Find and Draw a Fragment

Georgia O’Keeffe and Ellsworth Kelly used imagery derived from the real world, but they used two different approaches to arrive at abstraction. In Flower Abstraction (1924), O’Keeffe focused on the natural world, depicting a close up, cropped view of a flower, while Kelly observed and recorded part of a plant in a contour drawing.

a. How would your students define and/or describe abstract art? View and discuss O’Keeffe’s Flower Abstraction (1924)  and Ellsworth Kelly’s Briar (1963). Have students describe what they see in each work. What do they think the artists did to abstract their images?

b. Next look at images of plants and a close up image of a flower similar to O’Keeffe’s (do a google images search for “dahlias close up.”) Compare the paintings and the photographs. 

c. Ask students to abstract their own fragment of a natural object. Have them make a viewfinder out of card stock using the template or by tearing a small hole from the center of a sheet of paper. Have students frame part of the object by holding their viewfinder in one hand at arm’s length and look through the center hole with one eye closed, and then draw what they see with their other hand. Share students’ drawings with the class. What kinds of abstractions did they create?

Lines of a thorny branch with leaves.

Ellsworth Kelly, Briar, 1963. Graphite pencil on paper, Sheet: 22 3/8 × 28 1/2in. (56.8 × 72.4cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Neysa McMein Purchase  Award  65.42 © Ellsworth Kelly, 1963. Digital Image © Whitney Museum of American Art 

Up close of a flower painting by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Flower Abstraction, 1924. Oil on canvas, 48 × 30 in. (121.9 × 76.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of Sandra Payson  85.47  On view

© 2009 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Viewfinder template