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Flowers a la O'Keeffe (2 lessons)

Submitted by: Bunki Kramer, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, CA
Grade Level: middle school
Lesson Plan: Flowers a la O'Keeffe
See also Animal Eyes

See Lesson Plan: O'Keeffe Colored Pencil - by Marian Staudt



Photographs of flowers (laminated), 18 x 24 (46 x 61 cm) colored Construction Paper., Tempera Paint., Mixing Trays., assorted Brushes. (medium and big), water dishes.


Concepts: Abstract, shape, balance, color, rhythm, contrast, unity



  • I introduce Georgia O'Keeffe with prints and colored overheads taken from books, along with parts of the video on Georgia O'Keeffe. I've amassed over 150 flower pictures from magazines and especially old calendars. I laminate these so they can be re-used year after year.

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    We make movable viewfinders with manila paper, make a 1" (2.5 cm) border around the edge, cut out into two "L"s. They use these to find a section within their flower and look for the principles and elements of design. I use the overhead again to show them just how to go about this with "my" picture. I generally ask them to focus on a section without showing too much of the edge... in fact, maybe not showing the edge at all. We try to look more for the abstract/non-objective quality than having it remain a "flower" per se. The viewfinder is taped down with masking tape (which doesn't hurt the laminated sheet when it's removed).

  • Kids can select a piece of 18" x 24" (46 x 61 cm) colored construction paper. I like to use this instead of white because it seems to give them a little shove to think about "color". They must work this "color" into their paintings. I don't require them to be perfect in their enlargements (with pencil first) onto large paper but they tend to want to anyway. My quest is abstraction/principles and elements of design in this lesson so it really doesn't matter.

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  • They use Large Brushes. and medium ones and generally paint standing up by their tables so they can swing their arms easily. I also ask them to try different techniques of brushwork and blending colors into others. You'll need lots of space for these drying and I hope you have a Drying Rack.. (I've done this lesson with Pastels. too but I personally like the painting better so I use the pastels for another great lesson I do.)

  • I've also done something like this with laminated calendars of large animals where they have to find an non-objective composition with their viewfinder and include just one large eye of the animal as the focal point. The eye stops being an eye and starts becoming a swirling mass of colors and lines. We do these on 6x9 white paper with colored pencils and they are fascinating to see. This is an excellent project for color pencil blending. See also Animal Eyes



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.


2Georgia 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.


Submitted by: Marian Staudt, Mater Christi College in Belgrave, Melbourne, AU
UNIT: Drawing - Colored Pencil - Focus Down
Lesson Plan: Flowers a la Georgia O'Keeffe
Grade Level: Middle School (adaptable to other grades)


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Click images for larger views



Laminated picture of flowers, Tracing Paper., Drawing Pencils., Black Construction Paper., Colored Pencils.. (Prismacolors are a good choice), O'Keeffe Biography page


Marian shares these quotes by Georgia O'Keeffe:

"Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.

If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself - I'll paint what I see - what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it - I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.

...Well, I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower - and I don't." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe


Marian presents a biography page with Web resources for her students to learn more about Georgia O'Keeffe (file will be sent at your request).


After demonstrations students work using the following hand out:

Flowers a la O’Keeffe

For this project we will create an artwork in the style of Georgia O’Keeffe, an American painter.

  1. Glue this handout into your visual diary.

  1. Cut a piece of paper to 100mm x 120mm and cut an opening into this of 70mm x 50mm. This piece of paper is now called a viewfinder.

  1. With this viewfinder find a nice area on one of the laminated flower pictures.

  1. Cut a piece of tracing paper to 100 mm x 120 mm and draw a rectangle of 70mm x 50mm with an HB pencil on this.

  1. Draw lines inside the rectangle 10 mm apart both width and lengthwise so that a raster (grid) is formed.

  1. Place the tracing paper under the viewfinder and mark the different areas.

  1. Get a sheet a black A3 cover and draw lines on this sheet 60 mm apart both width and lengthwise with the HB pencil.

  1. Transfer your marked areas from the tracing paper to the black cover. To do this use a coloured pencil closest to the colour that you need to place there.

  1. Before you colour in the areas carefully rub out the HB pencil lines, make sure that you cover all the black of the paper with colour. Use different coloured pencils over the top to achieve a striking result.

  1. Make an envelope out of a piece of paper by folding it over at the top and bottom and glue this on the inside of the visual diary back cover.

  1. Keep the viewfinder and the tracing paper in your visual diary in the envelope.

  1. Decorate this handout.

See more lessons using the art of Georgia O'Keeffe for inspiration



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