WHS art teacher's latest show runs through Nov. 2 at Blackfish Gallery

As a child, Wilsonville High School art teacher Christopher Shotola-Hardt wanted to be an ornithologist. As an artist, he brings his lifelong love of birds to vivid life.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Shotola-Hardt's 'Songbirds of East Prussia' will be on display at Blackfish Gallery through Nov. 2.A selection of his art will be on display at Blackfish Gallery in Portland until Nov. 2. Titled “Bird Issues,” the show will occupy half the gallery and feature 25 paintings.

“I believe it’s important to maintain my studio practice and gallery career on top of my teaching position at Wilsonville High School,” Shotola-Hardt said. “How I manage my time to produce work and prepare for adjudication and/or exhibition deadlines can serve as a good model for students, who must also learn to juggle their studio work with their other time commitments. It can be a powerful teaching tool to bring in my own works in progress and share with my students issues I’m trying to solve.”

Shotolo-Hardt is hosting a preview reception Oct. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m., followed by an artist’s reception on First Thursday, Oct. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. Shotola-Hardt encourages students and former students to attend either event.

“I would certainly welcome my fellow townspeople,” Shotola-Hardt said of the preview reception. “It’s like First Thursday but mostly people I know. ... I tell people, ‘Come on Wednesday; I’ll be able to talk to you.’”

Shotola-Hardt’s list of students and former students is a long one. He teaches all two-dimensional art classes at WHS, including Art 1 through Art 4 and an AP art course. He also teaches one sculpture class each year and works with about 160 students each semester. He aims to teach them not only how to paint or draw but also how to manage their time and their creativity.

“I’m a really busy person,” he said. “They’re really busy. How do I structure for a show? I make choices. Instead of watching TV shows, I’m going to be working. ... When it’s time to work, I just get down to business. I hear people saying, ‘I’m not inspired.’ That’s baloney. You just have to get down to business. ... Creativity comes when I sit down and start making marks. Then I respond to those marks.”

He teaches students that creating art is a series of solving problems. An artist who is growing and evolving is bound to face challenges, and he shares strategies for overcoming them.

“I’ll work on several things at once so at no time am I stewing on one thing,” he said. “I move on, knowing that my work on one thing may influence something else.”

Sticky notes are one important tool in his artist’s toolkit. He keeps them handy, using them to capture thoughts about works in progress, no matter what else he might be working on when inspiration hits. He places the notes directly onto the canvas they relate to.

He doesn’t keep strategies like those — or his own struggles — a secret from his students.

“I’ll bring in work I’m having trouble with,” he said. “It’s important for them to see that I’m going through similar hardships and frustrations that they’re going through.”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - This piece, titled 'Catesby's Sturnella & 17 Birds for the 17th Century,' is part of Shotola-Hardt's show at Blackfish Gallery.Shotola-Hardt also emphasizes to students the importance of submitting their work to juried shows. He said that he personally installs about 20 shows of student artwork each year. That’s part of the job of teaching students to be successful artists themselves.

“I’m an artist. I’m a painter. I show my work professionally,” Shotola-Hardt said. “My day job is I teach art, as many professional artists do.”

Blackfish Gallery is located at 420 NW Ninth Ave. in Portland. A selection of Shotola-Hardt’s work can be seen on the gallery’s website at “Bird Issues” runs through Nov. 2. For more information, call the gallery at 503-224-2634.

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