Color —The sensation resulting from reflection or absorption of light by a surface. Color has three properties: hue, which is the name of the color; value, which is the lightness or darkness of the color; and i n t e n s i t y, which refers to the purity of the hue. In a painting, warm colors seem to advance toward the v i e w e r, while cool colors seem to recede. Color established the shapes in O’Keeff e ’s paintings, and she often used contrasts of warm and cool colors to create emphasis. Her use of color and magnification was o v e r w h e l m i n g . Shape —Shape is an area contained within an implied line and defined or identified because of color or value changes. Shapes have two dimensions, height and width, and can be geometric (triangular, circular, rectangular) or organic (free-form or as found in nature, such as leaves, flowers, mountains, or clouds). Shapes can also be positive (a representational shape) or negative (the background upon which the shape rests). O’Keeffe often magnified the scale of the shapes in her paintings. At other times, she isolated shapes on the canvas to create focal points.
Contrast —Contrast refers to differences in values, colors, textures, shapes and other elements in an artwork that create visual excitement. Shape contrast occurs when organic shapes are placed in a geometric environment. Value contrast is most evident when black is next to white or when light values are placed next to dark values. O’Keeffe used value contrasts to help define the shapes in her paintings and used color contrasts to create emphasis. Emphasis —Emphasis is used by artists to create dominance and focus in their work. Placement in the center, isolation, strong values, or shape contrasts can all be used by the artist to draw attention to the most important aspects of a painting. Emphasis in O’Keeffe’s paintings was created by the placement and isolation of her subjects, in addition to the use of strong values and contrasts.
Very early in her career, Georgia O’Keeffe came to her own conclusions about the artist she wanted to be. As she said herself, “I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to and say what I wanted to when I painted as that seemed to be the only thing I could do that didn’t concern anybody but myself—that was nobody’s business but my own.…I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way—things that I had no words for.” This simple abstract painting reflects that philosophy. In this painting, color and shape show O’Keeffe’s vision of the lights from town on the flat Texas landscape in the dark of night. When O’Keeffe became the supervisor of art education for the public schools in Amarillo, Texas in 1912, it was still a frontier town. It had no paved roads or fences. One of the evening pastimes O’Keeffe enjoyed was walking out of town across the flat prairie and then turning around and being guided back to town by the lights. Only shades of blue create the scene, with shapes created entirely from color. Aflat area of darkest blue color is seen at the bottom of the painting, creating a horizon line and a base for a larger ovoid shape above it. A bright area of white rests at the horizon line and gradually melts into increasingly darker values of blue as you move higher into the shape (the night sky). The contrast between the two white areas (circular shape and the white area along the horizon) and the dark blue below the horizon line gives emphasis to both areas. Georgia O’Keeffe Slide List 6 Page Revised 12/05 How did O’Keeffe achieve emphasis in this painting?
By early 1919, O’Keeffe knew that she wanted to take a year off to just paint. Alfred Stieglitz, who had become her friend and was an ardent admirer of her talents, gave her that opportunity by offering her a large space in his brother’s New York brownstown where she could live and work. In this space, and encouraged by Stieglitz, she continued to develop the abstractions and flower paintings that she had begun during her teaching days, and also painted a series of works that were inspired by music. Her feelings were conveyed in these canvases through clear organization and clear-cut shapes and colors. This totally non-representational painting is from the series that was music-inspired. A large triangular shape dominates the canvas. Wavy lines of cool colors, both inside and outside this shape, create organic shapes that contrast with the triangle’s sharp outlines. Broad strokes of dark blue form the sides of the triangle to give it further emphasis . Smaller triangle shapes fill the balance of the canvas. The contrasts of undulating next to straight lines, organic shapes next to geometric shapes, and dark shades next to light tints illustrate how O’Keeffe translated music into her own unique vision.
Large Dark Red Leaves on White 1925, oil on canvas, 32” x 21”, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D. C.
