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.


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.


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.

Art Wall in Southbridge, MA

the Art Wall on the lawn of the QVCAH Art Center
The Art Wall is an ambitious (and cool) exhibition going on in Southbridge right now. Made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts & Humanities (QVCAH) is hosting this wall made up of large paintings by artists from each of the 25 towns the art center supports.
As East Douglas is one of the communities that comprise the QVCAH’s reach, I was pleased to be invited to participate in the Art Wall. Project coordinator Monika Agnello filled me in on the details, and I got started with my largest painting to date – eight feet by four feet (a full sheet of plywood).
the original blueberry jelly
my little jelly bean on wheels

Those of you who know me already see a logistical issue with the painting. I drive a Toyota Yaris, which looks pretty much like a blueberry jelly bean on wheels. I can just imaging strapping the plywood onto my roof and upon driving getting enough lift to ensure hijinks on my way home from the Home Depot. Rather than tempt fate, I enlisted the help of my husband and his truck, and made it home to paint another day.
thank you honey!

With that problem solved, I primed the plywood all over, and busted out some sketches for the painting. After being bribed with some fish pellets, my koi in the front garden (Mr. Big Fish) modeled for me and I got the design resolved. I dug out my projector from college (it pays to be a hoarder!), and started tracing my design on the plywood. My studio is nowhere near big enough to accommodate the plywood with room to work around it, so I made use of the garage for this piece. Thank God I got the urge to organize it a few months back, or I would have been tripping over power tools.

sketch made in Adobe Flash

Here you can see the progression of the painting. I painted in the large areas with a flat base color first, then filled in the water and added depth and details.

like green Pac-men…
nearly done…
I saved the koi for last. At this point, I had been squatting over plywood on furniture dollies for a few days and I was feeling the burn. the weather was pretty nice at the house, so I brought the painting outside and worked on the stone wall. Good timing too – the natural light was better for the fish, which were the most detailed bit.
Water Garden 8’x4′ acrylic  –  the completed painting
it’s about as big as my car!

So that’s it! Hubby helped me transport the finished painting to the QVCAH building for the exhibition. I visited the Art Wall again this week to get photos of all the artwork, which I’ll post tomorrow. The work is so diverse and all together it looks really impressive. The Art Wall is on display until September 4th, so come check it out! The art will all be auctioned off, with a 50-50 split between the artists and the QVCAH. It’s a great opportunity to score some fun artwork and do some good for the art community. Here are the details:

Art Wall closing reception and auction
Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities
111 Main Street Southbridge, MA
Sunday, September 4th, 2011


Beat the heat by visiting museums and galleries

Rhode Island Rocks 5″x7″ acrylic – on view at the Wickford Art Assocition Gallery

This summer the southern New England weather has been fierce! Between the heat and humidity, we’ve been all melty here. So it’s a great time for visiting the beach, and finding ways to escape the heat. You can do both by taking a road trip to Wickford, RI to see North Kingston town beach, and check out the Wickford Art Association right next door. My acrylic painting Rhode Island Rocks was accepted into their current exhibition Art of the Ocean State.

Exhibition info:


Warwick Museum of Art

Another great venue to visit for free air conditioning is the Warwick Museum of Art in Apponaug, RI. The current show Life in the Round – Remembering the Warwick Musical Theatre is concluding today, so if you haven’t seen in yet, I urge you to check it out ASAP! The exhibit features a documentary film and loads of memorabilia from the theater.

In My Garden 16″x20″ mixed-media encaustic – on view at the Warwick Museum of Art

The upcoming exhibit at the Warwick Museum of Art is The Elements, on display August 2nd through the 28th, and features artwork depicting earth, air, fire and water. My mixed-media encaustic work In My Garden will be included in the show. This is the first large-format painting I’ve tried with the encaustic, so I’m glad it made it into the show. Please come check it out and support the WMOA!

Exhibition info:

  • Warwick Museum of Art – 3259 Post Road, Warwick, RI
  • August 3rd – August 31st
  • Tues, Wed, Fri 12-4
  • Thur 4-8
  • Sat 10-2


Stay cool out there folks!

Transformation (in Grey) – commissioned painting

Transformation in Grey 11″x14″ acrylic

Just finished this baby last night. I had showed the original version of Transformation to a friend, who requested a similar painting in black and white with the yellow butterfly. The original painting was an exercise for my art group in which we created a concept for the phrase “what if?”. At the time I thought, “what if I were a tree?”, hence the painting. But I also was still exploring the butterfly/chrysalis analogy and transforming myself and my life into one that I wanted. Note that while the figures in each painting are stylized (and idealized), they have hips and belly – because I appreciate that, being a curvy girl myself. Anywhoo…

Original painting, Transformation 11″x14″ acrylic

For this new version, I used Adobe Photoshop Elements to paint up a digital version first. Once everything was designed and approved, I projected the sketch onto a canvas and outlined the main elements in pencil.

