Category Archives: The Business of Being an Artist

Shipping to and from Alaska is cheaper and faster than you may expect!

~ by Maria Benner

One of the biggest misconceptions we Alaskans deal with on a regular basis is that mailing things to and from Alaska is unreasonably expensive, and takes a long time.  Some businesses assume that only FedEx and UPS ship to Alaska.  We often get almost to the end of a checkout process on a website only to find out that shipping to Alaska (and Hawaii) is not available, or costs more than the item(s) in the shopping cart.  The struggle is very real, and completely unnecessary, because we know for a fact that USPS can deliver to and from Alaska at affordable rates.

Our business, Real Art Is Better, relies heavily on USPS Priority and First Class Mail to send online orders all over the world.  The cost to mail one print domestically is only $7.95, and an original oil painting that is 11″x14″ can be delivered as far as Vermont for under $15.  The shipping time is only 3-5 days.  Often on Monday mornings, we receive reviews from Etsy customers about art that we mailed on Friday afternoon!  So don’t hesitate ordering from our Etsy shop, even though we are in Anchorage, because the USPS somehow manages to deliver orders surprisingly quickly, and affordably.  The last day for orders to be shipped in time for Christmas is December 20 for USPS First Class and Priority Mail, and December 21 for Priority Mail Express.


Important Dates for Real Art Is Better this Holiday Season

~ by Maria Benner

For those of you who are considering ordering gifts from Real Art Is Better this holiday season, here are some important dates to keep in mind.


  1. First Friday Annual Holiday Open Studio Event
    1. What: we will transform our studio into a pop-up shop for the evening. Complimentary refreshments included.  Receive a free 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall poster with every purchase of $20 or higher!  Enter a drawing for a Clendaniel art print of your choice.
    2. When: December 1st, 5:30pm – 7:30pm.
    3. Where: Real Art Is Better Studio. Inside the 4th Avenue Market Place in Suite 4. 333 W 4th Avenue.
  2. Winter Maker’s Market
    1. What: 30 of Alaska’s most talented artists and crafters will set up shop at the Church of Love in beautiful downtown Spenard. Complete your holiday shopping all in one place.
    2. When: December 2nd, 12pm – 5pm.
    3. Where: Church of Love Spenard, 3502 Spenard Rd.


The last day to order a custom painting is Friday, December 8th if the painting needs to be mailed, and December 14th if you’re picking it up at the studio.


When you order from us online, your order will be shipped within one business day.  Here are the last days that your package can be shipped in order for it to arrive by December 25th.



How to Commission a Painting

~ by Maria Benner

There are few gifts more unique and personal than a commissioned oil painting.  If you’re considering giving one as a gift this holiday season, but don’t know how to commission a painting, here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1. Decide on the subject matter for the painting: a place, person, or thing (or all of the above).

Step 2. Contact us at least two weeks before you need the painting.  During busy times, like the holiday season, the earlier you place the order, the better.  Now is actually a great time.  We will need to know the size, and when you need the painting.  Then we’ll send you a price quote.

Step 3. Send us photos.  The more, the better.  Don’t be shy.  You can either e-mail them to us, or stop by the studio to discuss the concept in person.

Step 4. Scott will create sketches of different options, or just one sketch (if the concept is straight forward), and send it to you for approval.  This is the time to make changes, and dial in the painting concept.

Step 5. After the sketch is good to go, Scott will start painting.  When the painting is done, he’ll send you a photo.  Then you’ll have a very short window to make any small, last-minute tweaks, if necessary, before the paint dries.

Step 6.  The oil paint will take about 10 days to dry.  Then Scott will coat it with a clear protective varnish, and frame it.  Then you can pick it up, or we can mail it to you, or to the recipient.

You can order a custom beer painting, or a custom bike painting online at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter, or just send us an e-mail, call or text.

Another option is to give someone the experience of commissioning a painting, by giving them a Gift Certificate.

Here are a few examples of recent commissions.

