Category Archives: The Business of Being an Artist

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 Epson.com, 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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

Artist Residency at Manitoba Cabin

Last week I was lucky enough to get to spend three nights at Manitoba Cabin as the artist in residence.  The cabin is nestled near the base of Manitoba Mountain, only 3/4 of a mile down a trail from mile 48 of the Seward Hwy.  So how did this opportunity come about?  Well, it all started when a patron commissioned a portrait of his two dogs, and wanted the Toba Yurt, named after one of his pups, in the background of the painting.  That’s one of the two yurts at Manitoba Cabin.  This patron is on the Board of Alaska Huts, the managing entity of Manitoba Cabin.  He’s very passionate about the place, and suggested that I spend some time there as an artist in residence.  We had never been there, and jumped at the chance.  Here’s the painting of the two pups in front of Toba Yurt.  Toba is on the right.

Alaska Huskies in front of Toba yurt at Manitoba Cabin. Oil Painting by Scott Clendaniel.As we skied to the cabin with our gear, about a dozen people were skiing out.  The campus has two yurts, and the Hut Keeper’s Quarters, which is a cozy room attached to the main cabin.  All visitors share the cabin, the outhouses, and the sauna.  After we settled in, the people who booked the two yurts arrived.  We lost count of how many there were, but we think it was about 11.  They were all ski instructors from Alyeska’s ski school, and were there to celebrate February birthdays.  Of course we joined the party.  There was an outdoor fire, several cases of cheap beer, and a chocolate birthday cake!  Around 2 AM I headed to bed.

The next morning we went for a ski.  Unfortunately, we don’t have alpine touring gear, so we just brought our cross-country skis, and went up as far as we could.  After skiing I got to work painting.  The last time I painted outside was in Vermont at Hill Farmstead Brewing, and my fingers were a lot colder there.  The problem with working outside in the winter is that oil paint starts to freeze, and becomes more difficult to apply to the painting surface.  Here’s the piece I painted en plein air (outside on location).

 

Manitoba Cabin. Painted en plein air by Scott Clendaniel. Oil on panel. 8"x10".

Manitoba Cabin. Painted en plein air. Oil on panel. 8″x10″.

Here is my work station in front of the cabin.

Alaska artist Scott Clendaniel working en plein air.

Painting at Manitoba Cabin. Brrrr.

PBR art. Work station of Alaskan artist Scott Clendaniel.

PBR courtesy of the ski school instructors.

Alaskan artist Scott Clendaniel working at Manitoba Cabin

Nice sunny day after a bit of fresh snow.

After painting, I warmed up inside the cabin, and then we went for a walk to explore the area a bit.

Bridge over Canyon Creek near Manitoba Cabin.

Bridge over Canyon Creek near Manitoba Cabin.

The second night we had the whole place to ourselves, which made for a quiet and cozy Valentine’s Day.  We woke up to more fresh snow and headed out for a ski.  The second day I decided to paint inside to stay warm.  I like painting scenes from windows, so I chose a particularly picturesque window in the cabin, and painted the view.

View from Manitoba Cabin window by Scott Clendaniel. Oil on panel. 8"x10".

View from Manitoba Cabin window. Oil on panel. 8″x10″.

While I painted, Maria read to me from a book called Gold Rush Wife, a story about a woman named Nellie who came to Alaska with her husband to mine for gold in the Canyon Creek area.  We were reading a story that unfolded right near Manitoba Cabin!  In fact, the cabin was originally built in 1936 as a mining cabin.  Then we read information about the area from a binder that’s at the cabin, and saw that there’s an old miner’s cabin still standing somewhere near by.  So in the afternoon we set out on our skis to find it.  We didn’t have to look long, it was right across the bridge.  The cabin was built in the late 1890s and now is property of the United States.  We had no idea about the rich gold mining history in the area, but now we know a lot from the reading material at the cabin.

The third night we had the whole place to ourselves again!  We spent evenings playing games, reading, and enjoying the wood-fired Finnish sauna.  The whole experience was very interesting, starting with the big party, and continuing as a calm, relaxing time in the mountains.  We’ll definitely be back, and will bring our friends, and alpine touring gear.  I’m giving the two paintings to Alaska Huts, and I believe they will be auctioned off at a fundraiser.

Turnagain Pass Mountains.

Turnagain Pass Mountains.

 

How a Clendaniel Art Print is Made

~ by Maria Benner

The work beast, a.k.a. our printer.

The work beast, a.k.a. our printer.

