A Listing of Artistic Intentions

#47 – Tuesday February 7th

"Untitled #30"- Richard Diebenkorn (1981)

Since November when I emptied the studio, sending the recent work off to Perimeter Gallery, it’s all new beginnings. For the past several IHET entries, I’ve chatted up my processes for starting a painting, but another component of going forward is looking back. I have my art heroes, artists whose oeuvres I’ve long admired, and beyond simply reacquainting myself with the work they created, it’s the artist’s personal articulation of their processes I find both fascinating and instructive. One of my favorite painters is Richard Diebenkorn. Back in 1998 I went to see an exhibition of his paintings and drawings at The Phillips Collection in Washington DC. The exhibition, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, traveled from New York to museums in Fort Worth, DC, and San Francisco. Accompanying the exhibition was a fantastic book titled, The Art of Richard Diebenkorn*, a comprehensive tome of his life and work. Included in the bibliographical notes for the essay, Leaving Ocean Park by John Elderfield, and taken from Diebenkorn’s studio writings, was “a listing of artistic intentions” titled, “Notes to myself on beginning a painting”  This is Richard Deibenkorn’s list, printed exactly as it appeared in the book.

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. Dont “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.

Thanks for reading.


* The Art of Richard Diebenkorn – by Jane Livingston, with essays by John Elderfield, Ruth E. Fine, and Jane Livingston. Published by – Whitney Museum of American Art in association with University of California Press.


thanks for reading!

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