Richard Diebenkorn: Seawall

Richard Diebenkorn: Seawall

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

  1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
  2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued — except as a stimulus for further moves.
  3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.
  4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
  5. Don’t “discover” a subject — of any kind.
  6. Somehow don’t be bored — but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.
  7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.
  8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.
  9. Tolerate chaos.
  10. 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