|Brianna 10″ x 10″ mixed-media|
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!