For O’Keeffe, the object alone could never substitute for the work of art. Color was her formal language. When asked to choose whether the flower or the color was her focus, O’Keeffe refused to say. Instead she spoke of the primacy of aesthetics. “What is my experience of the flower if not color?” she declared. In addition to the vibrant red color of this flower, the point-of-view dominates the canvas. It is as if the viewer is a bee about to land in the center of the bloom. Color contrasts of dark against light give definition to all areas of the flower’s shape, from the black center of the bloom to the shape of the bright red petals which are contrasted against the cool background with its hint of blue. O’Keeffe achieves further emphasis with the scale of the flower, which fills the entire space and is cropped at the edge of the canvas. O’Keeffe said, “… I’ve painted it big enough so that others would see what I see.” Fun Fact: In 1995, the United States Postal Service honored O’Keeffe by issuing a commemorative first-class postage stamp with this image.
In this painting, O’Keeffe painted a point-of-view that is ecen closer to the center of the flower. Because the flower is so large and the edges of its shape are cropped at the side of the canvas, the painting has become almost an abstract image of shadows and curved lines. The only thing that helps to maintain the flower’s definition are the dark, barely visible shapes of the stamens and pistil in the convergence of dark lines at the center of the flower. This area of greatest contrast also creates emphasis and establishes the focal point of the painting. Color contrasts help to define the flower, with dark lines of shadows helping to give the petunia’s ruffled petals their form. The warm purple of the flower provides additional emphasis through color dominance, since the warm tones of reddish-purple seem to advance towards the viewer.
O’Keeffe created this painting in the summer of 1924 at Lake George, in upstate New York, where the Stieglitz family maintained a summer home. O’Keeffe enjoyed the outdoor life there, helping to maintain the grounds and tending a garden where she grew corn. For this painting, she found inspiration in the light-colored veins of the dark green leaves reaching out in all directions. From this interesting point of view, the viewer is placed above the plant and looks down to see the leaves of a young corn stalk radiate out from its center. Cool green and blue colors define the shapes of the leaves and create their rippling forms. Darker shades create shadows that further define the center of the corn stalk and emphasize the curl of each individual leaf. The white veins down the center of two leaves are emphasized by the contrast with the darker green color. The image of the corn leaves is scaled to fit the entire canvas, with the contrast between the cool greens of the plant and the warm burgundy color of the barely visible background further emphasizing the image.
O ’ K e e ff e ’s body of work truly defies classification, but this painting illustrates why she has, on occasion, been associated with a group of 20th century artists known as the Precisionists. These artists straddled the boundary between representational art and abstraction by reducing their images to simple geometric forms, as O’Keeffe did in this painting. In this city scene, the viewer stands at the base of tall buildings and, looking up, sees them as simple elongated black forms. They are devoid of any details and jut up at an angle into the sky, their dark shapes contrasting against the cool blue sky to further define their forms. The blue background is the only color in this otherwise black and white composition. Between the black shapes on either side of the painting is another elongated shape, this one emphasized by the contrast of its whiteness next to the darker shapes. Further contrast is provided by the round shape of the glowing light between the buildings at the bottom of the canvas. O’Keeffe isolated this shape in the area of sky between the tall shapes and gave it emphasis not only through placement but also by contrasting its shape and color against the dark background.
O’Keeffe painted this image during the first summer she spent in New Mexico. The ponderosa pine tree depicted in this painting grew on a ranch near the Taos home of writer D. H. Lawrence, whom O’Keeffe frequently visited. As O’Keeffe herself described it, “I spent several weeks up at the Lawrence ranch…there was a long weathered carpenter’s bench under the tall tree in front of the little old house that Lawrence lived in there. I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree—past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree.” Looking at this painting, we can almost imagine ourselves laying on that bench and looking up through the branches of this grand tree. O’Keeffe used three simple colors , black, brown and blue, to create the shape of the tree trunk and dark limbs against the night sky. The areas of black represent the heavy areas of pine needles at night; in reality, they would only appear as areas of dark shadow. The brown tree trunk is emphasized by its dominance on the canvas, extending its branches from the lower right corner to the upper left across the width of the canvas. Its warm color also makes it appear as if it is advancing towards us. To create the stars in the sky, O’Keeffe used dabs of white that contrast against the darker background. Fun Fact: When the Wadsworth Atheneum acquired this painting in 1981, O’Keeffe commented that, “the painting was done so it could be hung with any end up.” The painting is presently hung at the Atheneum in keeping with the artist’s strong early preference, which she stated on numerous occasions, instructing that the tree should “stand on its head.” However, it is curious that all the art books show this painting with the orientation as presented here.
