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!

 

Using Pinterest for heart inspiration on Valentine’s Day

Pinterest board with images and links to resources found on the web

Happy Valentine’s Day out there! I’ve been playing around with Pinterest lately. If  you haven’t checked it out yet, it basically allows users to collect images and video, either from the web or uploaded from their computer onto a “pin board” which links back to the original source. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought this would be a fun way to collect a lot of heart resources, from instructional sites, to jewlery and homegoods, to some of my art. Here is a link to my Heart Board. Enjoy!

Art Hearts Opening Night!

Adree’s Art Heart and portrait at the QVCAH

Wow! January was a busy month. With the last of the preparations completed, we got an exhibition of the Art Hearts up and running! It was a squeeze to get everything done in time but it was totally worth it.

Laurie’s Art Heart and portrait

Our opening night of the Art Hearts show for Olivia’s Heart Fund was a blast! Brian and I arrived a little early to set up the last part of the exhibit – a laptop with a multimedia presentation detailing the Art Hearts project. My paintings and Jessie Coristine’s photos were hung earlier that day. Each painting is paired with a portrait of the heart recipient, with his or her name and a brief synopsis of the heart story.

Katelyn and Julia’s Heart and portrait, by the multimedia presentation
Olivia’s pieces on the piano, with Cloe’s in the background

The Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities is a lovely restored colonial building, so a number of the hearts are displayed over a fireplace. Others are paired up over available wall space. Olivia’s are centered in the main room on a piano, right where the action was at during the reception.

HUGS!! Thank you, Adree!
Adree and I pose for pics in front of her painting

I was very lucky to get hugs from some of our participating heart families during the opening. Brianna and her grandparents came to see her painting, as well as Anna and her parents. I also got to meet the talented Adree in person, and she brought me a beautiful handmade scarf, courtesy of Adree Creations™! As you can see from the photos (thanks to hubby as I broke the cardinal rule and forgot my camera), we are all wearing red for National Wear Red Day for the American Heart Association. My scarf matched perfectly (and was full of awesome!) so I sported that the rest of the night.

Julie and Pete Ostiguy, founders of Olivia’s Heart Fund

Julie and Pete from Olivia’s Heart Fund made it up to the exhibit, and brought some prints and cards to sell for the charity. Thank you to all those who supported us by coming out to visit and brought home a little Art Heart of their own. It was a great night, and an auspicious beginning to showing the project as it develops. We are hoping to bring the artwork back to the QVCAH when the series is complete.

Info about the OHF mission, with prints and cards of the Art Hearts

The Art Hearts project will be shown at the QVCAH throughout the month of February. The building is open 12-4 on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as by appointment. It was a wonderful night, and a successful collaboration. Pictures of the event and Brianna, Anna and Adree with their paintings even made the local paper! Many thanks go to Monika and Dimitriy and the board members of the QVCAH who totally made this happen. :-)

Brianna’s Art Heart

Brianna 10″ x 10″ mixed-media

It’s been a busy month, but I have one more Art Heart ready for the upcoming show in February at the QVCAH! This painting is for a little girl named Brianna.

Brianna’s mom was nineteen when Brianna was born. Her doctors discovered that she had a heart murmur during her newborn exam, but thought that this was normal and would go away as Brianna got older. Only 36 hours later, a nurse noticed that the newborn was in respiratory distress and turning blue. Brianna was transferred to the NICU while the doctors worked to find out what was wrong. Eventually a cardiologist diagnosed her as having Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a congenital heart defect that leaves the left side of the heart underdeveloped. Because of this turn of events, Brianna was transferred to Children’s Hospital Boston.

At five days old, Brianna underwent the first of three open heart surgeries. As her mother was still recovering from her c-section, Brianna’s grandfather stayed with her while she was being prepared for her surgery, talking to the infant and holding her hand. Brianna would later undergo another surgery at six months and again at two and a half years old to correct her heart. Throughout the surgeries, tests and check-ups, she always managed to smile. She was blessed with extended family and friends who worked to keep her motivated, always ready with gifts, love and support.

Despite the help from her family, Brianna’s mom Kristina still had an uphill battle. Brianna’s father left when she was two, leaving Kristina and Brianna on their own. When caring for Brianna she could not work and had to depend on welfare. But over time she completed her college education, during which time she participated in Heart Walks for fundraising events, inspiring others in her community. Kristina and her parents became deeply involved in charity, making donations to the hospital whenever possible. Her father taught himself to sew, and he and his wife have since donated hundreds of handmade blankets and pillows to Children’s Hospital to bring comfort to other children. They also purchased a sewing machine for the local senior center where their example has inspired residents to help them in their mission. The family has done their best to give back to the community in gratitude for the time that Kristina and Brianna were in need. Brianna is now doing very well, with a healthy heart and a little sister whom she loves to sing and dance and play with.

The sketch transferred to paper

So for this painting, I wanted to honor what I felt was a circle of giving that this family created through their experience. After doing some research, I found that nasturtiums represent charity, conquest and victory. They are sometimes given as a gift at the end of a struggle, or for encouragement during a long journey. All perfect statements about the family, and how they overcame the difficulties presented by Brianna’s CHD. I created a wreath shape of the flowers, using the circle to symbolize the journey from receiving help, to reciprocating and giving back to others.

The flowers rendered in watercolor

After making the sketch, I started painting the flowers in with layers of watercolor. Working from light to dark, a built up color and slowly added lines and texture.

More detail on the leaves, and the background filled in

The leaves of the nasturtium looked too bare to me, so I added the veining with opaque gouache. Once that looked right, I added a soft purple background color to contrast with the wreath.

