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!

Poppies for remembrance

poppies for remembrance by Lisa Kretchman

poppies painting work in progress

As I write this, I’m listening to a live media stream about the manhunt for a suspected bomber of Monday’s Boston Marathon. It has been a rough week, full of tragedy for both my community in Massachusetts, and also the many people killed and wounded in the Texas fertilizer plant explosion.

There is not much I can say that hasn’t been rehashed about the depths and the heights of humankind that we see in the wake of these events. It’s an emotional roller coaster, and I am saying prayers for everyone involved.

As all this is going on, I have a painting on my easel that was commissioned by a friend  based on a series of poppies on a yellow background – Radiant. Working on artwork brings me peace, and it struck me as timely to be painting this right now, with the symbolism of these flowers. Because of their history with opium as well as their red color, poppies have long been a symbol of peace, sleep, and remembrance of the dead. We often see the little paper ones as symbols of wartime remembrance for veterans. And as I looked further into the flower’s history, I see that ancient Egyptian doctors would direct their patients to eat their seeds to relieve pain.

So though this painting was not created specifically for the people hurt and killed in those in these two tragedies, as I look at it I think of them, their families, and their communities. I wish all of us peace, and release from pain and suffering.

 

Phoenix’s Art Heart

Phoenix by Lisa Kretchman

Phoenix 10″ x 10″ mixed-media

It’s time to get back into the Art Hearts project! This painting is for a boy named Phoenix. Here is his CHD story.

At 21 weeks pregnant, the same day that Phoenix’s mom found out she was having a boy, she was told that he was moving around too much for doctors to examine his heart. She was sent to Children’s Hospital in Boston for the procedure. Once there, doctors discovered that Phoenix had a Congenital Heart Defect – Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. The diagnosis was severe – she was told that the baby might not survive, but there would be a series of surgeries that would increase his chances.

Though she had originally planned to give her child up for adoption, Phoenix’s mom now knew that she could not do so. Instead, she would raise him herself. At seven days old Phoenix faced his first open heart surgery. During the procedure he suffered a collapsed lung and a paralyzed diaphragm, but he miraculously recovered on his own. Five months later he had his second surgery. After that things took a turn for the worse. Phoenix’s coloring would randomly turn blue, and he became weak and lethargic. As his condition degenerated, he was brought back to Children’s Hospital, eventually going into Congestive Heart Failure. Phoenix was placed on the heart transplant list.

Eventually Phoenix and his mom got the call they were waiting for. A heart was available. At just over two years of age, he had his transplant and recovered well. By the time he was released he had spent 200 days in the hospital.

Since his transplant, Phoenix has had his ups and downs. He has fought bacterial infections, pneumonia, and an infection around his heart. But despite his struggles he is a bright child, very happy, smiling and full of life. He is described by others as energetic, mischievous and brave, and brings a smile to those he meets.

When I began brainstorming this Art Heart, I wasn’t sure if I should avoid representing Phoenix with…well…a phoenix! I thought about it for a while, and it seemed that though that imagery was obvious, it was also appropriate for everything he had gone through. This young man has certainly had his trial by fire. And the legend is beautiful and meaningful. In Dharmic religions, the phoenix represents the triumph of the soul over the body, and we are familiar with the tale of how the bird is reborn through the fire in a new and healthy body. So it seemed appropriate that Phoenix, with his new heart and his new life, should be depicted in this painting by his namesake.

Because the legendary bird is described as so colorful, I thought it best to paint this one in shades of blue transitioning to red – representing the shades of Phoenix’s complexion as he went from cyanotic to a healthy color.

the first layers of watercolor for the phoenix

The bird’s plumage trails behind him with hearts as the eyes of the feathers. After the first layers of the phoenix were filled in with watercolor, I added a sunset sky in the background.

once the bird was dry, the background of the heart was filled in

Now that the base of the watercolor was complete, I started adding in more details with opaque guache and pastel. Because the bird has just risen from the ashes, I added smoldering flames around its body and to the branches.

flames are drawn with pastel pencils over the watercolor

I used pastel to draw more details in the feathers and add dimension to the phoenix. Now that most of the work was complete inside the heart, I filled in the rest of the white area with what would be the background color.

more details are pulled out of the feathers with pastel, and the surrounding heart color is added with watercolor

I evened out the purple sky and the radiant area around the heart with layers of blended pastel. Since the phoenix should have glorious plumage, I painted metallic gold around the eyes of the feathers.

pastel fills in around the heart, and metallic paint completes the feathers

And with that, Phoenix’s Art Heart was complete! The pose of the bird is fierce and triumphant, an extraordinary creature in honor of an extraordinary life. The phoenix legend inspires us with new beginnings and better living through change and growth. I wish a long life full of joy and rich experiences to young Phoenix.

