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

The Art we look at is made by only a select few.
A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art.
Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say.
When you go to an Art gallery
you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires…"

pop art and airbrush


I ordered an airbrush a few days ago. I already have an industrial air compressor, all I have to do is (a) put up with the noise of the compressor (easy – turn the stereo WAY up), and (b) dry and filter the air before it comes to the brush.

And learn to paint with it.

When I was a kid and I saw what you could do with an air brush, I was floored. This was exciting (we are, after all, talking eight or nine years old). You could paint a mural! On a car! That was probably part of why I wasn’t supplied with one at that time. I’m sure my mom could just see the mural painted on her Volvo 1800e sports car. And… She could have been right.

In UCLA art school the idea of using an air brush was sacrilege. They were expensive. They were tools of lesser artists (cough… ((bull)shit) cough…).

I rented a house in Los Angeles, one of my roommates was a commercial graphic artist. He made some fantastic images. He did it effortlessly. He made art. The same art. Over and over and over, logo after logo, advertisement and layout after layout. He used an airbrush and the association stayed in my mind. I never looked at it again until recently.

I had taken some photographs in the Hirshhorn museum in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian. One of them was Tom Wesselmann’s Bedroom No. 38.

This painting was on a wall at the top of the stairs, as you ascended it appeared. The painting is 87″ x 94″, so the impact is huge, visually stunning. I love subtle erotic art. Suggesting, leaving the rest of the scene to the imagination is effective. I took a shot or three of the painting, and I’m sure I read the placard, and saw the artist’s name and lost memory of it. I found that image a few weeks ago and looked up the painting on the Hirshhorn’s website.

I’m still floored by it. I have a painting I started of a redhead nude figure, her hair is just brilliant, the skin radiant, at least in the vision of the painting I had. I started it as a tone painting a few months ago and it has languished hanging from the rafters waiting for a nudge of inspiration. I’m painting it, brushed, in acrylic in a palette like Bedroom No. 38.

I can get some of the same feeling of flesh tone and smooth transition, but in looking closer at Wesselmann’s work, if it’s not airbrushed in actuality in this painting from the Hirshhorn, the effect can be duplicated with one. The subtlety of the shading along the chin and around the eyes, the fading of the shading in the black behind the face.

It’ll be interesting to see how the airbrushed technique fits the visions I have for this style. And interesting to see how cumbersome / difficult / frustrating this kind of tool is.


— spence


cleaning artist brushes…


About seven years ago I lucked into finding what has been an outstanding artist’s brush cleaner/preservative. I have a routine I follow which keeps the bristles clean, straight, supple. I’ve worn brushes down. I broke the ferrule off the handle on one, by accident, not in frustration. But I’ve not yet lost one to paint build up. Synthetic brushes, bristle and sable brushes, using both oil and acrylic paints.

brushes on palette table

That’s important. I just made a rough count – I have 28 synthetic brushes and 26 bristle and sable brushes – mostly master and studio professional flats and brights, with a couple of very small #0 #1 and #2 synthetics for signing. A couple of fan brushes. Their costs range from about $9 to as much as $28 for some of the larger sizes. Perhaps $720.00 in brushes, at a rough guess. Kept correctly they last years.

more brush shapes

As a student I think I maintained a set of like four flats. Might have been two flats, a filbert and a sable round…

Perhaps half of the 50-odd brushes are duplicate size and quality – one newer, one more worn, with both getting rotated into use. When the older gets close to end-of-life, a third, new brush is added.

masters image

The small tubs last for months, I’ve had the large one three years now, and have used maybe 20% of the cake. The cheap plastic lid cracked, it lives in a rubbermaid container to keep it protected from drying out. I don’t know that that would make a difference, just my preference.

During a painting session I keep the brushes rinsed of paint and moist, either with thinner or water, depending on the paint in use. I don’t leave them standing in the basin holding the cleaner, they lay flat with no weight on the bristles, nothing to deform or damage them when when they aren’t putting paint on canvas.

Process – clean the brush. If oil, clean with oderless mineral spirits. If acrylic, run under water. Once the brush is clean – I’m talking about as clean as you would have the brush for changing colors in your palette – when the brush is basically clean of paint, move on to making it ready to put away. With both oil and acrylic paint, Master’s cleans with water. Run water over the bristles of the brush. Run the bristles over the soap cake, until there is an amount of soap worked into the brush. It’ll be sudsy. Rub between your fingers, massaging the soap through the bristles. Rinse. Repeat – minimum is three times, more if the bristles still feel coarse or bunched or of you are getting any color at all out on the soap cake. Then work soap in one more time, shape the head of the brush with your fingers as close to its original shape, as it was when it was new, as possible. Set to dry handle down in a jar, leaving the soap in the bristles.

I’ve also removed oil paint from sweaters and good clothes, when I forgot to change and got caught up in the motion of painting.

One note – I never use natural bristles of any kind with acrylic. Acrylic seems to settle into the natural hair and over time coarsen the feel of the brush, even when they are well cared for.


— munsinger

about easels and tools

I paint the edges of canvases. I buy only gallery-wrapped 1-1/2″ depth canvases, and if I stretch a canvas, it is with the same stretchers and wrap style. I don’t like a frame on most paintings. Painting the edges persuades an owner to place the canvas in a museum-style frame with the edges of the canvas revealed. The easel pictured on the front of this site is one I used for many years, until the bottom tray would no longer lock under any substantive weight. I stopped using it and started using a Klopfenstein metal easel. I screw in support boards at top and bottom, on the inside of the stretcher bars. These clamp nicely in the pegs of the Klopfenstein easel, allowing full access to all sides at once.

I have been looking at the rotating easels – but they barely handle the larger canvases I’m using, and if the work can go larger or needs to go larger they won’t be able to handle it. On the other hand a second Klopfenstein will allow me to handle a canvas as big as I would plan to use right now.

I love good tools, whether painting or woodworking or those for plumbing, it doesn’t matter. I had always used wood easels, and I originally ordered a larger, fancier wood artisan easel. Unfortunately it shipped in a badly engineered carton, and broke through the middle. I started rethinking wood furniture style easels. My canvases keep getting larger. The easels made to handle those larger sizes in wood are extremely heavy and not easily moved. Each time I would have to move them I would take this same risk of shattering or scratching them. Looking at utility I started looking at metal. The Klopfenstein is heavy-duty, but doesn’t weigh much over 60 lbs. I was leery of working with a metal support – I like the feel of wood in the environment around me. But this easel is more versatile and way more useful than any wood easel I’ve ever used. Not furniture. A very good tool.

Klopfenstein easel

— spence 20080503 Saturday