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Richard Diebenkorn in California: Part 1 of 2

Tuesday Night Painting #18

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Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park 116, Oil on canvas, 1979

Hello painters, 

Last week I shared with you some productivity techniques. I'm not exactly actively searching for more of them but I keep coming across them on the web. I like this Personal Accountability System by Steve Pavlina and I realized I already use some of his tactics to keep me on track.

Next to my computer keyboard I keep a bunch of cheap white paper scratch pads on which I scrawl all of my hopes and dreams. I've written down some monthly goals but I also jot down my weekly and daily goals as well. I derive a lot of pleasure from heavily scratching off a task with my bright red clicky pen (despite what it seems this week's issue is NOT sponsored by Staples 
— but if you want to help sponsor my projects you can donate to me here).

"A difficult challenge in achieving goals is simply remaining aware of them and staying on track."

So says the very first line in Pavlina's article. I've found that to be 100% true for my goals, but there's loads of other stuff I want to simply remain aware of that I forget all the time. It could be a favorite song, movie, sentence from a book... or a favorite artist, favorite painting, and so on.

As an artist there's lots of potential material out there that I want to incorporate into my own work but I only have so much bandwidth in my brain to keep track of it all.


And so on top of all the monthly, weekly, daily goals, it can be an additionally difficult challenge to remain aware of what kind of artwork I want to be creating.
Everything is very visually stimulating for me and I find it very easy to be knocked off course by a small project I want to pursue, or by some new kind of influence, whether it's something I've seen by another artist or something I've seen walking down the street.

Scrolling through Instagram or finding more artists to share with you goes like this in my brain:  "Ooh, I like that, I like that, I'm not into that, that's new to me, that's really well done, I'd love to try that," etc.

Likewise, walking around could mean this: "That tree looks pretty, that house is shaped funny, those shadows could make a good composition."
A recently spotted cool shadow and potential future painting.
Pavlina suggests consulting your list of goals daily, if not multiple times per day. I want to adapt that suggestion in this way:

Create a list of your artistic influences and keep them in a folder on your desktop, or print them out and tape them to your easel, or the wall of your painting area. Consult them every morning or every time you begin to paint so they're fresh in your mind.
I know some artists who do this already, and maybe you do too. So don't email to complain if this idea doesn't radically blow your mind.

But you can use this as encouragement to get going on it. In one of our previous artist interviews, Vanessa Irzyk talked about creating a family tree of artists. This is a good way to heed Steve Pavlina's advice, and to remind yourself of your favorite influences.

You can use some of these techniques to keep yourself on track, so that you can continue making the artwork you want to see in the world.
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The painting at the very top of this newsletter is Ocean Park 116, from 1979, by Richard Diebenkorn. The following paintings are all from his Ocean Park series, a group of paintings created in the '60s and '70s that are widely acclaimed by critics.

Diebenkorn is an influence for me that is never far from my mind. I don't need any Personal Accountability System to remember him.

I first knew him as a figurative artist. Early in my art school education my professor told me, somewhat cryptically, to pay special attention to the way Diebenkorn draws elbows. I'm not 100% sure I got the message but I'm passing it along to you.
All paintings start out of a mood, out of a relationship with things or people, out of a complete visual impression.”
Despite knowing him first as a figurative artist, I soon came to know Diebenkorn's abstract work and his landscape work, and I think there is no comparison. His figurative work is fine, his landscape work is better, but he reached the pinnacle with his abstract pieces.

Diebenkorn oscillated through figurative and abstract work throughout his career. Early on he worked abstractly, and then painted figuratively and more realistically, before returning to abstraction with his Ocean Park series.
In the opinion of many critics (including my own opinion) the Ocean Park series is the pinnacle of his painting project. The reasons are many: you could look at the balance and harmony of the compositions or the breezy, light quality of the colors.

Diebenkorn's abstract pieces are a pure distillation of his subject matter, but also transcend the subject matter and provide for an array of different interpretations. Overall, they do an extremely good job of setting the mood, and giving the viewer a great sense of place.
RELATED: Richard Diebenkorn's ten rules for starting a painting
I've never been to Ocean Park, a beachfront community just north of Los Angeles, where Diebenkorn created these pieces. But I can connect with what I think he was feeling when he created these pieces: a sense of calm and also a sense that this calmness is important or worth sharing, and that he must capture these sensations on canvas.

I'd like to think that if I were to visit Ocean Park, I'd recognize right away the soft teals, red-oranges, periwinkles and pinks that Diebenkorn painted.

This leads me to suggest another prompt for you, if you'd like some homework to do before next week's newsletter.
The prompt, or rather the question for you, is what color palette you'd use to depict your neighborhood? How would you best relate to us a "sense of place" a la Diebenkorn.

Right now I'm visiting with my family in Pittsburgh, PA, and there is a clear color palette that I'd use if I were painting this place in the daytime (the nighttime would require some tweaking of the palette).

Pittsburgh consists of lots of steep hillsides dotted with little red brick houses. The color palette here would be a range of yellow greens to dark greens with some orange-red for contrast and a nice gray neutral for a base.
This is a potential color palette for a representational or an abstract work. It has some brightness offset by some coolness, a bright red accent to be used somewhat sparingly and a range of greens to be used liberally.

So again, if you need a little bit of prompting this week, give this a shot. You don't even have to look at your neighborhood specifically. Pick out a photo from your last vacation and derive a color palette from it. Then you can use that for your next painting. If you end up doing a piece from this prompt, send it in to let me see it!

Note: This is part 1 of 2 of writing about Richard Diebenkorn. Next week I'll show you some of his less abstract works. We'll talk more about using a specific location as inspiration for your paintings.
Links
 
One:
Forgotten trove of de Kooning, Calder artworks found in hospital storage room: Workers at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital were looking for room to store ventilators amid the pandemic when they found this cache. "I was shaking when I saw it,” said Vincent Manzo, an art and antiques consultant. de Kooning and his wife Elaine donated much money to the hospital, and artwork for fundraisers.

Two:
Some big, abstract, yet subtle pieces by artist Alex Urie on view at the UK based arts org Peer. Look at these images and then read about the artist's painting process, which involves "brushing, pouring, dumping and flooding household paint tinted with oil paint onto an untreated surface of canvas" and more.

Three:
Off The Beaten Path, 6 New England Exhibits Offer Art Without The Crowds: Plenty of really fun looking abstract artworks in this list assembled by WBUR. Galleries featured range from all over New England.

Four: 
Also from WBUR, five curators talk about the artworks they loved visiting the most before the pandemic. Read about the abstract painting Suncrush by Frank Bowling and its influence on one of the MFA Boston's current curators. 
And now, here is your weekly reminder that this newsletter is free but not cheap. 
 
Chip in a few $$
I've been spending more and more hours each week researching and writing about new artists for me and you to lovingly gaze at. So if you can chip in a few dollars, I would very much appreciate it. 
And so we reach the end of another Tuesday Night letter. This week I am really loving the album Invisible People by Chicano Batman, which was released at the start of May. It's pretty laid back and relaxed, good to pair with a vintage Diebenkorn (music sommelier)

Enjoy!


Chicano Batman - I Know It
Chicano Batman - Black Lipstick
Chicano Batman - Color My Life
Chicano Batman - Freedom is Free
Tiny Desk Concert - Chicano Batman

See you next time!
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