Benjamin’s Art Heart

Benjamin Art Heart by Lisa Kretchman

Benjamin – 10″ x 10″ mixed-media by Lisa Kretchman

It’s the beginning of 2014! January is a time of renewal, reflection, and new potential. I just finished this Art Heart at the end of 2013, and now that we are through the holidays, it’s time to revisit the Art Hearts project. This heart is for a little boy named Benjamin.

Benjamin was diagnosed at 19 weeks gestation with Congenital Heart Defect. He had holes between both the upper and lower chambers of his heart, a narrowed aorta, and transposition of the great arteries, preventing his blood from being oxygenated properly. At six days old he had his first surgery to repair the transposition and holes, and it was believed that the aorta would correct itself as Ben grew.

Two weeks after Ben came home, he went into congestive heart failure while his family was driving in the car. His mother performed CPR until the police arrived and brought them to the hospital. Doctors determined that his aorta had become more narrow, and he underwent his second surgery at one month old.

Since then, Ben has recovered and grown into a happy and healthy little boy. He recently celebrated his sixth birthday, and enjoys sports like soccer, football, and hockey. He loves life, and has become a talkative and passionate about whatever he does. Though he went through his surgeries when he was so young, Ben does still have an awareness of his heart defect. When the family was expecting their third child, he said was that he hoped the baby wouldn’t have any problems like he did, and that he wishes the baby will be healthy. His parents expressed how his approach to life inspires them to remain positive in the face of challenges. They are grateful for their blessings, the nurses and doctors that helped them, and the friends and family that supported them.

So what would be the right image for Ben? His mother kindly gave me some more insight into his likes and personality. He loves turtles…so I thought I’d start with that symbolism. As an animal totem, the turtle brings a sure and steady energy. With it’s shell, it is a symbol of protection, and because of it’s long lifespan, it also represents persistence, endurance, and the continuation of life against the odds. The turtle also reminds us to be patient, accept what is, and move on with wisdom.

happy little turtle!

The sketch for Ben’s painting

In North American Indian mythology, the world turtle (or tortoise) supports the earth on it’s back. From it’s spine grows the cosmic tree, a connection between heaven and earth. I drew up a version of this turtle, and added some runes into the patterning on her shell to better represent Ben’s nature. They depict hardships, protection/support, journey/change, health/success, and strength/energy. Symbols that describe Ben’s story, what he’s overcome, and who he has become.

Painting the texture on the turtle

Using layers of watercolor and gouache, I added lots of texture on the turtle in warm shades of yellow and orange (based on a box turtle) to contrast with the cool night sky.

Adding layers of watercolor into the sky, and outlining the cosmic tree

Behind her I layered in shades of blue and purple for a starry sky. After experimenting with some ideas, I decided to use gel pens for the twisted branching of the cosmic tree, to give it an ethereal quality.

Adding celestial objects into the sky and tree

I added whirls of suns and moons, stars and sparkles into the sky, with watercolor and metallic ink.

Metallic ink and silver leaf bring some sparkle to the cosmos.

Then a few more stars within the tree itself, and two comets to represent Ben’s two surgeries. These I highlighted with silver leaf.

The completed painting

Lastly, I added the outer color around the heart in watercolor and pastel. I made the radiant effect with pastel layers in shades of green – which is Ben’s favorite color. I like the way the cosmic tree sparkles and seems like it’s part of the night sky, and the turtle really seems warm and full of life against the cool colors. My favorite part though, may be the gentle smile on the turtle’s face – very serene and wise. I hope Ben and his family love his painting, and want to wish them congratulations on the birth of their new baby! Here’s to a joyous New Year for them and for all of us in 2014.

This is the fifteenth of my Art Hearts 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. Enjoy!

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