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…"

Archives for September 2008

9000 x 12000 pixels – long road home


I post-scan-processed “long road home”. This part is mechanical, just adjusting to bring out the best possible image. But the visual reward – to have truly printable high quality images – just the impact of that many pixels is incredible. The original canvas is 30″ x 40″.

This image links to the reasonable-sized detail image – the blue outline is the section that the detail image captured – the detail image links to a full size image of the section – you will have to scroll around to close it, it is larger than the resolution of most monitors (the image size is roughly 1200 pixels x 2200 pixels). It does give you a sense of what a 44 MB jpeg image can capture – distilled from a 618 MB TIFF file.

long road home detail

This was not sharpened except at the noise reduction filter level, and that only slightly. To print effectively it is likely to require more sharpening. There is a technique called high pass filter sharpening [1], which failed miserably in this case, but was outstandingly effective on “weathervane”. On this painting image, it turned the colors toward shades of grey, and I went back and started over again.

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— spence


[1] Note:

High Pass Noise Filtering (Photoshop CS2)

On the Layer palette select your Background Layer and right click. Select Duplicate Layer.

  • With this new layer highlighted select Filter / Other / High Pass. Set the Radius to 10 and click OK.
  • Zoom into your image to Actual Pixels level so you can better see what you’re going to do next.
  • Go back to the Layer Palette and select Hard Light from the left drop down.
  • Now go to the Opacity Slider and select a level of sharpening that seems best to you. Usually something between 20% and 70% will be best.

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images of art for print reproduction


What does it take to produce a reproduction of a painting? Not an image for a website, but an image of high enough quality to use as a print reproduction? At full size or as close to full size as practicable?

weathervane detail

Two measurements – two sides of the process:

  • DPI (dots per inch) is the measurement on the printer itself. That’s your print output.
  • PPI (pixels per inch). Pixels per inch is the measurement of the image resolution within the file.

Differences between DPI and PPI are interpolated in software – like upsizing or downsizing an image in Photoshop, done on the fly. Upsizing, making larger, is prone to errors, and is better done in Photoshop rather than by the printer driver; downsizing is not.

The acceptable file size for full print reproduction of a 30″ x 40″ painting (300 pixels per inch (PPI)) is 9000 x 12000 pixels. 240 PPI is usually acceptable. I just took a 6 x 7 cm medium format color negative, scanned in a Nikon film scanner at 4000 DPI/PPI, and with cropping the final resolution image is 8964 x 11016 pixels, and a whopping 493.22 MB in size (16bit). Increasing the resolution of the height from 11016 to 12000, and then cropping back to 9000 for the width will hit that target. I’ll increase the resolution in Photoshop to 12000 using bicubic smoother. The final file gets saved separately from the original scan file. Both are TIFF files at this stage, uncompressed.

The combination of Mamiya medium format RZ67 camera and Nikon film scanner result in an 89 megapixel image. Ten times the resolution of my Canon 30D digital. That’s exactly why film rules for this application…

Paintings are not photographs. They are imprecise by the nature of the medium. The final file will print very well at 300 DPI on canvas, or heavy paper.

The negative is scanned at 4000 DPI (sorry – really Pixels per Inch at this stage, but Nikon uses DPI, as does all the scanner literature). I multiscan the negative 4x to 8x (reduces digital noise, at least some). The original scan file is opened in Photoshop (slowly – 565 MB file). I use Neat Image, a noise reduction program to clear the digital noise out – it works both as a standalone program and a Photoshop plugin, and produces outstanding results in cleaning digital files, whether scans or digital photographs. Get the resolution correct, sharpen for printing, save the file, and that’s it.

I took a test roll of ten shots of a single painting to get exposure correct – in the lighting, with the filter and set up exactly as the actual shots would be. I varied the exposure from measured light amount (1-1/2 seconds at f16) upward 4 stops and downward 4 stops. It turned out the measured exposure was over-exposed, and dropping a full f stop down (less light) created a much better image. I also found that I needed to move closer to the painting, filling more of the frame, to get the largest capture possible (less cropping, more actual pixels).