This piece will be exhibited this Friday for the first time at the QVCAH in Southbridge, MA. The entire series will be showing for the month of February, so please come by and support CHD survivors by checking them out! This is the fourteenth 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!

Back in action – holiday style!

Some of my artwork up for sale at the QVCAH in Southbridge

Welcome to the new website and blog! It has been too long since I last posted – during the last few months I was on a major contract project, built four WordPress websites, and did a lot of artmaking and spiritual exploring. Oh – and have been assisting with the brewery that my husband is creating. So things have been busy! But now that I have the new website up I will be back on the blog and sharing info and imagery on all that.

One big change is that I am now a board member of the Quinebaug Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southbridge, MA. The QVCAH (or the Arts Center) has been a great organization, who supported my work in the past with the Art Hearts project.

Yep – that’s me buying goodies at the Arts Center!

This past Friday opened the QVCAH Holiday Art & Craft Sale with a Winter Celebration at the Arts Center. I stopped by to check out the festivities, and see the work of all the artists there. I am a participating artist, but as you can see I enjoy art and craft of all kinds, so of course had to do some shopping for myself while I was there! I’ll be back to add more artwork to the sale, which has been extended through this Sunday, Dec. 16th. The QVCAH is open daily 11am-7pm for the Holiday Sale, so please pop in and support the arts!

Art events this week

The event poster for the Arts Center, at 111 Main Street in Southbridge, MA.

Well spring is here, and there are some great art events happening. This coming Saturday, May 12th is the May Day Festival at the Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities. With lots of activities planned, from maypole dances, to puppet shows, to a beer and wine garden (yay!) and more, it looks like it will be a blast! The event runs from 12-6pm at the Arts Center in Southbridge MA. Check the poster above for the festival’s schedule.

The Warwick Museum of Art, at 3259 Post Road in Warwick, RI.

Also this week is the opening for “Tell Me a Story”, the illustration show at the Warwick Museum of Art. This show is very family-friendly with art from children’s book illustrators from all over New England. The opening reception is Thursday, May 10th, from 6-8pm. The show runs the month of May at regular museum hours.

I’ll be at both the events, welcoming in the New England spring! Hope to see some familiar faces there.

Enjoy!

Mourning for loved ones and healing through art

my brother-in-law Chris

It has been hard to write this post. The past month or so has been rough. A week after my birthday, while away for a weekend, my husband and I got the call that his brother Christopher was very ill and in the hospital. Hours later he passed away at only 42 years old. While we knew he had been recovering from a pulmonary embolism from earlier in the year, it was still a shock. The following week and a half was filled with family traveling in from all parts of the country for the services. Being surrounded by loved ones who are sharing your grief is comforting, but eventually exhausting. The sharing of experiences helps to release emotions about the loss, but being in that emotional state is draining. I can only imagine how much harder this has been for Chris’ parents.

my Aunt Carol

Ten days after the services, I got word that my aunt and Godmother was very ill. Though she was only 68, she had been battling complications from her diabetes for years. Earlier in the year her heart stopped beating on its own, and her kidneys were shutting down. I took a trip to New Hampshire to be with her and my cousin, hoping to bring some comfort to them, and to give myself time to let her go. Four weeks to the day after Christopher’s passing, my aunt Carol died in hospice, and I returned with family for the services.

my garden of gratitude

In both cases, My husband and I were fortunate to have visited our loved ones recently. I am so grateful that we had that time. And as hard as it is to lose someone you care about, in the process of mourning we connect with family, and eventually reflect on happy memories of those that we have lost. Looking through photos of both Chris and Carol, I’m reliving the weddings, birthdays, parties, and seeing them smiling. My husband and I are also very lucky to have the love and support of our friends during all of this. But I am still feeling very out of sorts and in need of rest. The feelings come and go, and I imagine this will pattern will stay with me for a while.

