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.

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.

Spring is in the Air!

You can smell spring in the air!  That means pollen, dust, dog poop, and lots of muddy puddles here in Anchorage, Alaska.  This is the time of year when I start to really miss our cabin in McCarthy, and looking forward to escaping there.  We’re planning to head out there the day after Mother’s Day. That’s right, you still have a little time to order a present for your mom, before May 9th!  I’ve gone to MXY (the airport code for McCarthy) earlier in the year, but the driveway to our cabin gets really swampy during meltdown, so I’ve found it’s better to wait until the second week of May. This year will be especially swampy, considering the heavy amount of snow. I hope the wood shed is still standing! On big snow years, piles of snow are still sitting around through Memorial Day weekend!

I love the first trip in spring to the cabin, because we no longer have to do too much building, mostly just opening up the cabin, setting up the rain-catchment system, and seeing my MXY friends. I always bring my painting supplies with me, so I can keep working in my little studio out there, which was formerly our shelter while we worked on the cabin. This year I hope to go on a couple over-night backpacking trips into the National Park, and plant a big garden. My mother-in-law came to visit last year, and decided that we needed a garden, so she ripped out a lot of bushes, and cleared a nice spot for it. Then I cut down a few trees, tore out the stumps, and rototilled the dirt. We just need to build a fence to keep the critters out, and then we can plant the seed potatoes we’ve been saving all winter, and the little starts that are growing nicely in our condo right now.

Summer isn’t even here, and I’m already planning out the entire season. We all kind of go nuts here in Alaska in the summer with all this daylight. Here’s hoping for plenty of sunny days, but also enough rain to keep the forest fires at bay.

Brand new leaves on the aspen trees on our property.

The Secret Ingredient in Pliny the Younger Triple IPA is Revealed

An anonymous source recently revealed to me that he found out the secret ingredient that makes Pliny the Younger Triple IPA taste so amazing! He requested that I do not reveal his name, because he doesn’t want to be banned from Russian River Brewing for disclosing this information. He was lucky enough to score a permit to Yosemite National Park during Feb. 12-24, when the phenomenon known as “Firefall” occurs. During this time of year only, and during just the right time at sunset, the sun hits the water of Horsetail Falls just right, making the waterfall look like bright red flowing lava! After taking many pictures, he looked down at the bottom of the waterfall and saw something very strange. There was a man filling large containers from the waterfall! He couldn’t believe his eyes! So, he had to find out why the man was doing this, and walked over to talk to him. Turns out, the man was one of the brewers at Russian River Brewing, and he needed the water from that waterfall just at that precise time when it looks like lava, in order to brew Pliny the Younger according to the super secret recipe. We are all in shock that the man shared this sensitive information with my friend, but since that water is so difficult to find, this beer recipe is incredibly hard to duplicate. So, next time you enjoy a sip of that delicious IPA, just remember that it was brewed with extremely rare water from a phenomenon that only happens for two weeks once a year at one of the world’s most beautiful places! That really explains why Pliny the Younger tastes so incredible! This story inspired me to paint this new beer painting of Pliny the Younger in front of the “Firefall”.

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

Pliny the Younger Triple IPA in front of “Firefall” in Yosemite National Park. 11″x14″, oil on panel.

Pelican Brewing in Pacific City, Oregon

During my college days, studying art at Western Oregon University, located in Monmouth, Oregon, I spent a lot of time at the local bike shop.  The shop was really cool! Located in a former gas station, it barely had enough space inside to store all the bikes.  It was called Jon’s Bicycle Station. I met Jon the first day I arrived in Monmouth.  The town wasn’t really that big, and I was, and still am, bicycle crazy.  We became great friends!  The shop was so cool, because Jon made it that way.  Since he worked 6 days a week, and home-brewed every Sunday, we would ride every Tuesday at nighttime. We used powerful headlamps to go way up into the mountains, then turn them off and gaze at the stars. The rides were great, sometimes 23 miles long, and often just Jon and I.  We would always meet at the shop, do a quick tune to the bikes, then have espressos, and load the bikes into his old 1970’s Ford F-250, driving a few miles to the logging area on the east side of the coastal range. After the ride Jon pulled out homemade burritos from an insulated cooler where he kept them warm.  These were my favorite times in the Willamette Valley area.  

