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

"Things are beautiful if you love them."
― Jean Anouilh

painting: long road home


This abstract came to be from a section of brushstrikes on another painting. This is the second, successful incarnation. The first was flatter, the colors more separate. This painting is oil on canvas, varnished with Gamvar archival varnish one year after completion. It is 30″ x 40″, gallery wrapped and painted through the edges, 1-1/2″ thick.

I keep seeing new things in the painting… A house, valley, road, mountains, vineyards, groves, oasis, river and banks.

This kind of glowing translucent blended color seems to be something oil paint can achieve easily. See canyons.



— spence

nude on a wet canvas…

I seriously thought about naming this weblog “nude on a wet canvas”. Mostly for traffic purposes. And, I love painting women. Representations of women on canvas, anyway. One of the joys of revisiting human anatomy, even in just the skeleton, is to realize the visual cues that communicate female versus male form. The ribcage is smaller, the bottom of the ribs farther from the top of the pelvic girdle, the sacrum, the bone at the back of the pelvis, is relatively wider, the hipbones thus are set further apart, and shoulders only slightly wider than the breadth of pelvis. All of that combines into a very different stance and musculature.

Art is an excuse for artists to communicate and bring into view the beauty and sensuality possible in human form. For instance, Juan Francisco Casas, “I love art”:

I Love Art

There are more subtle visions…

the table

Sex is search on the internet, and the title alone guarantees this post an audience. A weblog titled “nude on a wet canvas” wouldn’t communicate all the emotions I’d like to communicate in painting, though. Painting nudes is not always an asset, hanging them on the wall isn’t always polite. Some people are shocked or put off rather easily. They look at you funny, they miss the compelling beauty and just see you as… Somehow wrong for finding and creating beauty. Any communication on the internet has potential to hang around a very very long time, and should be made with some care.

I met an artist in Los Angeles. She had recently married a professor. I looked around her house, now their house, a 1930’s hillside bungalow with a turquoise iron tube railing on the balconies. The walls were covered with her work, very beautiful and very explicit line drawings in large scale on canvas, of oral sex and copulating figures. They were a flourish of lines over muted color, simple, picasso. They were subtle in that you had to look to perceive the subject was sex. Without looking with intensity and careful perception they were background.

She was stopping that kind of art, she said. Her husband’s career would not be furthered by her painting and drawing along this vein. You could see in her voice and in her eyes though that she was feeling it as a loss. She would do it for him. But she would regret it, and I’m not sure a civilian, a non-artist, will understand what a sacrifice that is. Any creative line needs to be nurtured, and for the spirit of the artist to survive he/she need to follow it as far as it goes. Stop it, change it, and the total creative output of that artist is permanently less.

Artists and nudity. Artists and a relationship with their models. Picasso. A lifetime of tension between an artist and the women he painted. Which came first, the penis or the paintbrush? Several years ago I read an article about some famous actor’s son who was painting women in Hollywood, he would have been in his mid-twenties – and a quote from one of the women who had him paint her – “He understands how a woman wants to be perceived…” Yeah, sure. That’s sex, or the whisper of sensuality that is potential sexual tension.

Le rêve, Pablo Picasso, 1934

Picasso painted portraits and images of women. Many other images too, but a constant thread was the female form. Some clothed, some unclothed, some in between.

Andrew Wyeth – a secret relationship with a model, for fourteen years (fourteen years!), his wife doesn’t know he’s painted her, her husband doesn’t know – that shared secret alone is an intimacy. The expression and sensuality in those paintings – doesn’t matter whether Andrew did or didn’t boink the woman, spiritually, in the images he created of her, he loved and cherished her, and I’m pretty sure his wife took quite a while to reconcile this. If she ever did.

The girl:

On Her Knees

and the wife:

Magas Daughter

I love painting women. There is something truly wonderful about how they are put together and how they move. Any tribute to art and women must include Frank Frazetta… He produces the most wonderfully sexual, powerful, compelling fantasy women.

Frazetta woman Frazetta woman too

Edward Hopper married an artist – Jo Hopper, also an artist. She never allowed him to use another woman as a model. She was the only one. Smart woman.

— spence


from Moonlighting:

David: You’re repressed or obsessed or one of those “essed” words. Every time something comes up that involves men or sex or…

Maddie: “Boinking?” Is that the word you’re looking for?

David: See what I mean? That’s not normal.

Maddie: I’m supposed to sit here and discuss my mental health with a man who refers to the act of human procreation as boinking?

Go back…

the hand…

hand skeleton

This stuff is so cool.

Knuckles are the rounded distal (distant from the center of body) end of the metacarpals number 2 through 5… The phalanges (bones of the finger) are boxes at the base, articulating on a spool-shaped surface – thus they hinge rather than allow a broad range of motion. The length of the middle finger is equal to the distance across the metacarpals 2 through 5… The proximal phalanx is roughly equal to the middle and distal phalanges… The thumb is close to (but not exactly) 90 perpendicular to the rest of the structure.

