Author Archives: realartisbetter

About realartisbetter

Real Art Is Better! Real Artist living and working in Anchorage and McCarthy, Alaska, making Real Art - colorful oil paintings and prints that brighten any space.

Burning Dude, McCarthy, AK, September 11, 2021, 9:11pm

Burning Dude 2021

I know that Burning Man is an established event that has been happening for decades,  but I have never been.  I basically don’t know anything about the event, except that it is a wickedly insane art festival where they burn a temple at the end, sometimes with a man at the top.  A week-long avant-garde art event with 70,000 people all showing up to party and experience being human together in the middle of a hot, dusty desert.  

Dave Hollis, my friend in McCarthy, is a retired computer programmer who I would consider to be the social guru for the Kennicott River Valley.  This guy knows what is happening, where it is happening, and also plans some amazing events of his own.  In McCarthy, around 2009 Dani Evans and B-Mac built a Burning Woman, and she asked Hollis to be a fire tender.  Four years ago in 2018, Hollis and Brady, and some other McCarthy locals, decided to make a small version of Burning Man, which they called Burning Dude.  It is a fragment of the Nevada festival, and can’t even be compared, but it is still a hoot, and a lot of fun.  I missed the Burning Woman, and I also missed the first Dude, who was 12 feet tall, and I heard was awesome.  In 2019 fire danger was high, so there was no Dude.  The second Burning Dude in 2020 was designed by Seth, a local fire dancer, and I helped erect the dude with 10 other people, while Brady quickly nailed supports to keep it upright.  It burned, but never fully caught on fire.  The sculpture was 34 feet tall.  The oversized head was dropped and ignited later, providing plenty of entertainment.  I told the team that I have sculpture training and would like to help build next year’s Dude.

Burning Dude 2020

This fall, both Seth and Brady were not available to build the Dude.  Hollis was bummed, but he asked me if I thought it could still happen without them.  I gathered a small team: my wife Maria, my cousin Cameron, and of course Hollis.  I designed the Dude on a sheet of paper, to be built from log mill slabs, which are fairly irregular, and have a lot of bark on them.  I took an afternoon the day before to gather twigs from the bottom of spruce trees from my ten-acre lot, and loaded them onto my trailer.  The next day, Maria and I drove down to McCarthy, picked up Cameron and we unloaded the brush on the bank of the Kennicott River.  Then we drove over to Hollis’ house where we picked up about 200 spruce slabs.  We chucked them down to the Kennicott river, and we started to build.  I had packed a ton of tools, including my cordless drill, driver, chainsaw, a million screws and nails, as well as wire.  First, I built a sturdy box, and then we built the feet and legs.  We attached the torso, and put on the arms.  Finally we built the head, and put a crown of sparklers on top of it.  Hollis and Maria juggled the head up to Cameron, who was standing on the box.  Cameron hoisted the head up to me, as I crouched inside the torso.  I quick-like attached the head and then had to remove my chainsaw helmet to extract myself from the torso.  Next, we stuffed the spruce branches all over the dude and filled the box, torso and head.  I bought a gallon of vegetable oil and we stapled oily paper towels all over the Dude.  We were building the Dude in a prominent location, right next to the foot bridge, where everyone saw us.  Hollis did a great job telling people to show up at 9pm for Burning Dude.

We had three hours to spare before the scheduled ignition, so we went to Mark and Livvi’s new house for ice cream and hot dogs.  At 9pm, a fairly large crowd had gathered around the Dude.  All four of us ignited him at 9:11pm on 9/11!  I knew the spruce boughs would work, and vegetable oil is essentially as combustable as diesel fuel.  It ignited in three stages: first the box platform, then the torso, and finally the head.  The head had this amazing glowing crown above it from the sparklers, and then it kept burning even after the branches all burned up.  The paper towels were amazing.  The head fell in after 11 minutes, but the Dude lasted about 44 more before Malcolm decided to kick the box over.  I was so pleased with how well everything worked.  I thank Maria, Cameron and especially Hollis for making this possible!  Not as spectacular as Burning Man festival in Nevada, but Burn Dude was a success in 2021!   

Cabin Life

What is a typical day like at our cabin in McCarthy these days?  The last three days I have been installing hardwood flooring.  A project like that pretty much takes all day, and when you finally get to a good stopping point, you simply quit for the day, and maybe you can do a few other chores like cooking and cleaning.  I finished the floor yesterday just in time, only a few hours before the rain started.  Last night it rained heavily, and I was so happy that my load of flooring was all in its rightful place, instead of stored on the trailer under a tarp. 

