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Archive for Thursday, August 28, 1997

PAINTER PASSES ON BUSINESS SENSE

August 28, 1997

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Louis Copt has designed a seminar to help beginning artists.

Lawrence art appreciators know Louis Copt as a landscape painter. But the full-time artist also shows his business side when he presents his one-day seminars for Kansas University's Small Business Development Center.

In his seminar, "The Artist in Business," Copt spends the better part of an entire day outlining various issues that concern professional artists, craftsmen and hobbyists interested in moving up to the next rung on the artistic ladder.

"Everybody brings a different agenda to the class," Copt said, adding that past seminars have each drawn about a dozen participants. "We all have a history, but maybe we don't recognize our own strengths."

Participants are asked to introduce themselves and express their individual concerns, then Copt highlights those in his breakneck-paced coverage of the topics.

"I go pretty fast, because there's a lot of territory I need to cover," he pointed out.

Copt first asks participants to consider whether they have the "right stuff" to be a successful artist. Common traits of the successful artist, he said, include commitment, passion, involvement, drive and persistence. The hobbyist seldom has these traits; the professional generally does, he added.

"The successful artist has to have a single-minded willingness to work hard, come what may," Copt said. "They estimate that van Gogh did 1,800 paintings in 10 years. You need that kind of a sense of sacrifice -- my art is my life and my life is my art."

How to price the work and keep a careful inventory are two business issues Copt covers.

"It's better to start low and work up to your reputation," Copt advised about pricing artwork. "It's easy to raise prices, but very difficult to lower them. And your prices must be very consistent, no matter who you're showing to."

Copt added that it's important to research the market.

"Go to galleries and see what similar work in your style and medium is priced at," he said. "This may involve some travel. You can't just sit in Lawrence, Kansas, and figure out what to charge.

"It can get real complicated."

"Closet artists" tend to hoard their work, Copt pointed out.

"That's the real dividing line between the hobbyist and the professional: to do the work, sell it and do more work," he said. "The reason I sell paintings is because it allows me to do more paintings, and that's what really gives me joy."

Other topics include coping with criticism, promotion and hype, approaching galleries and exhibit alternatives. Copt advises participants to subscribe to professional art journals, such as Art Calendar: The Business Magazine for Visual Artists, and to be on guard against predators.

"There are scams in the art business, just as everywhere else -- bogus art competitions, galleries that close up shop with your work," he warned.

Most important, Copt added, is having a solid foundation in a particular craft.

"Art education and apprenticeships are very important," Copt said. "You can't count on shortcuts; you have to put in the time.

"It's taken me 10 years to get the right color of green," he continued. "It's not an overnight deal."

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