Tag Archives: Alaskan artist

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.

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! 

Back to Canvas

Recently I started painting on canvas again.  Last year I had to build a giant painting (12ft x 6ft) for a clinic in Bethel, and decided it would be best to paint it on canvas, roll it up, then fly there to rebuild and re-stretch it.  I was pleased with the results.  The end product was quite different from the hardwood plywood panels, but I found it to be easier to put certain details into the painting.  The finishing work required to put a painting on the wall — framing or painting the sides, has always been a hurdle for me, and I remember one of my college professors praising my paintings, but criticizing my shoddy frames.  I often see paintings framed poorly, and I have striven since those early college failures to produce professional looking pieces.  I still have some of those old canvases rolled up, but fortunately I did away with the garish frames.  In my defense, I was framing them on the catwalk balcony at my dorm room, because the sculpture professor wouldn’t let me make frames in the state-of-the-art sculpture lab.

A finished canvas without a frame needs to have a full wrap so the edges may be painted.  I didn’t make canvases that way until I was taught how to do so in class.  Frames need to have a lip that covers the front edge of the painting so you don’t have a distracting gap.  Previously, I used to laminate a piece of hardwood to the edges of a painting and sand the edge back to make a finished looking box, which is impossible with canvas.  That also takes a ton of work, since I am without a wood-shop, just like in the old dorm-room days.  Operating a table saw and a chop saw outside in the snow and 10 degrees is not my idea of fun.  Nobody ever told me being an artist was going to be easy.  In fact, I was told a successful artist works harder than most people.  I don’t know how hard I actually work, but I do seem to always be out of time.  I don’t really like power sanding, so I ordered a case of professional grade canvases.  I’ll give them a try and maybe I can just paint the edges and skip that snowy outdoor time with the annoying power-tools.

Painting on a canvas is completely different than the techniques I have been using on the hardwood panels.  My gold and red underpainting doesn’t work the same, so I have gone back to a traditional painting technique I haven’t used in a decade.  I was always about getting the colors to scream on the surface, but I am now more interested in getting a more accurate depiction.  I am now making an underpainting that represents the grayscale values, and not the primary colors I always used previously, which makes me like using canvas way more.  Canvas paintings reproduce better as canvas prints, since it is the same material used to begin with.  The gold and red painting surface that I have been using, looks great as an original, but always misses a bit as a reproduction.  I am switching over for completely practical reasons.  It seems very few people purchase original paintings.  I sell 20, or more prints and then maybe one original.  Even though my originals are pretty affordable, and I price my prints a bit higher than average.

Painting on canvas takes more time as I am forced to work with layering techniques.  The alla-prima technique looks lackluster without the red and gold underpainting.  It is necessary to build up layers to completely cover the canvas and fill in the little white spots that form around painted objects.  This takes more time and requires mixing mediums.  I will probably have to charge more for originals, since it takes way longer to make canvas paintings.  I originally started painting on the red and gold panels because it worked so well in a Plein Air (outdoors painting) environment.  I could start and finish a painting before it started to rain, or the sun moved too far, changing the shadows.  I was also making smaller pieces.  Are the red and gold panels to be retired forever?  Of course not!  I will still make some pieces using my signature technique, but I also have bought two large canvases and want to see where these traditional materials lead me.

The underpainting with grayscale values.

Close to being finished, just needs a few more details.

The large 5ft x 4ft canvas that I’ll be painting soon. Just need to figure out what to paint. I have two of these.