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

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for."
― Georgia O'Keeffe

I miss my brother…

My baby brother died Saturday 24 April 2010.

He had a huge presence, he lit up a room. He was there for me so consistently I didn’t even realize what a big part of my life and the lives of my kids he had become.

I will miss him. I hope he knows how loved he is and what a truly good man he was.

— Spence

Artist Statement, Draft, Work in Progress – about sunsets series

This is a series of 105 images. They are drawn from distance.

The distance between warm sun and a freezing blast of winter.
The distance of time and of experience.
The distance between father and daughter.
The distance between representative and abstract.
The actual distance in space.
The distance between alive and warm and cold and gone.

The painting series was begun as a request from my daughter. She wanted a painting. She lived in California, in the South Beach area of Los Angeles. I asked her to take a sunset picture. I painted other paintings. The photographs did not arrive.

I found symbolic memories. A photo of wind-blown grass. A weathered staircase ascending and descending a hill, the hillside dropping to the Pacific Coast. A photo of an umbrella in sand across distance. This was the people, shading themselves from the heat of the sun, running out into the cold Pacific and then back to shade. And a photo of the sky. The brilliant colors, the reflections across the water of the sunset.

I grew up on the California coast, in San Diego. I watched sunset after sunset, in the heat of summer evening, in the crisp cool of winter afternoons. I imprinted the warmth and the impact of color.

I painted the first sunset. I painted it in the beginnings of winter, the first chills in the air. I painted through dark evenings, in a basement studio with a vista of radiator pipes and the endless low rumble of an oil furnace staving off chill temperatures in the 20’s.

I painted.

I painted finding a path between the crisp reference image photographs provided and the abstract intensity of emotion and color. I painted for a daughter who was distant in space, still present in the place of my memory. I painted in longing for warmth and light.

I sent the painting to my daughter. I painted another sunset, this one more pointedly from my memories of living in a beach town, referenced again against the crisp concise frame of photographs. I could feel the emotion in the light and the color, the distance between New England and the coast of California. I could feel the distance between myself and my daughter. I could also feel the shared experiences we have.

I started painting in Los Angeles at about age 16. I had drawn and painted and created all of my life, but not focused. I painted from age 16 to age 22, and then stopped. Cold. I have photographs of people in my life then, of walls with early oil paintings hanging on them, simple instructive still lives, and figure studies. I simply stopped from 1982 through 2003.

I told my daughter that she didn’t have to focus on four years of college and try to wrap up the path of a life immediately. That life was a journey, long if you are lucky, but not guaranteed. No need to hurry through it, let it develop.

In 2003 I went out to California to visit my daughter. We drove from Los Angeles down to Del Mar and to La Jolla, and walked the route I had walked as a child to the beach, down to the bottom of the hill, cutting through to Pacific Coast Highway, across the traffic, down the steep hills to the railroad tracks, and then down to the expanse of sand. I walked with her through my elementary school, which had and still has an ocean view. We had breakfast on a patio overlooking PCH with the beach and ocean beyond, with pop art animals and dogs allowed at the tables. I walked with her the route my dad, my stepmother and my baby sister walked when I was 14, down to La Jolla Shores. I showed her the tidepools I used to wade in along the rocks.

I came back, and I was unable to talk from the emotional hit that distance in space from my daughter and in time from both her and from my childhood brought.

I went to look for what the hell I was supposed to be doing this life.

I bought oils and brushes.  I found the class I had taken in drawing all those years ago was now on DVD.  I took it again, recalling from the motion of charcoal all that I had left behind.  I sat at a drawing horse and sketched, I recovered life drawing skills. I came back to where I had left off at UCLA and then private art instruction. I started painting. I resumed painting.

In the intervening years I had drawn and sketched projects for clients, photographed family events and created a woodworking portfolio. I had done graphic design for several short-lived partnerships, and carefully hung the paintings I had done in the late seventies and early eighties where I could see them.  I had discovered I was a writer.  I wrote between 1987 and 2001, writing to get better. I did get much better,but it never gelled, it never felt like I was a part of it. It was forced.

Painting is not. I show up, I stand before the canvas and I trust the muses to show up to. And they do so.

In 2007 I sent my daughter sunset #1. In 2011, on January 3rd after a year-long battle with leukemia, Ashley Lyn passed away. So now there is that distance. The distance between life and the beyond-life that is hers, now.

The paintings hold that distance between abstract and realism. If you move close, the paint dissolves into motion and texture and gesture. Life, held close dissolves into motion and chaos, in distance there appears a sense of the whole.

The painting should NOT be a literal presentation of reality – certainly not photographic – a photograph is a drawing-by-light, drawing by controlled-and-engineered-reflection-of-light, an abstraction of reality, missing motion and limited in scope by frame of view. A painting is an abstraction of light, movement, color, perspective and emotional and aesthetic impact. It can add an intangible and intuitive motion/emotion, an aesthetic harmony that communicates to a depth a straight representation misses.

Life should not be lived linearly either.


