Jared’s Art Heart


Jared – by Lisa Kretchman, watercolor and pastel, 2016


It’s winter here in New England, and all I see out my window is snow. Though it’s been a mild winter, a recent storm dropped almost a foot of snow in my area, coating everything, and bringing a pristine beauty to the woods by my home. But while it’s shades of grey and white outside, in my studio I see the brilliant greens and blues of summer. I’m revisiting the Art Hearts series with one last piece of artwork inspired by nature and exploration. This piece is for a boy named Jared.

Jared’s parents did not know he had a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) until he was born. Because of pre-eclamsia, his mother had an emergency c-section, and Jared was transferred to the NICU for observation. Within a few hours the family was told they would have to transfer Jared to Children’s Hospital due to his CHD – Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA). Four days later Jared had open heart surgery. While that entire week his parents faced this surprise diagnosis and prayed for his health, ultimately the surgery was successful and Jared recovered from it well.

Today Jared does not remember his surgery, and he is a bright, active boy. I contacted Jared’s family, and his mother told me that he loves the outdoors – fishing, hunting, camping, skiing, all ways of being out in nature with his Dad. His best friend is his beloved beagle Bentley, and his favorite color is blue.

Thumbnail sketches for Jared's Art Heart

Thumbnail sketches for Jared’s Art Heart

So for Jared, I really loved the idea of the connection he has to living things and nature. It did take me some time to settle on a direction for this piece, and I did some research on symbols to work with, especially centering on the stag. Eventually I thought the greens and blues would work well for this with a landscape incorporating woods and river, for hunting and fishing.

watercolor detail of buck

watercolor detail of buck

The stag is a symbol of the Artemis – Greek Goddess of wild animals and hunting, as well as patron of child delivery and infant survival. But it also represents transformation in Irish culture. So here I let the Celtic sybolism unite the artwork and it’s color pallette with all the greens of the landscape.

Detail of tree of life

Detail of tree of life

I also incorporated a tree of life standing apart from the foggy woods. With branches reaching upward and roots below, it represents the link between heaven and earth. I softened the distant trees with wet watercolor so that the large tree would stand out. Using white gouache I added a little glow around the tree.


Beagle and clover in the foreground


Bentley inspired this little hunter beagle in the foreground, pointing toward our stag. He also serves as a symbol of courage, loyalty, and healing. Next to him I placed a patch of clover, as the shamrocks represent the trinity of earth, sea, and sky (reminding me of how Jared loves all aspects of the outdoors), as well as good fortune.


Painting with watercolor base for edge


Once the inner space in the heart was painted, I added a base layer of watercolor for around the heart. This would be blue, Jared’s favorite color.


Painting with layers of pastel burst around heart


And for the final touches I added more layers of pastel in varying shades of blue to make the heart really glow. I hope with it’s lush landscape and connection to nature that this painting brings joy to Jared and his family, and that they enjoy a future of happiness, healing, and good fortune as are symbolized here.

Jared's completed Art Heart

Jared’s completed Art Heart

This is the eighteenth and final piece in my Art Hearts series, 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. (please note that at the time of posting, the charity’s website is under construction and will be up again as soon as possible)

After eighteen essays and paintings, I have worked my way through all the stories collected by Olivia’s Heart Fund for the Art Hearts project. This is the first day of Congenital Heart Defect awareness week for 2016, and so the perfect time to post the last painting. This series has helped me to better understand how many people in our community are facing Congenital Heart Defects, and the stresses they endure. It is hard to take something so frightening and painful and turn that experience into hope, strength and beauty, but that is what these families do every day. I hope that by reading about their experiences I have created something that honors their journey, and I appreciate the kindness of the participants in this project for letting me do so.
Thank you Pete and Julie of Olivia’s Heart Fund, and volunteers Kelli, Jess, Kim and many others for their help in this project. I will post more information on when and where we will show the artwork in the coming year!

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.


Illustration for Newport Arts Festival (maybe)

Nature’s Community mixed-media 17″ x 11″

I was running around like a crazy person yesterday – trying to finish an illustration to submit for the poster contest for the Newport Arts Festival, and then run it down to Middletown RI. In traffic. And the snow! It was a long day, and I thought twice about it, but it was worth a try, right?

painting on the artboard…needs some love…

Besides that, it was an opportunity to make an illustration based on my current art style, something that’s always good for the portfolio. The theme was “creating community”, though they are open to interpretations of that theme. I must be yearning for spring, because I immediately pictured a warm, sunny nature scene with the birds and flowers – communing with nature as it were.

The tree now has some pastel and a glow from the gouache

The painting is mostly watercolor, with some gouache and pastel. Here it is when I was nearly done, but I thought it lacked the “glow” I like in my recent poppy paintings. So I went around the main elements and added the white halo. I like the way it punches up the color, and also the feeling that all the living things there have an aura about them.

detail – black capped chickadee

Here are a few detail shots of the birds I liked the most – based on the ones that have been visiting my feeder outside my studio window.

detail – Blue jay

And of course I had to include a blue butterfly! Coming in for a taste of the buttercups.

detail – buttercups and butterfly

It will be a month before I hear back as to which painting is chosen for the poster. But overall, I’m happy I was inspired to make another piece. Plus the sunny day pictured here is a respite from the new snowfall I’m seeing outside right now!

My totally unofficial mock-up of what the poster could look like –
I left room for some text, just in case


Electric Butterfly

I came across this fun little contest between Adobe Max and Threadless in my Adobe newsletter. Being an illustrator, I thought it would be a great opportunity to exercise my digital creative muscles. The theme is “nature and technology” for the Adobe Max conference. Check out my schnazzy work!

Yes, I am a digital design goddess. And I really like that blue butterfly.

Here’s the official design submission page on Threadless. Assuming I have all the artwork set up correctly for printing, it will be added to the queue for the judges. I hope they likey, because this would make a badass T-shirt. I know you want one!

Well I just got the official OK on the design! So now there’s a one in 233 chance that I’ll win big. :-) Let’s hope the Adobe MAX judges are not turned off by the girly influence. Hey, chicks are smart too – and we all like a fancy T-shirt. If you agree, throw a nice rating my way!