Exploring: Artist Richard Diebenkorn

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”—John Cleese

Currently, I’m looking at Richard Diebenkorn, (1922-1993)

  • What he did (special): Diebenkorn is associated with the Bay Area art scene of the late  1950-60s. “Quintessentially Californian artist” (
  • Where: lived mostly in the Pacific Coast area of North Ameica.
  • Why: Diebenkorn’s overall style changed through his career from realist to gestural then to observation (realist). 

How his work influences me:
As a mid-century artists, his work inspires me to think differently about art as expression. Like me, he was strongly influenced by Matisse (and others). It’s said he absorbed Matisse’s use of color and organization of the space. What else?

  • Like my dad, he was a WW2 vet.
  • Like my mom, he was a Marine. 
  • Like me, he was a cartographer (still like me: if only for a short time). This may have influenced his depictions of 3d earth scapes into 2d design. 

Above left: “Lakeside Portrait“; above right: “Morning Cup with my BFF” – These are a few of my tries keeping some of the essence of Diebenkorn.

When I take a elementary look at some of his work, some of the things I see that inspire me:

  • varied shapes’ sizes
  • complementary but neutralized (harmonized?) colors (not jarring)
  • varying and expressive line work
  • flattish (little depth)
  • relies on shape v line to hold design – line not aligned exactly to shapes
  • This, to me, gives a fresh and energetic feel, but in a way, grounded. I like the energy. 🙂

Slightly off-topic: Think of Rembrandt and DaVinci, both influential in trying to express a thing, a noun: person, place or thing. That thing is nearly always outside of the artist. Rendering is a key, required component. The viewer sees the hand of the artist, every brushstroke; no matter how well blended. `

Mid-century is an era marked by shifts to expressing things inside the artist. Expressing has its own vocabulary. Rendering is one of many tools possible; but not required. The design and elements are uniquely his/hers. 

With gratitude-

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