Monthly Archives: October 2018

Life Changes on the First Day of Snow

~ by Maria Benner

First Day of Snow

Today is the first day of snow!  This is a very exciting day for most people, and this year it happened on a Monday, making the dreaded first day of the week a bit interesting.  We all know the first day of snow is coming, but for some reason most of us choose not to do anything about it.  But this morning we quickly realized that we’d have to add some extra chores to our list today if we want to continue with our regular daily tasks, like driving.

  1. Change tires on our vehicles to winter tires.  Preferably studded ones, which have the best performance on ice versus the ones that claim to be studd-less winter tires.  Some stores, like Costco, stopped carrying studded tires, because they cause so much road damage, but we found a place just a couple blocks from our studio that still sells them, and tomorrow we’re dropping off our truck so it can get brand new studded tires put on it.
  2. Switch to our fat bikes that also have studded tires.  We ride bikes to the studio from our condo, because the studio is only 1 mile away, and we have to pay for parking.  So today we had to air up the tires on those bad boys, and get them ridable again for the first time since last March.
  3. Put the big brushes that we use to clean the snow off our truck back into the truck.  We took them out for the summer to have more space in the back seat.
  4. Pull out winter boots, and put away summer shoes.  Same goes for winter jackets, hats, gloves, etc.  Good luck finding all that stuff after several months.
  5. We live in a condo, so we don’t have to worry about snow removal, but most people had to clear their driveways on top of all the other snow-related chores.

We still have to wash our summer bikes to make the transition to winter complete.  Right now we’re excited for winter, and all the activities we’ll get to do like ice skating, skiing, and fat biking.  Ask me again in a few months how I feel about it.

In case you’re looking for some indoor activities now that it’s cold outside, this Friday we’re hosting a First Friday Open Studio event.  Stop by and see the newest oil paintings for the first time, enjoy some complimentary refreshments (Scott always bakes fresh cookies), and meet the artist if you haven’t already.  Click here to see the event on Facebook.  If you’re not on FB, here are the deets: November 2nd, 5 – 7:30pm, Suite 4 inside the 4th Avenue Market Place on 333 W 4th Avenue.

Talkeetna Air Taxi flight over Denali

One of the newest oil paintings never seen by anyone in person yet, except the artist and his Business Manager. 36″x18″, oil on panel.

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Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #156. Damnation Ale by Russian River Brewing Co.

It’s that time of year when people go nuts, wear strange clothing, dress their dogs as goldfish and hit the streets to beg for candy while threatening to vandalize their neighbor’s property.  Also known as Halloween.  I chose Russian River Brewing’s Damnation Ale for this week’s beer painting release for obvious reasons.  Damnation is a damn good version of a Belgian golden strong ale.  Rocking in at 7.75% ABV, it is aptly named.  I know many barleywines are much stronger, but you can easily taste the booze in them.  This beer will get you when you don’t realize it, good thing it comes in a 375 ml bottle.  This is pretty much a great example of the style.  With esters of fruit and pear and peppery overtones, Damnation is a poster child for Belgian golden strong ale.  Yet it is made right here in the USA.  Sadly, I am completely out of my Russian River stash of bottles that we brought back from our trip to CA two summers ago.  I was just thinking it’s time for another trip there.  I painted a wildfire in the background of this painting as that is the closest thing to hell I can think of.  I give solid respect to all of our forest firefighters,  you are doing one hell of a job.  I can’t think of a more physical and mentally challenging career.

Cheers to the Damnation, one damn good brew!  Great job, Russian River Brewing, you are one of the best breweries out there!

Only one original oil painting, and a limited number of prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #156. Damnation Ale by Russian River Brewing Co. 8"x10", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #156. Damnation Ale by Russian River Brewing Co. 8″x10″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #155. Sierra Nevada Brewing Celebration Ale.

Today is Thirsty Thursday again and that means it’s time to look at and think about new beer art, not to mention drink beer!  This week’s beer painting is of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Fresh Hop Ale.  About 15 years ago I used to not like IPA, and my go-to brew was actually porter, if you can believe that.  Way back then I was confused what Celebration Ale actually was, and I started to like what I was drinking and thought the nice floral qualities were simply spicy grains for a spicy holiday beer….right….wrong!  I learned it was a fresh hop IPA and I was like, “Oh yeah, maybe I do like IPA,” and I came around.  I can say I have been enjoying IPA for well over a decade now, and it has actually become my favorite style.  I wish that Sierra Nevada was able to brew Celebration all year long, but sadly the hop harvest season is in October and the first batch of Celebration is being bottled right now.  Two years ago in early November we made a pilgrimage to Chico to check out the facility and drink some Celebration right at the source!  I highly recommend doing this if you happen to be in California.  The guided tour is amazing!  The success story about Ken Grossman and his startup business makes me believe anything is possible.  The sheer size of the production facility is amazing and the copper kettles are so beautiful.  When you finish the tour you get a 2 oz sample of everything they are currently serving, which ends up being over 20 ounces.  I did a painting of the oaked Narwhal onsite after our tour.  One of my favorite things about Sierra Nevada’s facility is the outdoor seating in the beer garden.  Tasty food at super reasonable prices, and huge pints.  If you are there at this time of year you can get Celebration on draft!

