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!

Ryan’s Art Heart

Ryan – by Lisa Kretchman, watercolor, pastel, and metal leaf, 2014

Welcome to February! This is truly a month about the heart, but it is much more than greeting cards and chocolates for Valentine’s Day. February is American Heart Month, a time to show some self-love, and be aware of risks to your heart health. Friday the 6th was also National Wear Red Day, raising awareness that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. And today starts CHD awareness week, where we honor our heart heroes that face the challenges of Congenital Heart Defects. It is appropriate that to kick off the week, I have a new Art Heart for a little boy named Ryan.

Ryan’s parents found out that he had a ventricular septal defect (a hole between the lower chambers of the heart) 22 weeks into the pregnancy. In addition, Ryan also had transposition of the great arteries (where the pulmonary artery and aorta have switched positions). Though several cardiologists recommended they terminate the pregnancy, Ryan’s parents knew that was not an option for them. They were eventually referred to Boston Children’s Hospital, where Ryan was born, and had his first surgery at four days old. He came through the surgery without complications, and now, years later, is growing to be a happy and healthy boy.

Ryan’s parents know they are lucky for the outcome of his surgery, but will always be aware of his health – for them, every sniffle and injury is a risk to his heart, and they have developed more patience and appreciation for each day with Ryan as a result. He is their little hero, and a reminder to not sweat the small stuff.

So when I communicated with Ryan’s Mom and got an update on his life,  she helped me get a better sense of who Ryan is now. I also asked if he is aware of his own CHD journey, since the surgery happened when he was so young.

He is now 5 years old. He is happy and healthy. He loves school. His favorite color is orange. He is obsessed with LEGO [Bricks]. He has a great imagination. He enjoys playing outside and riding his bike.

Ryan is a very funny boy. He is shy fat first but once he gets to know someone, he’s very outgoing. He’s also a very sweet and sensitive boy.

We have told him about his journey but I don’t think he quite gets the whole thing idea. He knows he had a boo boo on his heart and the doctors in Boston fixed him and now he’s a superhero. He actually has a girl in his class with the same defects.

Now this just gave me some great ideas for a heart for Ryan! I loved the LEGO® movie (everything is awesome!!), and found that there is a free 3d LEGO® digital designer software you can play with. I sketched a concept and then “built” it virtually so that I’d have a fun reference for the painting:

The first concept for Ryan’s heart

The little super hero on top was in honor of Ryan. My favorite part was probably the little doctor fixing the hole in his heart with wrenches and such.

I especially liked the doctor at the bottom with his tools

Now I know there are some books and photos out there that people sell with LEGO® brick scenes, but I’d really hate to put Olivia’s Heart Fund in an awkward position should the LEGO Group have a problem with prints of this artwork being sold. From what info I could find online, that’s a no-no. It is their trademark after all (especially the minifigs), so I sent a letter to corporate asking permission first.

LEGO actually got back to me fairly quickly, and very politely. They did say that I am  allowed to make the art and display it, but prints could not be sold. Ah well. Rather than limit the charity on future use of the artwork, I decided to start over with a new concept.

By the way – legal disclaimer here:

LEGO®is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.

So back to the new concept. I thought of something still involving building, bricks, etc, since that is something that makes Ryan happy. That and the symbolism I wanted helped me to settle on the lighthouse/tower. I wanted to incorporate a local landmark if possible, so the drawing is based on Point Judith Light in Narragansett, RI.

So this sketch has some similarities to the Tower card seen in tarot cards. The traditional tower in those images is in a storm, with waves crashing against the rocks, and sometimes being struck by lightning. But the Tower itself is not a bad card, so much as one that represents a sudden change, of a world turned upside down. Plans are disrupted, but the storm will pass, and then will shine the light of truth.

This tower for Ryan is also a lighthouse – a symbol of strength, and guidance to safe harbor. It is a beacon in the darkness. If the churning sea and storm represent uncertainty and emotion, the lighthouse is a steadiness and calm.

And so Ryan’s lighthouse/tower shows the unexpected challenge his CHD diagnosis has made for him and his family. There are still waves breaking here on the rocks, but the storm is passing, and the beacon still shines brightly. If it weren’t for the dangerous storm, we wouldn’t have the lighthouse in its beauty and grace. And we see a glimpse of the future in Ryan’s bicycle, to enjoy the world and the sunshine as it returns. To be grateful for every moment.

The sketch and first layers of watercolor

So now that I had a better working concept, I started on the painting. After taping down some watercolor paper, I got the sketch transferred, and then added the first layers of watercolor inside the heart.

Center of the heart painted

The first round didn’t look too bad, and I liked the way the bricks in the lighthouse were standing out, but I didn’t feel that the sky had enough contrast.

The sky with darker layers of watercolor

After a few more layers in the clouds, it looked much more like a storm passing, which made more sense with the crashing waves in the foreground. Also this added a stronger diagonal energy with the waves on the left.

Some gouache splatters to add energy to the waves

I did some splattering of white gouache to bring out the splashing sea foam…

…and added a bicycle for Ryan.

Pastel added around the heart

After the center of the heart was done, I painted an orange background around the heart. I layered pastel over it to give the heart radiance, and worked back and forth on the delicate railing and the pastel, so that I could keep the detail crisp.

Metal leaf and metallic ink

To make the lightning and the beacon stand out, I added gold leaf and metallic ink on top of the watercolor.

Ryan’s completed Art Heart

And the lighthouse is complete! I hope that Ryan and his family enjoy this painting, and I thank then for sharing their story. I know that Ryan does not currently have much awareness of his CHD journey, but when he does ask about it, I hope he knows that he is also a light of hope for others.

This is the seventeenth 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!

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!

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!

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!


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!