WA artist Rebecca Cool is outraged that imitations of her signature paintings are being sold in Asia and has pleaded with Australians not to buy the fakes.
Australian author Mark Greenwood and New Jersey children's book illustrator Frane Lessac were travelling through Vietnam last week and stumbled upon copies of Cool's colourful artwork.
They alerted the Margaret River-based artist.
"They came across it in a little shop in Hanoi," Cool said. "They were pretending to buy the paintings for someone, so Mark held it out and Frane took a photo of it and sent me the details and also the business card of the people involved."
The 47-year-old, who is known for her playful and quirky children's book illustrations, used her Facebook page to voice her anger and soon discovered she was not alone. Melbourne artist Janine Daddo has also had her art copied. She told Cool she had spent years trying to bring the fraudulent sellers to justice.
"This has been going on for years, not just us, but (David) Bromely, Keller, Baines etc," Daddo wrote on Cool's Facebook page. "I have tried many avenues to find a paper trail to those who have stolen our intellectual property, even the fraud squad . . . but Asia has little if any copyright laws . . . and unless we can get a big enough case they will not put the manpower into it."
Cool said the attention to detail that had gone into the imitation paintings led her to believe it was the work of Australian copy artists.
"It's obviously Australians who are behind it because people over there don't suddenly start copying work by Janine Daddo and myself, someone is behind all this," she said.
"It's actually a very good copy, so these people are talented and it's a bit sad that they can't use their talents to do their own art. It's just unfair, lazy and annoying that people are doing this."
Although Cool is infuriated that copies of her work are being sold overseas, it is not the first time her art has been duplicated for sale.
"It has been happening even before the internet," she said. "It has been going on since the 80s and it is really annoying."
She said the costly legal fees involved meant it was unlikely she could pursue the perpetrators.
"I sent the information to my lawyer and he said it would be quite expensive to pursue and kind of pointless, really," she said. "I mean there are copyright laws to protect artists but then when you try and access them, you're out of pocket. So it's quite difficult in that sense.
"I've been told to join NAVA (National Association of Visual Artists) and see if they can help but I suppose I have to suck it up, really."
Cool pleaded with Australian art collectors not to buy the imitations. "Please don't buy these copies because you're part of the problem," she said. "My work is avail- able in a lot of galleries in Perth, like Gallows Gallery."