Are you a list-maker? I am. I’m not talking about lists of the shopping variety, but those scribbled reminders of creative strategies and footholds that work for me as I meet life day by day, in the studio and … well, everywhere. One of my favourite lists is the one compiled by Frederick Franck, which he called the 10 Commandments – even if you aren’t an artist you can be hugely enriched by considering the ways his instructions apply to the big artwork we’re all busy at – creating a life.
Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park No. 116
The American painter Richard Diebenkorn was another list-maker. The list he made, below, was found among his papers after his death in 1993. It is a collection of 10 (again!) “guidelines” that he believed were instrumental in driving the creative process: Notes to myself on beginning a painting. Perhaps, like most of us, he made many more lists. But this is the one that has survived, and we can be thankful, for there is much to ponder in this list. As with Franck’s list, we find that the advice we give ourselves for the fostering of our creative work in the studio is equally relevant to the creation of an artful life.
I find it a challenge to choose which of Diebenkorn’s points resonates most deeply for me. They are all relevant at both an artistic level and a personal level. I’m drawn to all the odd numbers, which probably means I need to look more deeply at the evens. My favourite? Probably number 1. Which would you choose?
Richard Diebenkorn: Berkley No. 19
A few more ponder-worthy quotes from Diebenkorn:
I’m very old-fashioned. Though I’m interested in most of the new art, painting remains for me a very physical thing, an involvement with a tangible feeling of sensation.
I want painting to be difficult to do. The more obstacles, obstructions, problems… the better.
I seem to have to do it elaborately wrong and with many conceits first. Then maybe I can attack and deflate my pomposity and arrive at something straight and simple.
If what a person makes is completely and profoundly right according to his lights then this work contains the whole man. A work which falls short of this content, is only of passing value and lends itself to arbitrariness and fragmentation.
In a successful painting everything is integral… all the parts belong to the whole. If you remove an aspect or element you are removing its wholeness.
Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park No. 63
Images sourced from the public domain: © 2013 The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Richard Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonné
4 thoughts on “on beginning a painting – or a new day”
i got the awakened eye! Its on its way to me now – thanks for reminding me of him
I’m confident you’ll love that book as much as I do Leelah.
Be careful only in a perverse way! I think that should be my motto. Thanks!
Several of these quotes struck a chord w/ me this evening. I do think though that what Diebenkorn says in no. 7 re: making mistakes is profoundly true. They DO remove one from his/ her own present position – and in doing so, force us to take that risk that may or may not be worthwhile. But at least it moved us away from the ‘old standby’ secure norm. Only way to find out what really works for us – whether it’s art or something else in our lives. Fabulous post, Miriam – thank you!