Home » Famous Painting Study #3: Diebenkorn’s Abstract Cityscape

Famous Painting Study #3: Diebenkorn’s Abstract Cityscape

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Step 1: A Study Of Shapes And Style


If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the abstract style, this lesson will be perfect for you. Bill studies the painting Cityscape I by Richard Diebenkorn, and begins by breaking down its composition.

This abstract cityscape is actually a reference to the Bay Area in California, but the simplified scene causes your focus to be drawn to the shapes and colors used. This is one of the main attractions of abstract painting – the subject is stripped away, leaving behind a feeling made up of shapes and colors.

Before you start sketching, prep your paper by taping the edges with artist’s tape, and cutting off 2″ from the bottom to get the right size. This will help create a white border for any future framing purposes. Sketch the scene next, beginning at the horizon line at the top and working your way down. Draw in simple geometric shapes, and try to get your measurements right without having to use a ruler. Don’t worry about small details, as you can also draw with your paintbrush later.

Below is a close-up of Bill’s sketch: