Paintings from Sunset Series by Spence Munsinger, Color Field + Blank White Canvas + Realism + Contemporary Abstract Art, original paintings for sale

"What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house."
― Edward Hopper

peace to paint

It takes a certain amount of peace and a sense of tranquility and stability to work over time on a painting…  

I’ve recently finished three paintings. The fourth and fifth are in progress, but I’ve been somewhat consumed by remodeling our home. First by a contractor who made my life much harder rather than easier, and then by the remainder of the project as we contract out smaller pieces of it, and do quite a bit on our own.

I love tools and I love the creativity of envisioning a piece opf architecture and then bringing it into being. The smell of sawdust is amazing, brings back many many memories.

My first connection with my father was supposed to be washing the car when I was 7 – but I leaned over the hood of his charcoal grey Porsche 356 with a belt buckle on to polish the middle of the hood. I revealed the original baby blue paint. I didn’t wash that car again.

In my teens I worked with my father on his home, rebuilding kitchens, discovering that mechanical systems were not that difficult to grasp conceptually, and discovering stresses and structure and design and tradition. Most framing carpenters don’t necessarily grasp the full depth of the structure they are building to plan – they get it when they have seen a structure fall over or fail in some way – but they basically follow the plans and fill in the gaps with tradition. Spacing studs at 16″ on center. 4″x4″ for a 4′ opening, 8″x8″ for an 8′. Fireblocking. Many, many of the items not explicitely covered by the architects plans are resolved by the builders and the framers and the inspectors by tradition and hard-won knowledge.

When you are the homeowner, you have to deduce what the arhcitect envisioned and what the bulder filled in. You discover where, 80 years later, the design fell short. That remodeling was my first bonding with my father.

The last few months I spent with my brother before his sudden passing was remodeling a bathroom. We sorted out plumbing that my then-brother-in-law endangered the house with, and moved the small room at the end of the hall to a fully functional and to-code bathroom.

So I love building. But – there aren’t enough hours, and with the disruption caused by the construction and the demands of other peoples schedules, there just isn’t the space to move a painting forward. There’s a continuity of vision, a flow of production and feeling that has to occur. It hasn’t. It will.

Here’s the painting on the easel, viewed, waiting:


7th Street Access

7th Street Access




two boards by the path – in-progress

This painting is at the stage where I am watching for things to add/change and not yet changing it – very close to done.

It is from a moment on Hendry’s Beach just down from the restaurant, walking down the path toward the sand to photograph a classic sunset in Santa Barbara, and spotting these two surfboards just catching the light and just off the path.

two boards by the path


no thought

sunset #13 in progress

I was describing, out loud, the process of applying paint to canvas. In the process of working to explain it, I found some insights. I use photographs as a synthesis for an image, for the starting place for space in the painting, for color reference, to see what colors would be, where light moves, how it dances across surfaces and into shadow.

Looking at the quality of the light in the photographs, against the quality of the light in the memory I hold for the painting. The images come first from memory, triggered a photograph or a painting that reminds me of an emotion and from that a space in my mind. The photographs are a catalyst, a trigger for line and drawing and a reference for the image, but the image as it evolves loses any touch to those concrete images.

I do, actually dance in front of the canvas, that ecstatic feeling of weight and motion is very much a part of the process. Music, especially acoustic guitar recently, and the application of paint becomes no-thought.

There really is a point, and some of the best passages in a painting come from this, where I get to no-mind, no-thought, just an action of feeling mentally the surface I want to portray and contributing to a motion in the painting knife or brush or airbrush that is just there.

Fascinating stuff to me.

— spence

In Progress | Sunset #13 palm trees

Colors as they mix at the surface of the mind.

Intensities that change in relation to each others – hues that in a perception over time add and subtract and interact, changing what you are seeing.


Mark Rothko hid his process to the extent that he could, working on large canvases. He was secretive, and he did succeed in creating a mystery about what he did. Jackson Pollock was overt and demonstrative in his painting – filmed stepping on the canvas, feeling the paint as it left the brush to form pattern.

I think the secret in the art is not in the process – dripping paint on a canvas doesn’t get a Pollock, there was a control, an intuitive resonance between what he was doing physically and how he perceived it. I think the secret is in that intuitive vision.

I look at the underpainting and I see the next steps, not what’s there right now.

— spence

In Progress | Sunset 11

airbrush underpainting. moon in the last vestiges of sunset.

sunset 11 IP

— spence

works In Progress


A painting is very different from a photograph. I’ve read artists complaining that the images of their work don’t impact in the same way as the original painting. Nature of the medium. A photograph is a different view of the work.

I take promotional and documentary photographs on film of pieces as I complete them. Film give a resolution that when scanned allows prints at actual size without stretching the image capture. The roll holds ten shots. Two paintings only use 6 to eight of those. I usually try and take In Progress shots of some of the other works as possible.

Sometimes this changes how I see the work – the urban/abandoned moscow #3 below – that is much closer to done than I had realized.

And Venice (Sunset #8) – a photograph of that shows me what I have, and several areas that don’t work as yet. But in some ways better than I had in mind.

Some artists seem to think that only the final product should ever be seen and HOW should remain a complete mystery – I think the decisions are more mysterious – ANY of the decision points could go any direction – different color, different texture, different feel for it – and those are the mysteries.

sunset #8


moscow #3