It’s time to evaluate how strong artists use Shape to enhance their artwork. Think of what the widely appreciated American artist Georgia O’Keeffe did with her imagery. What comes to mind?
Flowers…skulls…perhaps the sky, cityscapes, or even sunrises of New Mexico are appearing in your mind’s eye. What if I told you that her genius wasn’t entirely based on large flowers and bones in the sky? Are you willing to believe me, or do you object already?
Georgia O’Keeffe is a beloved artist because of something much deeper than just her subject matter. It wasn’t easy for a woman to be an artist in her day and she was original at time when it was practically impossible for a woman to break out into new directions in the art world.
But what did she provide that was different? While there is power and beauty both in her close up examinations of flowers and her floating skulls in the sky, the way she saw these things was the difference. Her talent was seeing in a way that most others can’t get to without the same base points. A skull on the ground would be painted on the ground, not floating in the sky; a flower would be painted as it is, not as it could be, if the majority of the world were taking on the task of painting the subjects she painted without having her influence to guide them. Seeing things differently was her greatest attribute in creating magnificent pieces of art.
A beautiful example of this is her use of clouds. They are unlike any other clouds. Are they Chiclets stacked in a row? Or are they beautifully place pillows that float upon a blue blanket of sky? Who sees clouds like this—Georgia O’Keefe does!
See one of O’Keeffe’s cloud paintings here.
What are your thoughts about her use of Shape after considering her clouds?
Let me share a piece you may not have seen previously. But before following the link ask yourself, “Would I know that this was a Georgia O’Keeffe if I wasn’t first told it was?” Find Kachina, painted in1938 here.
Are you surprised by this piece? I admit that I was. Even though I couldn’t look at it and say, “This is a Georgia O’Keeffe,” it made perfect sense that it came from her. The use of Shape found in Kachina is so powerful it’s 7” by 7” size seems to be a hundred times larger. It’s both playful and intense at the same time. I really can’t get enough of this piece, so much of it is fantastic (beyond the use of Shape) the coloring and value are both sublime.
Her ability to make a subject familiar is uncanny. I’ve never seen Kachina (or any painting that refers to a Pueblo Indian spirit dancer for that matter), but it feels like a long lost friend. Making Shape call to the audience is an amazing gift. Not only does she see differently she successfully shares the vision with her audience.
To improve as an artist I highly suggest seeing Georgia O’Keeffe’s work in person. And if that is not possible try to recreate one of her pieces. They are much more difficult to create than what she presents to the audience, and while you’re learning you might just gain a little more appreciation for her ability to see.
Improving one’s artist eye or ability to see is similar to increasing one’s skill at a sport. Just like Kobe Bryant learned to enhance his abilities by studying others great basketball moves, to improve as an artist is takes looking at what the masters have been able to do long before us. Keep reading my letters and I will keep sharing great pieces for you glean from.
Take time to look at the clouds differently,