Category Archives: The Business of Being an Artist

A Time-lapse of my Morning Workout Routine

Monday to Friday, before I head to the studio, I try to get in a workout in the morning. I do a 40 minute yoga/stretch/calisthenics session, followed by a 5 mile outdoor run; rain, or shine (or snow, or negative temps, since I live in Anchorage). This takes about 90 minutes out of my workday, but I guess that is my personal choice, since I am in charge of my own time. I have tried working out after painting, but I just end up not doing it. So, if I have a ton of commissions, I work late instead.

I want to tell you about the yoga/calisthenics I do.  For the last couple of years I have been increasing my pushup count, and last week I hit 500 per day!  It is a huge milestone, as I started by doing 50 per day. I break them down into 3 sets of 100, 2 sets of 75, and 1 set of 50. Between sets, I rest by doing a couple of arm and leg exercises, and core exercises as well. After the pushups are done, I do some stretches to prevent hernias, and some to prevent sinus infections.  I finish up with some basic yoga poses.  I took a time-lapse video of the whole process today and condensed the 40 minute session into 20 seconds.  It makes me look a little twitchy, but I am attaching it to the blog anyway.  I am hoping this inspires you to get out and do some workouts!  

Stay healthy and stay strong!

40 minutes condensed to 20 seconds

Virtual Art Show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

I have yet another pandemic art show in full swing! I’m the featured artist at the Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. for the month of January! Indoor seating capacity is limited to 25% until who-knows-when, so I’ve created a virtual art show for those of you who don’t feel comfortable going to the venue in person right now. If you’re interested in any of these pieces, give the Loft a call at (907) 344-6653. Even if you live outside of Anchorage, you can still nab a piece, and I will personally mail it to you within the U.S. at no charge. All of these are one-of-a-kind, original oil paintings. They are all framed in natural wood frames, except Winter and Autumn, which have dark brown frames. More paintings and prints are available at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Octo-Schuss, 16″ x 20″, oil on panel, $650
Battle of Denali, 20″x16″, oil on panel, $650
Grogu, 7″ x 5″, oil on panel, $85
Let’s Rondy!, 24″ x 12″, oil on panel, $450
Chugach Session, 9″ x 18″, oil on panel, $290
Cherry Funk, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
Solstice in McCarthy, 14″x11″, oil on panel, $245
Solid Gold, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
Flightseeing in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, 14″ x 11″, oil on panel, $245
Bar Fly, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
The Tree of Life, 16″x20″, oil on panel, $850
Abominable Winter Ale, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
Future Champions, 20″x16″, oil on panel, $550
Moscow, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
Earning Your Pint, 24″x12″, oil on panel, $450
Maudite, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
Polar Biker, 14″x11″, oil on panel, $245
Rondy Brew, 14″ x 11″, oil on panel, $245
Duchesse De Bourgogne, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
Whale Dance, 36″x18″, oil on panel, $875
San Tan Brewing, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
MSBC Growler, 8″ x 10″, oil on panel, $180
Autumn, 36″ x 18″, oil on panel, $875
Winter, 36″ x 18″, oil on panel, $875
Sleeping Lady Brewing, 48″ x 24″, oil on panel, $1,200
MSBC Chillin, 12″x24″, oil on panel, $395
Pabst, 6″x12″, oil on panel, $120
Leyland Tractor, 20″x16″, oil on canvas, $925
Bitte ein Bit, 14″x11″, oil on panel, $245

Paintings Commissioned for Holiday Gifts

Each holiday season I receive many requests for commissions that need to be done and delivered in time for Christmas. One of my favorite parts about working on these custom pieces is hearing people’s stories behind the painting concepts. Usually they send me a photo of a special beer they enjoyed with a best friend, or loved one, along with another photo of a place that is significant to both people, and then I combine the photos into one composition. Each detail has a meaning, and I am always glad to be part of creating a one-of-a-kind piece for a person who is caring enough to order a custom painting for a friend, spouse, or significant other. So, each year I publish a blog post to show you all the commissioned paintings I completed during the holiday season. Signed prints are available of Bourbon Paradise, and A Deal with the Devil paintings at my Etsy shop.

Can you think of anything unique, and significant to you that you’d like me to paint?

Pandemic Art Show #2

I’m currently having my second art show during a pandemic! The first one was in June at Midnight Sun Brewing Co., right after the brewery was allowed to open for on-site, indoor dining/drinking following the first shutdown. Right after that show ended, the Mayor limited restaurants and breweries to outdoor on-site consumption only. So I got pretty lucky on my timing. The show was surprisingly successful given the circumstances!

