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Georgia O'Keeffe Watercolor

Submitted by: Ken Schwab, formerly of Leigh High School, San Jose CA
Ken's Web Site: http://www.artteacherplans.com/
Grade Level: High School
Pastel Lesson below - Ball Point Pen Poinsettia illustration by Marvin Bartel. Have some fun! Start with Greg Percy's song "Georgia". - Alternate Lesson: Glue Relief Flowers by Sue Stevens - See Gallery for this lesson


Objectives: Students will

  • Become aware of the work of Georgia O'Keeffe - Critique various works

  • Closely observe nature - focus on subtle color changes

  • Focus down on flower of other object of nature - find beauty in nature

  • Effectively use elements and principles of design



Georgia O'Keeffe. - This star-studded movie is about the artist's life. Celebrated photographer and art impresario Alfred Steiglitz is shocked to learn that the extraordinary drawings he has recently discovered were rendered by a woman. Deciding to display the work of then-unknown artist Georgia O’Keeffe in his gallery without her knowledge, the fiercely private artist orders him to remove the collection.

Georgia O'Keeffe. - This is the documentary of O'Keeffe by Lifetime television.

Great Women Artists: Georgia O'Keeffe. - The program provides an in-depth look into her life, and includes numerous examples of her works while examining her style which made her unique in the world of art. This original program also features spectacular imagery and many rare historical photographs.



Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Collections. - Georgia O'Keeffe has been the subject of many fine art books, but this generously designed volume is a standout. Published to mark the tenth anniversary of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it showcases 335 works.

Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place. - This book catalogues O’Keeffe’s work in side-by-side comparisons of 20 paintings with recent, commissioned, full-color photos of their actual sites, which pinpoint the exact perspective of the paintings.


Optional: Experimental Watercolor Techniques.



1. Look at the work of Georgia O’Keeffe and discuss the use of cropping down the format and looking deep into the flowers for the composition.

2. Using live flowers in class make several contour studies of the flowers or groups of flowers. Make them large, such as 11" x 14" (28 x 36 cm). Optional: After you draw the contours crop it down with a ruler so that the background or negative space is reduced and you could even have some areas stick outside the format - See example

3. Transfer with graphite onto Illustration Board.. Keep the lines light.

4. Demonstrate three watercolor techniques, Wash, Wet on wet, and Lifting (gradation). Use paper towels to dry up the brush for the lifting technique. Practice a small area of the composition by transferring a small area on scrap board. I have them do this for a grade.

5. Start when ready using many layers of color to bring out the transparency of watercolor.

6. Critique student work

Suggestion: Contact a local florist for flowers. They may provide them as a public service - good PR for them. Credit the florist them when you post the or display the work. If real flowers are not available, get an assortment of quality silk flowers that you can use from year to year. If you plan on doing this lesson from year to year, have students take photographs of flowers, or photograph some yourself.



Materials needed:

Illustration Board.
Drawing Pencils. - Colored Pencils..
Kneaded Rubber Erasers.
Plants and flowers
Watercolor Paint.
Sable Brushes.
Paper towels
Teacher made hand out


Assessment: (sample rubric adapted from Marianne Galyk)


Assessment Rubric:

Student Name:

Class Period:

Assignment: Watercolor in style of Georgia O'Keeffe

Date Completed:

Circle the number in pencil that best shows how well you feel that you completed that criterion for the assignment.




Needs Improvement

Rate Yourself

Teacher’s Rating

Criteria 1 – Contour drawing of flower(s) - cropped to make more interesting


9 – 8


6 or less

Criteria 2 – Color layering to show subtle value changes and transparency


9 – 8


6 or less

Criteria 3 – Watercolor techniques: wash, wet in wet, dry brush and lifting


9 – 8


6 or less

Criteria 4 – Effort: took time to develop idea & complete project? (Didn’t rush.) Good use of class time?


9 – 8


6 or less

Criteria 5 – Craftsmanship – Neat, clean & complete? Skillful use of the art tools & media?


9 – 8


6 or less

Total: 50
x 2 = 100
(possible points)


Your Total

Teacher Total


Student Comments:


Teacher Comments:


Also see: Georgia O'Keeffe - Sue Galos | Adaptation - Sue Galos


Using Pastels - work from Ken Schwab's High School students

Follow the same procedures substituting pastels. Student work on colored paper for best results. Work large. I imagine these drawings are close to 18" x 24" (46 x 61 cm).


o'keeffe watercolor flower o'keeffe watercolor flower


Work from Andy DiConti's Middle School students


o'keeffe watercolor flower o'keeffe watercolor flower

Andy's students worked on watercolor paper to give this rich textural look.

Submitted by: Sue Stevens
UNIT: Still life - Georgia O'Keeffe - Nature - Color
Lesson: Glue Relief Flowers - with Gel FX Crayons
Grade Level: Elementary - Middle School - High School (examples are high school)


o'keeffe watercolor flower

Crayola Project Glue - (regular school glue will work - but doesn't dry as clear)
Construction Paper Crayons. - they are designed for black paper.
Also useful Metallic Crayons.
Black Construction Paper. (Although school grade construction paper does work, the colours (colors) are not as bright and the glue lines are grey rather than black. Sue uses a paper called "Hopper Hots" (Hard to come by) which is a fade resistant light-weight card stock which is available in large sheets. Elementary teachers might want to try Tru-Ray Construction Paper.)
Pictures of flowers (You could have the students find their own for homework, or take the class to a computer lab and search/print). Actual flowers are helpful, too - OR use high quality "silk" flowers (you should have some that look realistic)
Drying Rack. or space to dry (must be large enough to have all the sheets lay flat for 24 hours)


  1. Students should have in front of them the black paper, a bottle of glue, and their picture of a flower. Students should work direct onto the paper (pencil lines will show through the glue). Looking at the picture, students should create a basic contour drawing of the flower in glue on the black paper. To create good glue lines, the bottle should ALWAYS be pulled (not pushed), and should also be SQUEEZED at the same time (there needs to be a fairly thick line of glue created). The glue will dry clear, and on black paper will look like shiny black.

  2. The glue drawings need to dry overnight (you can tell when it is dry).

  3. Once the glue is dry, students can start to colour (color). Students should aim for good dimension and texture, realistic colours (colors) are not necessarily important. Using the various crayons, students should apply a thick amount of colour, blending using different coloured crayons. If crayon gets on the glue lines, they can be cleaned at the end with a slightly damp tissue and a fingernail.

  4. Optional - color negative space.

Alternate Lesson: Glue Line with Watercolors

This is a popular lesson - and appeared in Arts and Activities magazine.



Flowers and or plants, Watercolor Paper. (or heavy Drawing Paper.), White Glue., Watercolor Paint., Sable Brushes., Ultra-Fine Point Markers. (optional)



  1. Draw flowers/plants directly on the watercolor paper (no pencil outline). Draw all contours with glue (any white glue that dries clear will work)

  2. Let dry completely

  3. Paint with water colors

  4. When dry - outline with the ultra fine point Sharpies (optional - they look striking without the outline, too)



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