Notes to myself: Diebenkorn’s 10 rules for painting


Ocean Park 116, 1979, Richard Diebenkorn

If there’s one artists’ work I come back to time and time again, it’s Richard Diebenkorn’s. A crush that turned into love, I always see something different in his pieces and long to stare into the complexity of his blue-green constructions. At some point in his later career, Diebenkorn wrote down ten points of artistic intention. These intensions inspired my own set of rules that have buoyed me throughout my career. Maybe you too will find some rules that resonate and help you in your practice. 

“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.
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.



Horizon Ocean View, Richard Diebenkorn


Richard Diebenkorn in his studio, 1982

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