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…"

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

Shiny New Server...

Shiny New Server…


Don’t Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out

A metaphor for: “I think you should leave. Do not pause or delay while you are leaving.” Generally used when the addressed has been complaining about circumstances that the listener doesn’t agree with. It comes from a time when doors were on spring hinges and if you paused in the doorway while exiting, the door would spring closed behind you and hit you on the backside.

from Urban Dictionary

I love making things work right. My website ends up being an obsession every once in a while. It’s an exercise in directed attention, a graphic design emphasis I don’t do as an artist very often right now.

I was getting frustrated because my hosting company had several outages system wide over the past few weeks. This happened often enough that I set up monitoring to start to find out what was happening when I wan’t looking. Even once those major outages were resolved I kept finding my site unavailable for several minutes at different times during the day. The tech people there said it was locking up because something was using up all the memory I was allotted, freezing everything else and taking the website down until the memory usage dropped back into a more normal range and other processes could function. It was hard to resolve, because they would tell me how much memory I would have to work with if I went to the next pricing level, but not what I was allotted at present. Sigh.

I profiled the site with some performance tools, and found some things to fix, but nothing that stood out as a runaway memory hog. And overall the whole site felt sluggish even when it was working. So… Rather than hmmm and hah, and continue to complain – new hosting.

I use a French company as a domain registrar because their contract was rated one of the most advantageous for the domain owner, fair and reasonable and clear. They’ve been outstanding. They started hosting just after I switched the last time, and I would have gone with them then if they had been up and running and taking customers. Their prices have been reasonable, and that extended to their hosting. According to Pingdom, I went from slower than 87% of other websites to faster than 79% of other websites. I’ll take that, it looks alot more professional when your site opens and loads effectively and fast.

So, that’s been the last couple of days. Backing up and restoring mysql databases, transferring and compressing web images, fixing broken links, profiling plugins and finding and fixing bugs or finding replacements.

So far this has been very much worth the unexpected work.

— spence

ADDED 10 November 2016:

This worked for quite awhile. The French company gradually changed their pricing model and it became a bit expensive for my needs. I had 9 GB of space to work with, they used a point system to bill against resource usage and network traffic.

I moved on to Digital Ocean. $20/month, so far excellent uptime, I switched to MariaDB and nginx instead of apache and mysql. All good changes and the site responsiveness went way up.

Multi- and Portable Easels

I’ve been looking for a solution to traveling and painting. I tested the Craftech Sienna Porchade box – nicely finished, lightweight, but the support was one side only, and the tightening knobs very small. It wobbled. I returned it. I tried three versions of the Guerilla Painter boxes. From, I purchased the 6″ x 8″ Pochade. It was way too small to be useful to me. I returned it. The 9″ x 12″ was very good – again only supported on one side, but way more sturdy. I purchased seconds of the 9″ x 12″ and the French Reisstance Pochade (medium) directly from Judson’s Art Outfitters. These were discounted, and still beautiful. Hard to tell they were seconds. I kept both of the seconds, giving one to my daughter. I like and will use the French Resistance Medium Pochade – it is light enough and very very stable when supporting a canvas or backed wood panel. There is support on both sides of the lid and the design for the support is very workable.

In researching what people thought of various pochade boxes and portable easel solutions, I ran across James Coulter’s Plein Air System. Beautiful pieces. I liked the idea, but some of the construction details bothered me as an engineer and furniture builder and obsessive craftsman. I took what I liked about the design and built two prototypes for myself to work through and see how they work for me. These are not “better” – we’ll see how these changes work out in practice, and they may not be practical in a product built for sale. The major changes are the tripod support is 1/4″ flat steel, 4″ long x 1-1/2″ wide, through-bolted to a maple easel head, with a tripod 1/4″-20 thread in the center. Similar to what Guerilla Painter does for their boxes, but steel instead of aluminum (heavier but way more durable). I used Jatoba for the canvas/panel supports. I through-bolted the hinges joining the sides of the palette box. The stress on the hinge screws is not across the screws, but pulls on a fulcrum leverage out and away. Through-bolting accommodates that tension. I also made the tripod supports at the back of the boxes adjustable, which is a detail that was present on the Craftech Sienna Supply Box design. I ordered luggage latches and added a bar across one of the two panel lids, so latching one side restrained the other – two latched on the side tension down the lid with the keeper bar attached. I’m cutting plexiglas to line the interior compartments, because I work in acrylic, and plexi works better for a paint palette surface (glass is even better than that, but heavy and dangerous…).

I was originally going to use these portable boxes, and the adapted plein air system pieces in my studio for working on multiple works in the same session. But along the way I had another idea, and worked through that. I kept mixing paint from my large tubs of paint, and using it and then having to discard what was left, then mix the same or similar color for another work in progress a few minutes later. I designed and built a couple of four-work easel panels – they fit stably into my Klopfenstein metal studio easel – two of them encompasses 4 works x2 for eight works in progress and actively worked in a session. I completed these Sunday, but sanding and lacquering them started last evening.

