Richard Diebenkorn: Notes to Myself

Richard Diebenkorn’s painting, Ocean Park #126, sold at Christie’s last year for $22,587,500, making it one of the top fifty artworks sold at auction in 2018. The Ocean Park Series of paintings were inspired by his move from a dark, windowless studio to a bright, light-filled studio that had belonged to painter and printmaker, Sam Francis.


Throughout his career, Diebenkorn created both figurative and abstract works, which were heavily influenced by Matisse and Mondrian. Even in his figurative works, Diebenkorn divided his canvasses into horizontal and vertical axes, which give his compositions a feeling of sweep and movement.


Richard Diebenkorn’s Notes to Himself

Richard Diebenkorn was a prolific note and letter writer. Letters to his wife Phyllis, whom he met and married in 1943 while they were students at Stanford University in California, give insight into Diebenkorn’s commitment to his family and to his work.

Among the papers found, after his death in 1993, and preserved by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, is a list that the artist composed to himself, between 1966-1976, listing the process he used when starting a painting.


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


The list is especially interesting because of the dichotomies stated in each note. Tolerate chaos and Keep thinking about Pollyanna are ironic and tongue-in-cheek statements, and clues to Diebenkorn’s creative process.


Richard Diebenkorn: Blue with Red at Surovek Gallery

Richard Diebenkorn began making prints in 1961, when he worked as a visiting instructor at UCLA. He began to work with Crown Point Press when it was first established in California in 1962. In 1987, after he was awarded a chair in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Diebenkorn produced high-quality woodcuts, like Blue with Red, available at the Surovek Gallery.


Please contact us if you would like more information about Blue with Red or any of the fine works available at  Surovek Gallery.




July 11, 2019
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