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.

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.

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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!

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #152. 907 Frontier-Style Lager by 49th State Brewing Co.

When you think of Oktoberfest, one of the things that probably comes to mind is a big stein full of beer, and you dream of one day going to Münich to drink one of those (or seven).  When we heard that 49th State Brewing Company was offering free steins with every liter of 907 Frontier-Style Lager ordered, Maria and I headed straight there after work.  Luckily our studio is only a couple blocks away.  We were slightly disappointed when we found out the steins were plastic, but they were still full of a liter of delicious AK-brewed lager for a mere $9.07.  This Continental style lager was not too bitter and had a really nice flavor.  It tasted different from the beers we were drinking in Germany, but I feel that was a good thing.  Not that Germany is producing bad beer,  it’s just so traditional.  After a couple pints it gets a bit boring.  The 907 lager is not too crazy either, not like some of the great NE IPAs that 49th State has been killing it with lately.  I probably wouldn’t order a whole liter of NE IPA though.  One pint at a time seems like a better way to dole out the hoppy stuff.  I  suggest if you like lager beer to give the 907 a try.

Prost to the spirit of Oktoberfest, where beer comes in a giant glass and your pretzel is a whole meal!  Thank you 49th State for remembering the tradition, and serving up beer in German sized portions!

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

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #152. 907 Frontier-Style Lager by 49th State Brewing Co. 14"x11", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #152. 907 Frontier-Style Lager by 49th State Brewing Co. 14″x11″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

 

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #151. Beer Please!

When I was decorating my first dorm room, I bought a beer poster called Beers of the World.  It was inspirational to me on a number of levels, and probably has led directly to this painting I am calling Beer Please.  These two simple words can bring so much when you are out traveling the world.  Nothing brings a smile to your server’s face faster than asking for a beer in the native language.  I made this painting in honor of beer around the world, and getting it served to you.
Foreign language is a bit tricky for me.  I always just skirted by in my foreign language classes.  After this last trip overseas, I have sworn to renew my efforts at learning other languages, and am currently spending an hour a day on Russian language lessons while painting in the studio.  Normally I listen to books on tape with exciting plot-lines, and the switch has made painting more tedious.  I always feel better when I have finished the lesson and then I am rewarded when I resume listening to the stories.
I urge you to raise your pint and celebrate international beers.  Believe me, the beer tastes great out there in other countries, but nothing tastes as good as your local favorites!

The original oil painting sold. Limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.  Contact me if you’re interested in licensing this image.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #151. Beer Please. 11"x14", oil on panel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #151. Beer Please. 11″x14″, oil on panel.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Studio

Well, we got back from our cabin in McCarthy yesterday, and we don’t have any trips planned for the foreseeable future, so it’s time to get back to regular life and knuckle down in the studio.  Today I signed the contract for a big 1% for Art project at Gladys Wood Elementary in Anchorage, so now I can start working on the design.  I gathered some good reference material in McCarthy, where Fall arrived a couple weeks earlier than here in Anchorage.  We also picked about 13 pounds of lingonberries, and I’ll be making many jars of jam this week.  I’m looking forward to being grounded here in Anchorage for the winter, and working in the studio.  We’ll be hosting a First Friday in October for the first time since last April!  I hope you’ll stop by.  I’ll be baking my famous chocolate chip cookies for the event.

Here are photos from my proposal for the Gladys Wood Elementary 1% for Art project.  The requested theme was Southcentral Alaskan natural scenery.  The final paintings will be different, but this is the overall concept based on my existing oil paintings.  I’ll be creating four large elliptical paintings for the walls, and six circular ones for the ceiling.  They will be displayed in two different hallways.  One hallway is themed Spring, and the other Fall.  I have until October 2019 to complete this project.  I’ll post updates on Facebook and Instagram along the way.