Fast forward six months, and I’m doing another art show during this pandemic, this time at Turnagain Brewing Co. I didn’t get as lucky on my timing for this one, because during December, we’re only allowed to drink beer outside per the latest hunker down order. Despite this obstacle, we decided to go ahead with the art show, but scaled it down just to the downstairs wall of the taproom, because people can still see the art while they go inside to order their beers. I hung original, one-of-a-kind oil paintings on the wall, and brought limited-edition prints and Beer Art Coloring Books to sell at the brewery. So far, I’ve actually sold some books, and prints, which is more than I was expecting.

I could have used this new hunker down order as an excuse to cancel the show, but I decided to push through this thing, and keep doing what I do, because I still can. Drinking beer outside by a fire pit is nothing new for Alaskans. Most of the breweries adapted quickly to the new restrictions, and put several fire pits outside, in festive beer gardens. I’m about to have my third pandemic art show, back at Midnight Sun Brewing Co., but in January I expect everything to open back up at reduced capacity, so maybe everyone can admire my art while eating and drinking inside.

My pandemic art show at Turnagain Brewing Co.
Oh look! You can see my paintings from the outdoor beer garden!

Running an Art Business During a Pandemic

~ by Maria Benner

In business school I was taught to react to a crisis that affects one’s business, but none of the case studies ever described a drawn-out external threat to the business that lasts nearly a year, like the current pandemic. Making and selling art for a living is already considered a risky career option, and people often remind us of that with their pessimistic and inappropriate questions about our finances when they find out we make a living from Scott’s art. So, when the pandemic hit, I felt especially vulnerable at first. We had art shows lined up at local breweries, and other than that, we were selling art online. When everything shut down at the end of March, we were pleasantly surprised as our Etsy sales more than doubled compared to the same time period last year. People were bored at home, and they were shopping. The building where we lease our studio was locked to the public, but we were still allowed to go into our studio, so we kept mailing orders, and Scott kept painting commissions, and new pieces for his upcoming art show in June at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. When everything opened back up, we swooped in and had a successful art show, despite the pandemic, before the brewery was closed again for on-site consumption for the month of August. Orders kept rolling in all summer, and we kept working.

I took advantage of having extra time to learn HTML and CSS, and built a new website for Real Art Is Better. I also combed through all the Etsy listings, making sure photos looked good, descriptions were correct, and keywords were optimized. There were a couple requests for proposals announced for public art in Alaska. I applied for two, and we were granted one, and Scott is a finalist for another one. He’s working on his final proposal right now.

We spent most of the summer in McCarthy, where the majority of businesses were open, including the gift shops in McCarthy and Kennecott. We sold art there all summer, and sales were only a couple hundred dollars lower than during normal summers. We also fulfilled a wholesale order for a book shop in Haines, and I now plan to build a wholesale program for the business.

We maintained our social media presence, posting updates every weekday, and sending e-newsletters every other Friday. Since we can’t travel, Scott has had extra time to work on oil paintings. He decided to paint a few pieces on canvas for a change (he normally paints on wood panel) and completed a large painting that sold right after the election. Having more time to try new techniques has been valuable to him. He also kept teaching painting lessons at the studio.

Then the Mayor of Anchorage announced a third hunker down order for the month of December, which is when we usually do in-person sales events like craft fairs. This year the craft fairs were cancelled, so I set up live painting/pop-up events at two local breweries. When I heard about the shutdown, we contacted Anchorage Brewing Co. and were able to reschedule one of the events for the Sunday before the emergency order went into effect. We also were able to go ahead with another event as planned at Odd Man Rush Brewing. Since the shutdown does not apply outside Anchorage, we scheduled a live painting/pop-up event at Bleeding Heart Brewing in Palmer for December 19.

Tonight we are hanging oil paintings at Turnagain Brewing, eventhough the taproom is closed for onsite consumption, but is open for to-go orders. The art show is scaled down to just one wall, but we’re still doing it.

There are several lessons I learned during the pandemic about running an art business.

  1. Keep working; making new paintings, posting on social media, sending e-newsletters, blogging, applying for public art projects, doing art shows, going to the studio every day. We didn’t cancel anything, were pro-active about contacting venues, and were available when people asked us to work on projects.
  2. Have a strong online presence and SEO.
  3. Be safe, but also show up whenever you can.
  4. Offer excellent customer service, including curbside pick-up, and free shipping.
  5. Be flexible enough to re-schedule events, or adjust how they happen so everyone stays safe.
  6. Just keep going…
Alaskan Artist Scott Clendaniel and his oil painting called Stairway to Sunrise
Staying safe while delivering and hanging a new painting during a pandemic.
Alaskan artist Scott Clendaniel sold his octopus goalie painting at Odd Man Rush Brewing
Selling art at Odd Man Rush Brewing.
Alaskan artist Scott Clendaniel with his painting of three barleywines at Glacier Brewhouse
Worked on this project for Glacier Brewhouse for their 12 Days of Barleywine artwork.

