Spring break in Alaska means skiing, building snowmen, and spending time inside, because up here winter lasts well into April. Most stores are on a national merchandising schedule, so while Costco is selling snorkel masks and swimsuits in March, we’re still looking for hand and toe warmers, and new ski jackets. Ever since we finished building our log cabin in McCarthy, we’ve been going there for Spring break whenever we can, because McCarthy in March is super beautiful and fun! So here are some photos from our rowdy spring break shenanigans, Alaska style. At the time we still didn’t know that spring break would be endless this year due to COVID-19.
We’ve had our studio inside the 4th Avenue Market Place for almost five years now, and each year during the Fur Rondy winter festival, and the Iditarod race start we’ve been turning the studio into a pop-up gallery, and opening our doors to the public. The studio has large windows facing north, with a great view of the carnival. Yesterday the carnival rides showed up in the parking lot across the street, which means the festivities are right around the corner!
The timing of the winter festival is perfect. By late February, most Alaskans are fed up with winter, and start experiencing cabin fever. The best cure is to head downtown to watch sled dog races, outhouse races, check out snow sculptures, ride a couple carnival rides, and maybe even participate in the blanket toss. There are so many activities starting Feb. 28. Here’s a link to the entire schedule.
The Real Art Is Better studio will be open both weekends. Stop by to warm up, enjoy freshly-baked cookies, and check out the view. We’re inside the 4th Avenue Market Place in Suite 4, which is in the NW corner if you walk in from 4th Avenue. 333 W 4th Avenue.
Open Studio Hours:
Saturday, February 29, 11am – 5pm
Sunday, March 1, 11am – 3pm
Saturday, March 7, 10am – 6pm
If you have stopped by our studio in the last three months you saw the enormous oil painting filling my work space, or stashed in the hall in order to make room for people during open studio events. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation built a new clinic in Bethel, and released a call for art in early 2019. We applied for several wall spaces, and were awarded a contract to create a 12ft x 6ft oil painting on canvas for a large area high on the wall above a stairway. This is the largest canvas I have ever painted! Last week I delivered, assembled and helped install this piece at its location in Bethel.
So, how do you take such a large painting on a jet-plane? I designed the canvas from the start so that transporting it on an Alaska Airlines flight would be possible. However, we all know that while some things seem easy conceptually, they can gain complexity as they progress. The stretcher support was made up of 45 individual ash and birchwood pieces, and no piece was longer than 6ft, because I wanted them all to fit into a ski bag. The canvas was rolled up and the stretcher support dis-assembled for its journey. I waited until the day before departure to break it down, and pack it up.
I awoke at 3:30 AM to catch a 6AM flight to Bethel. I brought two checked ski bags, and a carry-on backpack. No extra luggage fees for me with Club 49 thanks to Alaska Airlines! I could have brought another checked bag, since it was an in-state flight! Alaska Air and TSA were gentle enough with my precious cargo, and everything arrived in good shape and on-time. I was picked up by the YKHC maintenance foreman, Pat, at the airport. He and his team have been installing all the newly-acquired art pieces at the clinic. I got to see some of the art while I was there, and I must say that the committee chose some incredible art! We drove to the maintenance building and picked up two more staffers to help lift the painting onto the wall. Re-assembly took me a couple of hours and I had a conference room to myself. The extra help was great, and I don’t think I could have stretched it back to its original tightness without the extra muscle.
The maintenance crew was clutch, as I had planned to hang this colossal piece the same way I hang smaller pieces — on a heavy-duty wire. There is only an inch of clearance on either side of this piece so getting it straight on the wall was the real problem. Pat suggested I use a French cleat, and I agreed that would be better, if only I had thought to bring one. Pat was a superhero and produced the hardware from his storeroom! This made hanging the piece much easier. Four guys and two ladders later the 90lb painting slid into place. This took us right up to lunchtime, and I was a little disappointed I had taken the early flight, as now I had 8 hours to kill until I could catch the return flight to Anchorage. Pat had to check on his dog, and I had packed a lunch, so I chilled out at the hospital for an hour and breathed a sigh of relief.
After lunch Pat took me on an amazing driving tour of Bethel and the Kuskokwim River. I got to go to the grocery store to replenish my snacks for the return trip to Anchorage. Pretty expensive to buy food and gas in Bethel. $4.49 a gallon for gasoline, and $8.49 a gallon for milk! The area is beautiful tundra with mountains glistening in the distance. I got so see a pretty nice chunk of the town, which is much larger than I had expected — about 10,000 residents. The area around Bethel is very interesting, but the people are where the real beauty exists, everyone is so friendly and helpful. Bethel is a hub, but it felt like a really welcoming village.
I was dropped off at the airport with my drop cloths in my ski-bag, and I was feeling really fatigued by this time. I hunkered down at the airport and worked on my beer coloring book pages for a couple of hours before catching my flight home at 10PM. I met a fellow who was so happy to pick up his crate from Alaska Airlines. He said he had snow-machined for two hours from his camp to pick it up! This was right at twilight, so it was going to be a dark return trip for him. Adventurous people live in the Delta and I was happy to get a glimpse of this culture. Thank you YKHC for this superb opportunity! Maybe next time I can come in the summer and do a little fishing.
Here is a slideshow of some pictures I took during this whole process. Below you’ll also find three timelapse videos of my painting, and the last one is of us taking apart the painting and rolling up the canvas.