This last Friday evening I took the test roll, ten shots, from set up to photographing to development of the film and hanging it up to dry. Saturday I scanned the resulting negatives, parsed through and determined the ideal exposure. I then took three rolls of 10 exposures each, developed all three rolls, hung up to dry, and broke down and packed away the setup.

Total cost in film and chemicals – $36. Equipment costs to photograph, develop, scan, adjust and store the images – $5500.00. Having control over the quality of the final image files – priceless…

weathervane section

Scanning and adjusting the images will take a couple of weeks. Test prints to validate the image – another week. I’ll post some more detail sections as I work through these.


— spence


do you see?


An art museum is school, place of worship, archaeological dig, the burial place of my ancestors, to me. I am looking for precedent, for a lesson in the language of art. It’s like a writer reading – a part of me is always looking at HOW the effect was achieved and recreating the steps for myself, at least imagining materials, technique, what additional knowledge I would need to create a sentence like that one.

The digital images I take in a museum are the same as I would take to capture a thread of a visual thought. I take a Canon 30D and a 24-70mm f2.8L telephoto, a very fast (grabs great images in low light) lens. I’ll take pictures documenting for myself the section of the painting I found revelatory, the pattern in the paint that could be an inspiration or a document of technique.

From the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C…

I was looking for what lines in this figure made it so communicate joy and laughter, what exaggerations, what the sculptor achieved in effect that would be different from what I would do as a painter. In walking around I was struck by the change in the flow of the figure, and I took pictures to document that impression.

Also from the Hirshhorn…

The shape of the lips, the luminous colors, the style of the figures, the shaping and toning, the impact this had as I walked up the stairs and it came into view (this is large, perhaps 6 feet high x 8 feet wide).

I’m an artist. I love this stuff. I’m not there in any museum to be able to cross off – "OK, check, saw Picasso’s Night Fishing at Antibes".

In the Queens, N.Y. annex of MOMA, walking into a room and finding Night Fishing there, it is huge, covering most of the far wall. The paint is thin, this was 1939 or so, things must have been getting tough in France, very dark, and the painting communicates this. I took photos across the surface, trying to capture how transparent Picasso had left the work, the drips across the surface, the sketches still visible. It was a revelation in that what I saw was detail by detail thin, washed, scratched out, and then as a whole just beautiful and very effective. It’s luminous and perfect in the books and there also just isn’t a sense of the impact of the size (7 feet high by 11 feet wide).

night fishing

I’m looking for threads I can use, and refer back to in my own work. What made this communicate, what causes it to be great, to have lasting impact?

Ron Mueck, an Australian sculptor. Brilliant work.

big manhead

The Hirshhorn had Big Man in a corner on the basement floor – you come around the corner and there is this enormous naked middle-aged and rather pissed-off looking man, the texture of the skin on his knees (eye level) is dead-on, every pore is there. I was stunned.

Many of the works I have photographed I don’t have an artist’s name for, without doing some research. I’m too absorbed in the balancing act of both experiencing the magic and figuring out what caused it to work to really get who actually did it. I do put a camera to my eye, but only to capture a detail or an image I want to work with. Digital SLR’s don’t have a view screen on the back that you can use to frame, you have to bring the viewfinder up to your eye and see the image through the lens. The image on the back is verification of what you captured.

I enjoy watching people look at art. I photograph people and their reaction to a piece, like street photography, only with better lighting.

In the National Museum in Washington, D.C., I photographed this pair of kids – part of a group of about 20, all in bright yellow shirts, herded by a museum guide from room to room. Most with cellphone or small digital cameras.

watching paintings

It was amazing to watch these kids pretty much experience the paintings they were shown through the viewscreens of their cameras. I don’t think they looked for more than a split second directly at the work, and I watched them go as a group from painting to painting… My mouth fell open and I had to photograph it. It was like a performance piece in itself.


— munsinger




I looked through the Hirshhorn collection and found the “oh my” painting listed – Tom Wesselmann, Bedroom Painting No. 38. Really beautiful stuff. .