When Scott finished the 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall series, we went to a local print shop, and ordered 5-10 prints of 20+ paintings.  We ended up paying nearly $600 upfront, and stored the prints until they sold.  The hefty upfront investment deterred us from ordering more prints, until we had a game-changing idea in 2012 to buy our own printer, and make the prints ourselves on demand.  Epson had relatively affordable printers available, and one we chose, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, was on sale.  The printer arrived via FedEx, and when we turned it on, it refused to work, because it insisted that the ink cartridges that it came with could not be recognized.  So we mailed that one back, and Epson sent us a replacement, which worked.  Our printer requires nine different cartridges, each one costing $31.99, plus shipping (they are not available in Anchorage).  I usually wait for a coupon code from Epson to arrive in my e-mail box before placing an order, but today I noticed that I was running dangerously low on one color, and ended up paying full price.  Doh!

The first step in making a print is taking a quality photo.  I take several pictures next to the large windows in our studio in the best possible light.  Then I choose the best photo and use Photoshop to adjust levels, brightness, contrast, saturation, etc., trying to match the image to the original painting as much as possible.  Next I connect my laptop to our work beast, the printer, load it with high quality Epson photo paper, and print the image from Photoshop.    Most of the time, the printer is a champ.  Sometimes it bleeds ink, or prints lines on the image, meaning the heads need a cleaning.  So we throw away the rejects and try again.  Then we consult our list of paintings that have been released as limited-edition prints, and find which number comes next, and we write the number at the bottom of the image, like 54/365.  Scott signs each print, and then we package them in plastic sleeves with heavy duty backer board, and a certificate of authenticity.  Then it’s ready to be mailed, or sold in our studio, or at a venue that sells Scott’s art, like Dos Manos, or Midnight Sun Brewing (in January and June).

Our prints come in three standard sizes that fit in store-bought frames.  Some people choose to have them professionally framed, but you can also buy a more affordable frame at many stores.  Unfortunately, the size of our prints is limited by the size of the printer, but maybe someday we can upgrade.  Our printer’s max paper size is 13 inches wide.

The name of our business is Real Art Is Better, because we believe that original art is better than reproductions, but we understand that not everyone can afford the originals.  The other major upside to making prints is that once an original painting sells, we can still keep selling the image, allowing more people to have it, and enjoy it.  Last year prints accounted for about a quarter of our sales.

Goals for 2017

At the start of each new year, we always stop to think about what we’d like to accomplish in order to grow our art business.  Having goals keeps us stay focused.  Here is the list for 2017.

Complete our first public art project.  After applying for dozens of public art projects, we finally were selected for one!  I’ll be working with a metal fabricator in Fairbanks to build three bicycle racks that will be installed in front of Ryan Middle School in Fairbanks.  I expect to learn a lot from this process.

Grow sales of prints and originals.  As always, Maria and I will continue working to get the word out about my art.  Progress will be measured in revenue, website traffic, and social media interactions.

Complete first artist in residence.  I will be the artist in residence at Manitoba Cabin in February.  We’ll stay there for three nights, and I will paint two pieces on site.  I’m looking forward to this opportunity to be inspired to create paintings in a beautiful setting with few distractions.

Have two solo art shows.  Right now I am scheduled to have two art shows in 2017.  One at my favorite venue, Midnight Sun Brewing, in June, and the other at a new venue to me, Crush Wine Bistro and Cellar in October.

Continue to complete all commissions on time.  I’ve had a perfect record of completing commissions on time and to the patrons’ satisfaction, and my goal is to continue offering that service to the best of my ability.

Keep applying to grants/public art projects.  The chances of getting grants, or public art projects are pretty slim, especially for an emerging artist, but if you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you definitely won’t win, so we’ll keep applying.

Use the studio space to grow revenue.  We use the studio mainly as our work space, but occasionally we open it to the public to make the space pay for itself.  We’ll continue to open the studio on First Fridays, and will also continue teaching art lessons.  We’ve even considered hosting a singles’ paint night.

Each year we’re grateful to be able to work for ourselves, and to make a living selling my art.  We’re grateful to everyone who makes this possible.  Here’s to a successful, fun, and inspiring 2017!

Commissioned Paintings for Holiday Gifts

Every holiday season I get a lot of requests for commissions, so this year we decided to cap the number of paintings to only 10.  Somehow that list filled up quickly, and as I finished them one by one, more orders came in.  In total I ended up painting 25 commissioned paintings.  Each one was approved and accepted by the patron (sometimes after minor changes), and arrived in time for the holidays.  We mailed paintings to many places around the country like Texas, Virginia, Oregon, and a couple were even mailed to Belgium.  They were commissioned as gifts for spouses, co-workers, significant others, parents, and close friends.  Each painting had a special story behind it, and I loved being in on the surprise.  My favorite painting was the portrait my brother commissioned of his wife.  I suggested a parody of the Mona Lisa with personal touches that symbolized important parts of my sister-in-law’s life.  Her reaction was priceless, and we got it on video (see below).  We take a picture of every painting that leaves the studio, so here is a slideshow of the paintings I made this holiday season (click on the pictures to view a slideshow).  They are all oil paint on wood panel, framed in a natural ash wood frame.  If you’d like to commission one, just let me know.