inspiration: georgia o'keeffe

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for." - Georgia O'Keeffe
georgia o keeffe

As an artist (and a person) I'm always looking for inspiration. To say that Georgia O'Keeffe is an inspiration would be an understatement. There is a reason she is the most famous female artist and one of the most photographed and written about women of the last century. 

So rather than add to the vast writing about O'Keeffe I'll try to (briefly) explain why I personally am drawn to not just her work, but her life and her spirit. 

"To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.” - Georgia O'Keeffe

I've only been seriously painting for the last year or so and all that time I have fought a bit of an inner battle over sharing my work. While my constant social media stream may say otherwise, it is difficult to put your work out for judgement. Making anything is an act of courage and O'Keeffe is a great example of living courageously.

O'Keeffe made art her way when female artists weren't as respected as they are now. She was the first woman to have a retrospective show at the MoMA and as her obituary in the New York Times noted, she "raised the awareness of the American public to the fact that a woman could be the equal of any man in her chosen field…she left her mark on the history of American art and made it possible for other women to explore a new gamut of symbolic and ambiguous imagery.”

ghost ranch
ghost ranch

Chimney Rock trail at ghost ranch, Abiquiu NM

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not. ” - Georgia O'Keeffe

I am inspired by O'Keeffe to take time to look at things deeply. To take all the beauty that surrounds me and create without excuses or reservations. 

The New York Times noted that she "would wrap herself in a blanket and wait, shivering, in the cold dark for a sunrise to paint; would climb a ladder to see the stars from a roof, and hop around in her stockings on an enormous canvas to add final touches before all the paint dried."  

That is how I want to live my life. 

Photos: Left  Right

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” - Georgia O'Keeffe

I think about this quote a lot - especially on planes (ha) But seriously, I've made a great effort the last few years to acknowledge fear and keep going. I would never have some of the amazing experiences that I have if I allowed fear to rule. And because of that, one of the greatest compliments I can receive is that I am brave. 

Georgia was brave - brave in her art and her life. She lived the way she wanted to and did the things she wanted to. She made the backseat of her Ford Model A into a painting studio, she took a rafting trip down the Colorado river at 74 and painted until she became blind - (but then she started sculpting!) She was always evolving and paving the way for so many women and artists to come after her. 

There are so many things that are inspirational to me about O'Keeffe I could ramble on and on but her work and photographs are (of course) the main inspiration. So here are a few of my favorites, some paintings I'm working on, pictures from a few visits to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe and Ghost Ranch (one of her homes) in Abiquiu, and a short video if you're as much of a fan girl as I am! Enjoy and be inspired :)

Photos: Left   Right

ghost ranch

Photos: Left Right

Photos: Left Right

ghost ranch

She once famously said of Cerro Pedernal (pictured):

"It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it." - Georgia O'Keeffe

If you've made it this far check out this video from the O'Keeffe museum (that I have watched in its entirety all three times I've visited) :) 

My First Portrait - Kurt Vonnegut

"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something" - KV

People often ask me how long I've been painting - or what my training is. They are surprised to find that I just started painting portraits about 14 months ago on a whim. I've been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut for as long as I can remember and was inspired by the above quote to do more than just create, but to try something new. So I found the photo below and got to work. 

My process is fairly simple. I start with a regular canvas usually from Michaels or somewhere similar and pencil sketch a photo that I like. I start with the face itself, and fill in colors/shapes without regard for any details. It's important to use several shades of a color rather than immediately try to lighten or darken with white and black. I add in those last.

I usually stop there for one sitting. I paint fairly fast and the first layer could be only 30 minutes or so of work. The next day or two (or hour) I start in on more details, but with the same basic idea of colors/shapes/variation in tones. The only real difference is I'm using a smaller brush and - duh - smaller brushstrokes result. The process of building the facial expressions is my favorite part. 

The last part of my process is generally more details and sometimes an unexpected element (like the red below) depending on what I'm working on. The whole process could take as little as a few hours or as long as a few months! I tend to come back to paintings a lot and I've used the same basic process since I started. 

This was my first portrait ever and the first printed canvas I sold through the store after getting the site up! You can too - here :) 

Stay tuned for a more in depth look at paints, brushes, mediums etc! (and maybe another gif!!) 

<3