A portrait of the beer artist

One of Scott Clendaniel's latest: Talk about having inspiration.
One of Scott Clendaniel's latest: Talk about having inspiration.
Posted: February 07, 2014

OVER the years, beer enthusiasts have chronicled some remarkable pursuits in the name of their favorite adult beverage.

Some have managed to drink a different beer every day for a year. There was the guy who visited a different bar every night of the year. There was another who lived on nothing but bock for the six weeks of Lent.

Scott Clendaniel is putting them to shame. In 2014, he is painting 365 different beers. It's no digital trick. He's doing it old school, with a brush and oil paints, laying down imaginative, original portraits on panels.

In the first month of the year, he's polished off a close-up of 21st Amendment Bitter American, a can of New Belgium Ranger perched in a snowbank, a Denali Brewing Chuli Stout in the foreground of a mountain range, and many more.

Every day of the week, Clendaniel posts a photograph of another piece of his art. When I spoke with him, he was just putting the finishing touches on a corked bottle of A Deal with the Devil, a rare, very strong (17 percent alcohol) barleywine that had just been released in his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska.

"I love beer," Clendaniel, 33, said. "And I love making art. This is just my way to express both."

A graduate of the University of Alaska-Anchorage art program, Clendaniel found himself working a part-time job in a local home-brew supply shop. He quit that job to push himself to paint full time.

"I'm either painting or slacking," he said. "So I'm painting."

His first beer-influenced artwork, back in 2006, was a group of 10 paintings he called "The Color of Beer," showing graduated shades of pint glasses, from golden pilsner to chocolate stout.

"I had a sold-out show," he said, "and I thought, maybe I should paint more beer."

Then he produced "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," and that sold well, too.

So, now he's given himself the challenge of a bottle a day.

It's a rigorous pursuit, beginning each day with a blog entry and photograph of a complete work, which his wife (who works as his business manager) edits and posts. From there, he heads to his apartment studio, looking for inspiration among his bottles.

"I like to paint my personal favorites, or world-class beers that are perennial favorites of others," Clendaniel said.

He'll also produce works by commission, which means that if you're an art lover with a favorite beer, you can mail him a bottle and he'll paint one for you.

"I think pretty intensely about how to translate the character of the beer in my painting," he said.

Naturally, he often pours himself a glass for liquid inspiration. But he doesn't let drinking get in the way of work, because he's on a mission. He works quickly, thanks to a background in graphic arts, producing colorful works that would look fine in a man cave or behind the bar.

One a day, every day, posted at his blog, Real Art is Better (realartisbetter.wordpress.com).

In June, he'll display the first half of the year's work at a gallery show at Midnight Sun Brewing, in Anchorage.

Meanwhile, the paintings are for sale online.

He acknowledges, for the most part, that "the beer community would rather spend its money on beer than art. I don't want them not to buy beer, so I'm making the paintings affordable so they can buy both."

Heck, in the case of A Deal with the Devil, you'd have to shell out $100 for a single, rare bottle on Craigslist. But you can get a print of it at Clendaniel's Etsy site for just $35, or $90 for the original.

Now, that's my kind of art.

Speaking of beer and art, Victory and Dogfish Head breweries announced this week that they'll co-host a sudsy exhibit in Denver during the Craft Brewers Conference, in April. It's called "Amber Waves," and it will feature 27 American breweries showcasing custom artworks paired with their own amber-colored beers.

Proceeds from the event benefit the nonprofit Redline Art Gallery, in Denver. Tix and info at AmberWavesEvent.com.


"Joe Sixpack" is written by Don Russell. For more on the beer scene, sign up for his weekly email update at joesixpack.net. Email: joesixpack@phillynews.com.

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