Tag Archives: scott clendaniel

Burning Dude, McCarthy, AK, September 11, 2021, 9:11pm

Burning Dude 2021

I know that Burning Man is an established event that has been happening for decades,  but I have never been.  I basically don’t know anything about the event, except that it is a wickedly insane art festival where they burn a temple at the end, sometimes with a man at the top.  A week-long avant-garde art event with 70,000 people all showing up to party and experience being human together in the middle of a hot, dusty desert.  

Dave Hollis, my friend in McCarthy, is a retired computer programmer who I would consider to be the social guru for the Kennicott River Valley.  This guy knows what is happening, where it is happening, and also plans some amazing events of his own.  In McCarthy, around 2009 Dani Evans and B-Mac built a Burning Woman, and she asked Hollis to be a fire tender.  Four years ago in 2018, Hollis and Brady, and some other McCarthy locals, decided to make a small version of Burning Man, which they called Burning Dude.  It is a fragment of the Nevada festival, and can’t even be compared, but it is still a hoot, and a lot of fun.  I missed the Burning Woman, and I also missed the first Dude, who was 12 feet tall, and I heard was awesome.  In 2019 fire danger was high, so there was no Dude.  The second Burning Dude in 2020 was designed by Seth, a local fire dancer, and I helped erect the dude with 10 other people, while Brady quickly nailed supports to keep it upright.  It burned, but never fully caught on fire.  The sculpture was 34 feet tall.  The oversized head was dropped and ignited later, providing plenty of entertainment.  I told the team that I have sculpture training and would like to help build next year’s Dude.

Burning Dude 2020

This fall, both Seth and Brady were not available to build the Dude.  Hollis was bummed, but he asked me if I thought it could still happen without them.  I gathered a small team: my wife Maria, my cousin Cameron, and of course Hollis.  I designed the Dude on a sheet of paper, to be built from log mill slabs, which are fairly irregular, and have a lot of bark on them.  I took an afternoon the day before to gather twigs from the bottom of spruce trees from my ten-acre lot, and loaded them onto my trailer.  The next day, Maria and I drove down to McCarthy, picked up Cameron and we unloaded the brush on the bank of the Kennicott River.  Then we drove over to Hollis’ house where we picked up about 200 spruce slabs.  We chucked them down to the Kennicott river, and we started to build.  I had packed a ton of tools, including my cordless drill, driver, chainsaw, a million screws and nails, as well as wire.  First, I built a sturdy box, and then we built the feet and legs.  We attached the torso, and put on the arms.  Finally we built the head, and put a crown of sparklers on top of it.  Hollis and Maria juggled the head up to Cameron, who was standing on the box.  Cameron hoisted the head up to me, as I crouched inside the torso.  I quick-like attached the head and then had to remove my chainsaw helmet to extract myself from the torso.  Next, we stuffed the spruce branches all over the dude and filled the box, torso and head.  I bought a gallon of vegetable oil and we stapled oily paper towels all over the Dude.  We were building the Dude in a prominent location, right next to the foot bridge, where everyone saw us.  Hollis did a great job telling people to show up at 9pm for Burning Dude.

We had three hours to spare before the scheduled ignition, so we went to Mark and Livvi’s new house for ice cream and hot dogs.  At 9pm, a fairly large crowd had gathered around the Dude.  All four of us ignited him at 9:11pm on 9/11!  I knew the spruce boughs would work, and vegetable oil is essentially as combustable as diesel fuel.  It ignited in three stages: first the box platform, then the torso, and finally the head.  The head had this amazing glowing crown above it from the sparklers, and then it kept burning even after the branches all burned up.  The paper towels were amazing.  The head fell in after 11 minutes, but the Dude lasted about 44 more before Malcolm decided to kick the box over.  I was so pleased with how well everything worked.  I thank Maria, Cameron and especially Hollis for making this possible!  Not as spectacular as Burning Man festival in Nevada, but Burn Dude was a success in 2021!   

The Importance of Lighting for Viewing Art

Lighting can change the appearance of paintings more than you might expect.  Not just paintings, but any surface color can be shifted by changing light.  I am reminded of a time I was picking colors for a sticker design and I chose a red-orange instead of the cherry-red the client wanted. The evening light through my old apartment drapes affected my choice. Little to say, I had to make a quick reorder of stickers for that client.  When I moved into this new house, the room designated for the studio was painted garishly orange.  I decided to take a week to repaint the whole room, about 420 square feet of space, because I wanted to have a neutral color experience.  

I have two lamps that I have been using for photography that I started using to supplement light in the middle of the studio.  I have about as many windows as the rental studio on 4th Ave had, but the room is bigger, and the windows are spread around both sides of the room, so it is nice to have a supplemental lamp in the center.  The lamp has a toggle control that switches it from warm to cool light, and you can see how the painting shifts in color.  I have added a video to this blog for you to see this effect. It makes you realize how important correct lighting is for displaying paintings, and is something that should be considered when creating and installing art.

