BCD #1

Blind contouring drawing #1 – “Deer Skull with Pedernal” 1936 Georgia O’Keeffe


In 1946, Georgia O’Keeffe was the first woman artist to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

She was born in 1887 in Wisconsin and died at age 98 in her beloved “home” in New Mexico.

Luckily, she was raised in a family that valued education for girls and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905.  She supported herself as a teacher.

Around 1915, O’Keeffe read two influential works,  Dow’s theory of self-exploration through art and Kandinsky’s essay “On the Spiritual in Art.”  She began to experiment with natural forms, such as ferns, clouds and waves, and she started a small series of charcoal drawings that simplified these forms into abstracted combinations of shapes and lines.

She sent a collection of these drawings to a friend in New York asking that they not be shared.  Her friend showed the drawings to photographer and owner of Gallery 291, Alfred Stieglitz.  He showed the work in his gallery without O’Keeffe’s knowledge.

They were very favourably received and she decided to move to New York. Her friendship with Stieglitz later led to their marriage.  However, it seems that her first love was with the landscape of Southwestern U.S.  For most of their marriage she lived and worked in New Mexico and he in New York and showing her work.

For many years the 300 or so portrait and nude photos of O’Keeffe that Stieglitz took were more well known than the painter’s own work but by the late 1920s, O’Keeffe was recognized as one of the most significant American artists of the time.  Her art began to command high prices.

She was not part of any “school” or style.  She dressed almost exclusively in black.

“I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to and say what I wanted to when I painted as that seemed to be the only thing I could do that didn’t concern anybody but myself – that was nobody’s business but my own.”

Producing a substantial body of work over seven decades, she sought to capture the emotion and power of objects through abstracting the natural world.  A prolific artist, she produced more than 2000 works over the course of her career. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to a female artist, and its research centre sponsors fellowships for scholars of modern American art.

Born Nov 15 1887 Wisconsin

Died 1986 New Mexico

Always wanted to learn how to draw?

Have you ever tried blind contour drawing? Creative play this week is about working from the “right” side of your brain.

Find a piece of paper and something to draw with. This will take about 10 minutes.

Place your non-dominant hand, for me it is my left, on the table.  Starting at your wrist begin to slowly draw your hand without looking at your paper or letting your drawing instrument (a.k.a your pencil) lift from your paper.  You might want to secure your paper to the table with a bit of tape or a paper weight.  Now, before you begin, ask yourself, “Is there any possible way that what you draw will actually look like your hand?” The answer, probably not.  But if you take it slow, notice all the lines in your fingers, on your palm, in the joints and knuckles, you will begin to relax and actually start to draw what you see as opposed to what you think you see (or what your “hurry up get this over with” rational left brain is telling you).

blind contour drawing

Interested in learning more about drawing?  I highly recommend “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards.  It is a classic and is full of really amazing exercises that will move you along quickly.  Incidentally, even though I paint abstract, this switch over in my brain is where I go and want to be when I’m in the “flow,” so learning about being in this space is kind of magic.

Enjoy and share your “handy” work with us.