Every holiday season I get many requests for commissions, and this year was no exception. By now I know what to expect, and how to get ready for the holiday rush. As always, each painting had a special story behind it, and I loved being in on the surprises. My favorite painting this year was the view of looking up at aspen trees in the Fall (Maria wanted to keep it). The best response was from a customer in Texas about the Shiner Bock painting, “OMG THIS PAINTING IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!! You’ve officially made me cry! Today has been an absolutely horrible day and you’ve made it so much better. Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it!” Messages like this make me happy about being an artist.
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. I prime my paint supports red and gold before applying the oil paint, so you can see the gold paint shining through gaps in the oil paint. This is my signature technique, and one way you can always recognize a Clendaniel original.
If you’d like to commission one, just let me know, or you can read Maria’s blog post about how to commission a painting.
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.
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.
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.
Kenai River Brewing has bottled another beer, and it’s a great session-able brew. I’m glad it’s not another IPA. Don’t get me wrong, I love big, bold beers and session IPAs, but it’s nice to get a good beer that is highly drinkable that is a little bit different. With 45% wheat malt, the Honeymoon Hefe Ale is a true marriage between flavor and refreshment. This fine fermented beverage would be great out on the river and even late at night around the campfire. Not only is it delicious, the yellow can perfectly compliments the cool blue of the Kenai River, won’t get lost easily, and the cans are easy to pack out.
I included a pair of Rufous Hummingbirds in the painting to emphasize the honeymoon part of the name of this beer. This mated pair is completely in love with each other, and this beer. As long as we’re talking about honey and birds, I also had to include Fireweed, one of Alaska’s truly amazing flowers, and of course Alaska’s official State flower, the Forget-Me-Not. So grab a sixer of this tasty beer, and head out to the Kenai to really have a good time recreating! This beer is a perfect accompaniment to the Alaska outdoors.
Cheers to drinking the best beers in the Last Frontier!
The original oil painting sold. Limited-edition prints are for sale at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
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.
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).
Here is my work station in front of the cabin.
After painting, I warmed up inside the cabin, and then we went for a walk to explore the area a bit.
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.
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.
~ by Maria Benner
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.
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!