Oh, the beauty that was created by those hands. Let’s take a moment to celebrate Georgia O’Keeffe’s birthday today, shall we?.
I am pretty sure there is no need to tell you anything about Georgia O’Keeffe. She, and her paintings, are, dare I say, iconic. I think her name is synonymous with her close-up paintings of flowers which everyone has seen.
I have always appreciated her work, as well as the fact that she is one of the few female artists with such notoriety. It is amazing when you consider that most female artists are encouraged NOT to use their name because it makes their work less than desirable to collect… a female name is considered somehow less serious I suppose. O’Keeffe, however, “knocked it out of the park” using her own name, and in her own style. Her partner in life, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, championed her work in many ways, which certainly did hurt matters, but she did all the heavy lifting while “blazing the trail” for the rest of us.
TWO IMPORTANT THINGS O’KEEFFE’S WORK HAS TAUGHT ME
I have been drawn to O’Keeffe’s work since my college days. I have had opportunities to read more about her and her work. I have visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico many times, enjoyed the Ghost Ranch where she painted, toured her home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico, and attended exhibits of her work in a few different cities. I feel like I have been studying her work in some way for decades. There are many things I have come away with in my un-official study, but today I want to share two invaluable gems O’Keeffe’s work has taught me: Value and Viewpoint.
The importance of value, or tonal range… O’Keeffe was a master at value. Have you ever thought about how difficult it is to create a white flower? Her value skill was further confirmed for me at an exhibit which included a few of her sketchbooks. Sketchbooks fascinate me so I was really studying them. They were simple line drawings with numerical notations. When I read the information, it explained that the importance of the numbers were O’Keeffe’s unknown notations (or some similar verbiage). I was a little baffled because, to my eye, the numbers corresponded to the value scale. One of the paintings made from the sketch was on display so, of course I confirmed the numbers matched up. Mystery solved as far as I was concerned. She knew the value scale by rote and did not have to spend the time noodling around with it in a sketchbook; at least that is my theory.
I took a painting course once, and the instructor made the point that in order for a painting to be successful, value was more important than color. I think this is true in painting, drawing, and photography. In photography, Ansel Adams made the Zone system famous for the same reason.
And, now, the second thing O’Keeffe’s work taught me. I have to tell you, this was a much quicker lesson. The very first time I saw one of her paintings with a macro, somewhat abstracted perspective… I was smitten. Oh, how a close-up view can give you a different perspective. I love it when an object becomes just ever so slightly abstracted by a macro viewpoint. It makes you slow down and try to interpret what you are looking at… what is the subject... like a mystery to solve. Love, love, love that aspect. Always have.
What is your favorite (or favorites) Georgia O’Keeffe painting?