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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Create One's World: Exploring Georgia O'Keeffe in Picture Books

American painter Georgia O'Keeffe once said, "To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage." Her life and work proved that she had such courage. Help your students learn more about this imaginative and innovative artist through some terrific picture books.

Through Georgia's Eyes, written by Rachel Rodriguez and illustrated by Julie Paschkis, is a colorful, simply told narrative. It's the perfect introduction for younger students who need just a basic biographical sketch of the artist's life. Wonderful cut-paper collages echo artistic styles of the time, without trying to copy the style of Georgia herself.

Georgia Rises: A Day in the Life of Georgia O'Keeffe, follows the artist through a single day, from rising to retiring. Author Kathryn Lasky used Georgia's own diary entries to cobble together this fictitious yet representative day spent in the remote hills of New Mexico. Georgia Rises would be of interest to students who might wonder how artists work, and could be nicely supplemented by a video which features the artist herself discussing her somewhat unusual routines. As with Georgia Rises, this book's artist (Ora Eitan) has also chosen not to attempt the book in Georgia's signature style, but rather in a simpler, blockier, more modernistic approach which captures the changing colors and moods of the day. The two books cover very different ground, in very different ways; this in turn provides a good jumping off point for a discussion of how artists do the same.


IncredibleArt offers three simple yet satisfying art lessons which are equal parts artist study and art project. The lessons include links to recommended sites, sample student works, and in one case, a scoring rubric (designed for high school students but adaptable).

If you want to share some beautiful images with students on a large screen, The Georgia O'Keeffe Online Gallery offers an excellent selection of her most popular works, including bones, flowers, and landscapes. I'd highly recommend this approach since so many of her paintings were, after all, quite huge (30" x 40" or even larger). Students should see the images in those dimensions to truly appreciate their beauty and power. In Georgia's own words, "I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty."

Speaking of Georgia's own words, I recommend you check out some of her thoughts on art and culture. O'Keeffe's biography at The Art History Archive provides dozens of quotes, as well as a timeline of her works, some images, and information concerning the awards she achieved in her lifetime. Several of her quotes could definitely be used as writing prompts for students, allowing students to relate thoughts about their own creativity to support O'Keeffe's opinions. For more, Google "Georgia O'Keeffe Quotes."

A lesson plan from Teacher Vision (also available at the site) ties in math concepts to three other Georgia O'Keeffe books. Although Teacher Vision is a subscription site, it allows teachers to preview three resources before requiring a subscription. The lesson summary states that
Students will learn about size, scale, proportion, ratio, and measurement as they study the work of 20th-century artist Georgia O'Keeffe and read about her life in Georgia's Bones, Georgia O'Keeffe (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists), and Georgia O'Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers. Integrate math and art with the activities in this printable. Students will determine whether the flowers in O'Keeffe's paintings are drawn to scale, and they will sketch and color a scaled drawing of a flower in the spirit of the artist.

Finally, are you looking for an outstanding site to allow students to create their art online? Look no further than Sumopaint. Sumopaint is a fantastic, free, online paint application which has all the functionality of expensive programs. What's even better is that you can download Sumopaint for use on home or school computers. Images can be saved in a couple different formats, and even reopened for later editing.

Two additional Georgia O'Keeffe picture books I'd recommend are My Name is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter, and the above mentioned Georgia's Bones.


Playing by the book said...

I love the look of Through Georgia's Eyes! I'm not sure what O'Keeffe art is available to see here in the UK, but I'd love to get hold of these books.