Asterisk revisited – how to start a creative work

by martin davis artist

* OK. A couple of hours ago I was rabbiting on about time spent thinking during creativity and I asterisked something I meant to come back to on starting a painting – well this is what I wanted to share with you.

Richard Diebenkorn the American artist used to keep a list of things to remember to help him “start” the ball rolling with a new painting, 10 things in all. I was relieved when I came across this because it laid bare for me the extreme difficulties even sometimes accomplished artists can experience when faced with the dreaded blank page. I share his list here with you in the altruistic spirit of helping any of my artist colleagues out there who could use it – quite a lot of us I should think. Take from it what you want, what you can understand or which means something to you and can help you.

This is his list:

  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.
  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.

I suspect that some of these points would do well with an exclamation mark before them. But generally I think I feel rather than know what he means and it certainly helps me not to fall into the usual traps. Don’t profess to  understand it all though, who for instance is Pollyanna?