Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

Please click on my page to see my personal artwork and artist statement: http://thehelpfulartteacher.blogspot.com/p/the-art-of-rachel-wintembe.html

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Looking at flowers through the eyes of Georgia O'Keeffe

Compare these paintings by the artist Georgia O'keeffe...

...to these photographs.

What do you notice?

compare this presentation of Georgia O'Keeffe flowers

 ...to this presentation of photographs of tropical flowers.

While Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings might seem like abstract art at first glance, she was actually portraying a reality that few people notice. 

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not."
--Georgia O'Keeffe

To learn more about the life of the great American painter Georgia O'Keeffe, click here  and watch the video below:
How to create your own flower pictures in the style of Georgia O'Keefe:

Using two 'L' shaped pieces of oaktag create a box around the flowers in the photograph that you wish to draw. Enlarge and copy the lines that you see on to a larger piece of paper. Do not include the stems or background. Make sure the petals of the flower touch the edges of the box on all sides. 

Start at the corner of your drawing paper. If a line in the photograph touches the corner of the box, make it touch the same corner on your drawing paper. In this way, you can enlarge the shapes to fit the page. 

Click on the links below for my articles on how to color your flower pictures using oil pastel, colored pencil or watercolor:


No matter the medium you choose, you will need to blend colors in order to precisely reproduce what you see.

Before you begin coloring, click here and upload the photograph of the flower you have drawn to generate a custom color palette.

Once you are done generating your custom color palette, pull out a piece of scrap paper and figure out how to mix the colors you have generated using  http://www.colorhunter.com/. Practice creating them and take notes on what colors you needed to combine to get the desired results.
If you are painting your flower with acrylic paint, please watch the video below showing how to paint color gradients.
After watching the tutorial above, you may wish to continue playing the time lapse version below in a loop to remind students of the necessary steps.  

Georgia O'Keeffe zoomed in closely examining the intricate details of the petals of a flower. With an electron microscope it is possible to zoom in even closer. 
Pollens Source: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility (Public Domain Release by Dartmouth College).

View through a scanning electron microscope of different pollens

SEM image of pollen tubes growing from Lily pollen grains

A great artist, like a great scientist,  will be able to see the extraordinary in an ordinary every day object simply by examining it in a new way. Georgia O'Keeffe, for instance, held each flower very close to her eye to discover lines, shapes and colors that other people missed. It is also possible to look at an object from very far away in order to gain a new perspective. Watch the video below, 
Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames to see how different the universe looks depending upon where you are standing. 


Students will be able to examine, analyze and discuss the difference between abstract and realistic art.  

Students will be able to distinguish between abstraction and realism and recognize circumstances where those distinctions blur. 

Students will be able to identify examples of realistic and abstract (representational vs. non representational) art in the classroom. Students will be able to apply this information when looking at and discussing the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe.  

Students will be able to compare O’Keeffe’s artwork to photographs of real flowers and identify commonalities and differences. Students will be able to apply this information to their own artwork.

Students will be able to examine a flower from a new perspective and break down the shapes they see into a composition of abstract lines. Students will be able to enlarge and copy these lines on to a piece of 12x18 paper

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Visual Art 
addressed in this lesson:

13.8.D.3 Identify genres of art (including realism,
abstract/nonobjective art, and conceptual art) within
various contexts using appropriate art vocabulary, and
solve hands-on visual problems using a variety of genre 

1.3.8.D.5​ Examine the characteristics, thematic content, and symbolism found in works of art from diverse cultural and historical eras, and use these visual statements as inspiration for original artworks. 

 1.3.8.D.6​ Synthesize the physical properties, processes, and techniques for visual communication in multiple art media and apply this knowledge to the creation of original artworks. 

 1.4.5.A.3​ Demonstrate how art communicates ideas about personal and social values and is inspired by an individual’s imagination and frame of reference (e.g., personal, social, political, historical context). 

 1.4.8.A.1​ Generate observational and emotional responses to diverse culturally and historically specific works of visual art  

1.4.8.A.3​ Distinguish among artistic styles, trends, and movements in visual art within diverse cultures and historical eras.





  1. Perfect painting to have in the office or in drawing room. It looks good and colors used in the painting are good. Thank you for sharing it with us and keep posting more such posts

  2. Great blog all the information are really awesome and great well done.
    Painting for Beginners