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!

“Oh Geez, Rick!” – Morty

“Oh Geez, Rick”,  is a painting I made because I am a home-brewer and a huge fan of the show Rick and Morty.  Every home-brewer loves to brew in the garage. Since I don’t have one, I decided to pretend to have the most amazing garage ever, Rick’s garage from the show.  Every time I make a batch of beer, I pitch the yeast into a big glass fermenter like the one pictured here in Rick’s garage laboratory.  I always think about the life that is being cultivated inside the glass universe in the carboy.  Sealed with an airlock to keep the culture clean, it reminds me of our planet.  We are like the yeast, and the wort (unfermented beer) is like our natural resources.  As the yeast bubbles, and ferments the wort into beer, it is like our planet living out its days.  Once in a while I will double down on a batch of beer and pour fresh wort into the leftover yeast slurry from a previous batch. When I do this, I think how awesome it would be if we were able to buy more time for humanity on planet Earth by just brewing up some more clean air, water, and sunlight.  

The lifespan of any life-form is limited by its resources.  So my question is: if the planet is like a beer fermenter and the garage is like space outside our universe, is there some giant being that wants to eat all our garbage and breath our CO2 to catch a relaxing buzz?  Rick would know, he probably was teasing it with his portal gun.  

Cheers to life! Although it may be fleeting, make sure it is a fun ride!

This original oil painting, and signed art prints are available at my Etsy shop. You can see this painting in person at my art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. June 4 – July 1, 2021. I will kick off the show this Friday at 5pm by tapping a pin (small keg) of a wit beer with key-lime, cask-conditioned on Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans and graham crackers!

“Oh geez, Rick!” 11″ x 14″, oil on panel

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?

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.

An Art Show During a Pandemic. The show will go on!

First Firkin Friday with Scott Clendaniel at Midnight Sun Brewing

We recently returned from our cabin in McCarthy to the metropolis known as Anchorage.  Maria and I both experienced small culture shock from the peaceful surroundings of our ten acres near Wrangell – St. Elias National Park compared to the industrialized buzz of the Anchorage city scene.  At the end of a two week stay all the treats we stockpiled to bring to the cabin start to run out and pretty soon you are making a lentil casserole from leftover ingredients.  At the cabin the birds were chirping and the loudest noise in the area was ourselves.  In Anchorage, the place where supplies are plentiful, we ordered sushi the night we arrived to our condo.  It was crazy to hear sirens, neighbors’ doors opening and closing, and the garbage truck.

We returned because I have an art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. starting this Friday, June 5th, and lasting for the whole month.  I have been working hard to get a new group of paintings together for this show.  The new pieces represent the four seasons of nature in Alaska’s Boreal forest, and I think they turned out pretty well.  Alaska is still experiencing over a dozen new cases of the Covies each day, but the Governor said we can start socializing again, so the show will go on, but don’t forget your mask.  I’ll tap the firkin at 5pm, and last call will be at 8pm.

Upon returning to Anchorage I was pretty stoked to go into MSBC and have a beer with my friends again.  MSBC didn’t get to celebrate its 25th birthday on the 5th of May the way it normally does, so this week the brewery is having a small celebration by offering some serious barrel aged beauties on draft.  Yesterday I stopped in and they had Arctic Devil barleywine, Sloth imperial stout, Bar Fly smoked imperial stout, the 25th anniversary barrel aged quad, and the Grand Crew Brew all on draft.  The walls at the Loft were bare when I got back Sunday, so I hung some paintings Monday.  I will hang the remaining 33 paintings tonight, and I will see if those barrel aged beers are still on draft.

Tomorrow is one of my favorite nights of the summer when I get to host the First Firkin Friday for June.  If the barrel aged delights are no longer on the menu, never fear, because there will be a special cask of Sloth aged on blackberries!  I will be bringing my craft fair table and will be selling art cards and stickers while sipping the tasty brews around my face mask.  It has been since 2013 that I have been enjoying MSBC’s hospitality in June, and I can’t think of a better way to spend the beginning of summer than sharing a small glass of Sloth with you!   So don’t go hiking at 5PM tomorrow, because you won’t get back in time, the brewery still closes at 8pm.  This isn’t a problem in the winter, but during summer, sometimes you have to set an alarm to make sure it doesn’t get too late for fresh beer at the tasting rooms!  I look forward to seeing all your sparkling eyes, if I miss being able to see your big smiles under your masks tomorrow!  Cheers to summer!

