Flowers on Canvas: A Lesson on Georgia O’Keeffe


One of my favorite ways to volunteer at Little Crafter’s school is through a program called Interest Learning. Twice a year, the school invites parents and friends from the community to teach a five week session about something they love. The classes are an hour long and usually consist of about ten students. Once the list of available classes is put together, kids get to choose which one they’re most interested in learning about. There are a variety of topics: things like cooking, gardening, baseball, gymnastics, and even learning about other countries and/or languages. This time around, I’m teaching a class called Art Masterpieces where we read a brief biography of a famous artist, talk about his/her style, then find a hands-on way to try that style for ourselves.

For our first project, we learned a few facts about Georgia O’Keeffe and noted that she’s most famous for painting extremely close up views of flowers in bright, bold colors. {We didn’t mention the part about what some people think they represent, although Erin is still teasing me incessantly about it}. After reading about O’Keeffe and looking at a few of her works, like Oriental Poppies, Abstract Rose, and more, it was time for the kids to create flower paintings of their own! My students ranged in age from 6-9, but this project is a great fit for just about any age group, even adults! I personally had a lot of fun making two samples {a hibiscus and a rose} to share.


– blank canvas
– watercolor paints and brushes
– water
– pencils with good erasers
– permanent markers
– paper towels
– live or silk flowers

First, I had each child choose a flower {or several} to use as the subject of their painting. Then, I explained a few things I wanted them to do as they worked.

* If your flower is composed of “warm” colors, make the background “cool” colors, and vice versa. This gave us a chance to review what colors fell into which group.

* Your flower{s} should come close to or extend off the edge of at least one side of the canvas.

* Make sure your petals overlap.



Step 1: While looking at the flower in front of you, lightly sketch a pencil outline of it. 
Focus on the center of the flower first. What do you see? Pollen? A pistil? Just tightly closed petals? Start by drawing that, then work outward. Pay attention to the shape of the petals and their relationship to each other. Do they overlap?

Step 2: {optional} Trace your pencil lines with permanent marker.

Step 3: Use watercolors to paint the flower and the background.
For older and more advanced artists, work on blending your colors to convey the different shades found in the flower.

Here are a few of their finished products:


Red Tulip by Little Crafter


Pink Rose by MB

IL5 Purple Roses by KB

I also personally experimented with oil pastels to see which media I liked best for this project. Although I ended up preferring the watercolors, I do like the way the rose turned out.


All ten of my students seemed to really enjoy the project and I was so impressed by their finished paintings! This was really a fun way to introduce an artist and to let them try out her style. Are there little people in your life who would enjoy creating their own flower paintings? What about you?

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