My artwork is good enough to be stolen

An irate man awakened my wife Sunday morning, wondering why some “Kevin Grass” was sending him all these spam emails. When Michaela had calmed him down and explained that we don’t have anything to do with the loan solicitations he received, and that we had only sent out two emails announcing my Holiday Sale for my artwork, he was sorry for so rudely awakening her on our landline.

Steve from Dallas did us a huge favor. He forwarded one of the spam emails, so we could see what he was talking about. Someone had downloaded my Middle School painting (it still says “sample” across it from the watermark of the illegal download), and pasted it into an email, along with my logo, my real address, real telephone number, and my new website.

Middle School is a painting by Florida realism artist Kevin Grass showing that awkward phase when two teenagers aren't quite children, but are not yet adults, either.

Middle School, by Kevin Grass, shows two teens on the cusp of adulthood. It strikes me as an unlikely image to help get people to purchase loans, but this was the image in the fake email that was forwared to us. 

The main thing that was in the body of the text was the following message:

We offer Loan Amount of: 5K $ 5m I want to fully assure you that you will get the funds if only you are very serious and trustworthy Because I Like serious and God fearing people.If interested contact us now for more information " at and an email address that had nothing to do with me.

By adding my factual information, someone doing a Google search for me could find my business and know that it’s a legitimate business. Apparently, that was going to be sufficient to try and con people with the message above.

We would never have known about the theft of my business identity if Steve had not called, since we were not on the mailing list for the spam emails.

When we looked at his sample email, the addresses for the recipients were not even concealed in a bcc: field, so it was quite clear that the mailing had not gone out to anyone on my own mailing list. I sent an apology email to the spammed people, explaining that someone had spoofed an email using my good name and that I am sorry that they were getting these fake solicitations by the loan person.

I also sent an email to the loan address and cc’d my intellectual property lawyer on it to alert them that I am aware that they have fraudulently used my image and that I am considering my legal options.

My images are copyrighted. Even when someone purchases a work of art from me, I still retain the copyright to the original artwork. It is never okay for someone to use my work (other than for educational purposes) without my permission.

"Pali Overlook" by Kevin Grass is a realism painting showing a scenic overlook in Oahu, Hawaii.

Pali Overlook was another one of my paintings that the scam artists seemed to look at a lot. I don't know if it was actually used in fake emails or not.

Some research into who has been visiting my website and where they are from has revealed that more than one person is most likely involved in this scam. There are suspicious downloads of the Middle School image from Nigeria, from Ghana, and from Manassas in the United States.

These people also seemed interested in my View of the Santa Maria della Salute, Venice and my Pali Overlook landscapes. I would not be surprised if there were scam emails floating around with downloads of those paintings included.

I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. Michaela and I had worked so hard to try and publicize my new website. And now this?

Michaela had even innocently thought that the person from Ghana might be attending the upcoming SPECTRUM art fair in Miami and might want to purchase one of my artworks and that’s why this person kept coming back and looking at the same painting. Last year, the education minister from South Africa and her entourage enjoyed getting a personal tour of my booth, so it was not as far-fetched an assumption as one might think.

The problem: what to do about this theft and how to protect myself from liability from this scam? I consulted my trusty Facebook friends and got some valuable advice. One was to report the email addresses associated with the spam emails to abuse@gmail.com. I did so, but did not hear back from them.   

All the information that was stolen was readily available on my website. I was not “hacked,” so nothing that was password-protected was taken.

Someone said I should charge admission for people to be able to see my images. I had to smile at that. I am trying to sell my paintings and prints of them. If people had to pay to see the images, I would have no chance of selling anything.

Besides, anyone who is a Facebook friend or follower can see my works in progress and the finished ones in albums open to the public. I want my images to go viral because so many people think they are cool, not keep them hidden from the world!

Kevin Grass painted Venice the last time he was there, including the Grand Canal and a view of Santa Maria della Salute

My View of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice was yet another painting that seems to have been scrutinized by the scammers. It is one of my wife's favorite paintings.

I also checked with our bank, since our bank account includes identity theft protection. Our banker said that what I am doing is the right thing, including writing this blog. This way, my real fans can find out what happened, and if someone does an internet search, there is a good chance they will find out my side of the story.

One last thing our banker suggested is to make an official police report, so the crime is on record. It will be almost impossible to catch the perpetrators, since most of them seem to be from outside of this country. I only have some email addresses and IP numbers to show who most likely did the illegal downloads and the times when they did so. But I will file a police report as well.

If you are one of the unscrupulous criminals who stole my images and who is impersonating me so you can spam people and coax them into making fraudulent loans, realize this: you have hurt a real human being with your actions. Someone who has worked hard to create fine art, and add beauty to this world. You are also hurting my ability to conduct my legitimate business.

If the laws of karma work, then I hope you get your just rewards.

It is so hard to work full-time as a teacher and then come home and paint full time and try to make it as a professional artist. I want to quit almost every day, since I am not seeing much in the way of rewards for me using my talent as an artist. My wife keeps reassuring me that my painting matters and that I need to keep doing it, because it is who I am. When something like this happens, it makes me ask even more whether it is all worthwhile.

I hope that next week the art fair in Miami will show me some positive rewards. Cross your fingers for me!

Detail of Kevin Grass's "Progress" painting with a self-portrait of him beating his head against the wall