In Large Dark Red Leaves on White, O’Keeffe created a “close-up,” zooming in to look closely at the leaf’s curves and colors. Try this technique, painting a whole leaf or flower to fill the composition. What kinds of lines and forms will you use in the remaining space?
O’Keeffe often used the motto: “selection, elimination, and emphasis” to refine her works of art. Looking at Large Dark Red Leaves on White, discuss what parts of the leaf O’Keeffe selected, eliminated and emphasized.
Study O’Keeffe’s use of shape and line in Large Dark Red Leaves on White. Carefully describe what kinds of lines and shapes are present—soft, curved, undulating or jagged and sharp? Consider O’Keeffe’s interest in relationships between forms in nature from leaves and flowers to mountains and waterfalls.
O’Keeffe said: “When you take a flower in your hand … it’s your world for the moment …” How does this quote apply to Large Dark Red Leaves on White? Write a creative story about a leaf or flower. Describe how it feels. What do you see? What do you hear? Is it cozy? Threatening? Fun?
On camping trips, O’Keeffe liked to read Japanese haiku poems by the light of the fire. In haiku, something in nature—like a falling leaf—is seen in a new way. Write haiku poems based on this painting, brainstorming descriptive words and then editing to the essentials to evoke mood.
Critics responded strongly to O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers and leaves in the 1920s, often pairing her work with qualities of femininity. Look at the time line to see when women got the vote in the United States. Research attitudes toward women in art at this time.
O’Keeffe liked to take nature walks in the woods. Take a walk and closely observe your environment. Collect leaves, flowers, and twigs and identify them. Can you determine what kind of leaf is in O’Keeffe’s painting?