Thursday, October 27, 2011

O'keeffe inspired abstract landscapes

(aka Slug paintings)
I'm really excited to share this lesson I did with my 6th graders during their color/painting unit. I'm also proud to say I came up with this one and didn't have to "barrow" it (although I'm sure plenty of people have done similar things). I think this would be good for 4th-8th grade.

After completing our color mixing stars it was time to apply our new skills and learn how to tint and shade. I flipped through my art books looking for inspiration. When I came across the work of Georgia O'keeffe I knew she would be a great artist to study but I didn't want to do the typical large flowers. Well thank you Georgia! She has a impressive body of work of landscapes and super, super abstracted flowers. Paintings that I feel is not usually represented when people talk about her work.
So I made a Google Doc about O'keeffe that featured some of her lesser known works. I made sure to include works that used warm colors, cool colors, neutrals and tints and shades.
Here is a small sampling of O'Keeffe's work that inspired us

I wasn't too surprised that most of my student's were somewhat familiar with her work and they had a great time viwing and talking about her work and guessing what the paintings might be about. They wanted to talk and talk and talk about her art. After an entire class period I had to stop them so we could start making art!

I gave each student three rectangles of paper. On the back of paper one I had them list the warm colors (primary, secondary and intermediate). On paper two we listed the cool colors and on paper three I had the kids list a color and then how to make a tint and a shade. Then we flipped the papers back over and lined them up touching each other.

I had the kids start at the upper left of the 1st paper and pretend they were a slug crawling acrross the paper leaving a trail of slime. They slimed across all three papers from left to right. Then we went back to the left-hand paper and down a bit and repeated the slug trail. And then one more time. Finally I said the slug could make one shape on each small paper.

Now each rectangle of paper has 5 spaces to paint. On paper one kids had to mix and use the warm colors, a different color in each shape/space. Same on the cool color paper and ditto on the tint shade paper.
Some kids were really confused on the idea of tint and shade (like this example) but the end result is still wonderful.

After each rectangle was dry I had the kids line up their papers again and go over their dividing lines with a thin line of black paint. This was really hard for a lot of kids and made the artwork look a bit messy. In the future I think I will have them make the dividing lines with black oil pastel or marker. These look so good on display together. Even if the rectangles did not get matched up correctly they still are successful.


  1. I like your slug description. Funny things like that always help student remember.

  2. I can't wait to try this! Will link back to you when I do. Thanks for creating such a fun and colorful project!

  3. These are great - I'm doing nonobjective ptgs with color schemes right now myself. I will use your blog as a reference for my 5th graders.

  4. What age group did you use this for I really like the idea!

  5. These are 6th grade (11 year olds) with no previous art background

  6. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!
    Georgia O Keeffe Paintings