O’Keeffe and the Dinosaurs

Sometimes my little artsy project ideas don’t always turn out exactly as I plan, or don’t hold our 4-year old’s attention span the way I think they might.  Still, though, it’s all about enjoying the time together, right?

So I had this idea about Georgia O’Keeffe.  We had recently found this kid’s book at the library called Georgia in Hawaii.  Despite not being a huge fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read about artists to our daughter.


Innuendo aside (seriously: way, WAYYYY aside), Georgia painted NATURE.  She looked very, very closely at nature, and found beautiful and amazing things there.  I thought it might be fun to see if the kiddo could look at things very close-up and see what happens.

(A quick side story:  Once, when rolling around in the grass as a kid, I rolled over and found myself directly nose to nose with a praying mantis who was very quietly and casually gnawing on the neck of a headless dead cricket.  He was chewing slowly like a cowboy, not even seeming to care if I was there, and suddenly stopped….turned his head ever so slowly….and looked at me, like, “what’re you looking at, kid?”  (Also, in my head, he had a voice like John Wayne.)  Anyway, the point is that I remember it VERY clearly because I was a kid and would never have seen him if I wasn’t staring VERY closely at things in the grass.  As a grownup, I sometimes wonder what magical worlds I’m overlooking because I don’t roll around on the ground as much as I used to…)

Ahem.  Sorry about that.

So anyway, back to Georgia.  The next grocery store visit, I grabbed a few very colorful flowers from the in-store florist.


When we got home, I laid out our trusty ol’ tablecloth, sat the flowers down, and grabbed our sketchbooks.  “Remember Georgia from the story?” I asked.  “Georgia liked to look at plants very very closely and find beautiful shapes in them.  I thought we could try that, too!”

She was enthusiastically game at first, really looking up closely at the little red flowers she thought were pretty.  I had paints out, but she preferred her markers.  With us, one of the keys of our art projects is that I HAVE TO DO THEM, TOO.  So I did.  I doodled some flowers close-up, while she doodled on her page.


But here’s the thing I forgot, and I’m sorry:  Um….I don’t really find sceneries and flowers very fascinating.  I’m very sorry and don’t mean to offend if that’s your thing.  I am very happy that Georgia DID, but I personally found myself getting a bit…well…BORED of the little plant doodles.  I really prefer faces and stuff.  And if I don’t like doodling plants, why was I trying to have HER do it?   So I was feeling kind of bad about it.  Like it was a lame idea.  Like maybe this one was a flop of a project for her.

And then I looked over at her drawing…


It was so cool.  She, too, had tried the detail and focus of looking at the flowers as a reference, but then her imagination took over, and she filled the page with dinosaurs.  And you know what?  That’s AWESOME.  Because if something you do isn’t exciting for you, you don’t have to suffer through it…just customize it and MAKE it fun!  Make it into something you feel good about.  Step out of your comfort zone occasionaly, look around & try new things, but know that it’s totally okay to stick with the thing you like most, and go add some dinosaurs to make it fun.

There’s no “right” way to do these kinds of projects with your kid.  I think it was the guys from Freakonomics who researched whether or not reading tons and tons of parenting books actually made you a better parent, and what they found out was that NONE of the information in the book actually improved your ability to parent, but the FACT that you went out and READ all those books or sought out information or researched things online about how to be a better parent means that you’re doing just fine.  Same with doing fun projects with your kid–the end result DOESN’T MATTER.  It doesn’t matter if you have a Pinterest-worth project to show in the end; the fact that you’re actually doing things WITH your kid is what matters.  And it doesn’t have to be in art, either….it can be in whatever it is that you enjoy doing with your kid.  The fact that you’re DOING it is what matters.

So there you go.

I hear ya, kid.  Staring at flowers=not that fun, actually.  But hey–at least we know now, huh?

Heading back to our comfort zone (and because Georgia has a really cool face to draw), we did a portrait of Georgia together.  Because that’s what we like to do.


And her flowers look like flowers and my flowers don’t have any special deep meaning, but you know what?  That’s cool.  We had fun, and that’s what matters.  🙂

11 responses

  1. Ah, that’s brilliant. 🙂 (I quite like Georgia’s stuff myself, but I get what you’re saying.)

  2. beautiful

  3. Great post – multi-layered! Agree with you about still lifes (but perhaps we should be looking at them as you did with the daddy long legs?)
    ps who do the dinosaurs sound like?

  4. Good for you letting your daughter use her imagination. What nice memories you and your daughter must have. You ended up with a totally great portrait of Georgia, surrounded by flowers, yet. Way cool.

  5. You know what, these posts keep getting better and better! I think your blog is my favorite out there right now. I find myself saying “YES!” to so many things you write about. Thanks for sharing this flower adventure. I agree with you about Georgia O’Keeffe–I respect her and her perspective, but don’t find myself drawn to the same things. That’s okay. You and your daughter make and awesome team and I love hearing your thoughts about it all!

  6. Elysabeth Flores Griffith | Reply

    Man oh man! You always leave me with a smile and a very good and warm and fuzzy feeling. You and the kiddo are inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

    1. That’s such a great thing to hear–thank you so much!

  7. What a fun activity with an unexpected twist and result! It took me a while to liberate myself from principles and feelings like ‘you have to finish what you start’ and other blabla. Gives you a whole lotta freedom, time and joy!;-)

  8. You spent time together and you created art together – that’s what matters! Keep sharing that creative time you both do so well!

  9. I realy adore your daughter’s dino pic. Kids are great at giving instant feedback when our ideas are not working, aren’t they? They make the best critics too. 🙂 Looks like your adventure together turned out great. Nice portrait!

  10. I love this post! Not just because of the amazing dinosaur images, but because of the love and creativity through it all. 🙂 Juju from WhisperOfAngels sent me this way and I’m so glad she did. 😀 Now I’m going to pop around all over your page, 🙂

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