Angel’s Art Heart

Angel 10″x10″ mixed-media

This Art Heart was painted for a little girl named Angel. During pregnancy, Angel was diagnosed at 20 weeks with a congenital heart defect (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome). The doctor recommended to her parents to either terminate the pregnancy, or have the baby and allow her to die (not to try surgery) as he believed the baby would be born with brain damage, mental retardation, down syndrome, or complications that would claim the child’s life. Though devastated with this news, Angel’s parents decided to have the baby no matter what the outcome. Even as they transferred to another facility, nurses insisted that they were making a mistake. They ignored the negativity and stayed firm in their decision.

On October 15th, 2008 baby Angel was born. Though her color was good and she looked healthy (with a full head of hair!) She was moved to Children’s Hospital for her first open heart surgery at five days old. Her chest was closed two days later, and she did well, even getting her first visit with family. She had one more close call the next day when she went into cardiac arrest, but the doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital performed CPR to save her life. Following her recovery, Angel brought joy to her parents for thirteen months before she passed away at her home on November 15th, 2009.

Though Angel’s story is so brief, I can’t help but be inspired by the battle she and her parents fought to be respected in their choice. For them, the time they had as a family was worth the struggle. In the CHD community, children who do not survive congenital heart defect are referred to as “angel children”. For this reason, I paint white wings for each child who has passed. I try to keep each design unique, but as you can see in this case there are some similarities to my first Art Heart, “Olivia“. Both girls are angel children, beloved of parents who accepted life with an uncertain outcome, both with a significant number thirteen. Angel lived for thirteen months, while Olivia for thirteen days. So as a foil to Olivia’s painting of twilight, Angel’s painting would be of the dawn.

sketch in graphite on watercolor paper

I sketched out my concept for the painting, and transferred it to watercolor paper. White wings spread before an open sky, with the sun breaking through the clouds.

the first washes of watercolor

I added several washes of watercolor over the clouds to give them depth and texture. I decided to make Angel’s Art Heart the colors of sunrise, yellow and pink and orange, with the sun lighting up the clouds. This would contrast with the twilight purples and blues of Olivia’s painting.

the completed underpainting

I filled the sky with a pinkish glaze over the original yellow. Though I plan to work over it in pastel, It helps to have a similar background color. Once the watercolor was complete, I dried the paper and pulled off the painter’s tape. Here, the wings are getting the first layers of pastel.

close-up of the wings, with pastel bringing out the details

These paintings tend to be detailed and defined – much of the feathers is distinct, which I bring out with layers of pastel, and pastel pencils.

metallic ink is used to enhance the thirteen rays

Back to the sun – I added a golden ray around the sun for each month of Angel’s life. Because these are so slender, I had to skip the gold leaf, and instead use a metallic paint pen.

pastel softens the clouds

I also blended some pastel over the clouds and sky to soften and even out the transitions of color. Some white gouache was used to make the ends of the feathers brighter, and add contrast to the sky where it meets the clouds. The outer edge of the heart is covered with pastel to add radiance.

the completed painting
And the painting is complete! I love the palette of this one – warm and bright, with the structured sun and wings. I hope it conveys the strength and resolve that we must possess to face difficult choices – that there is joy and light even despite the clouds. It is a tribute to Angel and her parents.

This is the tenth of my Art Hearts which I am donating to Olivia’s Heart Fund. Please check out the Art Hearts page on my blog to read more about the project. If you’d like to purchase a print or greeting card of this painting, it is available through the charity’s store, and all proceeds benefit Olivia’s Heart Fund. Please also consider making a donation to the charity – you can click here or on the button below to visit the charity’s site. Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “Angel’s Art Heart

  1. Lisa – This Heart is amazing. It is a tribute to Angel, Connie, and Roy….brave, brave souls. I love the contrast between Angel and Olivia. The connection our girls share and we share with Connie and Roy is now captured forever in our Art Hearts and our hearts forever.
    Love,
    Julie

  2. I told Julie today that I hadn't yet had a chance to read how you came up with Angel's design. That has been my favorite part of this whole project – seeing where your vision meets the stories of these amazing children. I love how you connected Angel and Olivia's hearts. Just beautiful!

  3. Thank you so much for all your continued support…You guys are truely amazing. Connie and I are speechless. WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS! Connie and I feel that Angel is of the dawn Because she became an Angel in the dawn And Olivia is of Twilight Because she became an Angel in the night….This just brings tears to our Eyes…We Love YOU ANGEL AND OLIVIA!!!! Love, Connie And Roy

  4. Thank you so much! I love to see happy comments, and particularly want to please the heart family with each piece.

    Connie and Roy, thank you again for sharing your experience with us, and for making this project happen. I am so glad you see what I wanted to express between Olivia and Angel's hearts. Two beautiful girls who brought joy to their families, yet were taken from this life too soon. They, and other angel children are the sun and stars that guide us to help others with CHD.

    Thank you Julie and Kelli for the love!

    -Lisa

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