That’s what I have so far. Work in progress.


an urn for my daughter…

My daughter let go of life 3 January 2011. She was diagnosed with AMML (Leukemia) in January 2010. She stepped from chemo treatment to chemo treatment, hoping for cured, a very very tough journey that finally ended for her. I wanted a container for her ashes that reflected her life, the life in her, and the loss I have at her passing on…


ashley urn 01


This design started from a plate Ashley painted in Colorado in 1996 (aged 10 years). One of those creative kid things to do, and which over the years and many moves, I managed to keep safe and unbroken. Now it just seems so completely irreplaceable…


ash plate 1996


The urn I found is stainless steel with a copper finish. The shape is classic, perfect. Given time or a wheel and kiln I might have tried a pottery urn, glazed and fired. But this may be better. It will age, but it will always be a gift to my daughter. Not the last – there is the ongoing gift of cherishing her memory and speaking of her as the world continues to turn and she finds her new role in the universe.


ashley urn 02


ash urn 03



Ashley Lyn, you are loved and you are missed…

leaf at st josephs by ashley lyn
Leaf at St. Joseph’s Hospital by Ashley Lyn Munsinger

When Ashley was born, on a bright day in July,
her nickname was immediately “Bug,”
as in “cute as a bug.”

I went in to watch her sleep in her crib almost every night after we brought her home.
I watched her very small chest rise and fall.
That was a miracle.

Having this child meant being completely vulnerable to the whims of the universe.

I cast hope out into the future.
I get to watch over her and love her, forever.

When she was about three Ashley got quieter and quieter over several days.
Her doctor said she had pneumonia
and was hours from needing admittance to a hospital.

She got better.
But she scared me.

She rode her bike without training wheels in Lake View Terrace, CA.
She helped me build a coffee table in Boulder CO.
She sledded down the hill with our dog Samantha at the house in Milford MA.

She was golden blonde,
and warmth.

She faded the winter she spent in Massachusetts,
so I sent her back to California.

Ashley traveled through Europe when she was fifteen.
She determined that Corfu was her favorite place on the planet.
She talked about that trip for years…

“When I was in France…”

Ashley studied International Business in New York City
She found she hated it.
She discovered space and color and form and balance and function.
She studied Interior Design, and she found she loved it.

She got quiet once again, this time over several months.
She was admitted to the hospital and we got word that she had leukemia.

By the time I got across the country from Boston to Los Angeles,
Ashley was on a ventilator and could no longer speak.

All of us,
all of you,
family and friends,
came together
and somehow we got her through the worst two months ever.

At the lowest point in that February I was holding Ash’s hand,
feeling the warmth of her still presence,
accepting each moment as a gift.

That diagnosis
and then that reality,
cancer patient,
Ash just accepted.

She looked ahead with true courage at each point in her journey
and asked,
“What next?”

Ashley knew she was dying that last week.
She found
the rare gift
in that
rather than the despair of it,
that ending.

I tried to find everything I needed to say to her, as her dad, as someone responsible for her and to her.
I came close enough.

She managed a death
at peace
and without despair or anxiety.

Her passing on was with eyes wide open.
She said “It’s over…”
and she meant this life, this struggle.

And then she asked
“What’s next?”
and she went on.

An expansion of being, rather than in any way diminished.

This breath holds the spirit to the body.

And so it was.
Ash let go
and the breath stopped.

ash at her birthday
July 2nd 1986 – 3rd January 2011

I will always miss her presence here.

koi pond by Ashley Lyn
Koi Pond at St. Joseph’s Hospital by Ashley Lyn Munsinger

watching, waiting

My daughter has been fighting leukemia for almost a year now.

What it takes for my daughter to do this – to go back in to the hospital, to a world of no control, no voice that isn’t measured against your illness, to do this over and over again, is hard to measure. She survived 42 days in a coma, on a respirator and near death. I know she is stubborn, willful, and very tough. This tenacity and will to overcome is way beyond just stubborn or willful.

The leukemia was in remission and it is back. Now we are fighting – now, she is fighting – back to remission and then a bone marrow transplant.

When she was eleven she brought me a book she had made. One of those projects schools have kids do. She had done hers on how much I had helped her as a dad. I was in tears when she gave it to me. You can’t as a parent or person try and influence another person to admire you deliberately. I feel that’s true. I try and act according to my ethics, my morals, my ideals, and hope, especially as a parent that some of that comes through. She got that, it came through for her.

I have learned more from her, about myself and my limits and about life, in watching, mostly, as she goes through this, than I can ever imagine I taught her. I try and help where I am able, but there are no easy ways through this and what I experience in this is nothing to what she has to pull from herself to keep fighting.


archival varnish, matte…

I’ve been using Soluvar, a matte oil-based removable varnish on my work and I’ve been very happy with the results. Except – except for the fumes…


The stuff is nasty to breath around. The VOC’s are intense and it requires both tolerance from the people around it and a very large fan (Patton Air Circulators rule).


I’m trying a Windsor-Newton Acrylic Matte varnish, to see if that will get me enough protection for an acrylic painting, and leave in the color saturation and crispness I was getting from the solvent based products. This would NOT work for oils, but oils are also less permeable and susceptible to dust becoming immersed in the paint over time.

I’ve been using a Golden Acrylics data sheet to determine how to protect acrylic paintings over long periods of time. I use a half matte acrylic medium and half water solution in two coatsd to isolate the paint – to put a colorless barrier between conservation materials (varnish, wax, etc.) and the painting itself. On top of that I apply varnish – if the Windsor-Newton product can seal, stay clear and isolate the acrylic from incorporating dirt, and on top of that not smell so goddawful, that would be wonderful. We’ll see.