Georgia O’Keeffe Chalk Drawing Project

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

This week I’m teaming up with a hand full of talented art bloggers to bring you a few inspiring chalk art projects for kids. I decided to focus my efforts on one of the most beloved of all modern American painters, Georgia O’Keeffe. Although many of her abstract and architectural paintings are among my favorites, I thought her famous flowers would be perfect for springtime. These chalk drawings would make great Mother’s Day gifts (think Grandma) or you could create lovely greeting cards for teachers.

I started the project by talking with my children about things they already know about flowers. You could do the same and ask the following questions:

  • Do you have flowers in the yard around your home? If so, what types of flowers are they? What do they smell like?
  • What’s your favorite type of flower? Have you ever picked one? If you could give a flower to anyone in the world, who would it be?
  • Do you have pictures or paintings of flowers in your home?

Then show your child some of O’Keeffe’s work.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Hollycock Blue Larkspur, 1930, Oil on canvas, Gift of the Burnett Foundation and the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Black Hollycock Blue Larkspur, 1930, Oil on canvas, Gift of the
Burnett Foundation and the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Georgia O'Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on Canvas, Gift of the Burnett Foundation and the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Abstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on Canvas, Gift of the Burnett Foundation
and the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Yellow Calla, Photo Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yellow Calla, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Jimson Weed, 1932, Oil on canvas, Gift of the Burnett Foundation, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Jimson Weed, 1932, Oil on canvas, Gift of the Burnett Foundation, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

As you observe the works together, pose the following questions:

  • What colors and shapes do you see?
  • What words would you use to describe these paintings?
  • Which is your favorite?
  • If you could smell the yellow flower, what do you think it would it smell like?
  • Why do you think the artist chose to paint flowers?

Since O’Keeffe painted in a realistic and abstract way, I explained to my children the two approaches to art:

Realism in art reflects the appearance of a recognizable subject, be it an object, person or place. When you see the work of art, you can point and say “Oh, that’s a ballerina, a tree, etc.”

In abstract art, the artist uses a visual language of shapes, forms, lines and colors without necessarily providing the viewer with a recognisable person, place or thing.

I then asked them which of O’Keeffe’s flowers is more abstract than the others.

Georgia_painting

As we drew our own flowers, I told them the following facts about Georgia O’Keeffe:

  • Georgia decided to become an artist at the young age of ten.
  • She lived to be 98 years old and created art almost up to her death.
  • Georgia was married to a famous photographer and art promoter named Alfred Stieglitz who took many photos of his wife.
  • Nature was the true inspiration for her art. She thought people were too busy and that if she painted beautiful, large-format images of flowers, people might slow down long enough to stop and look at them. And they did!

Now for the chalk drawings. You’ll need:

  • Watercolor paper
  • Sidewalk chalk or chalk pastels
  • Flowers
  • Spray fixative or aerosol hairspray
  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • Piece of glass from a picture frame (optional)
  • Artists tape (optional)

chalk

I recently read this article by Deep Space Sparkle entitled How to get children to draw big. I found it especially helpful for this project in which we aimed to imitate Georgia in drawing enlarged flowers.

Step One: Have each child choose a flower and observe it carefully. Discuss the colors and shapes you see. We placed a few flowers under a piece of glass in order to observe them more closely. You could also use a magnifying lens.

Andershand_tulip

Step Two: Outline your drawing. I reminded the children of how O’Keeffe rendered her flowers in a close-up fashion, often painting them flowing off the edges of the canvas. I encouraged them to do the same.

sketch

Step Three: Fill in the drawings, pressing the chalk into the paper with fingers when desired.

smudging_2

4. Spray the final works of art with fixative or aerosol hairspray.

Here are our lovely O’Keeffe-inspired flowers.

Left: Kolbe, age 7 Right: Sophie, age 4

Left: Kolbe, age 7, Right: Sophie, age 4

Anders_final_tuplip

Anders, age 6. We placed artists tape around the edges at the beginning of the project and
then removed them when finished to make the “frame.”

purple_pansey_final

Kolbe, age 7

So, do you think Georgia O’Keeffe would approve? I hope so. See you next time!

Note:  a special thank you to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for granting me permission to use her iconic flower paintings in this post.

Now for those other fun chalk projects:

Sidewalk Chalk Beads from Willoday

Ocean Scenes Using Chalk and Tempera Paint by Buggy and Buddy

Easy Art Projects for Kids – Painting with Ice Chalk from Learn Play Imagine

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Comments

  1. cathy zeliff says:

    Kristen, the chalk drawings turned out beautifully! I will try to find the time this week to do the same or a similar project with my 7 year old son. Thanks for the inspiration! I’m going to check out that link also about how to get kids to draw big.

  2. Love the O’Keeffe inspired flowers… I always love introducing art history to my little one and inspiring us to create! Lovely pics!

  3. Gorgeous! I love reading your process. :)

  4. I’m such a fan of Okeefes work and can see that pairing her art with bold chalk is perfect. It must be such a fun technique for kids to experiment in this format with. Great share. Great idea… and I want your box of chalk! Wowie!! Oh, that looks like fun!!!

  5. What a wonderful study. We plan to study O’Keefe next year.
    Blessings, Dawn

  6. Wonderful study! I think I just found another blog to follow. ;-)

  7. I just found your blog through the Collage Friday linkup. I love the chalk pastel flowers and lesson! We love using chalk pastels and I know several of my children will enjoy trying large flowers. Thank you!

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