Friday, June 01, 2007

Georgia O'Keeffe Month: Macro Flowers

White Tulip
8" x 8", coloured pencils on Saunders Waterford Hot Press paper
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'm going to be spending June studying Georgia O'Keefe as per my plan for 2007.

I adore flowers and images of flowers and enjoy the process of developing artwork based on a flower or flowers as much as looking at the end result. In developing my own work I've become increasingly drawn to the notion of exploring the flower through focusing on the structure of a single bloom.
I now want to see how I can develop further and this is what this month will be all about. Naturally, in wanting to learn more about how best to do this, I've become very interested in the work of Georgia O'Keeffe - hence Georgia O'Keeffe month!

Last year I was very fortunate in being able to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was able to see a lot of her work first hand. The museum is dedicated to
perpetuating the artistic legacy of Georgia O’Keeffe and to the study and interpretation of American Modernism (1890–present). It is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2007 and is consequently arranging a variety of anniversary events. Anybody in the area or visiting might like to check out this page on the museum website.

So now for a bit of background, although a number of the sites listed below provide more thorough biographies for those who are interested. Georgia O'Keeffe is one of the most famous women artists - mainly due to the popularity of her flower images. She was born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin on November 15th 1887 and died in Santa Fe on March 6th 1986 at the age of 98.

Her talent was recognised from a young age and at the age of 9 she decided to be an artist. Her formal studies and training involved stints at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and New York's Art Students League. She then spent two years being a freelance commercial artist followed by an extended period, from 1911 through 1918, she taught at schools in Virginia, South Carolina, and Texas.

On one of her summer vacations, she took some classes in Virginia which exposed her to the theories and ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow. These stress the importance of developing a personal style through paring forms down to their essentials of line, colour and 'notan' (dark and light patterns) to create harmonies.
Dow developed a personal style that assimilated the influences of Japonisme, synthesism, and Impressionism. His work is distinctive in its simplification of colorful forms that read as flat shapes on the two-dimensional surface (Georgia O'Keeffe Museum "Arthur Wesley Dow and American Arts & Crafts)
I came home from Santa Fe with a copy of "Composition" by Arthur Wesley Dow (with a new introduction by John Mashick - details below). I'm intending that part of this month should involve a thorough study of the theory which was a big influence on O'Keeffe's work. (I'm finding the impact of the art of East on artists that we have been studying to be absolutely fascinating.)
In 1915 O'Keeffe destroyed her earlier work, and embarked on a series of spare, elegant, and extremely radical charcoal drawings and watercolors that led directly to experiments with total abstraction.
More about what happened next in the next post. In the meantime, here are some links to sites which tell you more about Georgia O'Keeffe and have images of her work.
I have a problem with posting her images in this blog. Basically since she's not been dead for 70 years her work is not copyright free and in the public domain. However her drawings and paintings of flowers are extremely popular which means that there are lots of images on the web which can be linked to - try googling Georgia O'Keeffe and you'll see what I mean! I might try the museum and see whether I can get permission but I'm not hopeful - so expect to see a lot of my work and lots of links to hers!

I've been developing a very extensive collection of flower photos to use as a resource for my artwork. I'm now off to Kew Gardens and am taking my camera to record a few more flower photos. I'm finding that using a camera can often be akin to using a sketchbook for initial drawings and thumbnails. Taking lots of photos enables me to find different ways of approaching an image - in terms of line, colour and pattern.

Finally, I'm looking for a good reference book on Georgia O'Keeffe at the moment and haven't been able to find one. Anybody got any suggestions?

Books: "Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers" (Paperback) by Arthur Wesley Dow (Author), Joseph Masheck (Author). Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (February 1998). ISBN-10: 0520207491;ISBN-13: 978-0520207493

Links to my website:


Kasie Sallee said...

What a beautiful tulip! I love the light you have captured in this.
:) Smiles!

Rose Welty said...

Not one I would have picked to look closer at, but you can make anything interesting! I look forward to reading along and learning with you Katherine!

Robyn said...

Really luminous, Katherine. Gorgeous. Thank you for all the fabulous links. Now I'm off to bury my nose in a flower ;)

Gayle said...

I'm looking forward to following your progress this month Katherine.
I find it fascinating to see how you use your strokes and colours to produce very unique images of flowers.
I am a big fan of your Tulip series.


Karen said...

Beautiful flower!!! And your info on Georgia O'Keefe couldn't be timed better...I am headed to Santa Fe this week and plan to visit the museum. I can't wait! Thanks!

Jo Castillo said...

Katherine, lovely tulip! I love learning about all these artists with you all doing the work. Heh, heh. Did you get to Ghost Ranch when in NM? The landscape is so majestic around there.


Chuck Law said...

Oh Katherine
You know I just love O'Keefe. I have lots of books on her work including her catalogue raisonne. Not sure which I would recommend, the catalogue was terribly expensive and although it includes her entire body of work, many of the pictures are much too small to really see well. My favorite is a large coffee table book I bought right out of highschool ...the first art book I ever spent money on and still one of my favorites.
Anyway I'm anxious to check some the links. Your blog is the greatest!!

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Okaaaay - this month is crazy for me but I love the idea of macro abstracts so I'm in. I'm going to be relying heavily on you to do the legwork/ research this month though!

Jana Bouc said...

This is just gorgeous! I love your art plan of studying and painting in the style of a different great artist each month. It's been wonderful seeing the results and learning with you via your blog. Thank you for opening my eyes (and pocketbook as I've bought some of the books you've recommended!) to some of these artists who I wasn't previously very familiar with. I'll also be curious to see how your pastel turns out with the gouache underpainting.

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