On days I am not working on a big project, I enjoy coffee time while reading e-mails and doing my daily Duolingo lessons.  Then I do about 40 minutes of yoga, followed by a five mile run around the neighborhood.  Then I have breakfast, and finally get around to doing some work for the art business.  Today I had to work on a graphics project, send off a bio to a publisher for a book I illustrated, and write this blog post.  I will probably go to Art Lab (my studio) for a bit and mix up some oil paint, and get started on a 11”x14” commissioned painting for a client.  At 4pm I will Zoom in for my hour-long Russian language lesson.  Then I’ll probably have a beer on the deck, grill some salmon for dinner, and then pick lingonberries.  After dinner we may play pingpong, or I might go visit my neighbor whose parents are arriving tonight.  Maybe Maria and I will play a game of Yahtzee, or sit around the campfire and listen to some tunes. 

Cabin life is good!  I burn wood in the wood stove, and wash my clothes with rainwater.  The fresh glacier air is crisp this time of year.  I love taking life a little more simply than I do when I’m in the city.  I guess that is what cabins are good for.      

Rainier Bear 2.0

In 2016 I was inspired by a news story to paint one of my most popular beer paintings, called Rainier Bear. In addition to selling the original oil painting, I had also released 52 limited-edition prints of the image. I sold the original, and all 52 prints. This is only the second time I’ve sold out of a limited-edition run! Now that all 52 are sold, I won’t sell that image as a signed print again (stickers are available though). So, I decided to paint a new version of this bear, because I just really like him, and Rainier beer is so iconic to me, since I was born in Washington. So, here you have it, Rainier Bear 2.0!

Cheers to these cute trouble-makers!

This original oil painting, and signed fine-art prints are available at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Rainier Bear 2.0, 14″x11″, oil on panel by Scott Clendaniel

The Importance of Lighting for Viewing Art

Lighting can change the appearance of paintings more than you might expect.  Not just paintings, but any surface color can be shifted by changing light.  I am reminded of a time I was picking colors for a sticker design and I chose a red-orange instead of the cherry-red the client wanted. The evening light through my old apartment drapes affected my choice. Little to say, I had to make a quick reorder of stickers for that client.  When I moved into this new house, the room designated for the studio was painted garishly orange.  I decided to take a week to repaint the whole room, about 420 square feet of space, because I wanted to have a neutral color experience.  

I have two lamps that I have been using for photography that I started using to supplement light in the middle of the studio.  I have about as many windows as the rental studio on 4th Ave had, but the room is bigger, and the windows are spread around both sides of the room, so it is nice to have a supplemental lamp in the center.  The lamp has a toggle control that switches it from warm to cool light, and you can see how the painting shifts in color.  I have added a video to this blog for you to see this effect. It makes you realize how important correct lighting is for displaying paintings, and is something that should be considered when creating and installing art.

How I’ve Been Using My DJI Mavic Mini Drone

Last year at the end of December I purchased a drone.  This is my second one — Maria got me a “starter” drone for my birthday a year ago, which I didn’t crash, but caused to quit working due to a software malfunction that I could not fix.  It was a cool present, but it didn’t have the camera I was looking for.  I was glad to pick up a DJI Mavic Mini from Costco.  It’s really easy to use, and small enough that you can easily put it into a backpack to take places. It connects to your smartphone, and uses a joystick control that I had already became familiar with on the first drone, and a previous toy helicopter I used to crash into the ceiling and floor a lot.  The drone is great, because it allows me to take pretty high quality aerial photography and videos that I would never be able to get otherwise.  Drones are like ATV’s — they are annoying to people who do not have them, but are incredibly useful.  Everyone is imagining that they are being surveilled, with highly detailed photos captured of them, but you have to push the shutter button to take a picture, or to record a video. This particular drone does not have a zoom lens, so seeing who is in the photographs is actually difficult, unless I fly the drone up really, really close.  I use it mostly to take pictures of people’s cabins in McCarthy (with their permission) and to get cool shots from angles impossible to get otherwise.  

I had a great time at my friend Bob Cook’s cabin when he invited a group of people over on a hot day for a swimming party in his pond.  The shots from the air turned out really neat, and I had a good time chasing kids around the pond.  

The DJI Mavic Mini has a pretty short range — about 200 meters.  I think it would be a lot cooler to get one that can go a bit farther. My next drone will definitely have a longer range, but for now I am having a blast getting aerial shots with the one I have. I took a bunch of pics of Arctic Valley Ski Area, which I am going to reference while creating a new trail map of the mountain.  

I had always wanted to get into flying drones, and I love flying this one. I’m sure it is just one of many I will own in the future.  A drone is a great tool for an artist to have in his/her quiver of image-gathering devices.  Cheers to flying remotely! I hope you enjoy the pics and videos I made with my flying camera.

