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

"Seek the strongest color effect possible… the content is of no importance."
― Henri Matisse

Easel Panel – Three to Four Painting Surfaces At Once

 

easel

 

I wanted a way to efficiently work with multiple canvases at the same time. After thinking about it and sketching several versions and measurements, I defined requirements…

    I wanted:

 

  • able to handle 12″ x 16″ canvases or panels in either vertical or horizontal placement
  • able to handle 9″ x 12″ canvases or panels in either vertical or horizontal placement
  • remove the need to add wood struts to inside of top and bottom of canvases or panels to elevate and paint edges
  • handle seven canvases or more at the same time
  • hangable on the wall in the space I have (better painting handling for smaller canvases)
  • sufficient space around each individual canvas on the panel to work with edges and top and bottom without feeling cramped

 

I love wood, and I have some Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry) wood scraps left over from a furniture project. I build and built cabinetry and furniture and I have tools… To do this I used a Porter-Cable plunge base router, a 1/4″ straight carbide bit, a Ryobi cabinet table saw system for dimensioning lumber, a Dewalt 12″ Surfacing Planer to smooth and clean and dimension hardwood, a Porter-Cable pancake compressor and a Porter-Cable 18 guage pin nail gun and hose, 5/8″ nails, Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Glue, spray clear satin lacquer, a paint respirator (lacquer is EXTREMELY toxic), a Milwaukee Cordless 3/8 drill and batteries, Milwaukee drill bits, a General Drill Guide. That last drill guide is often useful – I build a block jig that holds the material in place, screw the guide onto that block jig, and can drill consistent centered holes over and over, in this case through the blocks that hold the canvases in place.

The panel itself was pre-cut 1/2″ birch 24″ x 48″ panel. Pre-cut because I didn’t want to handle a full sheet, I thought it would be faster to do it pre-cut this time, it probably would have been about the same in hindsight.

Here’s the easel panel (Klopfenstein easel NOT built from scratch for this project):

 

 

—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.

I will likely keep the Guerilla Box French Resistance Medium and the 9″ x 12″ Pochade box for airplane travel. But I may end up also taking one of the plein air easels too, and a couple of the tripods.

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

—spence

printmaking

I saw the MFA’s Alex Katz Prints exhibition April 25th. Alex Katz’s work reminded me intensely of Tom Wesselmann. Alex Katz was at Cooper Union 1945 to 1949. Tom Wesselmann was accepted at Cooper Union in 1956. They are roughly contemporary, Alex was born in 1927, Tom in 1931. Tom Wesselmann maintained bright color and pop art direction through to his passing in 2004. Alex Katz kept similar bright color and simplified form (at least in prints) but concentrated on literal interpretation of the human form.

wesselmann
alex_katz_1
wesselmann2
Alex Katz print #2

A lot of fun to see.

In the exhibit some of the prints were exhibited done through several different processes – screenprint next to woodcut, for example. I’m researching presses, screen and etching. If it were as simple as buying a press and trying it out that would be one thing. But I would want to print abstracted sunsets at 24″ x 30″ and that in a new etching press is 5500.00 and up. Not to mention you have to watch what these things weigh – some are “light” at 1250 lbs., a weight savings of half from a less weight-conscious press that comes in at 2650 lbs. Not the thing you throw casually into a second floor studio. Screen presses are easier in the press itself – I can likely build one that will accommodate 24″ x 30″ prints in four colors. I found a design which I can adapt at www.printingplans.com. Most of the for-sale presses for screen are t-shirt and fabric presses.

I also found an elegant solution already executed by Doug Forsythe at buildapress.com. This is very interesting. For a best guess expense of $1200 – $1700 I can likely build a press that would print 26″ x 32″ (my arbitrary dimensions). A press that I am finding would cost 5500.00 to 8500.00 new, and would be able to print exactly what I want to.

I think a simplified abstracted away yet again sunset could be very cool in handmade small editions. Not to mention just straight print art itself.

