Diebenkorn’s Notes

Diebenkorn Exhibition

First of all I’d like to thank Carolyn Wilson for sending this photo my way on my birthday last week. You totally made my day, Carolyn! The photo was taken at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco’s 2013 Richard Diebenkorn exhibition, “Richard Diebenkorn, the Berkeley Years”. I was teaching a workshop in Santa Rosa, CA and in one of my talks I showed this Diebenkorn (one of my favorites) as an example in one of my talks.


Someone in the class mentioned that a Diebenkorn exhibition was currently up in San Francisco, and immediately it was decided that we must take a class trip to see that exhibit! And – the next morning we drove to San Francisco! We all had a wonderful time that day, and the exhibit was spectacular. Here we are at the museum….

2013 September

I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to see most of the major US Diebenkorn exhibitions that have been held because, as I’ve mentioned a number of times on this blog, Dieb is one of my all time favorite artists.

I found this in the catalog from that exhibition. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Notes to myself on beginning a painting, by Richard Diebenkorn

  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 Polyanna.
  9. Tolerate chaos.
  10. Be careful only in a perverse way. 

Do you have specific things you say to yourself when beginning a painting? In my next post, I’ll share some of my own “notes to myself.”

Bye for now…..Donna 


3 responses to “Diebenkorn’s Notes”

  1. Carolyn Wilson

    Donna, I’m tickled that sharing that memory ‘made’ your birthday – that was a special trip in so many ways…. so glad we were able to play hookie from class and give you a date with your Dieb 🙂
    My huge takeaway from seeing Diebenkorn’s work up close and personal was that he was not afraid to change his mind, and didn’t seem to have it all figured out beforehand. (Sound like someone else we know?) The traces of evidence he left behind by making alterations add interest …..looking at the chair legs in this painting is a case in point.
    I’m not sure what he means in #5 when he says don’t ‘discover’ a subject. I would have thought discovering as he went, and letting a painting evolve, was exactly what he was doing…..does he just mean leave some things unexplained and ambiguous?

  2. Sherry

    I’ve read his comments on starts before, but it’s always good to be reminded. Thank you!

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