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

color…

Seek the strongest color effect possible… the content is of no importance.

Henri Matisse

 

The Desert Harmony in Red (Red Room)

The Desert Harmony in Red (Red Room) by Henri Matisse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—spence

 

storytelling and play, two (or three) painters

“Edward hopper’s emotional storytelling with light, Picasso’s willingness to alter and reinvent form and perspective and to simply play, blatantly play with materials…”

I wrote that in an email from 2011, which ended up in the gmail “Drafts” folder – saved, but never sent or completed.

Nine months later I am not sure where it came from, what idea I was rolling around in that. I consider Hopper an influence because of the loneliness and solitude and timelessness of his images. His telling of a story.

There is the heartbreaking scene in a theatre of a woman, we can barely see her, she is off to the side of the theatre in an aisle away from the stage. Her body language says profound grief or disappointment. Was she an actress denied a part? A showgirl rejected as a professional or as a mistress? A wife or mother recovering from facing down her husband? There is a visual story right there, told but not completely and that storytelling demands the viewer add him or herself to the painting.

 

hoppermovie

 

That’s why I paint in gesture in abstract, in lucky placements of paint that follow an intention but not an exact intention and certainly not an exact attention or care. That feeling in painting, you can see it in Vermeer’s work – look in closely at some details and they aren’t there – they are suggested by the rhythm and the flow of the paint, but the actual detail you see isn’t precisely placed or even anything but shadow and change in tone.

 

vermeer_soldier

 

Picasso is both influence and inspiration. He continually found new ways of lookign at the world, and new ways of expressing that viewpoint, all the way to his passing. His work has a joy and a consistency despite the variety on its surface. Even at the death of his best friend there is a communication of possibility,

I have a film of Picasso “Le Mystere Picasso” from 1956. In the DVD Picasso brings brush strokes into life. At one point a painting is NOT going well, and his subtitled comment is “Oooohhhh. This is bad. Vary bad…” He played with paint, with vision and presented it well.

 

Le-Mysere-Picasso-Clouzot

 

 

—spence

 

No Words At First, Just Images and Adab…

Adab…

“The demanding memory that comes to you of itself…”
from Frank Herbert’s Dune

dunes


I bought a book by a father who lost his eighteen-year-old daughter to cancer.  The concept I had of the book from reviews of it was a collection of memories of the girl, a relating of the process of searching for a cure and a log of how the two on them approached and handled the idea of her dying and how they dealt ultimately with knowing she was going to pass away.  There was mention of artwork and poetry and healing, at least in my imagination.

It was not the book I thought it would be, when it arrived, not the book I needed.  Not a bad book.  I am just in a state where I had very explicite expectations and the desperate need for a particular book, a book this was not.  And I’m not in a place to accept the difference, to accept a book that isn’t pretty much exactly that.   That book, I think I may have to write for myself.

That’s how I started painting.

I always had the need to draw on paper, to capture visual memory and visual creation.  tBut these drawings were small drawings, not ambitious works.  I started painting when I began making things that I would want to hang on my wall.  I was in high school, had no money, couldn’t afford posters.  I painted images I wanted to see, visions that would inspire, enliven my world, create a sense of wonder and awe and that ethereal sense of beauty.

Now we come to writing.  I’m trying to capture what I was hoping to find, what I had expectations to find,  and then write that book.

Part of that capture is “ADAB”, the memory that comes of itself and demands attention and cognizance.

Finding the memories that are important to write about, that capture a word picture of who this woman, my daughter, was.  Why she was who she was. The stubbornness and strength of purpose and character that both helped her live beyond where the disease should have managed to kill her and ultimately helped her reach a place of peace when that life was no longer possible.

Part of that is working through images.

My images, the pictures I took of the “wall of IVs” when she was 42 days in ICU and induced coma and survived.  The memory images of her gaining strength through March and April and May.  Pictures, photographs of her at her birthday in 2010, 24 years old and beginning to look like a survivor, a cancer survivor.  Memories of November, when one side of her face was paralyzed and she was wearing a headband to cover the frightening shunt scar in her scalp.  The shunt that allowed chemo drugs to be dosed three times a week to kill leukemic cells hiding in her brain…  That was when the darkness started to climb back in, I can feel the shadows.  The frailty in December, the unbelievable surgical incision, literally opened up across the belly and ravaged to get a couple more weeks of life (which we did not know, she did not yet know… There was still hope there…).

