Fine art for kids: Washing with O’Keeffe

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Most of use recognize the name of Georgia O’Keeffe, the American artist known for painting large-scale up-close flowers in all their glory. Alongside Louise Nevelson, O’Keeffe is one of my all time favorite artists. Sure, I love her paintings and the colors and sweeping lines and designs she created, but, honestly, I love Georgia O’Keeffe because she was an amazing woman. From what I’ve read, and the hundreds of amazing pictures her husband (Alfred Stieglitz) took of her, she’s at the top of my “If I Could Have Them Over For Dinner, Dead or Alive” list.

Most of Georgia’s artworks were focused on nature and the beauty she saw around her. Cow skulls she found on walks, dessert flowers, trees… They dominated her larger than life creations that caused the viewer to stop and smell the flowers more than they might have. But, I think some of her lesser-known creations also pack a punch.

Her sunrise paintings are organic and simple watercolor paintings vibrating with color. Using a wash technique, the colors blend and run together, making it seem like the sun really is rising right in front of you.

Your child can explore the technique of creating a watercolor wash with some influence from Georgia O’Keeffe. Take a closer look at her painting Sunrise, 1916 discussing the color palette O’Keeffe used. This art activity is geared for kids eight and up, but the younger set can have fun making a colorful mess with a little adult assistance, too.

A wash is the technique of layering paint and water to create a diluted blend of color. A graduated wash is often assigned in color theory as a way to explore how paint and water work together to create different levels of intensity of a color – like creating a sky background for a painting. Invite your child to pick a color to work with for her sunrise creation. She can focus on yellow, orange, or red – or any color combination she likes.

Offer your child a sheet of paper and a white crayon. Along with exploring creating a watercolor wash, she’s learning about resist, too. Crayons have wax in them, which repels water. She can use the white crayon to draw a horizon line as well as a sun rising above it. She can also add a few half circles radiating from her sun as an outline for her sunrise wash.

Now invite your child to get out the watercolors, a big brush, and a small container with some water. She can cover the paper with water and then fill her brush with watercolor and paint a strong, even coat of paint either along her horizon line or her sun, watching as the white crayon pops through.

She can keep filling her brush with paint and creating long lines of color until her sunrise watercolor wash is full of vibrance. Once her O’Keeffe inspired watercolor wash is dry, find a spot to display the painting reminding everyone that the sun will always rise on a new day.

 

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