Notes to Myself on Beginning a Painting
Richard Diebenkorn's Studio Notes
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.
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.
Rising to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, Richard Diebenkorn shaped an evocative style of post-war abstraction widely celebrated for its lyrical quality. A founding member of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, Diebenkorn explored the spaces between figuration and abstraction to great effect, creating distinct and critically lauded series initially inspired by epiphanic glimpses of aerial views of surrounding landscapes.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Diebenkorn’s family relocated to San Francisco when the artist was two years old, and he would spend the majority of his life in California. He began drawing at the age of four or five, and studied art at Stanford University beginning in 1940. In 1943, he enlisted as a Marine and served until the end of World War II. Upon completing his military service, Diebenkorn used the G.I. Bill to enroll at the California School of Fine Arts, where he would soon become a faculty member teaching alongside Elmer Bischoff, David Park, Hassel Smith, and Clyfford Still.
Diebenkorn’s first solo exhibition with a commercial gallery was in 1952, at Paul Kantor Gallery in Los Angeles. He went on teaching and creating work, crossing back and forth between strict abstraction and more representational styles. In 1966, Diebenkorn and his wife Phyllis moved to Santa Monica, California, and he took a teaching position at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1967, he began his most famous series of paintings, the Ocean Park series, which comprised roughly 135 large-scale abstract works painted over an 18-year period.
Diebenkorn retired from UCLA in 1973, eventually settling in Northern California with his wife in 1988. Today, his works are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, among others.
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