As referenced in an earlier post, I’ve been working on a project with family members who have created a charity for children who suffer from heart defects. This project began for me as a strong desire to create a series of paintings that would be shared with people, with the hope of incorporating portraits of the recipients into a companion multimedia presentation. I had been creating some small heart piecesand trying to solidify the plan, posting the images to Facebook when my cousin in-law Julie responded to the artwork. The hearts reminded her of her daughter Olivia, who had been born with a very rare heart defect, and tragically, had died at thirteen days old. Here is part of Olivia’s story from the Heart Fund website:
Our daughter, Olivia Marie Ostiguy, was diagnosed at 22 weeks and 6 days with HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) -it is one of the most severe congenital heart defects that only affects 8% of babies with CHD. Heart defects are the number 1 birth defect, occurring in 1/100 babies. Olivia was born on October 16th 2008. She had her first surgery (Norwood) at 6 days old. It was during this surgery, that doctors discovered that her heart was much worse than pre and post-natal echocardiograms had shown. Her left coronary arteries were not in the proper location and were very underdeveloped. The surgeon had never seen this particular defect before. Olivia was on ECMO for 7 days while she waited for a new heart. Tragically, her kidneys failed before a new heart was available. Olivia went to heaven on October 29th. She was 13 days old. My husband and I remain committed to educating the public about CHD and to helping families and children who are impacted. It is how we will ensure that Olivia’s battle will never be in vain.
For me, this was the moment when my desire to create artwork for the heart project and also to have a purpose beyond my desk job just came together naturally, in an unexpected way. Julie and her husband Peter have created a charity, Olivia’s Heart Fund, to support congenital heart defect research. The artwork could be shared with families of children who suffer from CHD. If they were willing to participate, we could potentially display the artwork, bring awareness of CHD and perhaps raise money for research. With Julie and Peter, and their contacts who have volunteered to help, the Art Heart project is taking shape.
I just completed the first heart – “Olivia” this past week. As much as I wanted to begin this project, I felt a bit nervous about the piece. It’s one thing to make artwork that feels right for me, but this project has such significance, and I really wanted it to resonate with Julie and Peter. Now that the first piece is done and the media, dimensions and tone are established, the other pieces should go smoothly.
Because I wanted a consistent heart shape across the series, I created a template out of cardboard. The series will be 10″ square.
I taped watercolor paper with the sketched heart to my drawing board, and pinned a few of the heart studies I created earlier up there for my reference. I blocked in some blue and purple watercolor for an underpainting, and when that was dry, got started on the wings and the texture around the heart with pastel.
I foolishly tried to create a spectrum in pastel but the effect was too muddy for me, so I had to wipe this out and start it again with acrylic. There is no undo button on tangible artwork (drat!) and the pastel has limited opportunities to rework when something does not go as planned. The acrylic did do the trick though.
I then created 13 stars (one for each day of Olivia’s life) and added silver leaf to bring them out. The last steps were to blend some more pastel through the sky portion of the heart, and add clouds near the base. I sprayed the pastel with some Spectrafix to make it less fragile.One element I want to add is a phrase inspired by what Julie wrote in her carepages blog, of which Olivia reminds me. Every day is precious. I would like to incorporate this under the heart shape in the negative space there. I just want to be careful how I do so, and keep the image balanced.The Art Hearts will eventually be a series – we are shooting for 20 pieces, with a diverse pool of recipients. I will be donating the artwork to Olivia’s Heart Fund, to go to the families. 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. I am hoping to also create a multimedia piece and if all goes well, there could be an show of the artwork with an interactive exhibit to explore the stories of the families and the mission of combating CHD. I will post more on the project as it progresses, with images of the artwork as I paint.
Please visit Olivia’s Heart Fund website to learn more about the charity, and to donate (if you are so inspired).