Jared – by Lisa Kretchman, watercolor and pastel, 2016
It’s winter here in New England, and all I see out my window is snow. Though it’s been a mild winter, a recent storm dropped almost a foot of snow in my area, coating everything, and bringing a pristine beauty to the woods by my home. But while it’s shades of grey and white outside, in my studio I see the brilliant greens and blues of summer. I’m revisiting the Art Hearts series with one last piece of artwork inspired by nature and exploration. This piece is for a boy named Jared.
Jared’s parents did not know he had a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) until he was born. Because of pre-eclamsia, his mother had an emergency c-section, and Jared was transferred to the NICU for observation. Within a few hours the family was told they would have to transfer Jared to Children’s Hospital due to his CHD – Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA). Four days later Jared had open heart surgery. While that entire week his parents faced this surprise diagnosis and prayed for his health, ultimately the surgery was successful and Jared recovered from it well.
Today Jared does not remember his surgery, and he is a bright, active boy. I contacted Jared’s family, and his mother told me that he loves the outdoors – fishing, hunting, camping, skiing, all ways of being out in nature with his Dad. His best friend is his beloved beagle Bentley, and his favorite color is blue.
Thumbnail sketches for Jared’s Art Heart
So for Jared, I really loved the idea of the connection he has to living things and nature. It did take me some time to settle on a direction for this piece, and I did some research on symbols to work with, especially centering on the stag. Eventually I thought the greens and blues would work well for this with a landscape incorporating woods and river, for hunting and fishing.
watercolor detail of buck
The stag is a symbol of the Artemis – Greek Goddess of wild animals and hunting, as well as patron of child delivery and infant survival. But it also represents transformation in Irish culture. So here I let the Celtic sybolism unite the artwork and it’s color pallette with all the greens of the landscape.
Detail of tree of life
I also incorporated a tree of life standing apart from the foggy woods. With branches reaching upward and roots below, it represents the link between heaven and earth. I softened the distant trees with wet watercolor so that the large tree would stand out. Using white gouache I added a little glow around the tree.
Beagle and clover in the foreground
Bentley inspired this little hunter beagle in the foreground, pointing toward our stag. He also serves as a symbol of courage, loyalty, and healing. Next to him I placed a patch of clover, as the shamrocks represent the trinity of earth, sea, and sky (reminding me of how Jared loves all aspects of the outdoors), as well as good fortune.
Painting with watercolor base for edge
Once the inner space in the heart was painted, I added a base layer of watercolor for around the heart. This would be blue, Jared’s favorite color.
Painting with layers of pastel burst around heart
And for the final touches I added more layers of pastel in varying shades of blue to make the heart really glow. I hope with it’s lush landscape and connection to nature that this painting brings joy to Jared and his family, and that they enjoy a future of happiness, healing, and good fortune as are symbolized here.
Jared’s completed Art Heart
This is the eighteenth and final piece in my Art Hearts series, which I am donating to Olivia’s Heart Fund. Please check out the Art Hearts page to read more about the project. 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. If you are so inspired, you can make a donation to the charity by clicking here or on the button below to visit the Olivia’s Heart Fund site. (please note that at the time of posting, the charity’s website is under construction and will be up again as soon as possible)
After eighteen essays and paintings, I have worked my way through all the stories collected by Olivia’s Heart Fund for the Art Hearts project. This is the first day of Congenital Heart Defect awareness week for 2016, and so the perfect time to post the last painting. This series has helped me to better understand how many people in our community are facing Congenital Heart Defects, and the stresses they endure. It is hard to take something so frightening and painful and turn that experience into hope, strength and beauty, but that is what these families do every day. I hope that by reading about their experiences I have created something that honors their journey, and I appreciate the kindness of the participants in this project for letting me do so.
Thank you Pete and Julie of Olivia’s Heart Fund, and volunteers Kelli, Jess, Kim and many others for their help in this project. I will post more information on when and where we will show the artwork in the coming year!