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.
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?
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!
Our studio is inside the 4th Avenue Market Place, which is right on 4th Avenue, about a block from the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. So, since 2016 we’ve been transforming the studio from work mode to pop-up gallery mode, and opening it to the public when everyone is on 4th Avenue to watch the race. Each year I paint a new dog-mushing oil painting, and it usually sells on the day of the race. A lot of people who come through the studio that day are tourists who came to Alaska just to see the Iditarod. This year I painted this piece of Martin Buser, and then featured it in an e-news to my subscribers, and it sold before the open studio event!
So Maria took a photo of the painting, and printed prints of it to sell during the Iditarod start at our studio. But she also displayed the original, with a “Sold” sticker on it, and she had the brilliant idea to write on the sticker that I accept commissions, and could paint a custom Iditarod painting similar to this one with “your favorite musher.” Well, several people took her up on that offer, and suddenly, I found myself painting dog teams for the next three weeks! We were supposed to go to Washington, Hawaii, and Australia, but those trips were cancelled due to COVID-19 hysteria, so I ended up having plenty of time to work on these paintings. I just finished them last week. Who’s your favorite musher?
We’ve had our studio inside the 4th Avenue Market Place for almost five years now, and each year during the Fur Rondy winter festival, and the Iditarod race start we’ve been turning the studio into a pop-up gallery, and opening our doors to the public. The studio has large windows facing north, with a great view of the carnival. Yesterday the carnival rides showed up in the parking lot across the street, which means the festivities are right around the corner!
The timing of the winter festival is perfect. By late February, most Alaskans are fed up with winter, and start experiencing cabin fever. The best cure is to head downtown to watch sled dog races, outhouse races, check out snow sculptures, ride a couple carnival rides, and maybe even participate in the blanket toss. There are so many activities starting Feb. 28. Here’s a link to the entire schedule.
The Real Art Is Better studio will be open both weekends. Stop by to warm up, enjoy freshly-baked cookies, and check out the view. We’re inside the 4th Avenue Market Place in Suite 4, which is in the NW corner if you walk in from 4th Avenue. 333 W 4th Avenue.
Open Studio Hours:
Saturday, February 29, 11am – 5pm
Sunday, March 1, 11am – 3pm
Saturday, March 7, 10am – 6pm
If you have stopped by our studio in the last three months you saw the enormous oil painting filling my work space, or stashed in the hall in order to make room for people during open studio events. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation built a new clinic in Bethel, and released a call for art in early 2019. We applied for several wall spaces, and were awarded a contract to create a 12ft x 6ft oil painting on canvas for a large area high on the wall above a stairway. This is the largest canvas I have ever painted! Last week I delivered, assembled and helped install this piece at its location in Bethel.
So, how do you take such a large painting on a jet-plane? I designed the canvas from the start so that transporting it on an Alaska Airlines flight would be possible. However, we all know that while some things seem easy conceptually, they can gain complexity as they progress. The stretcher support was made up of 45 individual ash and birchwood pieces, and no piece was longer than 6ft, because I wanted them all to fit into a ski bag. The canvas was rolled up and the stretcher support dis-assembled for its journey. I waited until the day before departure to break it down, and pack it up.
I awoke at 3:30 AM to catch a 6AM flight to Bethel. I brought two checked ski bags, and a carry-on backpack. No extra luggage fees for me with Club 49 thanks to Alaska Airlines! I could have brought another checked bag, since it was an in-state flight! Alaska Air and TSA were gentle enough with my precious cargo, and everything arrived in good shape and on-time. I was picked up by the YKHC maintenance foreman, Pat, at the airport. He and his team have been installing all the newly-acquired art pieces at the clinic. I got to see some of the art while I was there, and I must say that the committee chose some incredible art! We drove to the maintenance building and picked up two more staffers to help lift the painting onto the wall. Re-assembly took me a couple of hours and I had a conference room to myself. The extra help was great, and I don’t think I could have stretched it back to its original tightness without the extra muscle.
The maintenance crew was clutch, as I had planned to hang this colossal piece the same way I hang smaller pieces — on a heavy-duty wire. There is only an inch of clearance on either side of this piece so getting it straight on the wall was the real problem. Pat suggested I use a French cleat, and I agreed that would be better, if only I had thought to bring one. Pat was a superhero and produced the hardware from his storeroom! This made hanging the piece much easier. Four guys and two ladders later the 90lb painting slid into place. This took us right up to lunchtime, and I was a little disappointed I had taken the early flight, as now I had 8 hours to kill until I could catch the return flight to Anchorage. Pat had to check on his dog, and I had packed a lunch, so I chilled out at the hospital for an hour and breathed a sigh of relief.