My grandmother is from Newberg, Oregon, just up Route 99W from Monmouth. When I was a child, the whole family would often fly down from Alaska to meet up with the rest of the clan at the Oregon coast for a family get-together. We would normally stay in a rental house at Rockaway Beach, so I was no stranger to the Oregon coast. I think it is a really beautiful place on this planet! When Jon invited me to go to Pacific City to ride bikes and celebrate New Years Eve in a big rental house, I jumped at the chance. He would always get these incredible houses and invite all his riding buddies. Since I was a broke college student he didn’t ask much from me. I just had to show up and go for long road rides on Highway 101. Afterwards we would go to the Pelican Brewing brewpub. One time for spring break, Jon got this amazing house directly on the beach in Pacific City. It had a hot tub and a sauna, and 17 beds! The bunk room was impressive, with two levels of stacked beds with room for everyone. My roommate at the time brought his girlfriend’s whole family! We filled that house! I remember running to the ocean from the hot tub — it was so awesome! The Pelican Brewing brewpub was only about 1/2 mile down the beach from that house. Back in the day, the brewery only bottled beers in bombers. I remember buying as many as I could afford and taking them back for a big beach fire party! I did a couple of paintings at that house. The place was called the Wind Jammer on the rental listings. I don’t know if you can still rent it, but I do recommend getting some Pelican beers and walking down the beach!

Nowadays, the Pelican has a production facility in Tillamook, and the beers come in huge cans, six-packs, and still a few 22oz bombers.  It’s not quite the same, but my love for Pacific City is still strong.  If you happen to be in the area, the Grateful Bread Bakery is a good breakfast place, just get there early, as the cinnamon buns are all gone if you sleep in!  Haystack Rock, and  Cape Kiwanda Dune are really cool local geological features making this place stand out!  I heard the surfing is as good as Oregon has to offer.

Cheers to Pacific City, The Pelican Brewpub, Jon’s Bicycle Station, and the Oregon Coast! You don’t have to go to Hawaii to have a great time on the beach!

This original oil painting, and signed prints are available at my Etsy shop.

Pelican Brewing IPA, 11″x14″, oil on panel

Giants Baseball Game at AT&T Stadium

Before the pandemic, going to a baseball game in a crowded stadium was possible. We used to also have weddings, and sometimes we even left our home state to go places.  I went to a wedding in California to see my cousin get hitched back in 2017. Then we went to an amazing baseball game at Oracle Park (a.k.a AT&T Stadium) in San Francisco. I bought myself a Giants ball cap from a street vendor and my uncle had procured tickets for the whole family.  My brother-in-law, and sister met us for pre-game beers at a local brewery called Cellarmaker.  I always wait until the 7th inning stretch to buy a beer at a ball park, because they are kind of expensive. I can milk the abnormally large beer for the rest of the game, even if it goes into extra innings. I think I paid about $20 for my 20 oz beer, so that’s $1 per oz.  This is not a particularly good price, but the selection was excellent. Lagunitas, Anchor, and 21st Amendment were available back when I was there. The Internet tells me that Local Brewing, and Russian River are on the menu now, or will be when we are all allowed back in the park.  We had a great time, and I was really impressed when foul balls went into the Bay, and when gulls were dive bombing for hotdogs.  The Giants didn’t win that game, but everyone wins with a 20oz brew and great live entertainment in the sun.  I hope you get to go to your favorite ball park soon! I have a good feeling the 2022 baseball season will be closer to normal.  In the meantime, buy the cardboard cutout for yourself, and make sure you have a beer in your hand to show how much fun you are having!

Cheers to getting back to normal, and in the meantime, live abnormally well, when you can!

This original oil painting, and signed prints are available at my Etsy shop.

Beer at a Giants Baseball Game at AT&T Stadium. 11″x14″, oil on panel, framed.
Maria and I stoked about seeing a Giants game!

