Grant Bottle Soars Onto the Scene

By Kammie Sumpter in Life

Douglas Helmer teaches Small Business Basics  at Larch Corrections Center. Clark professors  teach inmates skills that will help them find a  job after their release.  (Photos Courtesy of Douglas Helmer)

The odds were against Clark art instructor Grant Hottle, and every other artist.

He said in five years, half of the art students will quit; and in another five years, it’ll be another half.

“When I heard that, I was like, ‘Good, they’re all gone! It’ll just be me left, right?’”

Hottle said he was determined to become an artist. “I know in 10 years I’ll still be doing this,” he said.

Most students know Hottle as an art instructor at Clark. What some don’t know is that he is also a professionally-trained artist with his own studio who overcame the stereotype.

“Being an artist requires a lot of discipline. There’s a myth that we’re all just doing whatever we want, that we’re just dreamers chasing butterflies,” He said. “But no, it’s a job. You have to work at it.”

Hottle began his art career as a 9-year-old comic enthusiast–notably X-Men–who had one thing in mind: creating things.

Most of his early inspiration came from popular culture. “My art is tied to my roots: comic books, horror movies and heavy metal,” Hottle said.

In high school, Hottle delved into other hobbies while still maintaining a passion for art.

“I really liked debate and history and argumentation and rhetoric, so I thought I’d be a lawyer,” Hottle said. “But then I got some art scholarships so that helped me make up my mind to embrace this long love of comics.”

He attended the University of Colorado as an undergraduate aspiring to create comics. However, at 18 he took his first painting class and “kind of fell in love with it.”

He decided to pursue it and earned his undergraduate degree in painting.

Through the University of Colorado, Hottle took part in an exchange program at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

A year later, he attended the University of Oregon to earn his master’s degree in drawing and painting. Hottle got his start in teaching through their art program in 2007.

“When I was in grad school, it was pretty obvious for me that teaching was what I was going to do,” said Hottle. “I just went all the way in for that.”

He officially began teaching art in 2008 at Lewis and Clark College.

“I was teaching at Lewis and Clark when I answered an ad,” Hottle said. “I saw that Clark was looking for a drawing instructor. So I got the job and became an adjunct here.”

He began at Clark in 2010.

Two years later, a full-time tenure-track position opened when the head of painting and foundations, Carson Legree, retired. Hottle applied and got the job.

“I know a lot of artists think, ‘I teach to pay the bills, but my real job is being an artist,’ but for me, I think of it as having two jobs.”

They feed off of each other, he said. He repeats things to himself in his studio in northwest Portland that he taught students in class the same day.

“Being a teacher makes me a better artist and being an artist makes me a better teacher,” he said.

His students agree. “He is very talented and well-rounded as an artist,” said painting student Jessica Hedberg. “I feel lucky to be able to watch him work and to learn from him.”

Hottle believes art is more than a hobby. It has a purpose to ask questions of the artist and the viewer.

“I think a lot of times those questions are about what’s going on, what I’m interested in or visual references to other things,” said Hottle.

Within the past two years, Hottle has gravitated toward abstract art, weaving visual metaphors into his work.

A 30-foot tall abstract charcoal drawing by Hottle is currently on display in the Vancouver City Hall.

Hottle is preparing for an art exhibition with Paula Rebsom, a colleague from the University of Oregon, at the Galleries of Contemporary Art in Colorado Springs. Their goal is to create a crossover space between the gallery itself and the natural world.

Hottle’s advice to aspiring artists is to be determined and excel in everything.

“It’s not a pipe dream,” Hottle said. “I think a lot of Clark students feel like they’re kind of worried about the myth of the starving artist and how they could ever make a job of it. It’s not easy, but we all know it’s not easy to get jobs period.”

He advised to keep good grades, “not just okay grades.”

If you have a degree in art, and then you go and apply for a bank, and they look at your GPA and see that you have a 3.7 or something high, they don’t care that it’s in art. They know that you’re serious and that you can learn the job.”

Determination as an artist is a key aspect of the trade, said Hottle. Without it, it is easy to get side-tracked.

“I think that art can very much be enjoyable, but I don’t think that its job is to be enjoyable,” he said.

According to Hottle, teaching is just another way of disciplining himself as an artist.

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