After lunch Pat took me on an amazing driving tour of Bethel and the Kuskokwim River. I got to go to the grocery store to replenish my snacks for the return trip to Anchorage. Pretty expensive to buy food and gas in Bethel. $4.49 a gallon for gasoline, and $8.49 a gallon for milk! The area is beautiful tundra with mountains glistening in the distance. I got so see a pretty nice chunk of the town, which is much larger than I had expected — about 10,000 residents. The area around Bethel is very interesting, but the people are where the real beauty exists, everyone is so friendly and helpful. Bethel is a hub, but it felt like a really welcoming village.
I was dropped off at the airport with my drop cloths in my ski-bag, and I was feeling really fatigued by this time. I hunkered down at the airport and worked on my beer coloring book pages for a couple of hours before catching my flight home at 10PM. I met a fellow who was so happy to pick up his crate from Alaska Airlines. He said he had snow-machined for two hours from his camp to pick it up! This was right at twilight, so it was going to be a dark return trip for him. Adventurous people live in the Delta and I was happy to get a glimpse of this culture. Thank you YKHC for this superb opportunity! Maybe next time I can come in the summer and do a little fishing.
Here is a slideshow of some pictures I took during this whole process. Below you’ll also find three timelapse videos of my painting, and the last one is of us taking apart the painting and rolling up the canvas.
Each year several thoughtful gift-givers commission me to paint custom oil paintings for holiday gifts, and so far I’ve always finished them all on schedule to be delivered several days before December 25th. This year most of the paintings were dog portraits, and sadly two of those were of loved pups that had recently gone to doggy heaven. No one ordered a cat painting. Hmmmm. One person really liked one of my existing float plane paintings, but wanted a smaller version, so I painted one for him. I’m always impressed with the concepts that my patrons develop for these pieces, and my favorite part is finding out the stories behind each one. I hope all the recipients liked their gifts. I did receive a couple photos of smiling people holding their custom Clendaniel originals.
Click on each one to see it in more detail. All paintings are framed in a natural wood frame, with hanging hardware installed. The turnaround time is 2-3 weeks. You can order a custom oil painting at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter, or by contacting me at info [at] realartisbetter [dot] com.
Since I don’t have gallery representation, I don’t get to show people my art in person as much as I would like. Throughout the year, people can see my art by making an appointment to visit my studio, or attending an open-studio event and art shows at local venues. Sure, I post photos of my paintings online all the time, but that doesn’t do justice to the colors and texture. Seeing art in “real life” is a completely different experience. That’s why I’m so glad to be participating in, and hosting several events this month where you can see my work. I’m looking forward to seeing you at any, or all of these (if you’re on Facebook, you can see the Facebook events by clicking on the images).
1. Winter Market at Anchorage Brewing Co. November 30th and December 21st, 2-8pm. Great beer, and pizza baked in a wood-fired oven!
2. The Holiday Studio Sale at the Real Art Is Better studio! We clean up our studio, and turn it into a pop-up gallery for First Fridays a few times a year, but this one is not to be missed, because it’s more like our holiday party. December 6th, 5-8pm. 333 W 4th Ave, Suite 4.
3. I will be the featured artist at Turnagain Brewing Company in December, so you can see my art there all month long. I’ll have a meet and greet event there on Saturday, December 7th, 5-7pm. My art will be available for sale directly from the brewery.
4. I will be joining many talented local artists and crafters at the annual Makers Market at the Atwood Center. December 14 & 15, 11am – 4pm. That will be a great place to do all your holiday shopping!
The holidays are always a busy time of year, but I’m grateful for each and every one of you who has supported my art career!
There were many days this summer when Maria would go hiking, or biking with friends, and I would spend the day at the studio, weekends included, working on the big 1% for Art project for Gladys Wood Elementary. We installed the paintings this week, and yesterday I touched up all the spots where screws were visible, and mounted the plaques, so the project is officially done! The whole process took over a year, but a lot of that time was spent waiting for paperwork to get processed, designs to be approved, contractors to be available after the earthquake, etc. The actual work took about 7 months, but I did spend a few weeks at the cabin in McCarthy, and went on a ski trip in March. I also managed to have an art show at Midnight Sun Brewing, and complete all the commissioned paintings that were ordered during that time. Now that the big project is over, I need to regroup and set a course for the next few months. The first thing I did was clean my studio, now that the panels weren’t completely overtaking it. That really set my mind at ease. So, what’s next?
Well, first we’re flying to Arizona, and meeting a couple of Maria’s relatives from Germany, and going to Las Vegas with them, and then Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion National Parks! When I get back, I’ll start working on my next public art project (Maria is really good at keeping me busy), which is a 12ft x 6ft oil painting on canvas for the new clinic in Bethel. I will also continue working on my beer-themed coloring book. So far I’ve completed 26 pages, and my goal is 50.
I will also start getting ready for my next art shows at Enlighten Alaska in November, and Midnight Sun Brewing in January, and the Makers Market in December. We can start having First Fridays at our studio again, and the next one will be in December, which will be the Real Art Is Better holiday party. Other than that, I’m available for commissions, graphic design, and sticker orders. Life is pretty much back to normal, maybe I’ll even go mountain biking tomorrow with Maria!