Elementary students are sure to feel successful with this Georgia O’Keeffe-inspired art project. This lesson is ideal for grades 3-5, although you can adapt it up or down depending on your needs. Oil pastels are the key to achieving this rich and expressive, painterly effect… and kids love using them. They are vivid and bright, easy to work with and yield stunning results.
Create Your Own Georgia O’Keeffe-Inspired Flower
- Black construction paper, any size (I like at least 12″x12″ or 12″x18″ for this)
- Eraser stick (the eraser on a #2 pencil will work fine, too)
- Oil pastels
- A single flower (real, faux, or photo) for each child to use as a reference
- Color Wheel (optional, but helpful for showing colors that are next to each other on the color wheel)
- Small real flower to display where students will walk by it
Begin by sharing some background on Georgia O’Keeffe.
- Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was one of the world’s first abstract artists.
- She created more than 2,000 paintings in her lifetime. Over 200 of these were of enlarged, cropped flowers.
- O’Keeffe was known for her distinct style: large forms, intense colors, strong abstract compositions with unusual size and point of view, simplified for a powerful impact.
- She painted ordinary, natural objects like flowers, shells, mountains, and animal bones, finding beauty in things that others overlooked. But she hardly ever painted people or animals.
- She met many famous artists but never copied their styles or joined their groups. Her paintings were original.
Then follow these steps:
- It’s fun to have a real flower somewhere in the room when you tell the story of Georgia O’Keeffe. She loved flowers and was bothered when people would walk by them without noticing their beauty. She wanted to paint her flowers so large that people would have to stop and look at them. Having a real flower in the room that students had already walked by without paying much attention illustrates her point!
- First, sketch a large flower design with your eraser stick on the black paper. Try to crop your flower on all 4 sides of the paper. Keep it simple and don’t worry about details. If you make a mistake, just wipe away the eraser “crumbs” and try again!
- Next, trace your eraser lines with white oil pastel.
- Then, cover your entire paper with at least 2 layers of color. In each section (i.e. petals, leaves, center, stem, and background) fill in with your main color and layer that with a color that’s just to the right or left of it on the color wheel. This way the colors will mix nicely and not look muddy. For example, if your petals are orange, you could layer the orange with yellow or red.
- Now, cover each section with a layer of white oil pastel to really make the colors ‘pop’!
- Finally, outline each section with a black oil pastel.