Category Archives: Alaska Landscapes

Flight Around Denali with K2 Aviation

~ by Maria Benner

One of my side gigs is working as a freelance guide for a local tour company, guiding only 2-3 trips per year.  This allows me to see many different places in Alaska, and to do the fun things that mostly tourists get to do.  I get to meet interesting people from around the world, and the extra income is a bonus.  So a couple years ago I guided four different groups that all had an identical itinerary.  That may seem redundant, but the tour included a train ride to Spencer Glacier, and a flight around Denali with a glacier landing.  So in a span of less than two weeks, I got to land on Ruth Glacier on Denali three times!  The fourth group got to fly around Knik Glacier, because Denali was unapproachable by plane due to a storm.  We flew with K2 Aviation.  One of the guests exclaimed as she stepped down from the De Havilland Otter onto the glacier on Denali, “If I had known about this, it would have been on my Bucket List!”  That really sums up the whole experience.

One of the fun parts of my job as the Business and Marketing Manager for Real Art Is Better is brainstorming with Scott about ideas for new paintings.  So, a couple months ago, I remembered that summer that I got to fly around Denali three times with K2 Aviation, and I suggested that he paint one of the the iconic red airplanes flying in front of Denali.  He painted this piece, which is 20 inches x 30 inches, oil on panel.  The painting was on display at Scott’s solo art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Company this month, and it sold on opening night.  Scott allows customers to take the paintings right when they buy them, so the painting is now hanging in its new home.

If you haven’t taken this flight, I highly recommend it.  Put it on your Bucket List!

Limited-edition art prints of this painting are for sale at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Flight Around Denali. Oil on panel. 20″ x 30″. Scott Clendaniel

The person who bought this painting posted a picture of it on Instagram hanging in its new home, along with another one of Scott’s paintings that he bought at the same time of the Coastal Trail in winter time.

“New art makes me happy #alaskanart #art #mountainart #anchorage #oilpainting #beautifulart @realartisbetter

Black and White Photos Painted in Color

Part of my duties as the Vice President of the McCarthy – Kennicott Historical Museum is to volunteer for a couple hours a week at the museum.  So, over the years, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in that building, looking at artifacts and at black and white photos from the late 1890s – early 1900s.  One day I decided to make an oil painting from two black and white train photos that I saw at the museum.  As anyone can tell by looking at my paintings, I like to use bright colors, so I went to work trying to recreate the photos in color.  There was no way for me to know what color things should be, but being in the same setting where many of these photos were taken, gave me a pretty good idea.

Recently, the museum asked me to design a new sticker, so I looked through many photographs of the Kennicott mining town back in its hayday, and put together the painting below that I named First “Lode”.  This depicts the first train load of copper pulling out of Kennicott, on its way down to Cordova and onto a steamship headed to Tacoma.  I worked from several different black and white photos to put together this scene.  Seeing today’s ruins of Kennicott was very helpful in helping me decide what colors things should be.  In the future, I plan to make several more paintings like this based on those photos hanging at the museum.  Creating large, colorful oil paintings from small black and white photographs highlights those historical moments, bringing more attention to them.  In any case, I’ve stumbled onto an interesting new genre that I’ll be experimenting with.

Here’s one example of a train oil painting that I did based on a black and white photo.  Prints of this painting are for sale at my Etsy shop.

Another example of a train painting.  Prints of this painting are for sale at my Etsy shop.

And this is the latest piece that I painted from a combination of photographs and my imagination called First “Lode”.  Prints of this painting are for sale at my Etsy shop.

 

 

The Evolution of a Painting

About a month ago I stumbled on a photo online that caught my eye because of its striking colors, and the combination of blues, reds and yellows inspired me to create a painting using those colors. I researched other images online with similar colors, and then created a couple basic sketches of different compositions.

Sketch 1

Sketch 1

Sketch 2

Sketch 2

Then I painted a small study of each sketch to see what each one would look like as a painting.  These are only 12″x6″.

Small studies.

Small studies.

I decided for now to continue working on the composition of the Anchorage skyline, and painted a larger study of it that is 24″x12″.  I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to paint a larger version of the Sleeping Lady composition.  I’ll wait and see what feedback I get about it.

Larger study of Anchorage skyline composition. 24"x12".

Larger study of Anchorage skyline composition. 24″x12″.

Finally, I was ready to start working on the large support, which is 5 feet x 2.5 feet.  I spent about five hours a day for three days working on the final painting.  I wanted this to be dry for my upcoming art show at Midnight Sun Brewing on January 2nd, so I came into the studio on Christmas Eve to finish the painting.  Here is the gradual progression.

Progress on day 1.

Progress on day 1.

Day 2.

Day 2.

Day 2

Day 2.

Final result.

Final result.

Right now this painting is drying in my studio, and will be on display, and available for sale, at Midnight Sun Brewing from January 2nd – February 4th.

Thinking of painting trees as the season changes.

