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

Artist Statement (16 April 2013)



I keep going through this process, to find a description that covers the work I’m doing as an artist. Each time I get closer…

I paint in ritual and in process.

This ritual and process I’ve created to force me away from precise line and form. I colored strictly within lines as a child. I respected line and form and exactness and detail and perfection. I tended toward order and symmetry and the unflawed. My early training as an artist was in drawing and form and tone and tone painting and then color wash and still life and a very careful and complete and controlled result.

Part of that training was figure drawing. In the class we had a drill to sketch the figure posing for 30 seconds, re-pose, sketch again for 30 seconds, capturing as much of the life and form of the figure as you could. This was a revelation. There was no time for strict lines or proportion or form, there was flow and gesture and the development of trust of artistic decision and judgement. I became acutely aware of the value of “not perfect”, and of not thinking, of flowing with perception. And that has become a focus of my painting.

I believe in intuitive gestures in creating form and line.

I work toward an abstract that creates a contribution from the person looking at my painting. There aren’t clear objects, there are impressions and gestures and colors that suggest but don’t nail down the image. The person viewing has to add what they hold as experience and from that emotion.

I start with a blank canvas or surface.

I draw in the outlines of forms for the painting using pastels, one or more colors, but at this point it is about perception of general form, and line and flows between forms, not precise line.

From there I airbrush an underpainting in bright glowing colors, colors intended to flow through the translucent acrylics above it. That underpainting has line and form and color and it peeks through in some parts of the painting that follows, grounding the image in primary color.

From that I work with painting knives and thick pure paint, adding form and color. I paint to music, always. I use the music to find a flow of gesture, a feeling of flow, recovering that instinctive 30-second time window from figure drawing over much longer and intense periods. The painting knives force an inexactness, they force a suggestion of detail but prevent entirely nailing that detail down with precision. That forces me to trust that this process will work out, forces me to trust my own artistic judgement.

The painting holds 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. It is 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. It can communicate to a depth a straight representation misses.




Art in Wood

I recently (mostly) finished a remodel of the downstairs level of the house.

The walls were painted, the closet (from IKEA) assembled and installed, the future laundry area only lacking electricity (and an electrician) to be capable of actuating a washer and dryer.

The metal baseboard heaters.

The covers had never fit since the bamboo floor went in. Somebody was supposed to cut them up to fit – I did that part, but they were ugly even when mostly reassembled.

I got some oak, a surface planer to replace the 18 year old Delta that could barely scrape the surface of the oak. I planed it down to 1/2″.

I had looked at pre-made baseboard heater covers. They were big, designed to envelope and enclose the existing metal enclosure and set in place. They had slots and grooves and they were colonial in look and feel. This house is more Frank Lloyd Wright or Bauhaus – no heavy ornamentation, and simpler is better.

I removed the metal face and the little flap, and the end caps. On an inside corner I tweaked the corner piece up and down for what seemed like forever until the metal fatigued and split.

What I was left with was the metal back and top lip, and the suspended heater pipe and light metal fins.

Over that I built enclosures…

Secured at the top by self-drilling hex-head metal screws into the (heavy) metal of the top lip, they are not going anywhere. My son painted the back with barbecue paint, so the metal back becomes shadow. The three sections of the long wall and corner are matched together at the joints by biscuits…

The finish is oil/polyurethane wipe on finish, satin, three coats, sanded between coats with 320 fine sand paper.

Baseboard Cover #2

Baseboard Cover #1

music and painting

I gather energy from music. Painting is a dance of color and form and gesture, and music that aligns with the moment pushes that to new levels.

I tend not to catch the lyrics or mood of music. I’ve been asked how can you listen to that it’s so sad/caustic/betraying – as if that was where I took energy from. It’s the beat, the words are driven from that.

Florence + the Machine.
Zero 7.
Norah Jones (especially the recent Little Broken Hearts – nice stuff).
Ahmad Jamal. Eighty-something and awesomely good.
Kat Edmonson/Jaimee Paul/Renee Olstead/Madeleine Peyroux – torch stuff.
Marc Cohn – brilliant songwriter.
Cypress Hill. A change of pace.
Jeff Beck, from “You Had It Coming.”
Kirsty MacColl.
Jesse Cook.
Chick Corea, “Light as a Feather.”
Gretchen Parlato, more torch jazz.

