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

"Every good painter paints what he is."
― Jackson Pollock

Painting-a-Day… Or not. 365 Paintings.

 

in-progress

 

The game would be to complete, write about and offer for auction one painting each day. That’s the concept.

<p.It's been valuable as hell to look at painting from the viewpoint of targeting a specific production. It has meant focus, streamlining the time spent making art to result in more work completed. It forced me to look in detail at the ritual and process I follow right now to produce paintings that work for me as art. To make faster where possible, but also to dig in in my own mind and refuse to change that which is important to making the art I want to make.

I could certainly produce a painting a day each and every day, but if I measure only against that, and not also against the quality of communication and emotion that is why art has impact and importance, none of those paintings-in-a-day matter.

I looked at tools and process and I found some changes that work. The multiple easel panel works. So does the single tripod easel for working through an individual painting where more isolated attention and focus is needed to bring a painting through to the other side and completion.

I also looked at Painting-a-Day practitioners, for style and content and consistency. There is some beautiful work being done daily. It’s direct, it’s detailed and it follows process that fits within Painting A Day.

What am I doing as a painter, and what is part of that ritual and process and what is not? Where can I make streamlined and efficient without affecting that, and where does it break for me if changed at all?

If Painting-A-Day is the intention to produce a painting a day but not necessarily the actuality, or if Painting-A-Day is painting every day, but not necessarily a completed painting each and every day, cool. But, I don’t think it is, really. That’s not what it says it is. Both measure a day against a clock and not against the work itself, and if the work takes longer, then it fails to meet that test. So… Instead of making time the delimiting power, and falling short with paintings NOT showing up against that external measure, how about counting a year as 365 paintings… Outside of the time click of the clock.

My next “year” will be 365 paintings long. Each “day”, at the end, I will have a painting. Period. The day does not end without that. Thus, a Painting, a Day.

 

—spence

 

Portable Easel and Palette, On a Tripod

 

easel

 

I completed an adaptation of James Coulter’s Plein Air System. I liked the pattern James Coulter had used, and I loved the idea of employing a tripod. I build stuff for fun, doodling in wood, and I had some Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry) and maple around from another project.

I made some changes from the original concept. Or – maybe these are already part of the system and hard to see from the photos of the original system. There aren’t detail shots of the hinge attachment for instance, nor of the suspension of the lids…

  • I made the attachment to the tripod using a 1/4″ steek plate with 1/4″-20 thread holes for the tripod attachment, and also used four through-bolts to attach the plate to the maple easel bar.
  • I used Jatoba in a “T” shape on the tripod easel, to hold painting surfaces that can be painted around the edges (wood or gallery-wrapped canvas).
  • I through-bolted attachment of hinges – the two lids when open exert force directly outward to the hinge attachments, screws are designed to resist a perpendicular force to their axis much greater than a pull out along the axis – through-bolts move that stress to the washer, lockwasher and nut on the other side of the surface.
  • I used a block of Jatoba to hold the lids parallel to the palette box. These keep the hinges from dropping the lids down lower than the palette box.
  • I put a keeper bar on one lid, and latched both sides of that using solid brass latches through-bolted.
  • I added rubber feet.
  • I added D rings at the top opposite the rubber feet to hold a shoulder strap.
  • I made the tripod holder blocks adjustable so there is height adjustment up and down and accomodation to different tubular tripods.
  • I put plexiglas plastic inside all three pieces of the palette box.
  • The finish is clear lacquer – very nice, but requires a sealed environment, the fumes are pervasive.

This would need dove-tail joinery and a surface 1/4″ maple or birch (instead of luaun underlayment ply) to bring it up to fine woodworking standards. It would also likely cost – well, it would cost LOTS. A reasonable exchange would be $660 – $720 with these additions. And that would be making at least 5 of ’em at a time. Or you could of course build your own.