How to Support All Your Favorite Local Small Businesses and Artists Without Going Broke

During these crazy times we all need each other’s support.  Everyone is saying we should support our local restaurants, small businesses, independent artists, but when times are this uncertain, saving money is also a good idea.  Maybe you don’t need art, or certain services at the moment, but you may need them in the future, and that’s why we want our local businesses to get through this lean period.  So, how can you support all your favorite businesses without going broke?

• Follow your favorite businesses and artists on social media, and sign up for their e-newsletters.  Do you love a picture they posted?  Then like it, share it, comment on it.  The more engagement a post has, the more likely other people will see it, and then the small business won’t have to spend as much on advertising to be seen.

• When you need to buy something, don’t just automatically go online to look for it, take a few seconds, and try to think of a local place that may have what you need.  They already spent the time and money to get products delivered to their store, so give them a call, or go to their website and see if they have what you’re looking for, or maybe they can order it for you.  Amazon will definitely survive through this, but isn’t it nice to have local brick-and-mortar stores around, in case you need something immediately?

• Post pictures of the food you are about to enjoy, or your favorite piece of art by an artist you follow.  Tell people why you love what they do.

• If you can’t afford to spend money at every business you want to support, then tell your friends in real life about why you love a certain shop, or restaurant, and maybe they will try it for the first time.  Attracting new customers is much more difficult than keeping existing ones.

• If you hear of an opportunity for artists, don’t assume that all artists know about it, forward that e-mail, or text the info directly to the artist.  I have had several friends text me about opportunities that they thought are a good fit for me.  Most of the time I find out about them eventually, but it’s nice to know that I am top-of-mind for some people, and I also appreciate having the extra few days head start on the application process.

• If you have a blog, or are a freelance writer, feature a small business in your next blog post, or article.

• Write a review on Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc.

What other ways can you think of to support your favorite businesses?  

People say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to have a thriving local economy.  We can get through this if we are creative about how we do it.  Lastly, I want to thank my patrons who have continued to purchase my art online and in person.  You make my art career possible!

Time to Start Thinking about Commissions for the Holidays

Today is already the middle October!  I’m so sad that I haven’t been able to have open studio gatherings to see you all.  We’re going to figure something out for the December party we normally have.  Since, I think we can only have about 5-7 people in the studio safely at once, we may schedule visits if you want to come in to sample a little homemade brew and shop for holiday gifts.  I will announce that possibility as we get a bit closer, and depending on the status of C-19 cases as winter weather sets in.  We haven’t even gotten through Halloween yet, so I assume most of you aren’t in the right mindset for that as of yet. 

What I do want to talk about right now is COMMISSIONED artwork.  I have had a nearly perfect record with successful commissions.  I just finished a piece for a local fire fighter who works just down the street from my studio.  He wanted a painting to commemorate a trip with his girlfriend to Orca Island in Resurrection Bay.  The painting was supposed to be a surprise, but he told his girlfriend about it when she was having a bad day, and she cried!  The only problem with commissioning a painting for a holiday gift is I run out of time to get them all painted, so getting in early is better.  In 2016 I completed 24 individual paintings that my patrons commissioned for holiday gifts.  I felt like an elf that year, and my beard started to twinkle with a bit of varnish by December 15, the last day possible for paintings to dry in time for the 25th.  I suggest you look through the pictures of your favorite trip this year, or last year (considering a lot of us have been hunkering down and not going anywhere since March).  It always brings a smile to see people so excited to give the gift of a special painting!  Cheers, and I look forward to seeing what you bring for me to paint! 

An Art Show During a Pandemic. The show will go on!

First Firkin Friday with Scott Clendaniel at Midnight Sun Brewing

We recently returned from our cabin in McCarthy to the metropolis known as Anchorage.  Maria and I both experienced small culture shock from the peaceful surroundings of our ten acres near Wrangell – St. Elias National Park compared to the industrialized buzz of the Anchorage city scene.  At the end of a two week stay all the treats we stockpiled to bring to the cabin start to run out and pretty soon you are making a lentil casserole from leftover ingredients.  At the cabin the birds were chirping and the loudest noise in the area was ourselves.  In Anchorage, the place where supplies are plentiful, we ordered sushi the night we arrived to our condo.  It was crazy to hear sirens, neighbors’ doors opening and closing, and the garbage truck.