water lilies

After Chris’ passing, I started a project that brought me some peace. I had it in mind to paint a series of water lilies as a thank-you to everyone who made it to my surprise party. The water lilies have a spiritual meaning to me, as they are similar to a lotus. As I painted, I felt that these flowers embodied my gratitude, for both the celebration and the recent support from family and friends. The flowers have made their way to their owners, and I have heard they brought a smile to some faces. I am painting more of them now as a commission, and again, I feel peace during the painting process.

luminaries

The day that my aunt passed, I spent some time at a wellness expo. While I contemplated the connection between us, I came across Roland Comtois, a Rhode Island spiritualist and author. At his table was a display about an upcoming event – the lighting of luminaries for loved ones, proceeds of which would benefit the American Heart Association and Heavenly Passage’s The Living Garden. The timing seemed right, so I purchased luminaries for Chris and Carol. I was able to do a quick marker drawing on each, and so I added the symbolism I have been returning to lately – on being free from burdens, from pain, from the anxieties of this life. On being at peace. Again, it helped me to express this visually, and am comforted by the thought of all the luminaries lit in remembrance. The lighting is on April 15th, and I’m thinking I will go and experience it in person.

The process of mourning is very personal – I know it’s very different for each of us. For me, focusing on artmaking has been helpful, and I find myself walking and looking for the onset of spring in the trees and flowers around my home. Perhaps that connection with nature heals me, but also I see a correlation with the human spirit and the shedding of dormant husks, of returning to life. Despite the long winter, the energy that lies within awakens and begins again.

In remembrance of Christopher Kretchman, February 19, 2012 and Carol Kuhns, March 18, 2012.

40 Years Old and Focusing on the Future – Making a Vision Board with Pinterest

So this is it! I am officially an old fart. I just turned 40 years old. Not that I feel any older. Actually I feel a lot better about life these days than I did a few years ago, so overall I think I am ahead of the game. There is a lot I want to improve about myself, but I feel like I am on the right track – I’m more involved with art, have more control of my own schedule, I’m working for causes that I believe in, and am less angry and more positive than I was years ago.

And guess what! My wonderful husband just threw me a surprise party over the weekend (the sneak!) and as a former community theater actor, he acted his pants off and threw me some curves so that I wouldn’t see it coming. We had a get-together with a few friends, and I am so very very grateful for the love and support from everybody that participated. It was a blast!


Today I wanted to sort out some future goals, so I made a vision board. This is an exercise I started during my retreat workshop with Tama Kieves that I really wanted to expand on. The idea behind the vision board is that you take a lot of pictures of things you like (cutouts from magazines and such) and paste them to a board, so that you can visualize and therefore manifest what you want in your future. I’ve added a lot of text to my vision board, most of it handwritten stream of thought writing that is similar to what I incorporate in my artwork.  There are a couple of copies of my art in there as well – reminders of what I want to create in my future.

Close up on my board

What’s cool about vision boards is that you don’t have to go all old school and make one by hand. There is some software out there to make digital versions of vision boards, not to mention using Adobe Photoshop or another image editor if you just want to move images around and print something out. But I thought I’d try using Pinterest to create a vision board.

Now Pinterest is getting a lot of buzz out there right now, and I think it’s the simplicity behind this social media site that has it growing so quickly. It allows users to bookmark images and videos from all over the web (or uploaded from a computer) with the push of a button. You collect those resources on one of your “boards” and can add a note about the link. Clicking  the image on your board brings you back to the original link, and it’s easy to “like” and “repin” images from other users. I found that if you add the price to an item you’ve pinned, the site adds a little banner over the image. All in all it’s very cool. And very addictive. So look out with that!

My Pinterest Vision Board

After experimenting with a board of heart resources, I started my Vision Board. It’s pretty easy, and I can always delete a pin or move it to another of my boards. The only drawback I see right now is that I cannot move the pins around the board. They load in order of most recently added and that’s it. But it’s still a very easy to make visual reminder of my goals.

It’s worth playing with either format of Vision Board – I felt like I got to be more artistic with the tangible one, but the digital version allows for more flexibility. Currently these is no option to make a Pinterest board private, so that is a consideration. In any case, stay focused on your dreams, and may good things come to you!