Once the lacquer is finished, I’ll photograph the results and post them.




fisheye distortion

Fisheye distortion is just fun… I found the Lensbaby Scout with Fisheye Optic a blast to distort things with. Last evening there were cloud in the sky painted by the sun – not extraordinary, but extraordinary here and now because in New England in the winter there is limited color outdoors. Even a mild winter mutes color.

Here’s the straight shot…

fisheye 1

and then fisheyes…

fisheye 1

fisheye 1

The wrap-around view is like when you focus on something and expand, extend, push, float your awareness around and away from that sharp focus.



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.


IE errors… sigh. and Opera.


image of ie error

With the new site design comes a new set of problems. I worked on screen resolution errors over the weekend. Now on trying Internet Explorer 6 I get the above error. Very annoying. I have a checklist for resolving it – this isn’t a certificate issue, at least, this is a request issue. Some part of the page loads from an http (non-secure) source, the trick is finding it, and it may be an internal page error from Internet Explorer itself – Internet Explorer considers its own error to be insecure. Possibly that’s right…

It is about as annoying as Microsoft Vista asking every second task “Do you want to allow this access?”

In Mozilla Firefox none of this occurs. I’ll try and fix it anyway, but ideally you would be using Firefox and never see this at all.

firefox logo firefox.

The checklist is…

  • Change all http:// resource links to https://. The doctype is not a problem. All others (images, css, javascripts, iframe pages) should be https://.
  • Change all about:blank links (yep, these are unsecure) to a blank file that exists and is a https:// link.
  • Install Fiddler and check if there are any hidden requests to http:// (it won�t show https:// requests with the default setting). Change them to https://
  • Check if any iframes have # for src or the src is left blank. Change them to something that is a https:// link and exists. Looks like # is actually an alias to about:blank.
  • Find any resources that return an error. This one is tricky since it�s not really easy to set up an SSL proxy. Try checking the server�s access logs.

This should be an interesting problem – none of the obvious code requests an insecure piece…� Hopefully I’ll have this resolved in a day or so.

On testing Opera 9.5 I found that the front page text widget won’t load the gallery effect (lightbox) – however – the painting and photography pages allow this to work perfectly… More javascript and xhtml code delving.�� “View page source” is your friend.

opera logoOpera.

— spence

-UPDATE 20080707 Monday –

Opera, anyway, is a positioning problem – the lightbox effect is centered on the WHOLE page, not just the visible portion.� It works in all pages, but the initial front� page buries the effect in the center of the entire web page – if you scrolled down about four screens, there it would be. The paintings.html� page is short enough to show the lightbox effect vertically centered – where the index/front page shown vertically centered is useless. �At least that problem is defined…

The secure non-secure error is a bit tougher – using fiddler in https proxy mode, NONE (really, none) of the connections made are insecure, there aren’t any missing images, no errors that should cause mixed secure/ non-secure content.� However – if I turn the lightbox plugin (javascript that enables gallery effect) off, the error disappears…� Turn it back on – the errors reappear… so somewhere in that plugin there is the creation of and actual non-secure item or the apparency of such a creation.� Very interesting.

And – disabling lightbox plugin and enabling slimbox (similar effect, but the transition effect isn’t quite as clean) removes the errors as well.� New checklist…

  • check for opera positioning fix for lightbox effect (in this case slimbox behaves just as badly in the browser).
  • go through lightbox plugin and if possible remove the non-secure item call
  • test other versions of the lightbox plugin to see if they throw the secure/non-secure error in Internet Explorer
  • other versions of this effect until resolved


thumbnail of hand

This effect seems to be becoming a standard. I’ve seen this set of scripts on several sites, allowing a look similar to what can be achieved with straight css, but better for image presentation. It is very effective. The first step in using it was this integration with wordpress…

Lightbox 2 WordPress Plugin is the plugin I found that actually does work out of the box without alteration.

There is a lighter and possibly better version of this effect called slimbox – but the wordpress plug-in fails to just work, unfortunately. ALL of the plugin versions seem to fail. Sigh. Lightbox it is, at least for now.

MORE – I set up a bare-bones test website, with a raw, unhacked version of wordpress, without the css hacking that integrated wordpress, and found that the slimbox plug-in DOES work in that framework. This is good – this gives me a starting point for re-working this. When I developed this site it started with “desire for something better than the previous” to “learning css” to “enamored of css and using css almost exclusively” to “frustrated with hacking css and setting up multiple css files for each kind of page” to “add some kind of weblog software” to “adding wordpress” to “learning php” to “hmmm… what’s this lightbox effect?” to here and now.

The next re-work of the site has several targets/goals:

  • 1 to 3 css stylesheets in total – preferably one
  • which allows color themes and theme changes with some ease
  • lightbox OR slimbox effect in both wordpress and website outside of wordpress
  • tighter integration between wordpress and site
  • pages rewritten to encompass slimbox/lightbox effect
  • form page for contact and/or comment email, including mailing list addition box

— spence