The Karate Kid

Post cards of Richard Diebenkorn’s work have had a place on my studio wall since the early ‘80’s. His monographs are on the shelves. I have traveled specifically to see exhibitions of his work. His Ocean Park series with their luscious color fields; the perfectly balanced tension in the geometry; the pentimenti, indicating his journey– a journey…

This was the beginning of a blog post that I was enjoying writing. I’ve had a lot experience studying Diebenkorn’s work. I loved recalling and potentially sharing. The writing came easy. The words flowed. I had a smile on my face as I ferreted dates and periods and places and years I’d seen the work in person from my memory. I could describe with clarity and maybe even a little poetry why his work speaks to me. I outlined formal elements of both the Berkeley years and the later Ocean Park series. I had pictures prepared with descriptions! It was satisfying to produce something to which I expected a positive response. I really liked testing my knowledge and writing about it.

The blog post was inspired by a photo of a Diebenkorn painting that Laura K. posted on Facebook. Even though it was familiar, I actually gasped a bit when I scrolled down the webpage and spotted the image. It inspired me to write about how Diebenkorn’s work resonates and conveys a sense of place despite being completely abstract. And ultimately I wanted to talk about how it continues to inform and excite, regardless of the familiarity. And I wanted to explain how studying and manipulating the image on your phone or computer can teach a lot about composition.

DAMN!! In the act of cutting and pasting a simple 4-word sentence, my document of another 400+ words disappeared—not to be recovered. I have no idea what happened, but I had only saved part of the first unedited sentence. AARRGGHH!

I could try to re-create it. I thought about this option, but only for a minute. Although it is probably something a thoughtful person would do, I knew that the writing would then become labor. The fun would be gone. The initial effort was tapping into a river of knowledge that has swirled around me most of my adult life. The steady stream of studying art keeps me buoyed and riding that current when it’s flowing is a delight. Writing about it then is a stirring challenge. Recreating—not so much. Maybe the reconstructed post would turn out ok, or even better than ok. But what would be the purpose in that for me right now? The water was under the bridge.

I decided to embrace the greater lesson, about which I go on endlessly. So you got this blog post instead of the other one. We’ll never know if one is superior. Truly, if the value of creating is in the making then it doesn’t matter for me. And that’s why I write these, for me. I hope you like them, but it’s not the reason I write. Valuing process over product keeps the joy in doing alive. It colors the day in a positive way. The rewards reaped, especially at this stage of the game, are far greater if I can be true to that tenet. There’s nothing wrong with an ambition for excellence in the result. But most of the time, in my life now, I choose creating as a way of living and not a way of making a living. So I find that excellence in the endeavor rather than the outcome provides an ease to my life. Not to mention that the best work usually comes from that philosophy. Like any exercise, it’s the practice. It’s a Zen thing I guess. “Wax on, wax off.”

Painting on Laura’s post




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2 Responses to The Karate Kid

  1. Ann Spanish Manion says:

    Thanks JoAnn! Loved this and am now cursing that I read it. I had a full evening of things to do and now need to go down to the studio. I hope you revel in your talent for stirring my passion. So much to ponder,so much to paint..sooooo off I go……

    Ann M.

  2. Laura says:

    I agree. When I relax and enjoy creating, I find that inner joy. Love art!

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