 

—spence

 

pay me or the painting gets it…

Blazing Saddles, Cleavon Little’s Sheriff Bart threatens his own self with his own gun, holding himself hostage while he drags (himself) out of a confrontation with the townsfolk…

Sheriff Bart

Blazing Saddles, Cleavon Little

[Townspeople drop their guns. Bart jams the gun into his neck and drags himself through the crowd towards the station]
Harriet Johnson: Isn’t anybody going to help that poor man?
Dr. Sam Johnson: Hush, Harriet! That’s a sure way to get him killed!
Bart: [high-pitched voice] Oooh! He’p me, he’p me! Somebody he’p me! He’p me! He’p me! He’p me!
Bart: [low voice] Shut up!
[Bart places his hand over his own mouth, then drags himself through the door into his office]

I had a thought. From the pattern I’m following to create work and make it have a market, I could have several hundred paintings, all of which have been offered for sale, and none of which have been bid on as yet. I held an artistic practice, and nobody showed up. Not impossible at all, and a deep fear.

What do I do? Keep painting, ignore the complete lack of sales and watch the paintings mount up in storage? Or threaten to destroy a painting a week until someone buys one. At a specific number of accumulated works – say, 240 paintings.

Just like Sheriff Bart…

 

—spence

 

Painting-a-Day | easels and travel

Painting-a-Day will require re-thinking my studio setup and daily ritual, and add an artistic practice capability even when travelling.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
–Pablo Picasso

Ideally I’d like to go anywhere and effectively be able to keep up a consistent continuous artistic practice.

I’ve been using a Klopfenstein Pro 100 Metal Easel since 2007, and it has been outstanding. It weighs about 80 lbs and is rock solid with just about any size canvas. It doesn’t travel, it stays in the studio.

I’ve had a Stanrite #500 Aluminum easel, since about 2009, as a more portable option. It folds down, but it is still long for putting into a piece of luggage for travel. And it is wobbly, in the way it supports canvases. Useful for varnishing, not for painting. I find the instability distracting and disconcerting.

I had a Julian French Easel. I set it up once, put it aside, set it up when I photographed it to sell, and mostly found it too cumbersome and space consuming to actually be useful. I don’t want to paint in the open air – I want controlled lighting and air-conditioning or heating and no insects sticking in the paint and music, lots of music. But i do want a setup I can take with me on an airplane, if I’m going to paint a Painting-a-Day.

I have a Manfroto studio tripod and a very good Benro MeFoto travel tripod – so pochade or plein air eseal seems to be a good fit for me. I need both an easel to travel and a couple of easels to set up in the studio to make the painting process more flowing.

I looked at Guerilla Boxes, the Coulter Plein Air System, the Craftech Sienna Plein Air Pochade system, table top sketchbox easels, Open Box M, Alla Prima Pochade, and the Soltec easel, with a view toward portable studio rather than plein air paintings.

I love the design of the Coulter Plein Air System – with exceptions. It looks like the tripod attachment is a 1/4-20 T-Nut – the stress on that small point is huge, better would be a plate with a 1/4-20 thread, similar to that used on the Craftech Sienna and the Guerilla Box Pochade. I would also change the support to have a wedge “V” shape toward the inside and a sharp trapezoid point on the outside – the trapezoidal point would grab the interior frame of canvas or wood support, the “V” would grab and support panels of varying thickness. And I would (will!) make the supports to be wide, say 5″. The hinges on the palette box should be through-bolted (can’t tell from the photos), and the latch would need to be more substancial… I would (will!) also make the tripod leg support section, that wraps around the tripod legs, adjustable. Sigh. I think I’ve talked myself into building a couple of these to try out these ideas.

I sent back the Craftech Sienna – nice, very pretty, but too much like furniture, not substancial enough to survive over the long haul. I will use the tripod leg support design (adjustable) for my home build easel palette table.

And if all of this works out I’ll need another Benro tripod

—spence

Painting-a-Day…

 

door into summer

 

I read about the painting-a-day movement several years ago when I found work by an artist named Tricia Lamoreaux. More recently I found work by Abbey Ryan, also working on a daily painting practice. I looked at this (painting-a-day). I evaluated painting ritual and artistic process and logistics. What would it take to consistently produce? It’s a very professional view, and it brings up professional problems, I think good ones.