My Art Show at Crush Wine Bistro

A year and a half ago Maria (my wife and Business Manager) contacted Crush Wine Bistro about the possibility of me having a First Friday art show there.  That’s definitely the longest waiting list we’ve been on for an art show so far.  That gave us a lot of time to think about which paintings to show.  Then, about two months prior to my art show, we found out that Sacks Cafe closed, and that Crush moved into that space.  We went with the flow, and adjusted the number of paintings to hang on the walls, since the space was now totally different.  This is my first time showing at this venue, and so far I’m pleased with the exposure and sales that it has generated.  If you haven’t gone to the new Crush location yet, check it out this week.  My art is coming down on Sunday, October 29th.  You can purchase paintings and prints directly from Crush.  The best part about this venue is that the commission is only 5%!  That’s unheard of in this town.  Normally, it ranges between 20% – 50%.  That’s one reason I like having First Fridays at my studio.  Speaking of which, we’ll be hosting one in November.  Our studio is inside the 4th Avenue Market Place in Suite 4 (333 W. 4th Avenue).  Stop by between 5:30 – 7:30.  We’ll clean up the painting studio and turn it into a pop-up gallery for the evening.

Scott Clendaniel Art Show at Crush Wine Bistro

My newest oil painting of a de Havilland Beaver sold to a new patron in Tacoma, WA.

Scott Clendaniel art show Anchorage

My oil paintings hanging at the new Crush Wine Bistro location.

New Printer!

~ by Maria Benner

Epson Artisan 1430

We knew the day would come when our trusty inkjet printer, which we aptly named the Work Horse, would stop working.  We bought it about four years ago, so we knew it was probably on its last legs, because it had printed thousands of prints.  I was printing out several prints for a large order when, after printing a couple perfect ones, the Work Horse told me I needed to replace the photo black ink cartridge.  This happens often, and I’m prepared with replacement cartridges standing by.  No big deal.  After the new cartridge went in, the print head decided it had worked long and hard enough, and apparently was too clogged to keep going.  Since the printer had just made several perfect prints right before I changed the cartridge, I was convinced that the problem was the cartridge, so I called Epson support and convinced the guy who had an unidentifiable accent to send me a replacement one for free.  Three days later it arrived via FedEx, but sadly, the support guy was right, the problem was not the cartridge, it was our printer.  I called the local printer repair place, and the guy said it would cost $150 to clean the print head.  Considering there are nine of them, each of which are likely to get clogged sooner than later, we decided to retire the old Work Horse and replace it with a newer, slicker model.  We then learned that our printer had been discontinued!  So we ended up going for the Epson Artisan 1430 inkjet printer.  We ordered it from Amazon, because it was $50 cheaper than at, and paid for faster shipping, since we had several orders that were way overdue by this point.  This printer has been working great, and the best part is that the ink cartridges are available at Office Depot just down the street, so I don’t have to order them in advance!  So we’re back in business.  Epson has a great recycling program, and provided a free FedEx shipping label so we could mail the Work Horse back.  Maybe it will get refurbished and put back to work.  It was a good machine, and I can only hope that the new printer, which doesn’t have a name yet, will last as long.

A Tale of Two Homes… in Alaska

Back at the cabin after a skiing adventure.

People always ask how I like living in McCarthy.  They must see my Facebook posts and just assume since I spend a lot of time there that it’s my primary residence.  As of now, I live in an efficient downtown condo in Anchorage.  As much as I love going to McCarthy, and the Wrangell – St. Elias National Park that surrounds this cool mountain town, I will probably never spend more than five months of the year there.  It’s really remote without a real gas station and only a small seasonal grocery store.  Maria and I have been building a cabin on our lot two miles south of the town of McCarthy for about four years now.  We bought the lot in 2005, and I convinced Maria that we should start to build a cabin there in 2010.  In 2012 we broke ground on the foundation and started the log work.  Three summers later we were putting the roof on.  This year we installed the wood stove and moved in!

We have lived in a small apartment style condo in Anchorage since 2006.  It has been really efficient, and at 730+ square feet, two bedrooms with a small bathroom, it is not luxurious, but cozy and comfortable city living.  I just cleaned the entire pad in about an hour this morning.  However, it feels cramped after a long winter and I was just dying to go to McCarthy in the winter now that the wood stove is in.  Hanging out on our ten acres in the woods after living near the heart of Anchorage without an outlet to private outdoor space left us feeling hankering for some wilderness solitude.  I convinced Maria it would be cool to head out for a week in March, ski in with sleds of supplies and just hang at out mountain home.  I did some painting and Maria did some business work in the mornings and we would adventure in the afternoons.  Later in the day, which are getting longer and longer as spring rapidly approaches, we would burn large fires of forest brush in the outdoor fire ring.  On a couple of noteworthy outings we skied around the sleepy town of Kennicott, explored on skis the icebergs on the West side of the glacier, skied up McCarthy Creek, and in and around our neighborhood.  Overall, it really gave me a great feeling of mountains wilderness beauty that satisfied our itch to leave the hubbub of the city  behind.

Working next to the wood stove.

The trip was great, but a week was long enough during March.  First off, water is a problem in our subdivision.  We are up on a bluff, so you have to spend some serious cash to put in deep wells, so most of the time we collect rain water from our roof.  This works really well during the summer months, and in winter there is snow, but it takes a lot of energy and time to melt snow.  We can’t drive to our lot during the winter as the bridge is covered in three feet of snow and so is the road up to our place.  It is a snowmobile haven, and a good place to ski as well.  I ski, since I don’t have an Arctic Cat or a Ski-Doo.  Water is heavy, so we had to ration it to avoid too many heavy loads.  Another problem with wilderness living in the winter is using the outhouse, which is really far away from the warm house, and is frozen.  Lastly, the wood stove is an archaic technology that is a lot of work to keep a log cabin warm.  It’s hard to find wood that isn’t too wet from snow.  It seems that it rained and froze right before it snowed, and even though I stored the wood under a tarp, there was a lot of it full of moisture.  Yes, we are in the process of building a necessary woodshed, but as I said, we aren’t even fully done building the place yet.  The house has a bunch of drafts and we need to finish chinking, as well as installing a bunch of important trim pieces.  It seemed I was constantly loading the stove, until the creosote clogged the pipe.  This turned out to be a major cluster, but fortunately it happened at the end of the week so we just went home.  Next time I head out, I have to bring a chimney brush, climb on the roof and maintain the stovepipe before we have heat.  Then we will have to hope we don’t burn the place down.  It seems silly to have a house that is made of the same combustible stuff we heat it with, but it’s working for now.

Maria skiing past an ice berg on Kennicott Glacier.

Icebergs on Kennicott Glacier.

After a week in the woods, I’m glad to be back in Anchorage.  Working at the comfortable studio with running water, and hanging out in my small cozy condo at the corner of downtown and Fairview.  I can buy groceries and gas, drive on plowed roads, have indoor plumbing, and a thermostat.  The wilderness is very inspirational, and I loved my trip, but I also know that the people who live out there are some tough hombres.  It isn’t easy living off grid especially as you are building systems.  One thing goes wrong and you could be living in a cold cabin… or worse.

We waited for this giant slab of snow and ice to crash all week, and it finally fell with a loud thud on our last night at the cabin.

The gray jays were happy to see us. They finally started eating out of our hands last summer.

The Kennicott Mill building.

The Kennicott Glacier.

The Troll House Cookie Recipe

Scott Clendaniel Real Art Is Better Studio Troll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. The awesome cutting board was made by Josh Ahsoak.

Troll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. The awesome cutting board was made by Josh Ahsoak.

If you have visited our studio during a First Friday, or another open studio event, you may have nibbled on my homemade chocolate chip cookies that I always bake for your enjoyment.  Once a young boy asked for the recipe and I scrawled it down for him on a sheet of paper, and I wonder if he ever bothered to bake them.  The word is getting out about the freshly baked cookies at the Real Art Is Better studio, and since several people have now asked for the recipe, here it is.  This is my modified version of the Nestlé Toll-House recipe.  

Clendaniel “Troll-House” Chocolate Chip Cookies.


1 cup (scant) coconut oil

1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar

1 tbsp molasses

2 eggs

1 bag Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate premium baking chips

1/8 cup crushed macadamia nuts, or pecans, or a blend of the two, or your favorite nut

1 tsp aluminum free baking powder, or baking soda if you don’t have baking powder

 2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On low heat melt the coconut oil.  In a large bowl combine the sugar and the molasses, and add the melted coconut oil.  Add eggs, and mix.  Add nuts and chocolate chips, and mix.  Add baking powder and flour, and mix until a fine cookie dough forms.  Form 1 inch balls and place them on an un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on size of cookies.  Cool and serve.  Makes 24-48 cookies, depending on cookie size.