We returned because I have an art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. starting this Friday, June 5th, and lasting for the whole month.  I have been working hard to get a new group of paintings together for this show.  The new pieces represent the four seasons of nature in Alaska’s Boreal forest, and I think they turned out pretty well.  Alaska is still experiencing over a dozen new cases of the Covies each day, but the Governor said we can start socializing again, so the show will go on, but don’t forget your mask.  I’ll tap the firkin at 5pm, and last call will be at 8pm.

Upon returning to Anchorage I was pretty stoked to go into MSBC and have a beer with my friends again.  MSBC didn’t get to celebrate its 25th birthday on the 5th of May the way it normally does, so this week the brewery is having a small celebration by offering some serious barrel aged beauties on draft.  Yesterday I stopped in and they had Arctic Devil barleywine, Sloth imperial stout, Bar Fly smoked imperial stout, the 25th anniversary barrel aged quad, and the Grand Crew Brew all on draft.  The walls at the Loft were bare when I got back Sunday, so I hung some paintings Monday.  I will hang the remaining 33 paintings tonight, and I will see if those barrel aged beers are still on draft.

Tomorrow is one of my favorite nights of the summer when I get to host the First Firkin Friday for June.  If the barrel aged delights are no longer on the menu, never fear, because there will be a special cask of Sloth aged on blackberries!  I will be bringing my craft fair table and will be selling art cards and stickers while sipping the tasty brews around my face mask.  It has been since 2013 that I have been enjoying MSBC’s hospitality in June, and I can’t think of a better way to spend the beginning of summer than sharing a small glass of Sloth with you!   So don’t go hiking at 5PM tomorrow, because you won’t get back in time, the brewery still closes at 8pm.  This isn’t a problem in the winter, but during summer, sometimes you have to set an alarm to make sure it doesn’t get too late for fresh beer at the tasting rooms!  I look forward to seeing all your sparkling eyes, if I miss being able to see your big smiles under your masks tomorrow!  Cheers to summer!

A Tractor in Exchange for a Painting

Tractor

Today I would like to talk about the most recent acquisition to my 10-acre property in McCarthy, Alaska — a vintage tractor!  This 1967 International Harvester Low Boy Cub was a trade I made with my long time friend and virtual little brother, John Hickerson.  I will be making a large oil painting for John when he moves to Oklahoma.   John will be buying a farmhouse and will need a centerpiece painting for his new home.  I feel this is a great trade for this sweet piece of equipment.  John has been restoring this tractor for three years, and it runs really well.  We still have some plans to finalize the restoration.  We have some parts on order to rebuild the clutch, and we will be installing a new head gasket, and replacing the piston rings.  It has already undergone a 12-volt conversion, and uses an alternator and battery from a Ford Focus.  Earlier this week we used the tractor to spread gravel and grade our driveway.  It was a real work horse — some of the lumps we destroyed would take weeks to level by hand.

I am really happy with the IH tractor, because it means I won’t have to break my back when I pop stumps out of the ground.  It is rear-wheel drive, but has a mean set of rear tires with tire chains.  It is really fun to drive, as the throttle is a hand lever, and there are two brakes — one for each rear wheel.  These tractors are really popular, and getting parts is pretty easy and affordable.  I have plans to build a barn to house my McCarthy motorized vehicles.  I’ve acquired quite a fleet with my four-wheeler, snow-machine, tractor, and a 4×8 utility trailer.  I’m looking forward to getting this tractor running like it was brand new, then pulling the trailer with a bale of straw, and we will have hay rides around McCarthy and up to my place!  Maybe I’ll even join the 4th of July parade in McCarthy this year!

Why You Need an Artist on Your Team

Pint of Man by Scott Clendaniel parody of the Son of Man by René MagritteOne time I heard someone say that successful people have a team of professionals.  I’m not talking about a CEO with a full staff of suits, but am referring to individuals who work with a group of specialists who are ready to help.  Over the years we’ve found some good people to help us out when we needed their professional expertise.  Our team consists of the following people.

Medical: general practitioner who can refer us to specialists, and a dentist.

Financial: insurance agent, and a CPA who helps us with taxes, and answers our tax-related questions throughout the year.

Legal: helps having a brother who’s a lawyer.

Household: plumber, handyman, auto mechanic.

If you’re not an artist yourself, you should also have an artist on your team.  There are many instances when you’ll be glad you already know one.  If you start a business and need a new logo, if you need art for your home, or for a gift, and especially if you took a really great photo of your dog in front of a glacier, and you want an artist to paint it 🙂  Many of you who are reading this blog post already know me, and I’m honored to be on your team.  And if you’re looking for an artist as you read this, then consider me for the job.  My reviews speak for themselves.