Ranchos Church I 1929, oil on canvas, 18-1/2” x 24”, Norton Gallery and School of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida Beginning in 1929, O’Keeffe began yearly trips to New Mexico during the summer months. This painting is of the eighteenth century Saint Francis of Assisi Mission (also called Ranchos Church) located in Taos, New Mexico. O’Keeffe felt that the adobe church was one of the most beautiful buildings left by the early Spanish settlers of the area. She decided she had to paint it, and produced a series of eight works depicting the large structure. This painting is one of the first in the series, but it shows only a part of the structure’s back side. In landscapes as well as in her flower paintings, she said “I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.” This painting emphasizes the church’s bulging, sculptural masses. Its shapes are created by the contrast of light and dark colors. Darker shades create shadows to further define the structure’s form. Its size within the canvas fills almost the entire space to give it emphasis through placement. In addition, O’Keeffe carefully used color to separate the areas of the building, sky and ground to further emphasize the structure’s harmony with the surrounding nature and contrasted the warm color of the building and ground with the cool blue of the sky.
Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses 1931, oil on canvas, 35-3/4” x 24”, The Art Institute of Chicago In addition to the desolate southwest landscape, the recurring subject of animal bones (specifically skulls) can be seen in O’Keeffe’s paintings after her first introduction to New Mexico. These skulls, either alone, with flowers or in a landscape setting, were subjects that she returned to time and again. She saw in the jagged edges, worn surfaces and pale colors the essence of the desert, and she had several skulls shipped east so she could continue to paint New Mexico themes while she was back in New York City. The interesting shapes and textures of bones and their natural play of positive form and negative space never ceased to inspire her. In this painting, O’Keeffe creates an interesting, almost bizarre effect by using a skull with a flower in a monochromatic (composed of primarily one color) composition. The whiteness of the painting is interrupted by a black area through the center of the painting behind the skull, which draws the viewer’s attention to the skull’s geometric shape and the flower’s organic shape , this giving both emphasis .Without the contrast of the black area, the details of both the skull and flower would be lost to the subtleties of the pale palette. Through the use of white and shadow, O’Keeffe has given equal weight to the contrasting dry bones and the living flower. Yellow is the only color used (inside the skull’s cavity), helping to provide additional emphasis through its placement in the center of the canvas and isolated in a vast area of white.
Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock—Hills 1935, oil on canvas, 30” x 32-1/4”, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York Often in O’Keeffe’s works the expression of one theme contained the seeds of another. The skull and flower theme in “Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses” was taken one step further in this painting that combines skeletal, floral and and the addition of landscape images in the same composition. Although all elements are realistically depicted, O’Keeffe has created an eerie effect by having the skull and flower shapes float in the sky above the rolling hills. This placement is unexpected and, along with the unusual size of the skull, creates emphasis within the composition. In addition, the warm colors used in the skull make it seem to advance, while the cooler color of the sky in the background seems to recede, making the skull more dominant in the composition. The contrast of the living flower with the dead animal’s skull provides an interesting juxtaposition that led many critics to call O’Keeffe’s work surrealistic.
White Shell with Red 1938, pastel on paper, 21” x 27”, Art Institute of Chicago To render small objects in unrealistically large scale was O’Keeffe’s way of making us look at natural objects in new ways. In this painting, O’Keeffe returned to the concept of scale to give this shell a special power and strength. The shell’s white shape , created by color, line and shadow, fills almost the entire canvas, and its dominant size gives it emphasis . The contrast of its light color against the red background also helps add to its power; the warm color of the background seems to advance towards us, pushing the shell with it.
