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Lesson Plan: Not a Failure . . . Just a Draft

“Creative Literacies: Expanding our View,” UMMA Workshop for Educators, March 14, 2015 Lesson developed by UMMA Docent Sherri Masson


Students will experience that revision is a significant part of the writing project--not just changing details, but possibly changing the overall picture.

National Core Standards

  • Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences
  • Perceive and analyze artistic work




Time Required

one class period: introduction to revising, possibly during or before a writing unit



  • Paper and Pencils
  • Image of Deibenkorn’s Ocean Park No. 52 painting


  1. Provide background: Richard Diebenkorn is associated with Abstract Expressionism and also with California Figurative art. His “Ocean Park” series captures the particular landscape of the American west. The genesis of this series and comments about it by Diebenkorn and James Gibbons (below) describe how this series is full of images of land that has been worked and reworked, as well as paintings that have been created, rethought, repainted. This painting is good for exploring revisions in writing. Here is some background to use if you wish to discuss this painting with your students.

    James Gibbons, “Watcher from the Skies: Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series,” July 15, 2012, Hyperallergic,

    Beginning in 1968, in an act of governmental largesse unlikely to be repeated any time soon, the Bureau of Reclamation of the U.S. Department of the Interior invited forty artists, all expenses paid, to create works documenting its water reclamation efforts in the West. Among those asked to participate was Richard Diebenkorn, who traveled in 1970 to the Columbia River valley and Salt River in Arizona for five days of expansive looking, taking in landscape views from a promontory and making several overhead passes in a helicopter. Long fascinated by aerial perspective, he found himself “boggled” by what he saw. “Whenever there was agriculture going on,” he later recalled, “you could see process — ghosts of former tilled fields, patches of land being eroded.”

    The interplay of cultivation and erasure that the artist discerned from his bird’s-eye perch offers one way to grasp Diebenkorn’s later abstractions, which often evoke the sensation of being suspended from a great height, gazing down into a parceled landscape or landscape analogue. Inviting yet austere, these spacious canvases suggest the earth’s palimpsest when seen from above: flat and smoothed out, but layered with spectral traces of what’s been worn down, scraped away, superseded but not yet obliterated.

  2. Look at painting from afar

    With students sitting at a distance from the painting, ask: If you lived on one of these farms would you recognize it from this painting? Abstract painters want us to think about big ideas and feelings rather than paint things the way they actually look. Diebenkorn painted at a time when many artists were interested in abstraction.

  3. Look at painting from close

    Move closer to the painting. Look at the painting and think about what you notice from this distance that you didn’t see from afar.

  4. Revision/Re-seeing

    Show students examples of writing with editorial marks and revisions on the page. These can be student papers, teacher samples, or professional writing. As writers, you are always making decisions about what to do with your writing to make it better and get it to where you are ready to share it with others, or turn it in to your teacher.

    What did Diebenkorn decide to do with his revisions that most writers do not? Most writers clean up the final version so you can’t see changes. Diebenkorn, however, wants us to see the history of his work. Diebenkorn expressed his ideas and made his thinking visible to us, the viewer.  Suggest that students think about this artist and how he made this painting and the decisions they each make as they worked.

    In conversation with students, observe and think how Diebenkorn’s aerial views may have influenced this painting. Listen to two or three suggestions.


4 Tags & 0 Keywords

Draft — by John Turner (October 6 2016 @ 10:41 am)
Ocean park series — by John Turner (October 6 2016 @ 10:41 am)
Revision — by John Turner (October 6 2016 @ 10:41 am)
Writing — by John Turner (October 6 2016 @ 10:41 am)

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