— spence

artistic anatomy

I’ve been going through Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Eliot Goldfinger. Truly an amazing book. A very tough slog through. I have to take each sentence, piece it apart. For example:

section from artistic anatomy

Understandable, one word and one piece at a time, then one sentence. Eventually you arrive at a conceptual understanding of the underlying structure to humans. The structure of the shoulders – suspended from the top of the breastbone is the sequence of clavicle to shoulder blade to upper arm to radius/ulna articulation with the wrist (carpus). The suspension of the entire shoulder and arm structure off that on bony point of contact, clavicle to manubrium (top section of breastbone) – that is amazing. The rotation of the scapula (shoulder blade) to point almost vertically when the arm is raised to point overhead. The immovable ulna and the oblique rotation of the radius, the support of the wrist and hand – these are amazing from an engineering point of view, just elegant solutions to motion and structure.

Frank Frazetta had a story that in one of his first jobs, the editor told him he needed to learn anatomy, so he took a book on it home, came back the next day (point of exaggeration? maybe…). He said ok, I have anatomy. He wasn’t believed, so he drew a few figures to show it. That’s the story. Looking at the figures he paints, the exact motion, the exaggeration of musculature, I can see the underlying understanding of structure – however he achieved it. That’s worth achieving.

savage pellucidar

This kind of imagery makes struggling through sentence after sentence of dense description of underlying structure well worth it.

This painting was originally beautifully reproduced in a book issued by Ballantine Books around 1975 called The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta. I read a copy of the book, Savage Pellucidar, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, when I was 12 or so – his cover art is just amazing, and reproduced on its own in a higher quality was visually and viscerally stunning. Found this image at Stainless Steel Droppings archive article.

— spence



when IS a painting actually done?

I have/had a firm and fast rule not to go back to a painting after I sign it. Once it is signed that’s it, it isn’t to be changed.

In acrylic work, once it is signed I usually put the isolation layer (2 coats of matte acrylic medium mixed with water) and then two coats of matte conservators varnish shortly after. Within six weeks.

That makes going back and changing your mind difficult. Not impossible, but difficult – for longevity you would at least want to remove the varnish, getting back to the pure acrylic layers, then once you had finished changing, re-apply an isolation and re-varnish.

Oils have to be left alone long enough (6 months to a year or more) before varnishing, that changes can still be made easily all the way through to actually applying the varnish.

I had a couple of second thoughts on two different paintings. Just two areas I would work further if the paintings weren’t signed and sealed. In one I would rework the clouds, they sit too much on the surface and need to be brought back into the rest of the painting. On the second an umbrella awning needs better definition, to sink less into formless mass, and define better as its own surface and be more thoroughly apart from the background. I used Liquitex Soluvar archival varnish, and checking the data sheets, it is removable with mineral spirits… I think it’s worth a try, in the case of both of these paintings.

In the process of painting there are many points where I get to the point where I am unsure of whether it is going exactly where I intended. A day or so or, at times, a week or so later, the truth or falsity of that becomes clearer. In the case of these two, I’ll wait and see whether the need to change them persists. Looking at the actual paintings the changes make less sense – it is more when looking at the images of the paintings. In images you lose some of the texture and the flow of the process used to place the paint. You also lose the size and breadth of the canvas.

There seems to be for me a period where the consideration of the final product needs to sit – maybe two months. Before I should sign, isolate and varnish the painting, it needs to sit a bit and wait for confirmation there isn’t more work to be done. Maybe even after signing. A point, a period of time where the painting waits, separate from being in progress or worked forward, but just waits. Somewhere between being considered done, and conserved and protected.

But again, when is it done? When the artist considers it done. One of my favorite artists is Frank Frazetta. His women are extraordinary, powerful, sensuous, decidedly female, strong and lethal and powerful. His men are gods of war. The background, texture and detail in a very thin layer of paint, his anatomy and motion is just outstanding. He reworks paintings at will. I wouldn’t do that. Some of my favorite Frazettas are quite different than when they were first signed, some decidedly better, some I am not used to yet. One of the paintings reworked has been “Eqyptian Queen”…


It’s likely this image is from the original publication, but not for certain – the changes were subtle, primarily in the detail of the queen’s face. Frank stated that he had worked that face over and over and over and was not entirely happy at the final result – so he went back much later and the second time through, the face became what he had hoped he could achieve. I do know that feeling, both the frustration at something that won’t quite come out right and the revelation when you step back from it and then later it just works out without a struggle or an effort.

Looking again at this work, I have to say it – this man is a genius. The lush romance of the composition, the deep shadows, the direct gaze of the figure of the queen… A lot of other fantasy art tries to achieve this kind of impact and just falls so far short. This on the other hand transcends fantasy art, I think.

Da Vinci reworked paintings through his entire lifetime. His production suffered. I think he took it to obsession. But then again, the genius, the detail and the exquisite blending… Done when the artist has so determined. I guess signing it is just a personal road mark, subject to determined re-thinking.

ginevra by Da Vinca

Ginevra de’ Benci c.1474 by Da Vinci

— spence