Category Archives: The Business of Being an Artist

2021 Year Review and Looking Ahead to 2022

I think at the beginning of the year it’s important and helpful to sit down and reflect about what you accomplished during the previous year, and to set goals for the new year. At least for someone who is a self-employed artist, this is extremely grounding and inspiring.

So, let’s see what we accomplished in 2021 with our art business.

The year began with yet another art show during a pandemic. The occupancy limit at the venue — Midnight Sun Brewing Co., was 25%. As you can imagine, that art show could have gone better, but we still managed to do okay on sales considering the limitations.

Many people decided to spruce up their work and living spaces during the lockdown, so I was busy painting commissioned pieces in 2021. I also completed three large canvas pieces for the new library and community center in Willow.

Painting took a bit longer after I broke my hand while skiing at Alyeska Resort. Luckily, it was my left hand. Everything healed well, but I didn’t meet my deductible, so I had to pay around $2,600 for medical bills. Big thumbs down!

We traveled to Cordova, and spent a lot of time at our cabin in McCarthy. The most notable things that happened in McCarthy were having my cousin Cameron come up from California for the summer to be the caretaker at the museum, hiring my favorite musician, Michael Kirkpatrick to play a house concert at our cabin, and building a 15ft sculpture for Burning Dude!

The most significant accomplishment this year was finally buying a house, which involved moving our studio out of the 4th Avenue Market Place, into the house.

We also created a wholesale program.

We had two art shows at Turnagain Brewing, two art shows at Midnight Sun Brewing, and one art show at Middle Way Cafe, which is still happening now, and will end on Feb. 5th.

Goals for 2022

2022 started off with my art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. that I have every January and June, but I found out yesterday that the venue chose to close for the rest of the week, due to C-19 precautions. So, that’s how that art show is going.

I don’t have any public art projects lined up for the first time in five years.

The first goal is to maintain a healthy environment mentally and physically by taking enough time for myself so I don’t feel overworked, continuing to workout, and prioritizing dedicated work time in the studio.

The second goal is to expand our product line by coming up with new product ideas to sell wholesale and at our Etsy shop.

The third goal is to build a Quonset hut in McCarthy for storage of our tractor, snow machine and many other things that need to be stored in a dry, covered place. My mechanic gave me his dad’s old Quonset hut, which had been laying behind his log cabin on Big Lake for about 50 years. We dug out all the parts, discarded the damaged and corroded ones, and brought the rest to our property in McCarthy. Now we just need to assemble everything.

Goal #4 is to continue brewing delicious beers and making new beer paintings.

Goal #5 is to reach out to new venues to schedule art shows.

Goal #6 is to paint new paintings. I have a list of ideas for paintings, but I rarely have time to paint them, because I’ve spent most of my time painting commissions, and working on public art projects.

We’ll revisit this list at the end of the year, and see how things went. Overall, we’re really grateful for being able to work for ourselves, and for our new home. I hope you all have a great 2022, no matter what the world will throw in your path!

Commissioned Paintings for the Holidays 2021

Each year people commission paintings from me for holiday gifts, and I’ve always completed them on time. As I’ve said before, my favorite part about commissions is the stories behind each painting. I also love being involved in the surprise, and try very hard not to ruin it. So, now that everyone has received the paintings, I can finally show them to you. This year I completed nine oil paintings during the holiday season in time for Christmas, or anniversaries. Each one is super unique, and meaningful to my patrons, and the recipients. Thank you to all who commissioned paintings this year, and in the past!

Memorable moments from a trip to Greece, 18″ x 36″, oil on panel
14″ x 11″, oil on panel
10″ x 8″, oil on panel
10″ x 8″, oil on panel
Fatbiking in Newfoundland, Canada, 10″ x 8″, oil on panel
20″ x 30″, oil on canvas

Sketches for Paintings, so Everyone Is on the Same Page

I’m one of few artists who accepts commissions, and completes them in an agreed-upon timeline. Some of my fellow artists have many valid reasons for not doing commissions, and one of them is fear that the client won’t like the painting. One of the ways I avoid this from happening is by making sure the patron is familiar with my style. I’m not a photographic painter, so if you want an exact likeness of your great-grandfather in oil paint, I’ll refer you to someone else. If you want a colorful, textural painting that captures the vibe of the scene, then I’m glad to work with you. An important step in the commissioning process that I never skip is providing sketches to my clients for approval. I will not start painting until a sketch is approved. Sometimes the first sketch is a go, and other times I go back to the drawing board and make changes until the client gives me the go-ahead. This way everyone is on the same page. Here are three examples of sketches, and the final product. As you can see, a sketch is used to show the patron where each object will be placed, and the proportions.

