Imagine This: You often find beauty in things that most people ignore or never even notice. You don’t like formal art classes, you don’t like your art teachers to touch up your paintings, and you eventually develop your own art style so that you can express on canvas what you see in your mind and feel in your heart.
You’re born on a Wisconsin farm in 1887, the second of seven children. Right from the very beginning, you’re keenly aware of colors and patterns that others around you don’t even notice.
You want to touch and feel everything, and when you’re very young, you put dirt in your mouth to see what it tastes like.
You’re also very independent with a mind of you own. If your sisters wear ribbons, you don’t. And if they wear their hair up, you wear yours down.
You prefer your father’s love of the land to your mother’s love of books and spend a great deal of your time outdoors where you grow up independent and free spirited. Nature becomes a very important part of your life and later your work.
You don’t like taking art lessons because your teacher insists that her students copy pictures from a stack of prints she keeps in her cupboard. You prefer to paint imaginary scenes and you like experimenting with shading and light and mixing colors to get just the right effect.
By the time you’re thirteen, you know you want to be an artist, and you resent it when your teachers touch up your paintings because you want other people to see things just as you see them.
In your teens, while other girls are taught to be passive and submissive, you continue to be the same independent, self-assertive person you’ve always been.
You have never been willing to live your life according to rules that make no sense to you and you’re not about to begin now. At one point, you would have been expelled from your boarding school if you had earned just one more demerit!
Your art teacher at the University of Virginia, Alon Bemont, inspires you as no one ever has before. He speaks about shades of color and flowing lines as a way to express feelings and even plays music during his classes for his students to express visually on their canvases.
You begin to experiment with the notion of abstract art and practice filling the empty space with harmony and beauty. Always inspired by nature, flowers are one of your favorite subjects and you paint them so large that even busy New Yorkers stop and appreciate their beauty.
You love the New Mexico desert and you spend a great deal of your time painting the stones and feathers found there as well as the bones left by decaying animals.
Although you know many famous artists, you never copy their styles or join their groups. Your paintings are like your children, and you express on canvas what you see in your mind and feel in your heart.
By the time you die on March 6, 1986, at age 98, you have become one of the twentieth century’s greatest painters and both your life and your work reflect your own personal integrity and courage to always be your own person
Although you rarely signed your artwork, you have left your mark on twentieth-century art in America and throughout the world.
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way—things I had no words for.”
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Excerpted from Dare to Dream!: 25 Extraordinary Lives by Sandra McLeod Humphrey
For More about
Giving Back: Georgia O’Keeffe believed that her painting “is what I have to give back to the world for what the world gives to me.”
Did You Know that after her death, Georgia O’Keeffe’s ashes were scattered to the wind over her beloved New Mexico desert?
Something to Think about: How did Georgia O’Keeffe’s independent spirit influence both her life and her art?
Willoughby and I hope you enjoyed this week’s true story and will be back next week for another story to inspire you to DARE TO DREAM BIG!