Fall is in the air, and some parts of Alaska are already covered with the first dusting of snow, and leaves are turning different shades of yellow and red.  This is my favorite time of year to take photos of trees, so I can paint them later in my studio.  We’re going to McCarthy for one last time this summer, and I plan on going for walks around the Boreal forest, collecting painting inspiration for the winter months.

Here’s a gallery of some of my tree paintings.  Most of the originals sold, but prints are available at my Etsy shop.  If there is an image that you’d rather have as an original, not a print, let me know what size you’d like, and I’ll paint a very similar version for you.

The Story Behind My Newest Large Painting – “Aspen Allure”

Last summer I sold one of my 8 ft x 4 ft paintings, View from the Hammock, which left a big empty wall in our condo.  My wife was sad to see it go, but I was excited about painting a new one.  I prefer to work on large paintings, but storage is an issue, so I have to wait until one sells, before making another one.  I built the birch panel support for this new one in our condo, which took up the entire living room.  Luckily, Maria was out of town!  I finished the edges with oak, and then coated the entire support with two coats of white primer, sanding between each coat.  I do this to smooth out the wood texture as much as possible.  Then I applied a coat of colonial red, and a final light layer of gold paint.  As soon as we moved into the new studio, I started painting!  I decided to paint from a photo I took in McCarthy at our neighbor’s cabin during a sunset, when the setting sun created a surreal glow in the dark aspen forest.  Then a customer who stopped by the studio suggested that I paint an owl, and I thought that would be a nice addition.  White owls have a lot of significance.  They represents wisdom, the ability to see past illusions, and are considered to be guides in the underworld.

Overall, I worked on this painting for about two months.  You are welcome to see it in my studio at 333 W. 4th Avenue, Suite 4.  The photos don’t really do it justice.  It will be part of my art show in June at the Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Co.  The price is $4,800.  I released 500 limited-edition prints of this painting, and am selling them in my studio and online at my Etsy shop.

A Toast to Our Mountains!

 

beer glass painting anchorage alaska mountains

“A Toast to Our Mountains” painting series, Anchorage Skyline and Chugach Mountains. 24″x12″ oil on panel.

One day in September I was working on our log cabin in McCarthy, Alaska when I heard my phone ring.  I was surprised to see an unknown number, and answered as professionally as I could while ripping a chainsaw helmet off my head to access my ear quickly.  A gentleman on the other end identified himself as David Crewdson, a beer connoisseur in Anchorage.  He told me that he came up with a delightful beer painting concept and got my number from one of the beeristas at Midnight Sun Brewing Co., and wanted to share it with me (the beer painter), but he wanted to meet me in person.  He said he would be giving the brewery tour at the MSBC in a couple weeks as a guest lecturer while Gary Busse was out of town, so we agreed to meet at the brewery right before the tour.  Luckily, I had planned to be in Anchorage then, so I trucked over to MSBC to see what David had to say.  He told me that paintings of glasses of beer with Alaskan mountains in the foam would be a great idea.  I immediately agreed.  He also came up with a name for the art show “A Toast to Our Mountains”.  He didn’t ask for anything in return, except credit for the idea, which I am happy to give him.  So you can look forward to seeing these paintings at my next art show at MSBC, which opens January 3rd with me tapping the Firkin keg at 5 PM.  Also look for other beer paintings.  I have been playing with concepts like “The Art of Beer,” and “Beers of the World.”  I will also fill out the space with a final showing of the remaining “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”  The art show will be up all month, during which Alaska Beer Week takes place.  Stop in for a taster, small, or large glass of avant-garde brew, as well as my paintings, art prints, and mini-original painting magnets!

Paul and Jenny’s Homestead!

Alaska garden and cabin painting

Yesterday I went out to visit my friends Paul and Jenny who live about 10 miles down the Nizina Road.  We rode our bikes out over the fairly rough dirt road in about an hour.  I had a killer time looking around their new improvements.  They have an enormous garden, it may be the biggest I have seen in the McCarthy area.  Their pig may also be the biggest pig I have ever seen.  Produce that should go to the state fair including some mega cabbages, lettuces, and I am sure if it were entered, a blue ribbon turnip.  The lettuce was so big I decided to put it in the foreground of this little painting.  I left the painting behind to dry and hopefully will be hung in their little cabin in a few weeks. Another noteworthy addition to the homestead is the gigantic root cellar newly installed last year.  After visiting the mushroom forest and a few trips to the creek for water and cold beer, Maria and I packed up to leave. About a mile out the road I realized I had plugged my cell phone into the solar system and left it there.  So as I was calculating how far I had gone from their place with my bicycle cpu (I had left my backpack on the side of the road,  and wanted to make sure I could find it) I missed the turn to their place and then accidentally explored the Nizina neighborhood fairly intensely. After a few misdirected miles, I figured out my bearings and found the right turn and my cell phone.  Maria only had to wait for a few minutes as I was riding around in a frenzy to not hold her up too badly. We made it home with enough time for dinner before dark and about ten minutes faster than on the way there! Overall a great Alaska adventure!