I’m working on two sketches today for commissioned paintings, so I’m going to get back to that now. Until next time!

Cabin Life

What is a typical day like at our cabin in McCarthy these days?  The last three days I have been installing hardwood flooring.  A project like that pretty much takes all day, and when you finally get to a good stopping point, you simply quit for the day, and maybe you can do a few other chores like cooking and cleaning.  I finished the floor yesterday just in time, only a few hours before the rain started.  Last night it rained heavily, and I was so happy that my load of flooring was all in its rightful place, instead of stored on the trailer under a tarp. 

On days I am not working on a big project, I enjoy coffee time while reading e-mails and doing my daily Duolingo lessons.  Then I do about 40 minutes of yoga, followed by a five mile run around the neighborhood.  Then I have breakfast, and finally get around to doing some work for the art business.  Today I had to work on a graphics project, send off a bio to a publisher for a book I illustrated, and write this blog post.  I will probably go to Art Lab (my studio) for a bit and mix up some oil paint, and get started on a 11”x14” commissioned painting for a client.  At 4pm I will Zoom in for my hour-long Russian language lesson.  Then I’ll probably have a beer on the deck, grill some salmon for dinner, and then pick lingonberries.  After dinner we may play pingpong, or I might go visit my neighbor whose parents are arriving tonight.  Maybe Maria and I will play a game of Yahtzee, or sit around the campfire and listen to some tunes. 

Cabin life is good!  I burn wood in the wood stove, and wash my clothes with rainwater.  The fresh glacier air is crisp this time of year.  I love taking life a little more simply than I do when I’m in the city.  I guess that is what cabins are good for.      

“The First Thing You’re Going to Paint is the Walls!”

As you may have read in the previous post, we bought a house, and combined our living and working space, so we moved out of the studio on 4th Ave. As you can imagine, I haven’t been able to get much work done, because I’ve been spending all my time moving, shopping for furniture, and spending three relaxing days in Cordova to celebrate Maria’s birthday. One of our friends came over to check out the new house, and when she saw my studio downstairs, she said, “The first thing you’re going to paint is the walls!” The previous owner had quite a festive taste, and painted the large room downstairs in three different shades of orange. So, yesterday I began the long process of covering up the orange paint. I worked on one painting right when I moved in, because it had to be done by a deadline, and the light in that room was really screwed up because of the bright orange. I felt like the greens in the painting turned out weird, because the room was playing tricks on my eyes. So, before I do any more painting, I’m covering the walls with pure white primer. I’m on the second coat, and I think it will take three coats!!! So, if you need me, you know where I’ll be for the next few days — painting the walls in my new studio.

If you think this is bad, check out the next photo.
It looks brighter IRL!

By the way, our condo is on the market. Click here to check out the listing.

We Bought a House and Moved out of the 4th Avenue Market Place Studio!

Moving everything from the studio to the new house, including large paintings. Good thing it wasn’t raining!

When we moved into my studio space at the 4th Avenue Marketplace, we were ecstatic to be downtown, and to have extra work space!  I loved the view, and I loved working there.  Having people come by for open studio events during First Fridays, Fur Rondy, and the Iditarod was always a great experience, and we usually made enough money during those events to cover our lease payments. Making the move to 4th Ave really cemented that I am a professional artist.  However, I missed working at home. Packing a lunch was a drag, the bicycle commute across downtown was annoying (especially in winter), and the local street people seemed to always be present to greet me at the door to the building (when they were awake).  I always seemed to have left this tool here, or that tool there, right when I needed it, and I was making another traffic-heavy bike trip back to one of the two locations.    

I am happy to say that last weekend we moved out of the studio, and I am setting up my new studio on the first floor of our new house! It is a huge mess right now! I need permanent storage for tools, supplies, and paintings. I hope to be back to work by Monday, taking a week to move the condo and studio to our new house, and to get the condo ready for sale!  The house is “not perfect,” as my father told me, but to us it is so amazing!  It is quiet at night, there is more space for living and for the studio, and best of all, it has an oversized two car garage!  No more carrying the table saw down stairs to work in blizzards for me!  I can park my truck inside when it is cold out! Not to mention, the obvious home-brewing improvement!  I brought my big smoker grill home from my parents’ house, and I’m going to smoke a brisket when I have everything set up. When brew day rolls around in the new garage, I’ll brew a big batch for a big housewarming celebration.  

Until then there is a lot of work… Anybody want a cute little apartment-style condo in West Fairview? It would make a great Airbnb rental!