Gary’s Retirement Beer – “The Adult” Dunkelweizen

beer label design by artist scott clendaniel the adult

When I tell people I’m the Beer Artist, they immediately think I make beer labels.  I have to explain that I am an oil painter and I make paintings of beers.  I have only made three official beer labels during my career so far, and two have been for special one-off beers for Midnight Sun Brewing Co.  Former MSBC Chef, Chris Hilliard, and I brewed a Dopplebock called Feast with the brewing team.  It was barrel aged in whiskey barrels.  I made a special painting for the label with Alaskan animals drinking and feasting.  When I heard MSBC’s General Manager Gary Busse, a.k.a. “The Adult,” was retiring, I asked if he had plans for a special retirement beer.  He said, “Yes, a dunkelweizen.”  I was excited about it, and said, “I have to do a special label for that!”

What most people don’t know is that Gary has been instrumental to my beer artist career.  In 2006 I made a series of paintings called the Color of Beer, which was the first time I ever painted beer.  The show was a huge success, not because I sold any work at the actual art show at Noble’s Diner, but because when I drove the paintings around town after the art show, I sold them at local breweries and at the home-brew shop.  During a stop at the original MSBC location on Arctic Blvd I sold 3 of the 10 paintings!  Two to Gary and another one to a customer who just happened to be getting a growler filled.  It was because of this type of success that I made my second beer art series, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.  It took me years to complete the small paintings and then I had no idea where to show the large body of work.  I had grandiose plans to house the show in the Lower 48 (what Alaskan’s call the Continental US), and I had a long back and forth email conversation with Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co.  When that failed, I imagined Deschutes Brewing being the location for the show.  Bend is where beer is more plentiful than water.  When I visited the brewery, I couldn’t figure out where I would hang the pieces.  Two years passed while I was searching for a location and I was chatting with Gary at the new MSBC Loft and asked what they had in mind for art.  Gary explained that Barb Miller was going to do a rotating show every month and have a First Friday event called First Firkin Friday.

A firkin is a 10 gallon keg that is cask conditioned, i.e. fermented just enough in the keg to cause carbonation naturally.  MSBC uses a pin for First Firkin Friday , which is a 5 gallon version of the firkin.  Gary told me he would put a good word in for me with Barb, but that it was a long shot, because she had a specific vision.  Barb and I hit it off, and she made me wait until January to have the show, because it was the first ever AK Beer Week!  The show was a huge success, and I owe it to Gary and Barb!  The following year Gary purchased a large beer painting I made for the next show at MSBC called Another Round, which consisted entirely of MSBC beer paintings.  I continue to make beer paintings today, and completed my most famous series called the Year of Beer three years after the 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.  I showed this series at MSBC as well.

Gary is the General Manager at MSBC.  His nickname at the brewery is “The Adult.”  He is the one who has kept MSBC profitable and in business.  After art shows at MSBC Gary is the guy who writes and signs my checks.  He has worked there for nearly 20 years!  When I asked him what to do for his retirement beer label, he said it had to be a portrait of him with a bunch of kids running loose in the tasting room.  He said the beer would be called “The Adult,” and that it was going to be a dunkelweizen, his favorite style.  I am not a portrait artist and I have had some mixed reactions to my portraits over the years, and I mentioned this at our art meeting.  I gave it my best shot and Gary was slightly disappointed with my first attempt at his portrait.  He said the likeness maked him look like Butt-head, from Beavis and Butt-head.  I gave it another try, working from a new picture that Gary send me of himself, and I finally got it right on the third try.  The  other characters on the label represent employees at Midnight Sun Brewing Co.  It’s pretty easy to identify Davey with his mohawk and Barb struggling over toys with Mark.  I imagined the girl in pink to represent some of the servers, and the others as brewers and workers over the ages.  I know I missed many important MSBC people, but they are represented whether the likenesses are to be found or not.  Leave it to “The Adult” to keep them in line. 

beer painting for beer label design for the adult by scott clendaniel

The painting that I made for the label, which will be a retirement gift for him from me.

What will MSBC do without this parental figure to check everyone and keep the brewery in the black?  Luckily, Gary passed most of his knowledge to Jamie Schmitt, who has big shoes to fill.  I am sure there will be many memories yet to be made at this iconic brewery in Anchorage, Alaska.  With so many great beers and such a high quality bistro, MSBC has found its recipe for success!  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!  I love going to MSBC and love adorning the walls with my paintings every June and January!  Cheers to Gary!

beer label design by beer artist scott clendaniel

Gary with his retirement beer.

beer artist scott clendaniel with beer label design

Of course I had to get a few cans!

Who’s Your Favorite Musher?

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!

Iditarod sled dog race dog mushing painting by Scott Clendaniel

Martin Buser. 24″ x 12″, oil on panel.

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?

Iditarod sled dog race musher custom painting commission Scott Clendaniel

Aliy Zirkle. 36″ x 18″, oil on panel.

Iditarod 4th avenue anchorage Scott Clendaniel

Lance Mackey. 24″ x 12″, oil on panel.

Iditarod start Alaskan artist Scott Clendaniel dog mushing

Lance Mackey. 24″ x 12″, oil on panel.