How To Dive Deeper Into Exciting Creative Revelations

Preliminary drawings,banksia,arthur _leslie_dow,georgia_okeeffe,kadira_jennings

Preliminary drawings

The subject of diving deeper seems to be coming up a bit lately. Last week I spoke of it about the concept of the muse and this week I would like to pursue that subject a little further and night of what I am currently doing in my own art practice.

Recently a girlfriend and I were to talking together and we decided that we would like to begin a collaborative project to dive deeper into our own art practices. This collaboration centres around using the artist Georgia O’Keeffe as our Muse for the project. 

We began by having a discussion on what appealed to us about Georgia O’Keeffe. We spoke about our vision for what we wanted to create. We decided the first thing we needed to do was study Georgia’s methodology in more detail. We asked questions like, how did she arrive at her final images? What were her influences? Why did she decide to create in the way that she did?

Questions are always a good place to start. I began my exploration by reading several books on her life and her art practice. From this in-depth study, I have concluded that like everyone, Georgia had major turning points in her life. One of these occurred after she had spent much time drawing and painting in the traditional manner and was then exposed to the teaching of Arthur Leslie Dow.

Dow believed in what came to be known as the Modernist principle – that the subject of the artists’ work should be their personal ideas and feelings. His solid background in Zen Buddhism influenced his teaching and he developed a new way of teaching art. This is why he taught his students to learn to see a subject in a completely different way, encouraging them to visualize effectively through the harmonious arrangement of line, colour, and NOTAN (the Japanese system of arranging lights and darks).


Arthur Dow concepts

Arthur Dow concepts

I bought Arthur Dow’s book and I am currently studying it and working on some of his exercises, following in Georgia’s footsteps. The link is below if you are interested in purchasing it.



He taught his students to above all appreciate the elegance of design that was based on nature but never replicate it.

When asked about the strongest influence on her work O’Keeffe replied,

“Some people say nature, but the way you see nature depends on whatever has influenced your way of seeing. I think it was Arthur W. Dow.”

He became her most influential teacher and a strong mentor.  This had a very large influence on her art practice, to the point where she destroyed all of her previous art work and began again from scratch.

 O’Keeffe wanted to avoid replicating what she saw and chose instead to uncover the true Essence of a subject from nature itself. This is a view that is closely linked to what is at the heart of Zen Buddhism, of realising one’s place in nature.

Georgia herself said, ” Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”

Other influences came from Symbolism and Romanticism. The romantic movement took artists from the academic structure followed in the past and allowed them to seek out and follow feeling and emotion above reason. The Symbolists also were searching for a deepening of the spirit and emotions and not just a representation of nature.

Like many of the modernists, O’Keeffe spent her life trying to paint the emotional truth—not the hills above Ghost Ranch but how it felt to look at the hills; or how a flower made her feel. In order to do this, she pared back and pared back the detail, all the while looking for the essence of colour, line and form to find that kernel she was looking for.

So why am I telling you all this?  Because all this information relates to how we are going about working on the images for this exhibition, Paring back, and searching for that intrinsic beauty in the subjects we are choosing.


This Weeks Question: What would it take for you to dive deeper on your own creative journey?

Look For Next Week’s Post: Continuing the unfolding of this journey.

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