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

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
― Pablo Picasso

Artist Statement (16 April 2013)



I keep going through this process, to find a description that covers the work I’m doing as an artist. Each time I get closer…

I paint in ritual and in process.

This ritual and process I’ve created to force me away from precise line and form. I colored strictly within lines as a child. I respected line and form and exactness and detail and perfection. I tended toward order and symmetry and the unflawed. My early training as an artist was in drawing and form and tone and tone painting and then color wash and still life and a very careful and complete and controlled result.

Part of that training was figure drawing. In the class we had a drill to sketch the figure posing for 30 seconds, re-pose, sketch again for 30 seconds, capturing as much of the life and form of the figure as you could. This was a revelation. There was no time for strict lines or proportion or form, there was flow and gesture and the development of trust of artistic decision and judgement. I became acutely aware of the value of “not perfect”, and of not thinking, of flowing with perception. And that has become a focus of my painting.

I believe in intuitive gestures in creating form and line.

I work toward an abstract that creates a contribution from the person looking at my painting. There aren’t clear objects, there are impressions and gestures and colors that suggest but don’t nail down the image. The person viewing has to add what they hold as experience and from that emotion.

I start with a blank canvas or surface.

I draw in the outlines of forms for the painting using pastels, one or more colors, but at this point it is about perception of general form, and line and flows between forms, not precise line.

From there I airbrush an underpainting in bright glowing colors, colors intended to flow through the translucent acrylics above it. That underpainting has line and form and color and it peeks through in some parts of the painting that follows, grounding the image in primary color.

From that I work with painting knives and thick pure paint, adding form and color. I paint to music, always. I use the music to find a flow of gesture, a feeling of flow, recovering that instinctive 30-second time window from figure drawing over much longer and intense periods. The painting knives force an inexactness, they force a suggestion of detail but prevent entirely nailing that detail down with precision. That forces me to trust that this process will work out, forces me to trust my own artistic judgement.

The painting holds that distance between abstract and realism. If you move close, the paint dissolves into motion and texture and gesture. Life, held close dissolves into motion and chaos, in distance there appears a sense of the whole.

The painting should NOT be a literal presentation of reality – certainly not photographic. A photograph is a drawing-by-light, drawing by controlled-and-engineered-reflection-of-light. It is an abstraction of reality, missing motion and limited in scope by frame of view.

A painting is an abstraction of light, movement, color, perspective and emotional and aesthetic impact. It can add an intangible and intuitive motion/emotion, an aesthetic harmony. It can communicate to a depth a straight representation misses.




Zen and Painting-a-Day – Stop Thinking, Paint


Sunset 23 | Off State Street

Sunset 23 | Off State Street


Painting is motion and intuitive sensing and feeling of aesthetic and emotion. It is fluid, and for me heavily influenced by gesture and music, like a dance between the reality of light and form and shadow and the paint on the surface.

I was reading an artist who was writing that Painting-a-Day wasn’t really one painting one day. Her objection was that layers of thought and composition could take months to discover and place. I believe that. I believe that each painting is its own time frame, its own requirements. But – if each will take you months, then you need to have 25 or 50 or more going at the same time. Take the time on each one, but make them come to an ending, to a completion.

I think Painting-a-Day is exactly that. I think most artists can complete a painting a day in their practice. I don’t believe any single individual flow of creativity works out longer than a couple of hours at a stretch. I used to start a painting and work straight through until it was done – that could be many hours, through the night and into the next day to complete. I do not do that anymore. There is drying time, for the technique I use now. There is just creative reach. Once I start feeling that I’ve gone too far and the painting is going off the rails, it’s time to stop, step back and come back to it later. That’s usually two hours at a stretch or less.

So to shoot for completing a painting-a-day, I start 8 paintings. I work through all of them, four at a time, bringing each set along. This widens the dance. I have been trying this using multiple easels, but it used up a lot of space, and required a lot of motion. I’m building a four-painting-at-a-time easel board – a 2′ x 4′ piece of plywood with four panel holder blocks adjustable along 1/4″ slots. I’m making two of them, and I think I’ll work four paintings, set them aside hanging on the wall, set up the second board on my steel easel, and work the next four. That should allow me to mix a color that would work on more than one, use it, mix the next, use it – measuring the time painting, perhaps 2/3rds of the time is mixing and adjusting colors, so making that more efficient is huge.

Once I have it built and any bugs worked out, I’ll post pictures of it. Might come in handy for paintings on multiple panels as well…