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

"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence."
― Henri Matisse

Painting-a-Day: concept and scale and execution


One way to price paintings for sale consistently is to find a cost per square inch. That works, up to a certain point, and then fails. You can get only so small until the strategy breaks down…

A painting can be small in area, and in that uses less paint, less canvas, less acrylic medium or turpentine or linseed oil, less archival varnish. Less airbrush paint, less pastel. A painting can be less complicated, simpler in detail and execution. All of that makes less the investment in materials and actual motion and construction by the artist.

Two things are missing.

The first is time. Time to resolve the problems of composition, balance, aesthetic intension, color, form, directing attention. That may be standing in front of the painting and learning to see what’s not there yet, what the next steps are. That seeing is the key to artistic practice. Finding the rituals that push that into being is learning to produce as a professional artist.

The second is concept. My experience is that I feel an emotional hit from an inspiration for a painting, from photograph or memory or color, usually all at once. That’s my individual whole, my intention for what the painting will communicate when it is done, and the measure for when it is done. Getting a painting there is not measurable in motion or materials. Maybe it’s measurable in what it gives you as an artist or what it takes away from your soul…

This article came about because I was thinking about that square footage as a measure for pricing work, and circling around how to produce work that has impact and satisfies me as true and authentic, and that can find a market. A painting can only be so small to lessen the material cost, and that does bring the form and concept to a simpler place, just because of the focus needed to execute it in a smaller space. But doesn’t necessarily mean fewer problems to resolve to get the damn thing complete.

Painting-a-Day, or “A Painting, A Day”, is a brilliant professional drill. It forces a whole survey of method, material, concept of work, and ritual. I think an art school that made this the drill for a year or four would be the school I wish I had had, and had to knock around to find for myself.


— spence


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.