Cheers to making life better!  May your day be brighter today than yesterday, and tomorrow be even better than that!    

Sad the downtown studio is closed?  You can still meet me for a beer at Midnight Sun Brewing. My art is there until the end of June!  I will be having more out-of-the studio shows, so keep following Real Art Is Better on this blog, or on social media and we will keep you informed where and when we will be having in-person events!

The Audio Books That Keep Me Sane While I’m Painting

Sometimes making oil paintings is quick, exciting, and requires a ton of attention to specific actions. Then there are times I am painting blades of grass, or needles on spruce trees for hours.  Planning and making compositional sketches for paintings, or researching reference material and historical documents requires my complete attention, and I actually prefer silence, like at a library. When I am applying hundreds of brush strokes to a large area on a painting, I need something to help make the job more interesting.  Sometimes I listen to music, which I think is a pretty common thing for an artist to do while painting.  I think people imagine artists sitting back, working late into the evening, listening to music and sipping on wine while we work.  I actually listen to Learn in Your Car Russian language lessons for an hour, and then normally switch to audiobooks that I check out from the Alaska Digital Library. Also, most of the time I drink water at work. 

If you have a library card from UAA, or the Anchorage Public Library, you just have to download the Overdrive app for your phone, or computer. I spend hours a day painting, and I tear through books series.  My genre of choice is science fiction and fantasy.  Sometimes I discover a book series that I love, and I listen to the books over and over, up to as many as five times before I am through.  Since I am painting while I listen to the books, I tend to miss important parts while concentrating on the painting more than the book.

I have compiled a list of books series I consider worth listening to more than once: 

JK Rowling – Harry Potter series

Lois McMaster Bujold – Vorkosigan series

Lois McMaster Bujold – World of the 5 Gods series

Lois McMaster Bujold – Penric and Desdemona series

Patricia C Wrede – The Enchanted Forest Chronicles

Jim C. Hines – Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series

Christopher Paolini – Inheritance Cycle

Marissa Meyer – The Lunar Chronicles

Becky Chambers – Wayfarer’s series

Alex White – The Salvager’s series

James S. A. Corey – The Expanse series

I started listening to Harry Potter, and although I have read the books many times, having them read to you is special. If you haven’t done that, you should really get on the waiting list and listen to them–it’s really great.

If you have kids, and you want to entertain them in the car on a long drive, Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles is amazing.  Although, this series is designed for children, it is really entertaining and super fun to listen to. I like the full cast audio production.

An author I really love is Lois McCaster Bujold. Nobody I know has read her books, but there are over 30 of these highly enjoyable tales. I absolutely love the 17.5 books that make up the Vorkosigan Space Opera.  I have been wanting to discuss the stories with someone, but nobody else has read, er…listened to them. Please spend the next six months reading these books, so you and I can have a conversation about them!!!

Most recently I have been reading James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series.  There is also a TV series that is based on the books on Amazon Prime.  I like both the books and the TV series. The TV series is like watching a really long movie that just keeps going from one cliffhanger to another.

Cheers to books on “tape”! They have been keeping me sane and at work for about seven years now!   

First Friday Art Show at Turnagain Brewing Co.

Tomorrow we’ll be hanging an art show at Turnagain Brewing Co. before the brewery opens. We’ll also get to hang out at the brewery and drink beer during the First Friday art opening from 5pm – 8pm. If you can stop by, I’ll be happy to see you! I can’t believe I get to drink beer and talk to friends for my job!  I have had dozens of art shows, but for some reason I still get a bit of an adrenaline rush every time I walk in.   

Turnagain Brewing is one of our favorite small craft breweries here in Anchorage.  Dr. Ted Rosenzweig has done an amazing job with some of his unique beers from the sour side of the brewery. I really love drinking the Framb Was, a raspberry sour.  I pretty much order a glass of it every time I visit.  Turnagain also does a really good job in the “clean” side of the brewery, or the “non wild yeast” side. The Blanca, a Belgian wit beer, is really well brewed, and I think it is the best example of the style in Alaska. It’s Maria’s go-to beer when we go to the brewery together.

Some of the paintings have been shown before, but never in this specific grouping.  I really like the way Ted built the hanging system on the walls, it makes putting a show together really straightforward and easy.  There will be 14 original oil paintings in total, as well as a selection of limited-edition prints, a few of which are about to become sold out!

I look forward to seeing you, if you can make it! The city has lifted all restrictions, so there is more capacity inside the brewery, but there is also an outdoor beer garden. Bring your masks, they are still mandatory indoors in Anchorage!  Cheers!

Click on the image to see the event on Facebook.

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