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Archive for Sunday, May 20, 1990

ARTIST SCOURS RURAL LANDSCAPE FOR HIS ART

May 20, 1990

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Louis Copt's two biggest influences are about 10,000 miles and hundreds of years apart: rural Kansas and traditional China.

The Lawrence landscape painter, who is showing his most recent works through May at Roy's Gallery and Framing, 1410 Kasold, says he's been influenced heavily by looking at Chinese art, and he feels he's brought an Asian sensibility to how he looks at the valleys, farms and rivers of eastern Kansas.

"I like its simplicity," Copt said of Chinese art in a recent interview. "(I like) the way they capture nature with a minimum of effort. Less is more."

Copt's placid, snowy landscapes and more brash cartoon-like art have been seen in regional shows for more than 10 years. Along the way, he's won the Kansas Postcard Artist prize three times and won prizes for watercolor artists.

HE'S ALSO studied at the Art Student's League in New York as well as with Kansas University teacher Robert Sudlow and at Emporia State University.

Using watercolors, Copt tries to manipulate images and colors to give an impression of a rural scene, usually involving heavy use of white, as in snow and ice. A typical Copt landscape will be of a snow-covered field, perhaps near Lecompton or at other points along the Kaw River Valley, with a barn, a house or a fence in the middle.

One of the reasons he's so attracted to winter is the challenge of painting winter scenes with watercolors: Since there's no white watercolor paint, he uses the white of the paper to suggest snowy fields.

"IT'S SOMETHING of a Zen thing," Copt said. "The sky and the snow are just the paper it's painted on. It only looks like snow and ice because of what you paint around it."

One of the most difficult parts of painting landscapes is the sky, Copt said. To make billowy clouds, he must shape the blank spaces between swatches of blue paint using Chinese-style brushes.

"The sky is really the most difficult part of the painting," Copt said. "If you get the sky wrong, why bother with the rest of it?"

The shape of his paintings also have an Asian influence, he said. Most of the landscapes are on long, thin strips of D'Archer rag paper.

"To me, the shape is like Chinese scrolls. They unfold from end to end, until you see a whole landscape scene."

DRAWING FROM his background as a photographer for The Emporia Gazette, Copt said he usually works from photographs he takes of the scenes he intends to paint.

"My normal pattern is to go out on a day with fresh snow and shoot two or three rolls," he said. "I have them developed and work from the photographs."

Landscapes aren't the only things Copt paints. He's also used a more cartoon-like style, especially when he was studying in New York, and he's beginning to work in pastels to give rural scenes a darker, "Twin Peaks" look. One of his recent pastels is of a bale of hay under a foreboding blue sky, the image he entered in this year's postcard competition.

But it's the fields, hills and rivers of his native Kansas that keep Copt painting landscapes.

"I never get tired of what I see there," he said. "I grew up in Kansas. I've traveled all over, I've been to Europe and New York, but I find the places I want to paint are here. It's an endless resource."

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