Cliffs Beyond Abiquiu, Dry Waterfall 1943, oil on canvas, 30” x 16”, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio Spending time in New Mexico revived O’Keeffe. After being only a seasonal visitor for many years, she finally bought her first piece of property there in 1940. Five years later she bought an ancient abandoned house near the village of Abiquiu (pronounced “ AB-i-kew”) and began an extensive restoration project that took three years. After Stieglitz’s death in 1946, she permanently made her home on her New Mexico property. The hills and rock formations of New Mexico held a special fascination for O’Keeffe. The cliffs in this painting are rendered using various values of yellow, brown and red color to create their shapes and give them a three-dimensional appearance. Darker values create shading and shadows, giving the landscape its depth. Only the occasional desert shrubs, rendered in dabs of cool green color, interrupt the barren landscape and contrast with the yellow and brown hills. At the center of the painting is an area where the red color of the rocks is isolated among the yellow of the surrounding cliffs. The warm red color advances and its placement at the center gives emphasis to this area of the painting.
Hands –On Okeefe Simplified Watercolor Painting Goal Use watercolor pencils to paint a flower, shell or skull using vibrant color to create emphasis and contrast. Can utilize “bugs –eye” point of view. Criteria • Use vibrant colors • Create contrast by using light and dark colors or light tints and dark shades of only one color. Fill the entire paper Materials • Watercolor paper Masking Tape • Watercolor brushes and paints • Silk or live flowers, shells, cow skull • Water containers • Paper towels • Pencils • White crayon Preparation Have the students select an object that they will paint. Ask the students to think about how the object would look if they were to shrink to the size of a bug and crawl around on the object. Which part of the object would they find most interesting as the subject of a close-up picture? If they’ve chosen a flower to paint, would it look interesting to paint only the center of the flower? Or a view of the flower from one of the leaves? If they selected a shell, what point of view could they select; looking up at the shell from the point of view of the sand. Next, briefly demonstrate the proper use of the watercolor pencils and brushes. Make sure the brushes are well rinsed both between colors and when they are finished. Replace dirty water so that colors stay pure. Dab brushes on the paper towels to absorb excess water; do not mash the brushes into the paper towel. Procedure 1. Begin by taping the edges of the watercolor paper to the desk to hold it in place while you work. (It will also help to keep the paper from warping as you paint.) 2. With your pencil, lightly sketch your object onto the paper from the point of view you have selected. Translate the object into simple shapes. Draw the object large enough that part of it is cropped at the edges of the paper. 3. Use the white crayon to draw over the lines of your pencil sketch to outline the shape of your object and prepare it for painting. Since the short class time does not allow for the paint drying before applying additional colors, the crayon will help to contain the wet areas of paint and keep them from bleeding into each other. 4. Fill in your crayon outline with watercolor paint. You may use light and dark colors, or you may wish to limit yourself to shades and tints of one color, as long as it is a vibrant color. Use water to lighten a color (a tint); use a touch of black to make the color darker (a shade). To avoid colors running into each other, paint one area and then move to another area not bordered by what you’ve just painted. When the first area is mostly dry, you can then add paint to an adjacent area. Your painting is finished when all of the paper within the masking tape has been painted. 5. As the painting dries, remove the masking tape and sign your painting along the bottom edge of the unpainted area.
Frank Lloyd Wright ( June 8 , 1867 April 9 , 1959 ) Alexander alder ( July 22 , 1898 Nov 11 , 1976 ) Pablo Ruiz Picasso ( October 25 , 1881 April 8 , 1973 ) Henri Matisse ( December 31 , 1869 November 3 , 1954 ) Grant Wood ( Feb13 , 1891 Feb12 , 1942 ) Georgia O’ Keeffe November, 15 1887 – March 6, 1986 Frankenthaler, Helen Dec 12, 1928 Alexandra Nechita (Aug 27, 1985 -
Abstract - In art, a departure from natural appearances in order to create new arrangements of lines, colors, shapes, forms and textures.
Scale - The relationship (smaller or larger) of an
object to its representation in a drawing or painting.
Point-of-view - The location or angle from which a
subject is viewed. “Bugs – eye”
Art Elements What you see! • Color - Color has three properties: hue, value, & intensity. • Shape - Shapes have two dimensions and can be geometric or organic. Shapes can also be positive and negative.