The Year of Beer Paintings project was a colossal endeavor! I decided to paint a beer painting every day to gain exposure as a beer artist, but I didn’t realize how much effort it would take, or how many people would start following the daily posts, or the friends and contacts I would make along the way.
At first I felt a bit overwhelmed, like when my wife and I started building our log cabin, or when we began the tandem bicycle tour from Vancouver, BC to the Mexican border. From these experiences we knew that we could accomplish a large project by taking small steps every day toward the goal. What I didn’t factor in was the lack of days off. I had to work overtime this year and harder than I have ever worked in my life. Surprisingly, if you post a painting everyday on several websites, people take notice, which increases the chances of getting requests for custom paintings. So, in addition to making a painting a day, I also had about three extra commissions to complete per week. I had to keep painting while building a log cabin in McCarthy, where we had extremely slow Internet, while on a trip to Hawaii (where we also had really slow Internet), and during a tour around New England. Oil paint takes about ten days to dry, so how do you get paintings home from Hawaii, McCarthy and Philly? I learned this one from my painting professor at UAA. After showing her a few paintings that were damaged during transit, she told me to put thumbtacks in the corners and one in the middle, and to wrap them all up together in a stack. It works 99% of the time. This tip alone was worth the college tuition! I carried home a package of 14-16 paintings from HI and PA on the airplane as my personal item. So if your painting has small holes in it, then I painted it during my travels.
Maria, my wife and Business Manager, had to step it up a notch this year, not only on the marketing and editing of the blog posts, but she also took 95% of the photography and did 75% of the graphics required for the series. My paintings are lustrous, painted on a gold ground, and there are reflective spots that need to be shot in low light on an overcast day, otherwise there will be glare. If it is raining, or really sunny, that can be a problem, and with time constraints and every-day photography necessary this can become very trying. Maria did as best as she could, and nailed every shot, or at least did the best with what was available. Then, when lighting permitted, she would reshoot, and upload again as soon as possible. Since I was swamped, often spending over eight hours in the studio every day, including weekends, Maria also ended up taking care of more chores. She deserves a gold medal as partner of the year!
One of the biggest goals for the project was to drink and paint at least one beer from every state in the USA. I guess I should explain how this goal started. Maria posted my blog to Reddit, and I was discovered by beer columnist Joe Sixpack (Don Russell) of Philadelphia in the first three weeks of the project. I got to meet Don in Philly, and had a couple beers with him. He’s a great guy, and has given me numerous shout outs on his blog, for which I am grateful. As a result of his column, I gained several commissions from the area, including a painting of Tröeg’s Mad Elf for a fellow named Rich Morgan. I spent many days communicating back and forth with Rich, getting the details for his painting just right, and he insisted on sending me a bottle of Mad Elf as reference material. That was my first beer mail, and we started trading beer back and forth, and I became a fan of Philly beer right away. We started texting about interesting beers we were drinking, or chasing, and soon became friends. At one point, I boldly said to Rich that I bet I could drink and paint a beer from every state during the year, and he thought that was a good idea, so I was on the hook, and now had to deliver! As you can imagine, not many breweries distribute to Alaska, so Rich sent me over 90 beers during the year, 30 of which are featured in the series, and he encouraged me to reach out to the beer community to acquire a beer from the remaining “hard-to-get” states. So I did, and the response was amazing. This is a good time to mention that the beer community is a tightly knit group of great individuals! I reached the goal on December 10th, cutting it pretty close! Many people sent me beer, or even hand delivered it to me here in Anchorage! I couldn’t have reached my 50 states goal without everyone’s help, and it really added depth to the project.
The best beer I drank during the Year of Beer is probably A Deal with the Devil Barleywine from Anchorage Brewing Company, although Gluttony Triple India Pale Ale by Midnight Sun Brewing is a really close second, as well as 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. But there are many others that were noteworthy, as well. A few great breweries along the way were White Birch Brewing in NH, and Brewery Ommegang laid out the red carpet for my arrival, providing me with a luxury basket of beer to take home, as well as great food and a personal table in the tasting room where I could paint. Our visit to Dogfish Head in DE was amazing! We went to the Ancient Ales beer dinner after painting in the pub. We made friends at our table (Marcia and Michael) and got a shout out from owner and founder Sam Calagione. I learned about breweries big and small across the country, like Back Forty Beer Company in Alabama, New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin, Wind River Brewing of Wyoming, and Grand Teton Brewing in Idaho! It has been an epic project for sure! The year in review makes me realize 2014 may be the best year of my life! I want to personally thank anyone who has helped contribute to this project and give words of encouragement to anyone who wants to do something big in their life! Thank you for making 2014 the best year!