What size surface?
The agreement seems to be less than 14″ in any direction. But – some artists are painting 6″ x 8″…

How thick?
I have an aversion to cheap canvas support wrapped barely around the sides and roughly stapled onto the edge. This comes from the canvas supports I used in art school. I prefer edges I can run the image off onto – gallery-wrapped canvas. I love the distortion as the line changes physical direction while following the internal logic of the painting. I found 9″ x 12″ premium canvases, which still have the 1-1/4″ edge I’m accustomed to, and 9″ x 12″ wood panels, with kiln-dried frames, bringing the edges to 7/8″. I order several weeks worth of each.

How much paint? Tubes or tubs?
I’ve noticed that the 16 ounce tubs I have worked with for the last 7 or 8 years are workable in my home studio, but much more difficult to use on the road – and with a smaller surface to paint in, I have extra paint I end up throwing away if I’m only painting with one easel setup at a time. So… Multiple easels… And tubes of paint – ok, 4.65 ounce instead of 2 ounce, because I am not willing to use less paint. A painting should be made of paint, not a light glazing over canvas.

Oils? Or stay with airbrush and acrylics and palette/painting knives?
I evolved medium and style over many years of practice. I studied in oil and I love the quality of light and the smooth richness of the paint. I could see evolving back to oils at some point, but not as an abrupt change. Acrylic is thickness and texture and stability of form and medium. I’ve managed to recover the richness of color by underpainting in airbrush with primaries, and I love the quickness, the trueness of color and the consistent translucence of light even in very dense color application. So – no abrupt change and I stick with the language of painting I have evolved to now.

What to provide images/inspiration/flow of ideas?
I work from images, photos or drawings. I have printed these out on photo paper in the past. Printing and then keeping track of those images, hanging them next to the canvas, all of that is cumbersome and takes time. Better to organize the images on an iPad, starting out with possibly useful images in a folder synced into the Photos app on the iPad, then in a form that I can organize and tag – I use FolioBook Photo for iPad. OK – ipad on the easel? Or can I hang the iPad next to the canvas on the easel – I found Arkon iPad 2 Holder, which works very well.

All of this is a more professional viewpoint of the practice of doing art.

“What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.
–Pablo Picasso

I worked as a finish and trim carpenter for 18 years. At about five years experience, I worked on a hotel in Los Angeles hanging doors. I did several hundreds of doors in three weeks, placing and nailing off door after door after door. One morning I hung 27 doors. The pace made it interesting and kept it challenging, both physically and mentally. I was in awe over how simple the complex plane of a door swinging in an opening became. It was a drill, door-after-door-after-door.

I found that it took a view of the whole task in its completeness to organize and make effective three finish carpenters and six helpers. It took that conceptual understanding of task and process to get all of us working as efficiently as possible and producing a high level of quality at high speed. It was a revelation. That was carpentry at a professional level. A lot of thought and expertise and experience up front, in organizing and envisioning the whole task, and then a very simple and effective and efficient doing. Not a lot of thought at that point, just action toward a clearly defined result.

I think the Painting-a-Day flow can create the same kind of professional viewpoint and look at an artistic practice. In defining it for myself, I looked at what kind of work I could consistently produce, how big, how to allow it to flow as a consistent and coherent style of work, how it could develop, what kind of packaging would keep it safe, what shipping costs would be and overall, what would work. It’s not just making art, it’s creating a painting and studio practice, a set of rituals and an envisioned end. It’s a point where the distracted creative being all artists can manifest is channelled and takes a professional viewpoint as an artist. I’ve always worked on a flow of motion, almost a dance with paint and visual cues. I’ve always painted with music. The flow of decisions and determinations in a painting is Zen when it works, like water and like stillness at your core. This creates a framework for making that Zen flow become.

Not dissimilar to the conditions of flow and professionalism in very fast very professional high end carpentry and cabinetry work.

 

—spence