Each year several thoughtful gift-givers commission me to paint custom oil paintings for holiday gifts, and so far I’ve always finished them all on schedule to be delivered several days before December 25th. This year most of the paintings were dog portraits, and sadly two of those were of loved pups that had recently gone to doggy heaven. No one ordered a cat painting. Hmmmm. One person really liked one of my existing float plane paintings, but wanted a smaller version, so I painted one for him. I’m always impressed with the concepts that my patrons develop for these pieces, and my favorite part is finding out the stories behind each one. I hope all the recipients liked their gifts. I did receive a couple photos of smiling people holding their custom Clendaniel originals.
Click on each one to see it in more detail. All paintings are framed in a natural wood frame, with hanging hardware installed. The turnaround time is 2-3 weeks. You can order a custom oil painting at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter, or by contacting me at info [at] realartisbetter [dot] com.
Since I don’t have gallery representation, I don’t get to show people my art in person as much as I would like. Throughout the year, people can see my art by making an appointment to visit my studio, or attending an open-studio event and art shows at local venues. Sure, I post photos of my paintings online all the time, but that doesn’t do justice to the colors and texture. Seeing art in “real life” is a completely different experience. That’s why I’m so glad to be participating in, and hosting several events this month where you can see my work. I’m looking forward to seeing you at any, or all of these (if you’re on Facebook, you can see the Facebook events by clicking on the images).
1. Winter Market at Anchorage Brewing Co. November 30th and December 21st, 2-8pm. Great beer, and pizza baked in a wood-fired oven!
2. The Holiday Studio Sale at the Real Art Is Better studio! We clean up our studio, and turn it into a pop-up gallery for First Fridays a few times a year, but this one is not to be missed, because it’s more like our holiday party. December 6th, 5-8pm. 333 W 4th Ave, Suite 4.
3. I will be the featured artist at Turnagain Brewing Company in December, so you can see my art there all month long. I’ll have a meet and greet event there on Saturday, December 7th, 5-7pm. My art will be available for sale directly from the brewery.
4. I will be joining many talented local artists and crafters at the annual Makers Market at the Atwood Center. December 14 & 15, 11am – 4pm. That will be a great place to do all your holiday shopping!
The holidays are always a busy time of year, but I’m grateful for each and every one of you who has supported my art career!
I have made a new commitment to myself to only buy beer directly from breweries in order to get the freshest product. Not just for on-site consumption, but also for savoring at home. I’ll probably still order a beer occasionally at local bars and restaurants, although I will still seek out local offerings. When I travel I will do the same thing — buy beers directly from local breweries in the area. While traveling I have definitely picked up some shelf turds at the local grocery store. No more! From now on it’s from the brewery direct! I have three main reasons for doing this. The first is to get the freshest beer possible, especially of the IPA variety. The second reason is driven by economics — my money is going directly to the breweries, and I strongly believe in supporting local businesses. Lastly, I’m doing my small part to reduce waste by using re-usable containers to purchase my liquid nourishment.
Nothing is more disappointing to taste than a seven-month old IPA that has been left next to the heater on the liquor store floor. When I was doing the Year of Beer project I came upon such beers fairly frequently. A stale cardboard-like malt backbone with a cheesy, vegetative hop aroma is not how the artisans who made the beer wanted their product to taste. All the local breweries in Anchorage store their beer properly, and the overall flavor is so much better! IPA always tastes great directly from the brewery!
Aside from getting the freshest product available, I like that my hard-earned money is going directly to the breweries, helping to keep the product more affordable, and stimulating our local economy. Not many products available in Alaska are made here, but beer is definitely one of them. I always get a smile from brewery employees and management when I tell them about this new policy of mine. I’ve been spending a bit more, but I am not upset with my purchases. In the pre-prohibition era, people had to buy locally as distribution was not up to the current capabilities. Every town had its local brewery and its local flavor. A growler used to be a wooden bucket with a lid. The 20th century’s automation and big business homogenized, packaged, and marketed mass produced macro-brews, resulting in a lack of a local brewery scene. Beer is available from all over the world, not just Europe. Today I can buy beer from Zimbabwe if I feel like it. Although, the last African beer I drank was pretty stale, and not much better than an AB inBev product. I say drink beer really brewed “the hard way,” and drink straight from the brewery!
In addition to being good for our economy, buying a local product that is often sold in reusable containers is a win for the environment. Grain comes in big bags, so do hops. The heaviest ingredient, water, is locally-sourced, and we are lucky to have very good water here in Anchorage for making beer. Mother Earth is smiling every time you get a growler filled and don’t have any waste material. If we all bought locally brewed beer, less fuel would be spent shipping beer from all over the world, less water would be drained from dried-up aquifers, and less waste would be left in our local landfill! If you don’t want to consume a whole growler in one evening, and you don’t like drinking leftover oxidized beer the next day, opt for a half growler (howler) fill. You could also splurge at the local home-brew shop and buy a U-Keg one gallon CO2 charged growler, which holds ~12 servings and keeps beer fresh for a long time. Or go big and get a whole home-brew style draft setup and buy at the gallon price-point. Anyway, there are many container options out there, just find the right one for your drinking habits.
Simply stated, “life is short, drink good beer!” And to get good beer, buy local. There are so many great options right here. King Street Brewing and Midnight Sun Brewing have six packs for about $10. Glacier Brewhouse offers growlers for as low as $6 every Tuesday, which is cheaper than many out-of-state options per ounce. Anchorage Brewing is putting out world-class four-packs and amazing bottle releases. Turnagain Brewing, 49th State Brewing, and Cynosure Brewing all fill growlers, and l love stopping in for a glass in house. Anchorage produces barleywine, IPA, stout, hefe, lager, pilsner, saison, spruce-tip ale, and many other interesting-flavored malt beverages that are on par with anything available worldwide. The closer you consume to the brewery, the fresher your beer will taste! Cheers to Anchorage, our breweries, and to drinking locally!