Cheers to the Celebration Ale, a seasonal beer release that is worthy celebrating!

Only 1 original oil painting is available, and a limited number of prints at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #155. Celebration Ale at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. 12"x14", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #155. Celebration Ale at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. 12″x14″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Copper Brew Kettles at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, CA.

Copper Brew Kettles at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, CA.

Hops room at Sierra Nevada brewing

A room full of hops!

Sober October

~ by Maria Benner

In 2012 Scott and I spent most of October in McCarthy, housesitting a neighbor’s tiny cabin with two huskies, while building our own log cabin near by.  We decided not to drink that month, because we imbibed a bit too much during the summer at endless parties that happen almost every night in McCarthy during the summer season.  Scott had read somewhere that the human liver can regenerate in one month, so we decided to give our livers a break for 30 days, while working on our cabin, going for walks with the dogs, and watching Netflix after dinner in the cozy dark cabin.  We jokingly started referring to that month as sober October.  Then in 2013 I took a break from drinking again in October, and this year we’re both doing sober October, five years later.  Scott decided to do a semi-sober October, meaning that he can have four drinks total every weekend.  I, on the other hand, haven’t had a drink in 15 days.  So why October?  For us this is the only month without birthdays, anniversaries, summer shenanigans, and major holidays.

This year I realized that many other people are also doing sober October, and turns out that it’s a “thing”, and maybe even a growing movement.  Of course, this is the month that breweries seem to be coming out with their most delicious offerings.  Anchorage Brewing has been releasing a new imperial stout, or hazy IPA almost every four days, while King Street Brewing now has a birch Russian imperial stout on tap, and Turnagain Brewing has a sour rhubarb ale that I would love to try.  Not to mention all the pizza parties, wedding parties and homebrew club meetings that I’ve been going to all month and watching my friends drink verticals of Bigfoot Barleywine and Smoked Porter dating back to 2000, while I sip on my La Croix.  Yes, Alaska has amazing beer, and is a tough place to do sober October, but I hope the benefits are worth the effort.

The most noticeable benefit has been more money in my bank account and a smaller credit card bill.  At the end of this month, I’ll have a pretty good idea about how much I spend on craft beer.  The second benefit is that I’ve lost three pounds so far without changing my workout routine, or altering my diet.  In fact, I’ve noticed that I’ve been eating more sugar lately, as my body craves more carbs.  I’ve been sleeping much better.  I used to wake up several times during the night, and sometimes couldn’t go back to sleep for two hours, before falling into a deep sleep and then waking up groggy.  Now I’m sleeping through the night.  I’ve also read that abstaining from alcohol for a month has a positive effect on blood pressure, insulin levels, and ever risk of cancer!

I’m half way done, and I can’t wait until November 1st when I can enjoy my first cold, refreshing beer!  Will I do this every year?  I don’t think so.  My goal is to cut down my drinking to just weekends, and if I do drink at social occasions during the week, I’ll only have one drink.  Moderation is key.  Which beer will I drink first?  Probably a barrel aged imperial stout.

We bought two cases of La Croix to get us through sober October.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #154. Droid Brew Imperial Stout.

A long time ago, hopped with galaxy hops, far far from reality the story goes.
“Don’t drink this beer, it’s for droids only!  In fact, your chance of survival is 3,720 to 1.”  C3PO will let you know that the metal shavings in this oily alcoholic beverage make it completely unfit for human consumption.  “Brewed by Droids for Droids” should be listed on the can.  I guess the free droids who brew this concoction just don’t care about human health.  Leave it to the Empire not to require ingredients on beer cans.  It sure looks tantalizing in that amazing AstroMechDroid shaped can.  The appearance is right on with the jet black coloration, and the head just won’t dissipate for hours (must be due to the oil content).  If you don’t feel like burping up blood, followed by… you really don’t  want me to describe it, then you probably should not seek out this mechanical beverage.
R2 and Threepio were able to procure a can of this at the final galaxy wide celebration when Darth Vader and the Death Star were destroyed.  Saved for the day after, they enjoyed it right there in the Ewok Forest on the Endor moon.  I don’t know if Threepio celebrated his creator’s death, or mourned his loss.  I know Luke had a somber moment at the funeral pyre.
If you do get your hands on this elusive brew, don’t even think about drinking it.  Remember, it is for droids only!  Use it as a special present for your best droid, however it is well known that even the most loyal droids seek free will.  I would make sure their restraining bolts are present before serving.
Cheers to the behind-the-scenes Droids that make the galaxy an easier place.  Raise your glass high, or at least high enough to toast R2.  Just be sure you don’t actually partake in this beverage, or it will be your last.