The Vivid Dancer damselfly

Brianna and her sister both are very active, and love to sing and dance. While I feel like the friendly-looking flowers represent them pretty well, I thought the artwork could use something special. So I added in a type of damselfly named Vivid Dancer. The insect is a beautiful intense blue (Brianna’s favorite color!) and is so named for its elegant movement in flight.

Outside edge of the heart in blue

With that done, I was able to move on to the outer edge of the heart. The base color was painted in with watercolor in a sky blue.

Adding radiance around the edge with pastel

Once that was dry, I added a layer of pastel to give a radiant effect around the heart. A little line of deep purple helps to define the heart shape.

The completed painting

So here is the finished painting. I really like the bright, cheerful feeling of these flowers, and the spring colors feel friendly and optimistic. I hope that Brianna and her family will enjoy this Art Heart and feel the same joy that I did in creating it. They have truly taken a devastating event and turned it into a positive experience in their lives. Not only for themselves, but for the many children they have helped through their efforts, and the greater community that has been inspired by their activism.

This is the thirteenth of my Art Hearts which I am donating to Olivia’s Heart Fund. Please check out the Art Hearts page on my blog 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!

Will’s Art Heart

Will 10″ x10″ mixed-media, 2012

One more Art Heart is complete! This painting is for a little boy named Will.

Will was born in the winter of 2005, and seemed to be completely healthy and perfect. During his first day, Will’s parents spent time holding him, and noticed that there were moments when his lips seemed blue. Reassured by the staff that he was just dusky, they assumed all was well. At eighteen hours old, a new nurse came in to check up on Will, and while checking his vital signs, decided to do further testing in another room. As time went by, Will’s parents realized something must be wrong. Soon they were told there was a problem with Will’s heart, and that he had been rushed to the NICU.

It turned out that Will had an arrhythmia defect which elevated his heart rate to over 250 beats per minute. Doctors were working to find the right combination of medications to control the arrhythmia events, caused by a defect called Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW). After six days, Will was sent home on what doctors believed to be the correct regimen of medication. Unfortunately, over the next two days Will became much worse, and was rushed back to the hospital. He was now in congestive heart failure.

Will’s parents requested a transfer to Children’s Hospital Boston, a decision which may have saved his life. Once there, doctors discovered he had a more serious heart defect, a deformed mitral valve, which was causing Mitral Valve Regurgitation. Over several weeks doctors worked to reverse the congestive heart failure and treat both heart conditions. He became one of the youngest patients ever to receive a surgery for his WPW.

Though Will was initially scheduled for an open heart surgery at three months old, during his pre-op checkup he was granted a postponement. His valve regurgitation was downgraded to moderate, and later was reclassified as mild. If his heart continues to function well he will not need heart surgery until he is in his twenties. Because of this experience, Will’s Mom Kelli has co-founded an organization called Helping Hands, Healing Hearts, to support other families affected by CHD.

Through all this, you can imagine the incredible ups and downs that Will and his parents endured! Though the news is good now, there is always the fear of a change for the worse. It is sometimes difficult to be around non-heart families. It is impossible to forget that they are living with a CHD as they must always be vigilant in regards to Will’s health. To try to explain this, Kelli sent this essay to me:

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, Gondolas. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting. After several months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland!” “Holland?” you say. “What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy. I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place. So, you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around. You begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. And Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.” And the pain of that experience will never, ever, ever, go away. The loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

– “Welcome to Holland“, by Emily Perl Kingsley

Did you cry when reading that? Because I sure did! Armed with such descriptive and detailed essays, it didn’t take me long to come up with ideas for Will’s painting. I settled on a gateway between two worlds. The one Will’s parents had expected, and the one where they exist now. Though the landscape through the gate is lush and beautiful, the beach is a calm, serene place, quiet and with its own beauty. This world is rich with blessings unexpected, and also those hard-won from their journey. The turtle walking across the sand represents patience, for Will and for each other, learned during everything they have experienced. The gate is built of seventeen stones, for Will’s birth date.

Notes and thumbnails

 

The final sketch, ready to paint

So my process started with thumbnail sketches and research, looking at a lot of images before sketching out the final design. Once that was worked out, I transferred the sketch to paper.

First washes of color
The painting as more layers of color are added

Working in the center of the heart, I started adding washes of watercolor. I had the paper taped to a drawing board, but tried to lay each wash down quickly so that the color stayed even, and not saturate it too much so that it would dry flat. I built up the color in layers, adding some texture by spattering watercolor over the stone and sand.

A base color is added around the edge

I then added a base coat of green watercolor around the heart’s edge for the pastel to adhere to later. Once I had an idea of how that would look, I wanted to make the center look richer.

Painting in some grass along the beach

 

Will’s patient turtle gets more detail, and the outer edge shapes up

I thought the sky could be bluer, so I gave it a gentle coat of pastel, with some fluffy clouds. Using watercolor and gouache, I added wild grass over the sand and darkened the shadows in the arch of the gate. Once the inner details looked right, I went back around the outer edge of the heart with a radiant gradation of color using more pastel.

The completed painting

So here’s how it came out! Will is six years old at the time of this post, so I hope he likes the little turtle especially. And the ocean is the hallmark of Rhode Island where his family lives, a landscape where so many families find joy playing under the sun. I wish him and his family happiness, for this piece of the world is a better place for them being in it.

This is the twelfth of my Art Hearts which I am donating to Olivia’s Heart Fund. Please check out the Art Hearts page on my blog 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!