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School and Youth

Learning Activity: Abstract Memories

Grade level: 6-8


Through this activity you will explore how to express emotions and experience in abstract art. Abstraction is using colors, lines, and shapes to make something FEEL the way you want it to, it does not need to look like something realistic!

Materials: Paper, watercolors or oil pastels or colored pencils


  1. Number 1-4 on a small section of paper and brainstorm and think of four of your happiest or favorite memories. Next to those memories, write colors and emotions that you associate with the memory.
  2. Once you have brainstormed ideas, begin painting or drawing an abstraction of your first memory using the colors and emotions you listed.
  3. After 5 minutes, rotate your paper and move on to painting or drawing memory number 2. Repeat for memory 3 and 4. By the end they should have an abstract piece viewable at every orientation. If desired, add 5 minutes for the girls to go around and share one or all of the memories and how they depicted them in their artwork.
    Thoughts: It can be helpful to have an example or 2 to show the girls how they can combine all 4 memories on to one page without mixing the water colors too much to the point of being muddy.
    Variations: Can be done with acrylic or tempera paint or really any medium. Watercolors work well because of their transparency and the overlapping of the memory representations.
Georgia O’Keeffe. Abstraction White, 1927. Oil on canvas, 34 x 14 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. [2007.1.20]
Georgia O’Keeffe. Series I – From the Plains, 1919. Oil on canvas, 27 7/16 x 23 1/2 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. [2007.1.13]