This original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #154. Droid Brew Imperial Stout. 11"x14", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #154. Droid Brew Imperial Stout. 11″x14″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #153. Course Complete!

Well, today is day 4 of my semi-Sober October.  Normally I just roll through life drinking as much beer as I feel like without getting horrendously drunk.  I find I am successful at not driving under the influence and also not making a fool of myself most of the time.  My doctor said for my weight and stature I should not be consuming more that 14 regular, 5% ABV, 12oz beers per week, which is 2 per day.  I think I average about 3 per day, just because most of the beer I drink comes in pints, or has a higher ABV and, well, I am Alaska’s Beer Artist.  So I feel a cutback is necessary to allow my liver to regenerate, and I found from past experience that October is a good month for sobriety.  Technically you can still experience Oktoberfest, since it starts at the end of September, and then there are no real beer holidays until Halloween which is on the 31, so by then you are ready to go.  It really isn’t that hard this time around.  I guess I’m not that addicted to alcohol.  As I stated before, I am going semi-sober this October.  The 14 beers are cut to 4.  The intent is not to drink during weekdays, without binging on weekends.  The end goal is to have superb health throughout my life and enjoy beer until I am ancient…right.

So this Thirsty Thursday beer painting brings an important lesson.  Mario and Luigi toasting Oktoberfest beers.  I call this painting Course Complete.  My Mario performance has been enhanced without the beer.  I am playing better, getting farther and beating more bosses when I drink sparkling water instead of IPA, my favorite beverage.  Who would have guessed?  Not surprisingly this makes gameplay more fun.  So if you have to take a break, whether self-imposed as in my case, or for whatever reason, and you find yourself wondering what to do if you have to take an alcohol break, consider playing video games.  I’m sure your gameplay will be enhanced.

So I propose a toast to Mario Brothers (yes, I am raising my cup of green tea)!  The Japanese game about Italian plumbers eating magic mushrooms, and tasting pretty flowers.  Cheers!

This original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #153. Course Complete! 8"x10", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel. Maria and Luigi drinking beer.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #153. Course Complete! 8″x10″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

My First Last Thursday.

After college I spent a brief period in Portland, Oregon, where I began working as an artist full time.  Every first Thursday of the month art galleries downtown and in the Pearl District would be open with new exhibits.  My portfolio was not quite developed, and getting an art curator to take me seriously as an artist didn’t pan out.  I wasn’t the only artist who wanted to participate in First Thursday, there were many talented people who wanted to show and sell their art, so the “outcasts” of the established gallery scene in Portland started their own event on Alberta Street on Last Thursdays.  They displayed paintings, jewelry, sculptures and crafts on the sidewalks up and down the streets, and soon the event became quite popular.  There were live musicians, food vendors, fire dancers, and overall great times!  I joined in one time and paid for my space by trading one of my paintings to the business owner who let me display my art in front of his store.  I didn’t sell any work that night, but I made connections and had a blast!

When I moved back to Anchorage in 2002, we didn’t have as vibrant of an art scene like the one in the City of Roses.  There was no First or Last Thursday, and very few galleries.  I don’t remember how, or when First Friday started in Anchorage, but I’m very glad that it happens now.  This is the first week of October, which means that Friday is the day that all the galleries, and some coffee shops, tap rooms, and restaurants will be hosting art opening receptions.  This is your chance to shop for the newest art, and to speak with artists directly about their inspiration.

I sometimes have art shows at various venues around town, and when I don’t have one booked, we open our painting studio to the public just for a few hours during the First Friday Art Walk.  Normally, when we’re not hosting an event, our doors are closed, and we’re just working in there, but you can make an appointment to visit if you want to shop for art, or commission a painting.

This Friday we will be open to the public, and I invite you to stop by, especially if you’ve never seen where we work.  We have an incredible view of the Inlet and the Port, and I’ll bake my famous chocolate chip cookies.  This is a great opportunity to see a real painting studio, meet the artist, and see the newest paintings.  We’ll be open from 5 to 7:30pm, and the studio is inside the 4th Avenue Market Place at 333 W 4th Avenue.  We’re in Suite 4, just follow our Art Show signs.

There are three other First Friday events that I recommend you attend.  The Anchorage Museum is free and often has live music, talks and special exhibits, and is open late on First Fridays.  Williwaw Social is hosting their first First Firkin Friday event, and is celebrating the grand opening of the Midnight Sun Brewing Dining Hall.  And lastly, check out the new tiny gallery called Blank Space where my friend Justin DeWolf is having his first art show.

Supporting local artists keeps our community vibrant and creative, and First Friday is a good way to see a lot of local art in one evening.  Don’t spend your PFD in one place!