How to be an Artist: According to Georgia O’Keeffe

By Alexxa Gotthardt

“Great artists don’t just happen, any more than writers, or singers, or other creators,” she continued. “They have to be trained, and in the hard school of experience.” – Georgia O’Keefe

Lesson #1: Observe the world around you—closely, hungrily

Georgia O’Keefe was inspired by the nature and world around her, which greatly influenced her paintings. Her goal was to communicate “the essence of her surroundings” into her art and portray it to others.

Lesson #2: Organization is key to productivity

O’Keefe stuck to a daily routine and was very particular with organizing her supplies. A collection of 330 color cards were discovered in her studio. The swatches served as an reference of the hues she’d used in particular paintings, which she’d refer back to. “Organizational strategies like this allowed O’Keeffe to more easily experiment with her palette, as well as the translucency and texture of the paints she used.”

Lesson #3: Don’t sweat mistakes—learn from them

Bad work is inevitable. O’Keefe created the same pictures over and over again until she was happy with the final product. “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant––there is no such thing,” she wrote.

Lesson # 4: Pay no attention to trends—be yourself

O’Keefe had a lot of competition from many other artists, but all she wanted to do was depict the nature that inspired her. In particular, her male counterparts weren’t fans of her vibrant palette. “The men didn’t like my color. My color was hopeless. My color was too bright,” she remembered. But again, she paid no mind to their criticism. “I liked colors,” she stated, resolutely.”

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