The Best Beer Bar in Anchorage Is Not Where You’d Expect

One of my favorite places in Alaska is, and probably always will be, Arctic Valley Ski Area.  If I could go back in time, I would probably have our wedding up there on top of the mountain.  Recently, I became a lifetime member (thanks to my friend John Hickerson) of the Anchorage Ski Club, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1937.  The Anchorage Ski Club operated rope tows up the mountain in Arctic Valley until 1961 when the T-bar was installed.  The lifts were built in 1968 (Chair 1), and 1979 (Chair 2). The existing lodge was built in 1972.  Arctic Valley is not only one of the most historic ski areas in Alaska, but also in the country, and the world. The lifts service about 1,350 vertical feet, and the outer areas wrap all the way around Rendezvous Peak!

Fast forward to today… Arctic Valley has been operating as a non-profit uninterrupted since 2003.  The place seems to be operating more and more professionally every day. The management is doing a very good job with the facilities — refurbishing the T-bar, and  keeping the lifts all running.  There is currently a ski race team, a terrain park, a tube park, three operating lifts, and a rope-tow for beginners.  The lodge has teamed up with 49th State Brewing Company to offer amazing food options, and the bar upstairs currently has 14 taps pouring local craft brews perfect for a mid-ski break.  COVID tried to stop operations up there, and was successful last spring during the maximum shutdown order.  This season the ski area has been successful at keeping the virus at bay with social distancing, limiting the number of lift tickets sold to 200 per day, and enforcing mask mandates. The latest improvement is several family pods inside the lodge that people can rent for the day if they want to have a semi-private, separate space indoors.

Last weekend, I hung seven paintings on those pods to spruce up the white walls.  If you want to have a family outing I suggest buying lift tickets online, and renting a pod at the lodge.  If you don’t like skiing, consider hitting the Tube Park, which is great for kids’ birthday parties.  If that doesn’t appeal to you, you could just drive up and see Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Foraker, or even Denali on a clear day. I recommend checking out the rotating taps from around the state at the bar, and enjoying your brew with a view either inside the lodge, or out on the deck around a fire pit.  I don’t think there is a beer available from out of state, except for the obligatory PBR in a can. I can guarantee the drive up the hill is always worth it! In March Arctic Valley will be open not only Saturdays and Sundays, but part of Thursdays and Fridays as well!  I hope to see you up there. I normally wear a red jacket just like ski patrol, but sometimes I rock my silver uni-piece suit, or my fuzzy moose costume!

Cheers to the Anchorage Ski Club, Arctic Valley, and great AK beers after a day in the mountains!

The Paintings That Got Censored

You may have noticed that a lot of my beer paintings portray beer labels, which are often registered trademarks, protected by copyright laws, or whatever the legal terminology is. Most breweries are flattered by my paintings, and many of them have bought one, or more, but a few select businesses have decided to hold the letter of the law against me. Well, I haven’t actually been sued (yet), I’ve just received many “cease and desist” notices, and one phone call.  The offended entities include, Heineken, a motorcycle group of thugs (I’d rather not mention its name), Dogfish Head, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and Naturdays.  New Glarus Brewing called me to let me know they’re on to me, but said I could keep selling prints of Spotted Cow as long as I didn’t go too far. To be fair, when I met Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head, he told me he loves my Year of Beer Paintings series, so I think the “cease and desist” had nothing to do with Sam, and came from one of the brewery’s lawyers who had nothing better to do that day. The motorcycle thugs talked about litigation, after I questioned why they asked Etsy to take down my painting of Midnight Sun Brewing’s Fallen Angel only because one of the tags (SEO keywords) mentioned the group’s name. So they extra suck. I deleted the keyword, and renewed the listing.

Art should not be censored!  The art I make with beers from breweries actually helps the breweries sell more beer. It is free and positive advertising. I write a blog post gushing over the brewery whenever I release a new painting. I have to like the beer to spend hours of my time making a painting of it, so of course my review will be positive. Many people who have purchased a beer painting from me have told me they buy way more of that specific beer after they hang the painting. It’s sticklers for the rules that just make life a lot less fun. 

I only have one original oil painting left of the “censored” paintings. The rest all sold before they were discovered by lawyers. This Heineken painting (see below) is 12″ x 24″, oil on panel, framed in a natural wood frame. If anyone wants it, I’ll sell it to you for $195, and domestic shipping is on the house.

I hope you are staying safe, eating right, and drinking quality craft beer!  I toast to the breweries who are supportive of the arts and know that partnerships and collaborations are the way to go!

Heineken in Holland, 12″ x 24″, oil on panel.