Andre’s Art Heart

Andre – by Lisa Kretchman, watercolor and pastel, 2014

Happy spring, readers! I’m so glad we have officially left winter behind, and are seeing the emergence of new growth for the season – flowers are blooming in my garden, the hosta are breaking ground, and the snow has finally turned over to rain.

I’ve been working a lot of freelance design and animation work lately, but still making progress on the Art Hearts series. Today’s Art Heart is for a little boy named André.

André’s mom has her own blog about the challenges of Congenital Heart defects. She shared her story with me, starting from the diagnosis of Andre’s heart condition at six months into her pregnancy. An OBGYN noticed an enlargement on the right side of his heart, and immediately scheduled an ultrasound. They discovered that André’s pulmonary valve was very narrow, and was expanding the right atrium due to a backflow of blood. His tricuspid valve was also positioned incorrectly. After more echocardiograms, the family was advised to be prepared , but to wait and see what would happen at birth.

When André was born at thirty-nine weeks into the pregnancy, he was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit for administration of oxygen. He spent six nights there, until his oxygen saturation was high enough to be sent home.

Because André’s parents could not check his oxygen saturation, they could only monitor certain symptoms, adding stress to his care at home. At six weeks old, they brought him back to the hospital for a valvoplasty, to stretch the pulmonary valve to allow blood to flow properly. André recovered from his procedure, but during his next echocardiogram, it was determined that the valvoplasty had minimal impact on his heart condition. The next step had to be open-heart surgery.

Now André’s parents faced a big question – when to perform such a surgery? The cardiologist wanted to perform the surgery as soon as possible, while surgeons wanted to wait until he was four months old (normally considered the minimum age) for this procedure. Despite his small size, the doctors decided not to wait. At three months old, André was brought to Children’s Hospital in Boston for a four-hour surgery to repair his heart. After five days in recovery, his family welcomed him back home.

Since then, André has faced another heart procedure, but is doing well. He recently turned six years old, and is a happy, bright kindergartner. His Mom told me he has a love for learning, reading, acting out stories from Bible study, singing, bike riding, and loves anything to do with machines.

So after getting to know André and  his heart story, how could I come up with something that represented him and his journey? I felt that I should look deeper into machines and try to find something interesting there. After doing some research and sketching I settled on an illustration of an orrery, a mechanical or clockwork model of the solar system.

Andre’s heart – sketch with first layers of watercolor

I really liked the beauty and complexity of the orreries that I could find, and the idea that they depict the world with mechanics that are in themselves interesting to look at. In André’s case, his world is similar to ours, with the earth and moon circling as the days and years are recorded. But I rendered this orrery to be unique to André – so the clock and calendar dials in the foreground mark the time and date of his birth, and the dial in the back depicts symbols of André’s happiness – liturgy, book, music, building blocks, wheel, and drama masks.

the gears are complete, and a layer of blue watercolor fills the background

This being a painting with a lot of technical detail, I wanted the painting to be precise and have very fine edges. So the center of the heart is painted entirely with watercolor, much of it with a tiny brush, to create ridges on the gears. I did my best to build up layers of color and shadow so that the machine would look reflective and metallic, and have depth. I picked a shade of blue for the background that would contrast with the warm brass color of the metal.

I even out the space around the heart with layers of pastel

After the machinery was rendered, I added a red outer edge to the heart, first with a base of watercolor, and then with several layers and shades of red pastel. Red is André’s favorite color! I also blended the pastel to have a radiant effect with the shading, tto be consistent with the other Art Hearts.

detail of the Latin inscription

One of the last details I wanted to add was a phrase that I thought captured something about André’s experience with CHD. I found a phrase in Latin that I felt fit – “Astra Inclinant, Sed Non Obligant”. Meaning “The Stars Incline Us, They Do Not Bind Us”. I added it to bring the whole painting together to depict elements of André’s life. To remember that though this orrery is his “world” and it is one that has been affected by CHD, it is not how he was born, rather it is his free will that determines the quality of his life.

I wish André a very happy birthday, and thank his Mom for her writing, which has helped me create his artwork.

Andre’s completed Art Heart

This is the sixteenth 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!

Creating a Balanced Life

Wow, there has been so many changes here from my last post. Not the least of which is the Blogger interface I’m using right now. Go Google! So in the fall, I was offered a part-time job at the Warwick Museum of Art (Yeahbaby!) which I was delighted to accept. So I now have a more steady stream of income, I am surrounded by beautiful and inspiring artwork, I am learning a lot about the arts and exhibition process, and pretty much have the best boss ever. I’ve also been involved with the Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities, which has some good things in store for my art and the Art Hearts for Olivia’s Heart Fund.

This all comes at a good time – I have found that my personality and my being a creative allows me many joyful moments participating in art, but also I have a tendancy to stay home and be a hermit. If I’m not inspired and busy with atwork (or earning $$), I start to feel like a lump of wasted potential, and feel pretty much useless. It’s a struggle to feel like you are contributing to society during a dry spell, and being in a low mood makes it harder to create art. Bad viscious circle. In addition, there have been some tough times lately for people I care about, and so little I can do to help them.

So now the regular contact with creative people, the inspiring atmosphere, the opportunity to learn, working towards social causes I believe in, and a decent amount of prayer all have been helpful in bringing me back to a more balanced state. I’m not quite where I want to be yet (I need to get my yoga back on) but I am settling into a happier groove and feeling more productive. Just in time for the holidays!

I’ll be posting more about the most recent art developments, including another Art Heart soon. In the meantime,  I wish for happiness and balance in your lives as well.


So much to post!