— 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

cleaning artist brushes…

 

About seven years ago I lucked into finding what has been an outstanding artist’s brush cleaner/preservative. I have a routine I follow which keeps the bristles clean, straight, supple. I’ve worn brushes down. I broke the ferrule off the handle on one, by accident, not in frustration. But I’ve not yet lost one to paint build up. Synthetic brushes, bristle and sable brushes, using both oil and acrylic paints.

brushes on palette table

That’s important. I just made a rough count – I have 28 synthetic brushes and 26 bristle and sable brushes – mostly master and studio professional flats and brights, with a couple of very small #0 #1 and #2 synthetics for signing. A couple of fan brushes. Their costs range from about $9 to as much as $28 for some of the larger sizes. Perhaps $720.00 in brushes, at a rough guess. Kept correctly they last years.

flatbrightfilbertroundsfan
more brush shapes

As a student I think I maintained a set of like four flats. Might have been two flats, a filbert and a sable round…

Perhaps half of the 50-odd brushes are duplicate size and quality – one newer, one more worn, with both getting rotated into use. When the older gets close to end-of-life, a third, new brush is added.

masters image

The small tubs last for months, I’ve had the large one three years now, and have used maybe 20% of the cake. The cheap plastic lid cracked, it lives in a rubbermaid container to keep it protected from drying out. I don’t know that that would make a difference, just my preference.

During a painting session I keep the brushes rinsed of paint and moist, either with thinner or water, depending on the paint in use. I don’t leave them standing in the basin holding the cleaner, they lay flat with no weight on the bristles, nothing to deform or damage them when when they aren’t putting paint on canvas.

Process – clean the brush. If oil, clean with oderless mineral spirits. If acrylic, run under water. Once the brush is clean – I’m talking about as clean as you would have the brush for changing colors in your palette – when the brush is basically clean of paint, move on to making it ready to put away. With both oil and acrylic paint, Master’s cleans with water. Run water over the bristles of the brush. Run the bristles over the soap cake, until there is an amount of soap worked into the brush. It’ll be sudsy. Rub between your fingers, massaging the soap through the bristles. Rinse. Repeat – minimum is three times, more if the bristles still feel coarse or bunched or of you are getting any color at all out on the soap cake. Then work soap in one more time, shape the head of the brush with your fingers as close to its original shape, as it was when it was new, as possible. Set to dry handle down in a jar, leaving the soap in the bristles.

I’ve also removed oil paint from sweaters and good clothes, when I forgot to change and got caught up in the motion of painting.

One note – I never use natural bristles of any kind with acrylic. Acrylic seems to settle into the natural hair and over time coarsen the feel of the brush, even when they are well cared for.

 

— munsinger

 

artist@spencemunsinger.com
spencemunsinger.com

about easels and tools

I paint the edges of canvases. I buy only gallery-wrapped 1-1/2″ depth canvases, and if I stretch a canvas, it is with the same stretchers and wrap style. I don’t like a frame on most paintings. Painting the edges persuades an owner to place the canvas in a museum-style frame with the edges of the canvas revealed. The easel pictured on the front of this site is one I used for many years, until the bottom tray would no longer lock under any substantive weight. I stopped using it and started using a Klopfenstein metal easel. I screw in support boards at top and bottom, on the inside of the stretcher bars. These clamp nicely in the pegs of the Klopfenstein easel, allowing full access to all sides at once.

I have been looking at the rotating easels – but they barely handle the larger canvases I’m using, and if the work can go larger or needs to go larger they won’t be able to handle it. On the other hand a second Klopfenstein will allow me to handle a canvas as big as I would plan to use right now.

I love good tools, whether painting or woodworking or those for plumbing, it doesn’t matter. I had always used wood easels, and I originally ordered a larger, fancier wood artisan easel. Unfortunately it shipped in a badly engineered carton, and broke through the middle. I started rethinking wood furniture style easels. My canvases keep getting larger. The easels made to handle those larger sizes in wood are extremely heavy and not easily moved. Each time I would have to move them I would take this same risk of shattering or scratching them. Looking at utility I started looking at metal. The Klopfenstein is heavy-duty, but doesn’t weigh much over 60 lbs. I was leery of working with a metal support – I like the feel of wood in the environment around me. But this easel is more versatile and way more useful than any wood easel I’ve ever used. Not furniture. A very good tool.

Klopfenstein easel

— spence 20080503 Saturday

artist@spencemunsinger.com
spencemunsinger.com