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

images of art for print reproduction


What does it take to produce a reproduction of a painting? Not an image for a website, but an image of high enough quality to use as a print reproduction? At full size or as close to full size as practicable?

weathervane detail

Two measurements – two sides of the process:

  • DPI (dots per inch) is the measurement on the printer itself. That’s your print output.
  • PPI (pixels per inch). Pixels per inch is the measurement of the image resolution within the file.

Differences between DPI and PPI are interpolated in software – like upsizing or downsizing an image in Photoshop, done on the fly. Upsizing, making larger, is prone to errors, and is better done in Photoshop rather than by the printer driver; downsizing is not.

The acceptable file size for full print reproduction of a 30″ x 40″ painting (300 pixels per inch (PPI)) is 9000 x 12000 pixels. 240 PPI is usually acceptable. I just took a 6 x 7 cm medium format color negative, scanned in a Nikon film scanner at 4000 DPI/PPI, and with cropping the final resolution image is 8964 x 11016 pixels, and a whopping 493.22 MB in size (16bit). Increasing the resolution of the height from 11016 to 12000, and then cropping back to 9000 for the width will hit that target. I’ll increase the resolution in Photoshop to 12000 using bicubic smoother. The final file gets saved separately from the original scan file. Both are TIFF files at this stage, uncompressed.

The combination of Mamiya medium format RZ67 camera and Nikon film scanner result in an 89 megapixel image. Ten times the resolution of my Canon 30D digital. That’s exactly why film rules for this application…

Paintings are not photographs. They are imprecise by the nature of the medium. The final file will print very well at 300 DPI on canvas, or heavy paper.

The negative is scanned at 4000 DPI (sorry – really Pixels per Inch at this stage, but Nikon uses DPI, as does all the scanner literature). I multiscan the negative 4x to 8x (reduces digital noise, at least some). The original scan file is opened in Photoshop (slowly – 565 MB file). I use Neat Image, a noise reduction program to clear the digital noise out – it works both as a standalone program and a Photoshop plugin, and produces outstanding results in cleaning digital files, whether scans or digital photographs. Get the resolution correct, sharpen for printing, save the file, and that’s it.

I took a test roll of ten shots of a single painting to get exposure correct – in the lighting, with the filter and set up exactly as the actual shots would be. I varied the exposure from measured light amount (1-1/2 seconds at f16) upward 4 stops and downward 4 stops. It turned out the measured exposure was over-exposed, and dropping a full f stop down (less light) created a much better image. I also found that I needed to move closer to the painting, filling more of the frame, to get the largest capture possible (less cropping, more actual pixels).

This last Friday evening I took the test roll, ten shots, from set up to photographing to development of the film and hanging it up to dry. Saturday I scanned the resulting negatives, parsed through and determined the ideal exposure. I then took three rolls of 10 exposures each, developed all three rolls, hung up to dry, and broke down and packed away the setup.

Total cost in film and chemicals – $36. Equipment costs to photograph, develop, scan, adjust and store the images – $5500.00. Having control over the quality of the final image files – priceless…

weathervane section

Scanning and adjusting the images will take a couple of weeks. Test prints to validate the image – another week. I’ll post some more detail sections as I work through these.


— spence


painting: girl in chair

girl in chair JPG

This started from a Picasso painting from 1939 titled “Woman Reading.”


The colors in this followed Picasso’s, then diverged – the biggest revelation from painting this was the scratching of lines into the paint. Sketching into paint, drawing lines into paint. That was/is amazing. One of the things I see most in Picasso’s wide range of techniques is a willingness to be… Sloppy. To let the line take over. To work on communication of the whole, and step back from any obsession with an exactness of detail. And a supreme confidence in the results.

I started with the colors and the chair and the premise of a woman reading in a hallway, quietly, and then tried to walk through to what I saw in the image, which was inherently different, yet has some of the same feel. This is a fun painting to see, for me. It just communicates a quiet joy, in spite of or because of the colors, or is it the blue taming the red and yellow, I don’t know. It is a peaceful painting.

Oil on canvas, gallery-wrapped (painting extends back through the edges), 30″ x 40″ 1-1/2″ deep. Two coats archival Gamvar varnish (gloss).


girl in chair detail #1 JPG girl in chair detail #2 JPG girl in chair detail #3 JPG girl in chair detail #4 JPG


— spence

painting: sale pending

sale pending 160 jpg

"Sale Pending."

Moving a family away from someplace that was home, into the unknown.

Between second and third grades I was moved from Illinois to Del Mar, California. Someone moved into the place I was most aware of as home in Illinois. At some point there was a "SOLD" or "Sale Pending" sign out front of both the house left, and the house found.

In Illinois there was a basement guest room my father built himself, finished in wood paneling. There was a fold-down table in the kitchen near a sliding door leading out to the backyard. I can remember a bee getting in, busy noisily and trying if anything just to leave. I remember the heat and the smell of grass in the summer, lazy and humid. There was "the hill" at the end of the street. Illinois is flat, and a developer had left a mound of dirt at the end of the street on a vacant property. In the summer this was terrain, covered by bushes. In the winter it was the start of sledding and toboggan motion.

The new California house was on the coastal hills overlooking the bluffs above the beach, and a block and a half down was the Pacific Ocean. The house was open, expansive, an architect’s house in a beach community before it became a developer’s playground. There were new discoveries – like red ants, pinion nuts, jellyfish, the sound of the ocean, snow one strange day in November, fog at 5 AM, scuba diving, the La Jolla cove, tide pools, sea anemone.

All of that change was dependent on the transactions affecting both the sale of, and in turn the purchase of, a home.

for sale photograph

This house was "Sale Pending". It remained on the market as the real estate boom slowed, stopped and then reversed after 2004. It was neat, well-kept, no furniture was visible behind the windows. Vacant and waiting.

detail #1 sale pending detail #2 sale pending detail #1 sale pending detail #4 sale pending

This painting is acrylic on canvas, gallery-wrapped, 36" x 48". It has an isolation layer two coats thick, an archival varnish and, to bring back the finish to satin, a rubbed-wax coating. The edges of the painting continue the image on all four sides.


— spence

painting: shadows

Shadows is a painting created from a walk I took with a camera in mid-September. In late summer the light cast deep shadows in early morning. One photograph captured the contrast exceptionally well.


I love photographs – they create new borders to things – they crop images – they end images at edges not necessarily intended. If I’ve taken the photograph, I get to work with the rest of the memory – the breeze blowing, the smell of flowers and grass, the sense of wetness as the dew burns off. All of that can be brought into the painting.

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Edward Hopper painted masses of woods behind the houses and people in his paintings. They loom over the clearer areas and they brood. This painting communicates some of that sense of isolation and trapped-ness. You can’t see very far… Until the leaves start dropping in October.

— spence