Story by Mara Severin
Some people celebrate the end of a workday with a bottle of their favorite craft beer. But for local artist Scott Clendaniel, cracking open a cold one means the work is just beginning. Scott is on an artistic mission to complete a unique beer painting and beer-lover’s blog entry every day for the year 2014.
It’s the perfect challenge for his work-style and aesthetic. “I make paintings quickly,” says Scott. “I like to work alla prima (literally, 'at once'). It’s a wet-on-wet technique. I don’t wait for the layers to dry. I like color and texture and I like to think of my paintings as fresh.”
Scott took a break from the “Year of Beer” to talk with me over a couple of pints at Midnight Sun Brewery; his favorite watering hole and exhibit space. “I just finished tomorrow’s painting today,” he says. “So I’m barely staying on top of it!” And this was only day 86.
Of course, it’s always good to be too busy – especially if you’re an artist. “It’s been a long road,” Scott says, of his journey to artistic and commercial success. He studied art at universities in Colorado and Oregon before securing his Bachelor of Fine Arts at UAA. He then put in time as a production artist and designer for a local souvenir manufacturer. “It was good experience,” he says. “It taught me how to put in the eight-hour-day, five days a week.” Good training for the painting-a-day pressure he has since put upon himself.
And while Scott continued to work on his personal artistic pursuits, it wasn’t until he had a show at Noble’s Diner that he hit upon the magical balance of art and commerce. Called “The Color of Beer,” the show was a huge success. “I decided I was onto something,” says Scott. “It really seemed to create the most interest.” Plus, he adds, “it was really fun.”
Scott began a new project. He painted 99 separate oil paintings of individual beers for a single installation. It was called – wait for it – “99 Bottles of Beer.” Scott’s wife and business manager, Maria Benner, posted Scott’s progress on Facebook every day. “We created a huge following,” says Scott. By the time the show opened, he had sold a third of the paintings. “It was a major success story,” says Scott. The 99 paintings were compiled together in a unique print celebrating all things beer.
Scott’s work routine belies the stereotype of the chaotic life of the artist. “I run on Chester Creek trail for half an hour,” he says, simply. “And then I paint.” Maria handles the business, does all the photography, and edits the blog.
When they’re not willing slaves to Scott’s painting routine, the couple pursues adventure and inspiration on two wheels, taking what can only be called epic bike tours. The first was down the West Coast from Canada to Mexico on the back of a tandem bike. The second saw them travel on bike across Europe beginning in Russia and ending in Paris. (His advice? Do it the other way around – take advantage of the tailwind.) This love for bikes and the places they take you created another successful painting niche – custom tandem bicycle paintings.
The couple’s next adventure involves finishing their cabin on 10 remote acres in McCarthy. The region is another source of inspiration to Scott, who’ll have a large-scale painting of the nearby Kennecott Mines at this year’s Anchorage Museum Gala.
And after that?
“I would love to have my own taproom and gallery,” he says. “It would be great to try and do that and to blog the process. It would be a place to showcase my work and the work of other artists. That seems like it might be the next step.”
Meanwhile, he has some beers to paint. But don’t feel too sorry for him. Doing a painting a day may be stressful, but the subject matter softens the blow. “I paint from life,” he says of his daily painting procedure. “First, I paint the can and everything except for the contents of the glass,” he explains. “Then I take a deep breath. I crack the can. Pour the beer in.” After he paints the foam (because it changes so quickly) followed by the beer, “I think, ‘Alright, now I can drink it.’ It’s instant gratification.”