23/09/2013 06:44 BST | Updated 20/11/2013 05:12 GMT

The Criticism I Face as a Copyist Artist


Pioneering copyist artist, Susie Ray comments on the criticism she and her industry faces

Copyist painting is somewhat of a controversial subject with people often unaware of the difference between copyist and forgery, but as a copyist painter, I can safely say there is a very clear difference between the two. Here in my guest blog for Huffington Post I plan to settle the argument once and for all.

I have been a copyist painter for over 25 years and throughout that time I have been at the centre of the controversy. I'm the first to say there is a shaded grey area between copyist and forged artwork that results in lack of clarity. This haziness has given the legal art of copyist painting a bad rep in line with its illegal counterfeits. But where does this misunderstanding stem from?....

By no fault of their own, it comes from a lack of understanding and awareness in the general consensus. To date copyist artwork has been discreet in its very nature, and this discreetness has meant only an elite few have come across the term, even though most people have probably seen a copyist painting before (either in a hotel, restaurant or gallery (when the original is on loan)).

With interest in copyist painting increasing, copyist painters like myself are keen to raise the profile of the intriguing world and set critics straight.

Perhaps it may be helpful to go back to the beginning, and explain what copyist painting is? Copyist painting is the recreation of paintings from the great masters and impressionist era that look exactly the same as the original but are copied.

Far from churning out cheap fakes and forgeries, reputable copyist painters painstakingly recreate great masterworks from the likes of Monet to Manet. But to be a copyist painting as opposed to a fake there are a few rules to follow.

With each painting copied, the original artist must have been dead for over 70 years (when the painting is out of copyright) to make it legal. In addition, it must be made clear that the copyist artist recreated the painting and the copy is not passed off as the real McCoy when sold. With each painting I recreate, I make it clear it is a Susie Ray Originals by signing my signature on the reverse and I never paint more than one of any original painting. If a painting meets this criterion, it is a copy and not a fake!

Although the next stage, it what may fuel the controversy further...

Once I sell a painting, I have no control over what my customers tell their friends. If they do try to pass it off as the real deal, then they better hope no-one takes a peek at the reverse of the canvas!

Even if I do say so myself, copyist painting is by no means an easy feat, and requires both skill and patience. I originally trained as a scientific illustrator, and this forensic style of painting suits me perfectly. Each painting I recreate is thoroughly researched, with the correct size and canvas selected and primed, aged and executed in oil paint to ensure not only the look, but also the texture and feel of the painting, is as close to the original as possible.

This is probably the most unusual way for an artist to work, but I adore the technicality of copyism. I am an illustrator not a fine artist, and I plan to stick at what I am good at!

This technical way of learning and painting is one not to be frowned upon - even the great masters took their hand to copying. For example, in 1640 Rembrandt painted a portrait of himself that borrowed deliberately from Titian's 'Portrait of a Young Man'. This kind of 'copying' was a key technique in Europe from the Renaissance to the age of Manet.

Copying has long been an integral part of the art world and the rising interest in affordable paintings is further validating its creditability in the current art market.

For information please log on to for gallery opening times and details of how to contact Susie direct.