Unfortunately, typed responses leave much to be desired. Without voice inflection and eye contact and body language much is misconstrued.

From: Tatjana Mirdov-Popovicki — Jun 13, 2008

no problem – perhaps it would be more fun to have all anonymous writings… as you say it’s not about any of us… let’s get back to art.

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 13, 2008

No Brad- you don’t understand me at all.

From: Sherry Purvis — Jun 13, 2008

Rick, I think you are beating a dead horse. You are right, theft is wrong, no matter who does it, or how they try and justify it. Stealing someone’s artwork for the sake of giving someone a job and teaching them to paint is just plain bull. It is still wrong and is promoted by the one thing that makes the world a bad place and that is simple greed. I have to agree with your thoughts.

From: Brad Greek — Jun 13, 2008

I’ll shut up now

From: Robert — Jun 15, 2008

Education is the answer here and exposure to the masters. I was in a 5 million dollar home. He had the chinese knock off art above every fire place. His neighbor was making fun of him asking who the artist was and complimenting him on the frames. OK, buy the cheap art but everyone who is anyone is going to think you are a moron and in fact you are. Grow up America, get real and support your local art and culture!

From: anon — Jun 23, 2008

I just LOVE this forum!






Life is a Mirror

acrylic painting
by Carl Schlademan, Canada


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Amy Goodwin who wrote, “I spent two weeks at the painting factories in Shenzhen, China. I have a little photo album of my trip in my blog.”

And also Coulter Watt of Quakertown, PA, USA who wrote, “You mean to tell me I could cruise the Caribbean all winter and be an artist too?”

And also Kit Miracle of Jasper, IN, USA who wrote, “To deter cloning, I hide secret symbols in my paintings, known only to me. I’ve heard of other artists signing with a thumbprint or other identifying method. It’s worth an extra step.”

And also Dorit Pittman of New Orleans, LA, USA who wrote, “If a painting can be scanned and printed as a giclee then I don’t see a way that it can not be cloned. Other than collage or other surface embellishments, how can one avoid this possibility of cloning?”

And also Kate Lehman Landishaw of the USA who wrote, “What an insane concept! Making art is a solution to the unemployment situation? Hello? I understand the Dollar Store buying ceramic junk; when did artists become retail merchandisers?! I can’t even grasp the concept! Egad!”

And also Dee Milliken of New Brunswick, Canada who wrote, “The Chinese painters need to let their own inner creativity fly and not be boxed into ‘painting factories’ cloning well known works for Wal-Mart!”

And also Hannah Pazderka of Edmonton, AB, Canada who wrote, “If these guys are so talented (as they do appear to be!), why are they not out there ‘fighting the good fight,’ producing their own works, and making a name for themselves?”




Leave A Reply

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.