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

Archives for January 2009

expatriate artist

 

I am an expatriate Southern Californian. How I look at light. My conception of space and perspective. Color and form, translated into paint on canvas, and from that to plane and three dimensional space implied on two dimensions. All of this is sourced from this sense of being elsewhere.

I learned to see in California. I know colors and forms and techniques learned and drilled from that space. It doesn’t leave, it still influences.

I miss an ocean to the West, a long line of water and sand roughly north-south. I had always located direction and location from that. Move an ocean to the east and that expansive sense of space and innate ability to feel located is just gone.

The sun rises over the ocean in the east, backward, distorting time. The days in the northeast are dramatically longer in summer, shorter in winter.

Summer encloses space in trees and foliage, vines and bushes explode in the spring. Sight lines are interrupted, broken, occluded. In fall the space opens back up, but with the openness soon loses all color, dropping back to simplistic greys and browns and line and shadow. The space is back, but at a price of limited light and dropped temperatures.

Lying on a beach in February, in Malibu, feeling the warm grit of the sand supporting and bouying, and the sun flodding light and color. The rhythm of the waves, swells crossing huge distances over the Pacific, finally mounting the continental shelf and lapping at the edge of the world.

It is right now 14 degrees outside my door, at 4:00 PM the light is shadows, and I’ve just spent three hours clearing my driveway of snow. In New England. In the winter. Which basically implies that I’m here, this is expected and I don’t have the right to complain too much. Some grumbling is expected.

It does not feel like home here, as an artist. I don’t believe it ever will. There will always be sand and sunsets and true beaches and warm days in winter in my soul. I source images and emotion from that, and from the separation and dislocation of painting in the Northeast.

Artists are supposed to be classed by location. A “New England artist” constributes to a collector understanding the work, or at least feeling that they understand the work. I live in New England. I am a Southern California artist. That’s truth.

 

CA coast

 

— spence

 

balance and the edge of creativity

 

I’ve been thinking about the process of painting. I’m defining the sunset series, refining the words that describe why sunsets and where that comes from. I’m also looking for the words to explain and express and place myself as an artist.

 

sunset #4

 

Creativity is a balance, a choosing of alternate paths of action and thought. An intuitive sense of balance and motion, like listening to musical rhythm and counterpoint, harmony and backbeat. I sense color and emotional resonances from form and color in a particular place on a canvas, relate that to the push and the pull of space across that two dimensional surface, that transforming of planes into space and motion. From that I listen to what might be. Maybe several might-be’s. I choose.

That choice, that’s a knowing choice, with a result that I start measuring and judging the effect – what does that color and the form it takes, the plane it forms, affect in the painting? What motion does it create? What movement in the space of the canvas? What vibration? And what should happen next? And I start finding the next might-be’s.

It’s an aesthetic judgment and sense, knowing the materials and the tools, the surface and what is possible, drawing on experience, on training, and on a body of works.

Wolf Kahn wrote that art is the progression of an artist’s vision through his works, that each work reflects a progress. Mark Rothko wrote that each picture is a set of problems to be resolved. Hans Hofmann wrote that fine art is emotional resonance, like music.

 

wolf kahn

 

I read an article tonight by Johann Hari. He wrote of his experiences with a drug, a smart drug, Provigil. It treats narcolepsy, and given to someone without that condition, it stimulates alertness and from what Johann describes a feeling of effortless creativity and intelligence. It sounded so good.

 

provigil

 

If only intelligence were so easy. Before you run out a get an illicit supply of Provigil, let me remind you that the brain is a precisely equilibrated machine. Even drugs that don’t appear to have any negative side-effects – who wouldn’t want a more focused brain? – can actually have deleterious consequences.

In this case, the tradeoff involves creativity. Some of my friends who relied on crushed Ritalin during college used to joke about how the drugs were great for late-night cramming sessions, but that they seemed to suppress any kind of originality. In other words, increased focus came at the expense of the imagination. It makes perfect sense that such a cognitive trade-off would exist. Paying attention to a particular task – like writing an article – requires the brain to ignore all sorts of seemingly unrelated thoughts and stimuli bubbling up from below.

This hit home hard. Sometimes painting is an exercise in effort.

Like running. You feel tired and out of it and each step is an effort, and you get tied up in that heavy exhausted feeling. Often if you persist, that blows off and running becomes the joy it can be. Sometimes that heavy drudgery is all you are going to get this time through.

 

running

 

When painting clicks it’s like dancing, following the motions, the actions, a precision you can feel and a rightness to all of it that is extraordinary. It’s a balancing act between effort and no-thought. You have to balance between the effortless knowing of what to do next and the decisions and materials and running evaluation of where the work is moving to.

Eventually I’ll dislike something on the canvas. I’ll back away from it for awhile. Rarely, I’ll back it out, and continue. Usually, that critical balance has been lost. What I see as wrong won’t be wrong at a different time. It will at worst be a jumping off point and at best it was actually right, just the focus had been lost.

 

sunset #2

 

That creative balance would be impossible for me to achieve in a narrowed and restricted focus. The wider the net cast, the broader the attention span and awareness of now the deeper the creative impulses are. The price is that it isn’t always easy. But, it wasn’t meant to be.

— spence

new work – sunset #5 off PCH

 

PCH

sunset series (paintings)

new work – sunset #4 patio Solana Beach

 

4th Street

sunset series (paintings)