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

"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence."
― Henri Matisse

Painting-a-Day: concept and scale and execution

daily-painting-1

One way to price paintings for sale consistently is to find a cost per square inch. That works, up to a certain point, and then fails. You can get only so small until the strategy breaks down…

A painting can be small in area, and in that uses less paint, less canvas, less acrylic medium or turpentine or linseed oil, less archival varnish. Less airbrush paint, less pastel. A painting can be less complicated, simpler in detail and execution. All of that makes less the investment in materials and actual motion and construction by the artist.

Two things are missing.

The first is time. Time to resolve the problems of composition, balance, aesthetic intension, color, form, directing attention. That may be standing in front of the painting and learning to see what’s not there yet, what the next steps are. That seeing is the key to artistic practice. Finding the rituals that push that into being is learning to produce as a professional artist.

The second is concept. My experience is that I feel an emotional hit from an inspiration for a painting, from photograph or memory or color, usually all at once. That’s my individual whole, my intention for what the painting will communicate when it is done, and the measure for when it is done. Getting a painting there is not measurable in motion or materials. Maybe it’s measurable in what it gives you as an artist or what it takes away from your soul…

This article came about because I was thinking about that square footage as a measure for pricing work, and circling around how to produce work that has impact and satisfies me as true and authentic, and that can find a market. A painting can only be so small to lessen the material cost, and that does bring the form and concept to a simpler place, just because of the focus needed to execute it in a smaller space. But doesn’t necessarily mean fewer problems to resolve to get the damn thing complete.

Painting-a-Day, or “A Painting, A Day”, is a brilliant professional drill. It forces a whole survey of method, material, concept of work, and ritual. I think an art school that made this the drill for a year or four would be the school I wish I had had, and had to knock around to find for myself.

 

β€” spence

 

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…

 

—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.

β€œArt 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

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