Category Archives: Alaska Landscapes

Life Changes on the First Day of Snow

~ by Maria Benner

First Day of Snow

Today is the first day of snow!  This is a very exciting day for most people, and this year it happened on a Monday, making the dreaded first day of the week a bit interesting.  We all know the first day of snow is coming, but for some reason most of us choose not to do anything about it.  But this morning we quickly realized that we’d have to add some extra chores to our list today if we want to continue with our regular daily tasks, like driving.

  1. Change tires on our vehicles to winter tires.  Preferably studded ones, which have the best performance on ice versus the ones that claim to be studd-less winter tires.  Some stores, like Costco, stopped carrying studded tires, because they cause so much road damage, but we found a place just a couple blocks from our studio that still sells them, and tomorrow we’re dropping off our truck so it can get brand new studded tires put on it.
  2. Switch to our fat bikes that also have studded tires.  We ride bikes to the studio from our condo, because the studio is only 1 mile away, and we have to pay for parking.  So today we had to air up the tires on those bad boys, and get them ridable again for the first time since last March.
  3. Put the big brushes that we use to clean the snow off our truck back into the truck.  We took them out for the summer to have more space in the back seat.
  4. Pull out winter boots, and put away summer shoes.  Same goes for winter jackets, hats, gloves, etc.  Good luck finding all that stuff after several months.
  5. We live in a condo, so we don’t have to worry about snow removal, but most people had to clear their driveways on top of all the other snow-related chores.

We still have to wash our summer bikes to make the transition to winter complete.  Right now we’re excited for winter, and all the activities we’ll get to do like ice skating, skiing, and fat biking.  Ask me again in a few months how I feel about it.

In case you’re looking for some indoor activities now that it’s cold outside, this Friday we’re hosting a First Friday Open Studio event.  Stop by and see the newest oil paintings for the first time, enjoy some complimentary refreshments (Scott always bakes fresh cookies), and meet the artist if you haven’t already.  Click here to see the event on Facebook.  If you’re not on FB, here are the deets: November 2nd, 5 – 7:30pm, Suite 4 inside the 4th Avenue Market Place on 333 W 4th Avenue.

Talkeetna Air Taxi flight over Denali

One of the newest oil paintings never seen by anyone in person yet, except the artist and his Business Manager. 36″x18″, oil on panel.

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Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #143. Homebrew in Humpy Cove, Alaska.

“Life is Short, Drink Good Beer.” That’s quality advice printed on my steel pint cup.  You might not always get a great beer, but the least you can do is try.  This little painting tells a story.  For three years now I have been trying to correlate a time to go with my collectors and friends, the Kirkpatricks, to their cabin in Humpy Cove on Resurrection Bay.  After totally missing it for two summers in a row I finally nailed down a time when I wouldn’t be in McCarthy, dip-netting, or flying to a wedding somewhere out of State.  Alaska summers are nuts, but also a blast.  I try to just relax and let the insanity flow around me without letting it disturb my inner peace.  This is hard to do when the midnight sun is pulling you to do more and rest less.

Our trip to the cove was amazing!  After loading up the boat we stopped right outside Seward’s boat harbor to watch a pod of Humpback whales.  We actually saw whales every day on this adventure.  Then after arriving to the cove in the fast red boat we hung out on the dock and sipped delicious keg beer from our steel pints, while soaking in the sun.  After Taiya the Siberian Husky attacked a porcupine, and had to have a dozen quills pulled out of her paw and snout (could have been much worse), we went for a hike up the hill where the bay vistas were unbelievable.  Then Taiya went swimming and I got to play lifeguard, and got an armful of shivering wet husky.  Good thing I didn’t spill my beer!  I had to be careful around that pooch, because she likes to drink beer, so if I set my pint on the deck, it was likely to get the dog tax.

We went fishing and caught a halibut about the size of a chicken.  Maria got one that was so small, we all agreed it was the size of a large keychain.  After fishing I sat on the dock and made this painting while the boat took guests back to Seward, and Maria and Colleen went kayaking.  Yes, I drank some beer while I painted.  Overall a very noteworthy trip!  Whales, waterfalls, bluebird skies and three draft beer options made for a very exciting weekend!  Resurrection Bay is one of those places in Alaska that is definitely beautiful!  I left this painting at the cabin as a gift to our hosts for being so gracious!

Plein air oil painting of Humpy Cove in Resurrection Bay, Alaska.

Plein air oil painting of Humpy Cove in Resurrection Bay, Alaska. 8″x10″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

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.