When I studied art at CCA in Oakland California, Richard Diebenkorn was one of my favourite painters (he still is) and I used to copy his Ocean Park paintings to learn from the master. It was a thrill to see a major retrospective of his Berkeley Years at the de Young Museum a few years ago, and a giant wall panel at the entrance to the show caught my attention:
Diebenkorn’s Notes to myself on beginning a painting
- Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
- The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued — except as a stimulus for further moves.
- Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.
- Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
- Don’t “discover” a subject — of any kind.
- Somehow don’t be bored — but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.
- Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.
- Keep thinking about Pollyanna.
- Tolerate chaos.
- Be careful only in a perverse way.
These guidelines are useful to thinking about when starting just about any creative endeavour. I particularly like #1 and #6. And I wonder what he meant by “Don’t ‘discover’ a subject — of any kind.” What do you think?
A number of books on Diebenkorn are available on Amazon including Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966 (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco) by Timothy Anglin Burgard