Anna’s Art Heart

Anna 10″ x 10″ mixed-media

So it has been a while since I have posted about the Art Hearts project I am working on with Olivia’s Heart Fund. I’m taking some time this summer to dedicate to this project, and catch up on blogging the process.

Anna’s story is revolves around the number three – she was born with a heart with three chambers, both main arteries coming from the same ventricle. Often her coloring would be a bit blue as her heart struggled to pump oxygen rich blood to the body. From eight weeks old to four years old, Anna endured three open heart surgeries. Anna’s mother Marie wrote so many things in her heart essay that brought imagery to mind – that with each surgery, Anna’s coloring became more pink, and in particular, this line:

“Nothing can prepare you for the heartache that occurs when your child’s life lays in the hands of doctors.”

So I imagined Anna’s heart as this beautiful, fragile, piece of cracked art glass. One heart for each surgery, becoming more pink and less fractured as they grew. And they are held gently – cared for, loved, looking as if they are offered as a gift. Even the cracks in the hearts are more like lovely signs of character than flaws.
Thumbnails and printout of sketch

Once I had a concrete vision of the piece, I did some thumbnail sketches, took some photos of my hands to get the positioning correct, and created a composite sketch on the computer.

Graphite to transfer the sketch

Close-up of the transferred sketch

Then I transferred the drawing to the watercolor paper. By using the side soft graphite pencil (FaberCastell Ebony) just cover the back of the drawing area completely, and using a harder pencil, trace out your image. Carbon paper can be used as well.
Watercolor layer over the sketch
I like to fill the drawings in with a solid layer of watercolor to add tooth for the pastel. In most cases I will work darker with the watercolor, because it is easier to brighten and lighten with the pastel.
The cracked glass effect in the hearts
Looking at some references for foiled and cracked glass, I reworked the inner hearts with more paint and metallic inks. As I worked on the outer heart, I thought it worked best softer, and more vibrant – so I rendered that one with pastel.
The original background underpainting
I really like these pieces with brightness and saturated color, so I had started out with an orange fill in the background. But after looking at the color story, I felt that wasn’t working. Even though the pastel would eventually cover the outer areas of the artwork, I thought it best to recreate the watercolor first. The green and blue combination was more harmonious, and allowed the hands and inner hearts to stand out.
Recolored underpaintng


With the color resolved, I worked from the center out on the hands and background. Like the other Heart Art, I blended a radiant effect around the outer heart.
The completed heart
I’m happy with this heart, and the symbolism I was able to introduce that related to Anna’s story. While the color is vibrant, I think it also has a gentle, contemplative quality. I have another heart in the works, which will be completed and posted soon.

If you like the hearts, please consider coming to see them at the charity show in October of 2012, or donate to Olivia’s Heart Fund.  If you’d like to purchase a print or greeting card of this or other paintings, they are available through the charity’s store, and all proceeds benefit Olivia’s Heart Fund.

7 thoughts on “Anna’s Art Heart

  1. Hi Lisa,
    It's me, Anna. I saw the painting inspired by my story and I think it's a perfect capture of me, or my heart. I loved how you showed how my heart healed over the years. It's really a wonderful painting. I think it's such an honor to be part of this miraculous project. I would love to meet you in person someday.

  2. Anna, I am so happy to see your comments on the heart. This project means so much to me, and I am very grateful that you and your family were willing to help me with this. I hope we do get a chance to meet someday.

    Take care,

  3. Lisa – Anna's heart is beautiful. The imagery is amazing.

    Anna – thank you for allowing your story to be a part of this very important project.

    With Heart,

  4. Wow, what a beautiful depiction of an incredible little girl. You have captured the essence of this child. Thank you for sharing your gift.

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