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!

Angel’s Art Heart

Angel 10″x10″ mixed-media

This Art Heart was painted for a little girl named Angel. During pregnancy, Angel was diagnosed at 20 weeks with a congenital heart defect (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome). The doctor recommended to her parents to either terminate the pregnancy, or have the baby and allow her to die (not to try surgery) as he believed the baby would be born with brain damage, mental retardation, down syndrome, or complications that would claim the child’s life. Though devastated with this news, Angel’s parents decided to have the baby no matter what the outcome. Even as they transferred to another facility, nurses insisted that they were making a mistake. They ignored the negativity and stayed firm in their decision.

On October 15th, 2008 baby Angel was born. Though her color was good and she looked healthy (with a full head of hair!) She was moved to Children’s Hospital for her first open heart surgery at five days old. Her chest was closed two days later, and she did well, even getting her first visit with family. She had one more close call the next day when she went into cardiac arrest, but the doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital performed CPR to save her life. Following her recovery, Angel brought joy to her parents for thirteen months before she passed away at her home on November 15th, 2009.

Though Angel’s story is so brief, I can’t help but be inspired by the battle she and her parents fought to be respected in their choice. For them, the time they had as a family was worth the struggle. In the CHD community, children who do not survive congenital heart defect are referred to as “angel children”. For this reason, I paint white wings for each child who has passed. I try to keep each design unique, but as you can see in this case there are some similarities to my first Art Heart, “Olivia“. Both girls are angel children, beloved of parents who accepted life with an uncertain outcome, both with a significant number thirteen. Angel lived for thirteen months, while Olivia for thirteen days. So as a foil to Olivia’s painting of twilight, Angel’s painting would be of the dawn.

sketch in graphite on watercolor paper

I sketched out my concept for the painting, and transferred it to watercolor paper. White wings spread before an open sky, with the sun breaking through the clouds.

the first washes of watercolor

I added several washes of watercolor over the clouds to give them depth and texture. I decided to make Angel’s Art Heart the colors of sunrise, yellow and pink and orange, with the sun lighting up the clouds. This would contrast with the twilight purples and blues of Olivia’s painting.

the completed underpainting

I filled the sky with a pinkish glaze over the original yellow. Though I plan to work over it in pastel, It helps to have a similar background color. Once the watercolor was complete, I dried the paper and pulled off the painter’s tape. Here, the wings are getting the first layers of pastel.

close-up of the wings, with pastel bringing out the details

These paintings tend to be detailed and defined – much of the feathers is distinct, which I bring out with layers of pastel, and pastel pencils.

metallic ink is used to enhance the thirteen rays

Back to the sun – I added a golden ray around the sun for each month of Angel’s life. Because these are so slender, I had to skip the gold leaf, and instead use a metallic paint pen.

pastel softens the clouds

I also blended some pastel over the clouds and sky to soften and even out the transitions of color. Some white gouache was used to make the ends of the feathers brighter, and add contrast to the sky where it meets the clouds. The outer edge of the heart is covered with pastel to add radiance.

the completed painting
And the painting is complete! I love the palette of this one – warm and bright, with the structured sun and wings. I hope it conveys the strength and resolve that we must possess to face difficult choices – that there is joy and light even despite the clouds. It is a tribute to Angel and her parents.

This is the tenth 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 painting, it is available through the charity’s store, and all proceeds benefit Olivia’s Heart Fund. Please also consider making a donation to the charity – you can click here or on the button below to visit the charity’s site. Enjoy!

Teaching opportunities ahead!

