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

"You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea..."
― Pablo Picasso

Archives for July 2008

painting: girl in chair

girl in chair JPG

This started from a Picasso painting from 1939 titled “Woman Reading.”


The colors in this followed Picasso’s, then diverged – the biggest revelation from painting this was the scratching of lines into the paint. Sketching into paint, drawing lines into paint. That was/is amazing. One of the things I see most in Picasso’s wide range of techniques is a willingness to be… Sloppy. To let the line take over. To work on communication of the whole, and step back from any obsession with an exactness of detail. And a supreme confidence in the results.

I started with the colors and the chair and the premise of a woman reading in a hallway, quietly, and then tried to walk through to what I saw in the image, which was inherently different, yet has some of the same feel. This is a fun painting to see, for me. It just communicates a quiet joy, in spite of or because of the colors, or is it the blue taming the red and yellow, I don’t know. It is a peaceful painting.

Oil on canvas, gallery-wrapped (painting extends back through the edges), 30″ x 40″ 1-1/2″ deep. Two coats archival Gamvar varnish (gloss).


girl in chair detail #1 JPG girl in chair detail #2 JPG girl in chair detail #3 JPG girl in chair detail #4 JPG


— spence

she has her own face…


helmetmakers wife helmetmaker's wife helmetmakers wife

Rodin portrayed, in sculpture, reality. His work is textured, layered. In this work he grabs the spirit of a woman once beautiful, portrays the passage of time, sinking and changing her.

“It is beauty… She has her own face.”

— Valentine Michael Smith to Jill Broadman, Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A Heinlein

I’ve been reading a restored version of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1960 masterpiece “Stranger in a Strange Land”. I started looking at and appreciating sculpture from these descriptions of Rodin’s work — from Robert Heinlein’s appreciation of it, and his expression of that through his characters.

I’ve remembered that expression — “She has her own face” — since a first reading of the book. It hits harder now, when between botox and surgery women, and some men too, stave off time, they think, and in the process acquire a generic and expressionless face.

The scene in Men in Black, where the alien wearing Edgar’s skin pulls back his face and asks

edgar #1edgar #2edgar #3

“Is this better?”

That’s what it seems like to me as an artist. A face that is very beautiful starts to acquire character and individuality and then… Is frozen. In expression and in time, the character is gone with the crow’s feet and the laugh lines, she no longer has her own face at all.

Another scene in Stranger in a Strange Land observes the genius of Fallen Caryatid. A column in the shape of a woman…

…for three thousand years architects designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures. At last Rodin pointed out that this was work too heavy for a girl. He didn’t say, ‘Look, you jerks, if you must do this, make it a brawny male figure.’ No, he showed it.

– from Robert A. Heinlein’s
Stranger In A Strange Land

Fallen Caryatid #1Fallen Caryatid view #2

Rodin’s “Fallen Caryatid Carrying Her Stone”


“This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl – look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods… and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumpled under it.

But she’s more than just good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women – this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage… and victory.

Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn’t give up… she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her… she’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”

Robert Heinlein’s writing was so far beyond base Science Fiction. From “Stranger in a Strange Land,” to “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” to “Starship Troopers”. Heinlein was an artist.

— spence

revised, restored, recovered… different.

Robert Heinlein submitted approximately a 220,000 word manuscript originally in 1960 for Stranger in a Strange Land. The publisher insisted the book be cut to 150,000 words, to minimize the risk they felt they were taking in publishing what at the time was a radically different work. The final word count came out at 160,087 words, and the publisher accepted it at that length. For 28 years it remained in print in that form.

After Robert Heinlein died, his widow recovered the original submitted manuscript, which had been archived with the University of California at Santa Cruz. She read the in-print version next to the original. She decided the cut version wasn’t as good as the original. A publisher agreed, and a new, complete as written edition was published. My copy was published in 1991.

At least one significant cut occurs between the two editions, though:

“I’ll give you an exact definition. When the happiness of another person becomes as essential to yourself as your own, then the state of love exists.”
— Jubal Harshaw to Ben Caxton, Stranger in a Strange Land

That definition should have been left in. It is not present in the restored, new, revised, whatever, recent edition.

Go back

painting: canyons


I painted some early paintings in watercolors. Pencil sketch on textured watercolor paper, strathmore heavy duty, fairly small stuff – perhaps 8-1/2″ x 11 or 11″ x 17″. I would vidualize the painting, sketch it out, color and line it, at a single stretch of time.

The portfolio that held these was water-damaged in a storage shed in California after an earthquake. Somewhere along the line what was salvaged was set aside and lost

Canyons started out as a drawing in memory of a desert scene I had painted in watercolor and lost. Since the medium was oils, the painting evolved away from that, though the colors and the shading echo what I remember of those paintings.

Oil has more depth and translucency, just a very intense color. Even at brightest, the watercolors couldn’t hit these saturations.



— spence

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

photograph: shoes


At the edge of town there is a park with a soccer field and sandy beach and an area for swimming. The pond is a mile and a half to two miles across, expanding into wetlands in the south and east. Around it runs a trail. On one side there are the remains of… a pier? A water pump facility? What’s left are two concrete walls extending to the edge of the water, with two shorter walls boxing in a square filled with dirt perhaps 15 feet on a side.

The texture captured by the B&W film of the concrete. The shallow depth of field from the 110mm lens on the camera, causing the focus to be very specific. The Keds sneakers, balanced on the wall, are timeless. Everyone has that little kid in them, or should, that sees a flat place on a wall, leaps up and walks along balancing.


— spence



This was taken with Fuji Neopan 400 B&W film, developed for 9-3/4 minutes at 68 degrees in Kodak D76 developer. The camera was a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II medium format with an f2.8 110mm (normal) lens. I’m not certain if I had a yellow filter on this lens at this time – my best guess would be no, there was not a filter. This is scanned with an Epson V750 flatbed in a custom medium format film holder.


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…