Tag Archives: Working as an artist full time

Our little log cabin.

What We Do in McCarthy

~ by Maria Benner

We bought property in McCarthy, Alaska 13 years ago, and built a log cabin on it.  We love spending time at the cabin, but the problem is that it’s 6.5 – 8 hours of driving to get there, depending on road construction and the condition of the 60-mile, mostly unpaved McCarthy Road.  So it’s not really an ideal weekend destination, and when we come here, we usually try to stay for about two weeks.  People often ask us what we do in McCarthy.  So we explain that we’re self employed; Scott is an artist, and I’m the business & marketing manager for our art business.  Now that we have access to LTE, we can work from our cabin.  Scott has a small studio in the little shack that we originally built as a place to stay warm and dry while we worked on the cabin.  I work on my laptop, and can use the Personal Hotspot feature on my iPhone to connect my laptop to the Internet.  When we first came here we had no cell phone service at all, so technology has come a long way since 2005, and now allows us to work while we’re here.

So this is how a typical day in McCarthy goes.  We drink coffee in the morning while checking e-mail, and catching up on the news and social media.  After breakfast Scott works in the studio painting commissions, or Thirsty Thursday beer paintings, or new pieces for an upcoming art show.  I work in the cabin on my laptop promoting Scott’s art, booking future art shows, working on grants and 1% for Art applications, and managing the business.  After lunch we usually work on cabin and property improvement tasks such as building a wood shed, improving the driveway, framing windows, tiling the kitchen counters, etc.  In the evenings we go for walks, burn brush in the big fire-pit, or play ping pong on the new table Scott made for his birthday, or we’ll bike or ride the 2 miles to McCarthy for a party, or to hear a band at the Golden Saloon, or at the Potato.  On weekends we try to go on an adventure like searching for an ice cave in the Kennicott Glacier, hiking up to an abandoned mine, or biking to Nizina River.

This afternoon we did some Real Art Is Better work in the morning, and then walked to town to visit a friend at the museum, and to buy a few items at the store.  Now Scott is painting while I’m writing this blog post.  Tonight we’ll probably stay home and play Yahtzee, or burn some more brush, which is never-ending around here.  We’re here for a couple more days, and our goals are to dig a deep hole for a French drain for our kitchen sink, to finish leveling the bumps in the driveway, and to cut down and cut up a couple dead trees.  The list of projects is never-ending!

During my first few trips to McCarthy I met people who had lifestyles that allowed them to spend long periods of time here, and I wanted to change things in my life so that I could also come here for longer than just a three-day weekend.  So we both quit our jobs, and started our art business, and I credit McCarthy for motivating me to change my life.  We’re still not completely location-independent, since we lease studio space in Anchorage, and have to mail orders ourselves, but we get enough time here to justify the time and money we spent on building our cabin here.

The Solstice party in McCarthy.

The Solstice party in McCarthy.

An ice cave in the Kennicott Glacier.

An ice cave in the Kennicott Glacier.

The Cost of Running an Art Business

~ by Maria Benner

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about sources of income from our art business, and today I’m going to let you know how much we spend to keep the business going.  Here’s a list of our business expenses from the last 30 days.

Advertising $29.98

Business Insurance $32.25

Commissions & Fees $289.4

Federal Tax $988

Health Insurance Premium $211

Materials & Supplies $1,279.95

Office Expenses $193.02

Other Business Expenses (this includes shipping costs, software fees, and the cost of custom stickers that we order from a manufacturer) $2,108.87

Parking $5.05

Studio Lease $550

Utilities $56.43

TOTAL $5,743.95

One of the major reasons we are able to live off of our income from the art business is because we try to keep our overhead low.  This last month was more expensive than normal due to taxes, several sticker orders, and stocking up on supplies before the summer rush.  Hopefully next month we’ll manage to keep our costs down.

November Art Projects

Winter is officially here with the first snow fall that didn’t melt, but we’re too busy working in the studio to notice the cold and the darkness.  Here is our list of projects for November.

  1. In October we offered a 10% discount on commissioned oil paintings, and as a result, Scott will be working on five pieces.  The largest one is 3ft x 4ft.
  2. This First Friday we are having an art opening at Resolution Brewing in Mountain View.  This is a new venue for us, in a different section of town, and we’re looking forward to seeing how things play out.  Click here for the deets.
  3. Scott recently finished building two large supports for new paintings.  He has interesting concepts for them, but today we found out that a major set-back happened.  The 8ft x 4ft panel warped.  We think this happened, because the wood fibers in the birch panel naturally wanted to twist.  Fighting the natural tendencies of wood is a losing battle, so Scott is going to dismantle the panel, and start all over with new pieces.  That’s a lot of wasted time and money, but we’d rather cut our losses sooner than later, and make a product that’s perfect.  Defects are not acceptable at this level.
  4. We will be hosting art lessons for a Girl Scouts troop in our studio.  They will be working on their collage and comic strip badges.
  5. This year the Maury Pottery sale is not happening for the first time in 30 years, so we’ll be hosting our own Holiday Studio Sale.  Scott will have new paintings and prints for sale.  Stay tuned for details.
  6. Lastly, if we have any extra time, we’re going to update our website with new images.

So that’s what we’ll be doing, in addition to managing the Etsy shop, fulfilling custom stickers orders, and maybe brewing some beer.

Have a great November!

Working on a commissioned painting.

Working on a commissioned painting.

The view from the studio has changed to winter mode.

The view from the studio has changed to winter mode.