Tree branches being painted

Since the background colors were already painted in, I added the tree nymph next. Maybe the right term for her would be dryad. Either way, she’s the spirit of growth and transformation in this piece. I drybrushed some shading into the trunk to add form, but didn’t want to get too bogged down in that until more of the overall painting was complete. Back to that later.

Adding leaves

Next, I added all the leaves and corrected some of the branch shapes. You can see some of the penciled-in sketch in the image above, where the butterfly would go after the grey paint is complete.

Cleaning up around the roots, and adding the chrysalis

The roots area is next – I cleaned up the edges there and then added the chrysalis in grey with a bit of color on top. While this is meant to have color, to connect the chrysalis (contemplation) to butterfly (transformation), I kept this softer and more subtle.

Our dryad in the trunk of the tree

Now that most of the painting is done, I went back to polish up the central figure. Most of the details in her form are drybrushed light over dark. I also added a glow about her as in the original piece.

The butterfly really pops with the golden yellow

The last element I painted was the butterfly. As you can see, with the soft shades of grey in the rest of the painting, it really stands out.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the process behind this painting. It’s a bit different than my landscapes for sure! But most of my narrative work is loaded with symbolism and tends to be illustrative. I’ve got more paintings in the works, with another one for a customer and also for the Heart Art project coming soon.


Making up for lost time

So the whole month of November passed me by before I managed to write a blog post. It’s truly shameful! During my time away, there was a lot going on – I had to take some time out to complete a teaching proposal, then things got pretty busy, then after they slowed down a bit I went through a period of depression and panic that I might have to take on the kind of work that makes me very stressed and unhappy – the culmination of all those factors being that I couldn’t get my head in the right place for blogging. My state of mind is better right now, but I have lots of catching up to do.

Woot! There’s my artwork.

So where to start? I guess I’ll go back to some of the art events I’ve participated in lately. The opening for the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative 10x10x10 Show was in mid-November, and featured over 60 artists and 144 works of art. Before I even got there I was thrilled to see one of my paintings featured on the PAC flyer and website (!).

My artwork in the top row

The PAC shows its works at the Blackstone Valley Visitors’ Center in downtown Pawtucket, RI. The entire front entryway is dedicated to their shows, which makes it a great and accessible venue. The art was hung in grids of nine apiece. Each artist was allowed up to three works, allowing for many to be displayed as a complete row.

Looking really close…
Living statue from Ten31 productions. Very appropriate!
There was a pretty good crowd there too! And because later in the evening there was a talk from Ten31 productions , they had a living statue in attendance. This is the same company that is behind the gargoyles and human statues you see at the Providence Waterfire and other events in the area. This is the first time I’ve seen a “bronze” statue from them. The ones I’ve seen are normally “stone”.
I love, love love the art in this block.

I also took some time to check out how other artists handle challenges like presentation and framing, what supports they use, how they create an emotional tone with their work, or create a more technical piece. If I had the budget I would have taken home several of the paintings here – the three oil landscapes painted on wood (or MDF) by Timothy Ohliger above were just gorgeous. They looked great hung as a series, and by the end of the opening nigh they were already sold. I’m sure they went as a set. The sunflowers above them by Marjorie Ball caught my attention as well.

The three pencil drawings in the top row are technically amazing.

The pencil drawings at the top of this group also caught my eye. While I am normally all about color, these drawings by David J Delay were so perfectly rendered that I would have loved to snatch one off the wall (I managed to hold back!).

My husband Brian (left) and friend Max were kind enough to attend the opening.
My other friends managed to evade the camera.

My husband is not an art buff himself, but being supportive he escorted me to the event (along with some other friends I suckered into going – Thanks guys!) It was wonderful to see so many pieces of artwork, and the group of us decided to head to Doherty’s East Side Irish Pub for dinner and beer after the event. They have an extensive menu of beers (biggest I’ve ever seen) on draft, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can try a beer flight (4 or 6 samples). I tried the flight of four, with a couple of the beer fusions (bruised pear – Guinness and pear cider) and also a pumpkin ale. Very nice.

All in all a very good night. I’ll continue the time warp in my next post.