Other’s images, especially Picasso – at nineteen his best friend kills himself in despair over a woman, and Picasso is devastated.  He works it out in the Blue Period, in images that are timeless.   Picasso’s “Evocation” , “La Vie”

burial of Casagemas La Vie


I want to paint my daughter as she was in my memory as baby, as that small chest rising and falling in a crib, as that child exultant,  riding without training wheels.

I want to paint her as she flowered into a vibrant young woman, learning to dream and to love.  I want to paint the devastation and joy of those first 42 days in ICU hell.  The ravaging leukemia created on her body, the frailness and fragility come on her suddenly.  The life force beneath forcing healing despite impossible adversary. Capture the paralysis on one side of her face, contrasted with the brilliant beauty that was there just before, and was still there, if you knew how to look.

That knowing how to look, that’s essential – showing that in a painting, giving that awareness to the person seeing it, someone who didn’t know Ash.  Knowing both what you see in the result of disease, what changes in the nature of the person physically, and seeing beneath that to the person within.  To both the qualities that are beauty and the pattern that is/was there in beauty, physical beauty, before.

People ARE beautiful in the forms that result from their lives – they lose that un-formed-ness I see in models – they are beautiful, but no character, no life in face or body.  These paintings should show both that outer form, the beauty hit by an adversary, but still there, and the inner strength and struggle of life to stay.  If I could find that, that would be something. Something to treasure.  I can feel the tears streaming blurring already.

I saw that.  That frailness and ethereal release in the last few days, when she knew she would not survive this.  A calm acceptance and treasure of each moment.

I promised Ashley I would paint sunsets from the pictures she took off the Redondo Beach Pier, and I will do that too.  But these images, that’s important too.


—spence


palm trees and inspiration

I walked into the studio to work on sketching Sunset #13 Palms, and I found this:

backlit palm trees

The painting already starts with palm trees in silhouette, but maybe there is another painting in this, taller and narrower, more along the lines of a Chinese brush painting. Which I found through stumbled-upon…

This is from an artist named Chen Shen Ping. Absolutely beautiful work. There is an order and a delicate sense of proportion in this artist’s work that to me makes it stand out.

More –

chinese_painting

— spence

xmind

xmind logo

Xmind is a mind-mapping software I found through a serendipitous train of thought and action.

I was working through Ariane Goodwin’s Writing the Artist Statement. She talks about clustering or mind-mapping as loading your right brain – or left brain. I can’t remember which – I am left-handed and right/left don’t work for me without conscious thought. She talked about working through it on paper. I’m a computer-oriented rather than paper-oriented process person. I went looking for mind-mapping software, preferably open-source, preferably free, and preferably running on Linux and Windows, since I find my self using both.

To quote from a section of the book “Writing the Artist’s Statement”:

“Clustering is a right brain, learning technique pioneered in the 1970s by Tony Buzan in Using Both Sides of Your Brain. Instead of using linear outlines and sequential data, he theorized that learning works best when we organize material the same way the brain organizes information, with neural pathways branching off of central points. The idea caught on, and now we don‘t think twice about dividing learning strategies into right and left-brain styles. Clustering has also been called spider webbing or mapping, and is often used to order ideas generated in a brainstorming session.”

Do’oh. Right brain… I knew that.

That willingness to see if I could find a tool for the computer to work with the technique led me to Xmind. It worked brilliantly for the exercises from the book, pushing them forward quite a bit. I am close to an artist’s statement that actually communicates effectively what I am doing right now. Once I got beyond those exercises, I continued playing with Xmind and the mapping techniques, creating a map of tasks, basically a map of my life and purposes. From that, I started using sections within the map. It has separate sheets, like in Excel – where you have a workbook and then at the bottom you can present data differently on tabbed “sheets”. Same metaphor, but without a rigid cell structure in each sheet.

The Xmind map allows a non-linear presentation – like brainstorming, but with the ability to place order intuitively as you discover or realize pieces of the process.

xmind workbook

I work this way, fluidly. I am not disorganized, if anything, I am more organized in process. Without the process, following trains of thought creatively never results in actual painting, actual product. But within that process I require a constant adjustment, re-evaluation of importance and direction, a maintaining of mementum.

The rigid structure of Excel never worked for me, and endless lists ala Getting Things Done or before that 7 Habits worked, but were heavy and ponderous, even with a computer. Re-ordering and rediscovery or adding newly found tasks wasn’t flowing even in a text editor on a computer. Xmind allows that discovery. It allows changing the whole map structure on a whim to a tree or a logic chart and then back, coloring for emphasis or intuitive grasp of importance. It’s become a favorite tool.

I would highly recommend Ariane’s book as well.

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