So things have been a bit busy here in the studio. I took a brief hiatus from blogging as I was working on syllabi for several upcoming teaching opportunities. Just last week I completed my first children’s class, “Bug Week” at the Warwick Museum of Art for their summer art camp. I have assisted with some classes at the museum, and teaching Bug Week was both challenging and fun. The students learned about various bugs and drew out their anatomy, were very creative with the art projects, and even had a visitor during one class – a large (and noisy) beetle! Luckily we were able to catch our guest and release him gently outside. But it was a good opportunity to see and review what we learned about beetle anatomy.
Opening Lace 5″x5″ pastel
This fall I will be back at WMOA to teach a four-week pastel series for adults in September, on Thursday nights. This series will focus on floral paintings, using different techniques from light pastel drawing, layered pastel painting, and even pastel over underpaintings. If you are interested in taking the pastel class (Sept 1st – 22nd, please feel free to contact Patty Martucci for more information.
examples of drawing styles from Flash
I also am scheduled to teach a ten-week class “From Hand to Screen: Drawing with Adobe Flash” coming this September at the Worcester Art Museum. I’ve been a multimedia designer and animator for years (more than I’d care to admit) and Flash is my program of choice. I use a Wacom tablet to sketch and often draw right in the software. For this class, students will learn about the drawing tools in Flash, and how to create graphics, illustrations, fine art and animation in different styles. More information is online for my class, and online registration is available.

Paintings for the Attleboro Arts Museum Benefit Auction

As this is my first year transitioning from digital art and multimedia into fine art painting, I have tried to find places to both show my artwork and also get introduced to my local art community. One great venue that I found is the Attleboro Arts Museum about 25 mins away from my studio. I showed two of my pastels in their Spring Flower Show earlier this year, selling one and receiving an award of merit for the other, which had me thrilled, honestly. The museum is helping to bring back the arts to the community in the Attleboro area, with regular exhibits, lectures and art classes for youths and adults.

Small Bouquet pastel, 10″ x 8″

So now I have an opportunity to participate with the AAM in their 19th Benefit Art Auction. I have donated two pastel paintings for the auction taking place on Saturday November 6th – Small Bouquet and Rose Garden at Capron Park. The latter is especially appropriate as it is a local park in Attleboro just down the street from the museum. Here is a link to the original post on that painting.

Rose Garden at Capron Park pastel, 10″ x 8″

If you are in the Southern New England area, come on by and meet me at the auction! It’s a great opportunity to meet and greet with the artists and supporters of the AAM and make a bid on some lovely artwork.

Here are some details from the AAM website:

The Attleboro Arts Museum’s 19th Benefit Art Auction will be held on Saturday, November 6, 2010. Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The Auction is a powerful opportunity to contribute to a vital cultural resource and to support the Museum’s arts and culture programming.
To purchase tickets call 508-222-2644 x10.
Take advantage of our early bird ticket sale!
From now through October 15th: tickets are $30 each. October 16 – November 6th at 5pm: $35 each.
At the door, the evening of the auction (doors open at 5:30): $40 each.
Tickets include hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer.

Hope to see you at the auction!

Custom Boat Portraits!

I’ve been adding some new artwork to my website lately – and wanted to include a new page for custom portraits. Now I’ve always been available for this kind of work, but thought it would be best to get a full page up there to show some samples, as well as a page for pricing and instructions. After all, I wouldn’t like to buy something unless I knew what I was getting into. The first series of portraits up is for boat enthusiasts.

Bella Lisa 12″x9″ acrylic on panel

Since my husband and I have a boat (26′ Wellcraft with sleeper cabin) and it’s still boating season, we’ve been down to the Warwick area quite a bit lately to enjoy the ocean. I love the area, and this particular marina is quiet, with a little beach to walk around when not on the boat. I have quite a few photos that I will be developing into paintings from my explorations there.

Sailing 9″x12″ acrylic on canvas

I also created a few new boat portraits to show some samples of my work. If you are reading this and you are a boat owner who must sadly pull your boat out for the winter, it’s a nice way to keep her in mind during the colder months. If you know a boat owner, this makes a nice gift for the holidays, birthdays, etc. If you sell boats, it’s a nice idea for a thank-you gift to your customers. I’ll be making the paintings in acrylic and in pastel over watercolor.

Regatta 7″x5″ pastel

For more information and prices on the boat portraits, please check out my portrait page.