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

"What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house."
― Edward Hopper

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

 

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 amazon.com, 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.

 

—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

 

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

screenprint, then etching…

I found do-it-yourself plans and instructions for a vacuum table and a screen washer.

Printmaking Revolution

I found a video on the best do-it-yourself screen exposure box. This is by Roger jennings and he has quite a few more (search google and you tube).

All of this will take time, and I’d like to build it out of nice wood rather than run of the mill oak or maple. I’ve been making a vanity for our downstairs bath out of Jatoba, a Brazillian cherry, which initially at least looks like a rich teak and is a very very dense and hard wood.

Jatoba

I keep reading and learning. Screens need prep in the borders and edges, using gummed packing tape and shellac, varnish, or paint (depending on the book).

Squeegees should be an inch or so wider than the image. For me that means about 22″ wide. Not a Dick Blick item – but I found squeegee material (12′ 70A for $100) and individual 22″ squeegee at about $35 at https://printersedge.com.

aluminum-squeegee-holders

What I think I need to do this keeps refining and changing as I read through this. What makes it possible to sort it fairly effectively is I know the impact I want, the size of the images, that they derive from the sunset paintings but aren’t direct photo stenciled – but maybe they do come from that process altered. Thus I can look through paper, screens, squeegees, designs for tables and exposure, and evaluate against that initial 24″ x 30″ painting – probably a 18″ x 22″ print…

More to learn. But this is a much simpler project than an etching press will be.

—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