Right now these work. I have all the CDs I’ve ever bought ripped to 256 VBR files, cataloged in iTunes, served over Airport Express modules to every room. What I listen to can and does change…







print from Printmaking Revolution by Aaron Noble

This print makes me want to build an etching press and do something like this…

It has an abstraction that just approaches recognition and than violently backs away from it.


Print by Aaron Noble, original


Print by Aaron Noble, rotated 90 degrees


Print by Aaron Noble, rotated 180 degrees


Print by Aaron Noble, rotated 270 degrees


i’m certain I see a robot head, and then I don’t… I see long blonde hair, and then I don’t. Rotating it adds to the effect. It is so close to the motion and color and impact of a really well done comic, and then so far beyond that in concept. This from four pages into Part Two Intaglio, Printmaking Revolution by Dwight Pogue.



— spence


screenprint, then etching…

I found do-it-yourself plans and instructions for a vacuum table and a screen washer.

Printmaking Revolution

I found a video on the best do-it-yourself screen exposure box. This is by Roger jennings and he has quite a few more (search google and you tube).

All of this will take time, and I’d like to build it out of nice wood rather than run of the mill oak or maple. I’ve been making a vanity for our downstairs bath out of Jatoba, a Brazillian cherry, which initially at least looks like a rich teak and is a very very dense and hard wood.


I keep reading and learning. Screens need prep in the borders and edges, using gummed packing tape and shellac, varnish, or paint (depending on the book).

Squeegees should be an inch or so wider than the image. For me that means about 22″ wide. Not a Dick Blick item – but I found squeegee material (12′ 70A for $100) and individual 22″ squeegee at about $35 at


What I think I need to do this keeps refining and changing as I read through this. What makes it possible to sort it fairly effectively is I know the impact I want, the size of the images, that they derive from the sunset paintings but aren’t direct photo stenciled – but maybe they do come from that process altered. Thus I can look through paper, screens, squeegees, designs for tables and exposure, and evaluate against that initial 24″ x 30″ painting – probably a 18″ x 22″ print…

More to learn. But this is a much simpler project than an etching press will be.



I saw the MFA’s Alex Katz Prints exhibition April 25th. Alex Katz’s work reminded me intensely of Tom Wesselmann. Alex Katz was at Cooper Union 1945 to 1949. Tom Wesselmann was accepted at Cooper Union in 1956. They are roughly contemporary, Alex was born in 1927, Tom in 1931. Tom Wesselmann maintained bright color and pop art direction through to his passing in 2004. Alex Katz kept similar bright color and simplified form (at least in prints) but concentrated on literal interpretation of the human form.

Alex Katz print #2

A lot of fun to see.

In the exhibit some of the prints were exhibited done through several different processes – screenprint next to woodcut, for example. I’m researching presses, screen and etching. If it were as simple as buying a press and trying it out that would be one thing. But I would want to print abstracted sunsets at 24″ x 30″ and that in a new etching press is 5500.00 and up. Not to mention you have to watch what these things weigh – some are “light” at 1250 lbs., a weight savings of half from a less weight-conscious press that comes in at 2650 lbs. Not the thing you throw casually into a second floor studio. Screen presses are easier in the press itself – I can likely build one that will accommodate 24″ x 30″ prints in four colors. I found a design which I can adapt at Most of the for-sale presses for screen are t-shirt and fabric presses.

I also found an elegant solution already executed by Doug Forsythe at This is very interesting. For a best guess expense of $1200 – $1700 I can likely build a press that would print 26″ x 32″ (my arbitrary dimensions). A press that I am finding would cost 5500.00 to 8500.00 new, and would be able to print exactly what I want to.

I think a simplified abstracted away yet again sunset could be very cool in handmade small editions. Not to mention just straight print art itself.

— spence