Archive for January 5th, 2022

A Little Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn_Ocean Park 79_0

Richard Diebenkorn–Ocean Park #79

It is not a matter of painting life. It’s a matter of giving life to a painting.

-Richard Diebenkorn

Short on time this morning. I am heading out in a little while to drop off the two feral cats I trapped late yesterday for neutering and such at the SPCA. As I said in yesterday’s post, I thought I had little hope of capturing the Mom cat and her only female kitten, now about 8 months old. But I was wrong. Both were trapped at once and though I am sure they are super stressed out– I was and am a bit– seemed calm this morning. So, off to the vets. The Boys will go the next time.

Since time is short I am replaying a post from a few years back. It’s always pertinent for my work at this time of the year, even now as I feel a bit more positive than normal. Diebenkorn’s words about starting a dialogue with the canvas always helps me move ahead.

That interaction, that dialogue, is crucial to creating art. And doing just about anything worth doing.

I am going through a period where I am struggling to find focus. My ability to concentrate seems limited and everything, even small tasks, seem like huge distractions which I allow to take over much of my day. Even writing a short blog entry has become an epic struggle to complete, taking twice as long as normal to write a few lines that say little.

It’s frustrating and a little scary, with a nagging fear that this will become the new normal, that every task will become a struggle. I worry that the spark that has sustained me for the past two decades has somehow diminished.

I’ve been through these episodes before, as I’ve noted here in the past. I can’t say that this is any worse than any of those although it probably seems that way while I’m in the middle of it. I’ve always been able to muddle through it and have usually come out at the other end back in form, the spark in full blaze.

But part of me worries that this time might be a different thing. Maybe it’s watching my father living a shallow existence with his dementia in a local nursing home. I find myself worrying that my current lack of concentration might morph into the same short attention span that bedevils him.

I tell myself that this a baseless fear but when you’re running on a low spark, your confidence in your own beliefs and strengths becomes a bit strained. Fears, once unthinkable, become plausible.

So, trying to find inspiration, I spend some mornings looking at the work of other artists and reading a bit about how they perceived their work and how they coped with the struggles they faced. I’ve been a fan of Richard Diebenkorn’s work for some time, especially his Ocean Park series. Ocean Park #79 is shown at the top. I was looking at some of his work this morning and reading a few short quotes from him. The one at the top resonated because it reminds me of what I am trying to do.

Another, about the beginning of his process, also spoke to me: Of course, I don’t go into the studio with the idea of ‘saying’ something—that’s ludicrous. What I do is face the blank canvas, which is terrifying. Finally I put a few arbitrary marks on it that start me on some sort of dialogue. I need a dialogue to get going.

That is where I am right now. I am trying to start a dialogue, a conversation, with a blank surface. The problem is that on some recent mornings I feel as blank as the empty canvas. That doesn’t make for sparkling dialogue.

But I keep trying because it is what I do. And I have to believe that the spark is there, waiting to spring into a full blaze. Maybe it’s today…

Diebenkorn Ocean Park 67

Richard Diebenkorn- Ocean Park #67

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