Making Georgia O'Keeffe Inspired Art with Elementary Students
I have loved Georgia O'Keeffe's artwork for most of my life. I highly enjoy introducing her artwork to my students and sharing my love for her art with them. The girls love her flowers, of course, and the boys really like her Southwest art that includes skulls.
I include Georgia O'Keeffe in the unit with some of my favorite art masters; Van Gogh, Monet, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and Picasso are also in this group. I always have coloring sheets on hand for those students that finish early, they can color them at the end of class. These are especially helpful with my youngest students. I try to have the sheets relate to our current project and at the beginning of this unit, I bring in copies of the masters artworks done as coloring sheets. This helps familiarize the students with some of the masters most famous artwork. I also have many examples of their artwork around the room on various art posters. While looking at art by O'Keeffe, I point out that many of her famous pieces are extreme closeups and details of nature. I show them the subject runs off the canvas. I emphasize that this is an important part of the project we are about to do. I have my students use watercolor pencils and either heavy construction paper or watercolor paper.The pencils are great to use to draw the project out lightly. The final piece will have the appearance of a watercolor painting.
The first thing I do is draw an example on the board of a close up of a flower, I showed the students that I did not want them to have any white space left over on the paper. I told the students another requirement of the project was that I did not want to see any whole objects, I wanted the final piece to be an extreme close-up of whatever their subject was. I did a quick demonstration of how to use the watercolor pencil properly. I showed the students that if the desired color is a deep rich one, they need to color very solidly and fairly heavily. If the color they want to make is light, they can color it lightly. How heavily the watercolor pencil is applied is directly in relation to how deep or rich the final color will be. I have a couple of completed samples finished before the students come into class. I showed them how to use a paintbrush to apply water to the watercolor pencil and turn it into a painting. They are always amazed by this.
I then give all the students paper and watercolor pencils to use. I have Artgum erasers for the students in case they need to erase a minor line or mistake. Nothing will erase heavily applied watercolor pencil completely, so I instruct the students to draw with a light touch. Once they are close to completing the coloring portion of the project, I hand out water to each of them.
After the students have applied water all over the piece and are finished, I have them place the pictures onto the drying rack to dry. The projects are actually watercolor paintings now! The students are absolutely amazed and pleased at what they have produced, as was I.
It is very good to use heavy construction paper if watercolor paper is not available to you. This will limit the warping of the paper with the addition of water. If possible, try to use watercolor paper for watercolor pencils. These projects were so colorful and beautiful, I think Georgia O'Keeffe herself would have been inspired by them!