Drone footage of brave souls kayaking and rafting the Kennicott River during Jökulhlaup
Bob and Sunny Cook’s Cabin in McCarthy, Alaska
Nancy Cook’s Cabin in McCarthy, Alaska
Our cabin
Me standing on the bridge across Kuskulana River on the McCarthy Road
After a dinner party at the Rice’s cabin in McCarthy, Alaska

“The First Thing You’re Going to Paint is the Walls!”

As you may have read in the previous post, we bought a house, and combined our living and working space, so we moved out of the studio on 4th Ave. As you can imagine, I haven’t been able to get much work done, because I’ve been spending all my time moving, shopping for furniture, and spending three relaxing days in Cordova to celebrate Maria’s birthday. One of our friends came over to check out the new house, and when she saw my studio downstairs, she said, “The first thing you’re going to paint is the walls!” The previous owner had quite a festive taste, and painted the large room downstairs in three different shades of orange. So, yesterday I began the long process of covering up the orange paint. I worked on one painting right when I moved in, because it had to be done by a deadline, and the light in that room was really screwed up because of the bright orange. I felt like the greens in the painting turned out weird, because the room was playing tricks on my eyes. So, before I do any more painting, I’m covering the walls with pure white primer. I’m on the second coat, and I think it will take three coats!!! So, if you need me, you know where I’ll be for the next few days — painting the walls in my new studio.

If you think this is bad, check out the next photo.
It looks brighter IRL!

By the way, our condo is on the market. Click here to check out the listing.

We Bought a House and Moved out of the 4th Avenue Market Place Studio!

Moving everything from the studio to the new house, including large paintings. Good thing it wasn’t raining!

When we moved into my studio space at the 4th Avenue Marketplace, we were ecstatic to be downtown, and to have extra work space!  I loved the view, and I loved working there.  Having people come by for open studio events during First Fridays, Fur Rondy, and the Iditarod was always a great experience, and we usually made enough money during those events to cover our lease payments. Making the move to 4th Ave really cemented that I am a professional artist.  However, I missed working at home. Packing a lunch was a drag, the bicycle commute across downtown was annoying (especially in winter), and the local street people seemed to always be present to greet me at the door to the building (when they were awake).  I always seemed to have left this tool here, or that tool there, right when I needed it, and I was making another traffic-heavy bike trip back to one of the two locations.    

I am happy to say that last weekend we moved out of the studio, and I am setting up my new studio on the first floor of our new house! It is a huge mess right now! I need permanent storage for tools, supplies, and paintings. I hope to be back to work by Monday, taking a week to move the condo and studio to our new house, and to get the condo ready for sale!  The house is “not perfect,” as my father told me, but to us it is so amazing!  It is quiet at night, there is more space for living and for the studio, and best of all, it has an oversized two car garage!  No more carrying the table saw down stairs to work in blizzards for me!  I can park my truck inside when it is cold out! Not to mention, the obvious home-brewing improvement!  I brought my big smoker grill home from my parents’ house, and I’m going to smoke a brisket when I have everything set up. When brew day rolls around in the new garage, I’ll brew a big batch for a big housewarming celebration.  

Until then there is a lot of work… Anybody want a cute little apartment-style condo in West Fairview? It would make a great Airbnb rental!

Cheers to making life better!  May your day be brighter today than yesterday, and tomorrow be even better than that!    

Sad the downtown studio is closed?  You can still meet me for a beer at Midnight Sun Brewing. My art is there until the end of June!  I will be having more out-of-the studio shows, so keep following Real Art Is Better on this blog, or on social media and we will keep you informed where and when we will be having in-person events!

“Oh Geez, Rick!” – Morty

“Oh Geez, Rick”,  is a painting I made because I am a home-brewer and a huge fan of the show Rick and Morty.  Every home-brewer loves to brew in the garage. Since I don’t have one, I decided to pretend to have the most amazing garage ever, Rick’s garage from the show.  Every time I make a batch of beer, I pitch the yeast into a big glass fermenter like the one pictured here in Rick’s garage laboratory.  I always think about the life that is being cultivated inside the glass universe in the carboy.  Sealed with an airlock to keep the culture clean, it reminds me of our planet.  We are like the yeast, and the wort (unfermented beer) is like our natural resources.  As the yeast bubbles, and ferments the wort into beer, it is like our planet living out its days.  Once in a while I will double down on a batch of beer and pour fresh wort into the leftover yeast slurry from a previous batch. When I do this, I think how awesome it would be if we were able to buy more time for humanity on planet Earth by just brewing up some more clean air, water, and sunlight.  

The lifespan of any life-form is limited by its resources.  So my question is: if the planet is like a beer fermenter and the garage is like space outside our universe, is there some giant being that wants to eat all our garbage and breath our CO2 to catch a relaxing buzz?  Rick would know, he probably was teasing it with his portal gun.  

