Lesson Objectives: To learn about Georgia O’Keeffe and her famous flower paintings and to learn how to use watercolors to build up layers of color for richness.

Time Required: 1 hour

Artist & Print: Georgia O’Keeffe, Yellow Cactus, Oriental Poppies, any of her flower paintings


Watercolor paper

Watercolor paints

Watercolor pencils



Paper towel


Scratch paper

Printed sheets of different kinds of flowers (see binder for examples)


Discuss Georgia O’Keeffe. Explain how she painted close-ups of flowers, so only part of the flower fits on the page, and parts of the petals fall off the edge of the page. You can use a viewfinder (small piece of rectangular tag board with the center cut-out) to look at a picture of a flower close up. Looking through the viewfinder will help the student see which details are included in a close-up, and which are not.        


  1. Pass out viewfinders, photographs of flowers, and scratch paper. With the flower the student selects, have them draw the outline on scratch paper to practice. It’s a close-up, so the entire page should be filled.
  2. Using a light colored watercolor pencil, draw the outline of the flower on the watercolor paper.
  3. Start by painting the lighter colors first. Use light amounts of paint, building the shades of color in layers rather than in one dark coat.
  4. Rinse brush between colors of paint.
  5. Paint the background a contrasting color.
  6. Tissues may be used to blot background for texture or to soak up areas with excess water.
  7. Use watercolor pencils to outline petals, then go back over it with a wet brush to blend.
  8. Watercolor pencils can be used to add other textural details as well.