The laughing woman is Ernst Barlach’s Old Woman Laughing, from 1948.


los angeles…


a windy venice beach


…and he walked into a great sandstone building. “oooooffff. My nose…” Nick Danger, 3rd Eye


Many years in Los Angeles – I can still hear freeway traffic as a background noise. An hallucinated, auditory presence, recovered with the memory of half my life.

I sit on the porch in the evening here in the Northeast, and compare East to West – to Los Angeles. I recall the light at the end of the day, the gradual deepening blue and then azure and grey. The color of the sky at last light over the ocean, a cloudy grey-pink . The desert wind. The dry heat. The smell of rain falling on oil-soaked parched streets, hard and fast and steaming as the drops hit the pavement. The brightness at night, 470 square miles of streetlight-after-streetlight-after-streetlight banishing the stars and giving the evening sky a glow like distorted and twisted moonlight.

I saw stars in Los Angeles once. The 1994 earthquake woke me up and threw me out of bed at 4:30 AM in the morning. It cut off all the power through the Los Angeles basin, the only lights were from cars on the road. Unable to go back to sleep, I lay in the bed of my pickup truck, watching a depth of stars in the heavens usually only seen in the desert, far away from the city. They are always there but never seen, blocked.

hitchiker's guide


…Los Angeles, which is described in the new edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… as ‘being like several thousand square miles of American Express junk mail, but without the same sense of moral depth. Plus the air is, for some reason, yellow.’

~Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish


I’m working through an ocean/sunset painting. The quality of light is interesting to bring into a painting. Hollywood HAD to be in this area – the light is so different from anywhere else. There is more of it. It is whiter, more intense. This is added to at the beach by the reflection back of light from sand and water. And the colors in a sunset – enhanced by the haze of particles in the air – looks like it couldn’t actually be in anything but an imagined world.

Last trip out to L.A., I took pictures, but not with the good cameras, with a small digital. The days were hazy, cloudy in the morning and never that spectacular light California is capable of. I’m working from memories and from impressions and from snapshots here and there.

to the beach postcardbeach and dunes postcard

Nothing IS California like the long pathways along the beach and the beach communities. Laguna Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and further south, La Jolla, DelMar, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Carlsbad. The proximity of the ocean becomes an integral part of your world. I oriented things based on the direction to the Pacific, it was an enormous presence always there in the back of my mind. That direction is the ocean, the sea, a huge expanse of space to the horizon. Even on the other side of the country, that’s still where I feel the ocean in my mind.

East vs. West – much of the California Beaches are public access. Few are private. The broad swatches of sand – not available on the East coast – much of the beach in the North East is a place where the bitterly cold Atlantic reaches a rocky shore and broad expanses of sand aren’t available. Broad expanses of mud flats. But not the soft white surface of a Pacific beach.


If the first paintiing creates a path for a series of images, maybe I can paint the recall of warmth and sun through a New England winter.



— munsinger





…this is from “The Further Adventures of Nick Danger”, Firesign Theatre’s brilliant spoof of private eye radio programs.

Here’s the whole scene:


“NARRATOR: Los An-ge-les, he walks again by night.

Out of the fog, into the smog. (cough)
(NICK: I wonder where Ruth is),
(woof woof),
toward his weekly meeting with…
the unknown.

At Fourth and Drucker he turns left.
At Drucker and Fourth he turns right.
He crosses MacArthur Park and walks into a great sandstone building
(NICK: ooh – my

Groping for the door (ring)
he steps inside (ring)
climbs the thirteen steps to his office (ring).
He walks in (ring). He’s ready for mystery (ring).
He’s ready for excitement (ring).
He’s ready for anything (ring).
He’s… (answers phone)

“NICK: ‘Nick Danger, third eye.’

“CALLER: ‘I want to order a pizza to go and no anchovies.’

“NICK: ‘No anchovies? You’ve got the wrong man. I spell my name Danger!’

“CALLER: ‘What?'”


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