Cheers to life! Although it may be fleeting, make sure it is a fun ride!

This original oil painting, and signed art prints are available at my Etsy shop. You can see this painting in person at my art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. June 4 – July 1, 2021. I will kick off the show this Friday at 5pm by tapping a pin (small keg) of a wit beer with key-lime, cask-conditioned on Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans and graham crackers!

“Oh geez, Rick!” 11″ x 14″, oil on panel

The Audio Books That Keep Me Sane While I’m Painting

Sometimes making oil paintings is quick, exciting, and requires a ton of attention to specific actions. Then there are times I am painting blades of grass, or needles on spruce trees for hours.  Planning and making compositional sketches for paintings, or researching reference material and historical documents requires my complete attention, and I actually prefer silence, like at a library. When I am applying hundreds of brush strokes to a large area on a painting, I need something to help make the job more interesting.  Sometimes I listen to music, which I think is a pretty common thing for an artist to do while painting.  I think people imagine artists sitting back, working late into the evening, listening to music and sipping on wine while we work.  I actually listen to Learn in Your Car Russian language lessons for an hour, and then normally switch to audiobooks that I check out from the Alaska Digital Library. Also, most of the time I drink water at work. 

If you have a library card from UAA, or the Anchorage Public Library, you just have to download the Overdrive app for your phone, or computer. I spend hours a day painting, and I tear through books series.  My genre of choice is science fiction and fantasy.  Sometimes I discover a book series that I love, and I listen to the books over and over, up to as many as five times before I am through.  Since I am painting while I listen to the books, I tend to miss important parts while concentrating on the painting more than the book.

I have compiled a list of books series I consider worth listening to more than once: 

JK Rowling – Harry Potter series

Lois McMaster Bujold – Vorkosigan series

Lois McMaster Bujold – World of the 5 Gods series

Lois McMaster Bujold – Penric and Desdemona series

Patricia C Wrede – The Enchanted Forest Chronicles

Jim C. Hines – Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series

Christopher Paolini – Inheritance Cycle

Marissa Meyer – The Lunar Chronicles

Becky Chambers – Wayfarer’s series

Alex White – The Salvager’s series

James S. A. Corey – The Expanse series

I started listening to Harry Potter, and although I have read the books many times, having them read to you is special. If you haven’t done that, you should really get on the waiting list and listen to them–it’s really great.

If you have kids, and you want to entertain them in the car on a long drive, Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles is amazing.  Although, this series is designed for children, it is really entertaining and super fun to listen to. I like the full cast audio production.

An author I really love is Lois McCaster Bujold. Nobody I know has read her books, but there are over 30 of these highly enjoyable tales. I absolutely love the 17.5 books that make up the Vorkosigan Space Opera.  I have been wanting to discuss the stories with someone, but nobody else has read, er…listened to them. Please spend the next six months reading these books, so you and I can have a conversation about them!!!

Most recently I have been reading James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series.  There is also a TV series that is based on the books on Amazon Prime.  I like both the books and the TV series. The TV series is like watching a really long movie that just keeps going from one cliffhanger to another.

Cheers to books on “tape”! They have been keeping me sane and at work for about seven years now!   

First Friday Art Show at Turnagain Brewing Co.

Tomorrow we’ll be hanging an art show at Turnagain Brewing Co. before the brewery opens. We’ll also get to hang out at the brewery and drink beer during the First Friday art opening from 5pm – 8pm. If you can stop by, I’ll be happy to see you! I can’t believe I get to drink beer and talk to friends for my job!  I have had dozens of art shows, but for some reason I still get a bit of an adrenaline rush every time I walk in.   

Turnagain Brewing is one of our favorite small craft breweries here in Anchorage.  Dr. Ted Rosenzweig has done an amazing job with some of his unique beers from the sour side of the brewery. I really love drinking the Framb Was, a raspberry sour.  I pretty much order a glass of it every time I visit.  Turnagain also does a really good job in the “clean” side of the brewery, or the “non wild yeast” side. The Blanca, a Belgian wit beer, is really well brewed, and I think it is the best example of the style in Alaska. It’s Maria’s go-to beer when we go to the brewery together.

Some of the paintings have been shown before, but never in this specific grouping.  I really like the way Ted built the hanging system on the walls, it makes putting a show together really straightforward and easy.  There will be 14 original oil paintings in total, as well as a selection of limited-edition prints, a few of which are about to become sold out!

I look forward to seeing you, if you can make it! The city has lifted all restrictions, so there is more capacity inside the brewery, but there is also an outdoor beer garden. Bring your masks, they are still mandatory indoors in Anchorage!  Cheers!

Click on the image to see the event on Facebook.