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.
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” 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!
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!
If only I had an anvil like this, I would build myself a FORGE! I am looking forward to the day I get my own anvil. It is especially important to me as an object to paint because of work ethic it symbolizes to me. This one is from the McCarthy Museum and I look forward to continuing with this series, the artifact series. There is a beautiful Art Deco cash register that inspires me to paint. Maybe there will be a later painting of it. What is it about things from the past? Why are older objects more stylized? Why do Modern and Post Modern pieces lack any kind of style? I feel that these oversimplified aesthetics are relying too heavily on mass appeal, while the older styles have more design value. Here is a painting dedicated to the older style and to the symbol of work ethic. Maybe I will bring back Art Nouveau and Art Deco as Neo-Art Deco-Nouveau…a revival, if you will. I think it could make for some beautiful paintings…
This year my wife and I decided to spend the entire summer in McCarthy, Alaska in the heart of the Wrangell St. Elias National Park! We have a 10 acre lot on the south side of the town of McCarthy. It was fun, but since we had yet to have built a building, I spent almost all my time outside in the fresh air. Since this is a bit different than my usual life, I would jump at any chance to get some time under a roof (especially this summer as we have had so much rain). I decided it would be nice to give back to the community, and get some inside time so I volunteered at the McCarthy Museum. The Museum used to be open to the public without an attendant, however due to recent objects walking off without anyone to observe their departure, the board of directors decided it was imperative that an attendant be present. I stepped up to the plate and volunteered several times this summer. I painted this from the deck between the building and rail-car which houses the collections. McCarthy and Kennecott have such rich histories although these settlements are only around 100 years old, aside from Nome, and Cordova, this is one of the oldest industrialized areas in Alaska. It is extra special due to its rich history and well preserved artifacts. It is especially interesting because the entire town shut down all at once when the Kennecott Mine closed. What was once a bustling mining district became instant ghost towns. The towns of McCarthy and Kennecott became devoid of life except for a few hardy hermits, pirates, and homesteaders. Although the park has almost as many tourists and summer residents now as it had prospectors during the 20’s and 30’s, in the winter months the whole park just about shuts down except for a few hardy souls who winter over the dark and frozen months. I love the McCarthy Museum and I enjoyed making this painting. Later in the season, I gave it away as a birthday present to the notorious B-Mack, at his classic birthday party “The Endless BBQ.” The Endless BBQ is an awesome party held every year, this year with great music by the Grannies and an amazing performance by a lady that goes by the name of Saucy Yoda.
Back from the Wrangell St. Elias National Park. I painted some in the park this summer all plein air, as I was in the process of creating my indoor painting studio while I was there. My wife and I had the most amazing summer camping out and building our little hut that will be a painting studio with a little sleeping loft. One of the best experiences we had in the park was when we hiked to the Jumbo Mine. This is the first and only time I have had the opportunity to climb up into this part of the Bonanza Ridge, to the ruins of the Jumbo Mine. Not much left of the buildings and I decided to hike to the top of the ridge. I was a little bit ahead of the others and sped quickly to the highest point under the cliffs on the ridge. With a few minutes to spare as I was waiting for the crew, I painted this painting looking back towards the Chugach Mountains. While on the ridge, I found lots of green rocks, (Chalcocite with Malachite) a whole vein up on the mountains! It feels so great to be on the top of these amazing bodies of metal. I was glad that I made it down with minimal damage to my painting. Hiking 10+ miles with a plein air kit is not too difficult, but making it successfully home with a wet oil painting is more difficult that most people might imagine, so I always sigh a breath of relief when I get home successfully with a new plein air piece.
It was a fun little excursion to Talkeetna yesterday, finally making it out of Anchorage around noon. Stopping to pick up our friend Dani, and for some espresso, we made it to Talkeetna around 3:00 in the afternoon. We, of course, made it to the Denali Brewery and were surprised to find very good craft brew! We took our booty down to the River and sat around a makeshift fire for several hours taking in the view. Here is what came of the painting effort. Too bad I started to run out of white on the third one who would think there would be so much white in Alaskan winter! At least I am finally outside again and painting!
This painting was done on April 5th, 2010 along the frozen Eagle River in Alaska. Only fifteen minutes away from Anchorage, Eagle River is an interesting little place to spend the day. Especially if you head up the mountain valley to the Eagle River nature center. I decided to take a break from the humdrum bore of the town and headed out on an adventure to do a little plein air painting, even though it was pretty cloudy and bleak outside, it was above freezing allowing me to actually work outside! I hope you enjoy this little painting.
I have been looking forward to the warmer weather that allows the outdoor painting season to begin, the snow and ice has been keeping me working inside and I am ready for summer to be here. Nothing is as exciting, that I have run into, than the beauty of Alaska in the summer. I cannot wait to paint in plein air! However, I felt my blog could use a new image and update to keep everyone in the loop. This painting was done over a 9 hour day in Halibut Cove a couple of summers ago. Painting the frontal facade of Alex Combs old painting and pottery studio and outdoor gallery. This structure has always had such a profound influence on me because of the uniqueness of a do-it-yourself gallery. Not only was this a do-it-yourself gallery (put the cash/check in the jar – take your art) it was also full of Alex Combs’ cheery, painterly, work that I knew was Real Art! Since my first visit out to Halibut Cove in 1998 I have found Alex Combs paintings to largely influence my work. It was great to live and work in Alex’s old art spot. From the paint on the floor of the studio, to the most incredible view of the cove, I love this structure. I am eager to build my first structure to live and work in the beauty of this great state! Part of the fun of working on this painting was that Alex, who passed away a year ago, was able to critique my work. It was very satisfying to have one of my personal heroes of the art-world sit back and look at my work. Suffering from mild alzheimer’s and dementia the last few years of his life Alex was still very excited about painting and was still working next door. It was cute that every time I met him I had to be reintroduced as the painter next door. Introductions aside, he could still critique a piece of original, Real Art! Here’s to you Alex! Thank you for making such beautiful artwork and being such an inspiration!