After all the craziness with the Rhode Island Flower and Garden Show, I have been getting some rest and cleaning up the studio. Right now it looks like a bomb went off in there! As soon as I get everything back on track, I’ll be posting about the latest Art Heart, which I was working on during the Flower Show.

Be back soon! -Lisa

Winter wildlife

Oooooh, shadowy.

We had a decent coating of snow up here in Douglas, and I noticed some tracks in the back yard outside my studio window. Hubby and I decided to wander the property and see who’s been visiting us.

Little buggers should be paying me rent!

The ones I could see from my desk look to be mice – close to the house as they are hiding under the hot tub to stay warm. There are delicate little lines of these tracks all over the yard, sometimes crossing each other, and occasionally beating down a major path (around our stone wall and into the woods). I’ve bumped into a family of  mice living in the shed outside (I got a nasty surprise when I opened up an old drawer in the screw cabinet) and I see the cats haven’t gotten rid of them yet.

Uh oh – look out kitty! My Spidercat will kick your butt!

Speaking of cats, I caught a glimpse of a big orange tabby crossing the lawn today – these tracks look to be from him.

OMG OMG run run STOP! Pivot, run run run!

I also see some rabbit tracks outside the studio – this guy made his way around the shed and for some reason stopped, took a breather and doubled back.

Bring back that big toy!! We want to play chase!!

While we roamed the property, our dogs followed us around to see what we were up to. Lots of excited barking. Just before we had the new snow, we had a couple of deer on the property and they happened to be in the yard right when Brian let the dogs out for a run in the paddock. The dogs took off like lightning after the deer, and it doesn’t look like they’ve ventured back around yet. (Damn! No deer tracks) After all that excitement, the dogs are hoping for another go with the local wildlife. I’m pretty such they’d be terrified if anything turned around and chased them back. Until that happens, they will consider it the BEST. GAME. EVER!


The stone wall that divides our property is a haven for rodents – some little guy snuck out in  the snow to nibble on the grass over here before running back home. We also found more tracks of something smallish that vanished under the greenhouse – probably the same creature that got in there during the summer and ate our birds. More cat tracks and a mystery dog down by the lower paddock. Lots of action here in the last 24 hours!

One year later

October 15th is a memorable day for me. One year ago today I completed my last day of work at my office job. I had been downgrading my hours to a four-day work week as the company was lacking for clients and I was shifting my focus to fine art. I started taking that feeling of being trapped seriously, and finally got up the courage to walk away and start out on my own.

So what have I done in the last year? It’s gone by in a blink, truly. So many days I struggle to stay focused on the art and be productive between two sides of my business. I also try to not get depressed at the achingly slow pace (so it seems) at which I can experiment and grow my audience, and challenge myself artistically. Even in the last year, I spent the first few months taking on as much freelance multimedia work as I could get, and only from May on did I really prioritize the fine art. So I try to be a little forgiving in that I still have a long way to go on this journey to full-time artist.

Here’s what I have artistically in the last year (outside of the freelance work):

  • Started the Art Heart project with Olivia’s Heart Fund
  • Created six illustrative paintings for the Art Heart exhibition
  • Created 35+ other paintings
  • Created two found art pieces
  • Placed artwork in two local gallery/stores
  • Showed artwork in four exhibitions
  • Donated two paintings for an art museum
  • Won an award for a painting
  • Wrote a grant proposal
  • Became an art instructor for acrylic workshops
  • Scheduled two interviews about teaching at institutions
  • Blogged 40 times (not including today!)
  • Created a Facebook page, art website, art business cards and other promotional efforts
  • Became a member of four art groups/museums
  • Learned how to solder art jewelry
  • Started experimenting with a new mixed-media technique
  • Went to numerous museums and creative events and met lots of talented people

Most of this I have been tracking through Outlook, I’m getting better about it now, and it really helps to look over your calendar and see all those little blocks of time that account for your efforts. Now that I see it all in black and white, I don’t feel like quite such a schmo in getting things accomplished.

Do you keep lists of what you’ve done, or what you want to do? Has that helped you get a better picture of your progress or define what you want to do in the future?

I think I can continue this momentum and get much closer to my goals over the next year. There is a solid foundation here, something to build on.

Painting reference

I’ve been thinking about what paintings to bring with me to the Attleboro Expo for the Senses later this month. I’m creating a slew of smaller works – pastels and acrylics 8″ x 10″ and under, as well as matted prints. Some of these are based on subjects I have painted before and some recent photos. But I’d like to explore more local scenery for the Expo.

My husband grew up in Attleboro, and helped me map out some ideas of photo ops in the area. Now that I have a plan of attack, I’ll be on the road to take lots of reference pics. I’m not too encouraged by the sky here in Douglas – it’s pretty gray. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get some blue sky.

I’m going to check out Capron Park, downtown Attleboro, maybe LaSalette shrine – anything else that looks inspiring as I cruise the area.

I’m also looking forward to spending some time in Providence on Saturday. The Providence Art Festival on Westminster street looks pretty awesome, so I’ll be checking that out. Plus there is a waterfirethat night, lighting at 8:12 pm, so it would be a good day to hit the city and take more pictures.

I am Ms. Crankypants

So one of my goals is to be a happier, more productive artist. I really want to be creative, leave anxiety and worry behind me, and be actively working towards the future I want.

Today, however, I am Ms. Crankypants.

We have two beautiful Australian Shepherds and two cats, and one of them has given me poison ivy. The dogs are the most suspect, based on the location of my rash. It seems that I ran my hands through somebody’s fur and then unknowingly spread urushiol oil over parts of my body (including my face) when I got ready for bed. And I am not a happy camper.

My husband has checked the dog run, pulled anything looking suspicious, and with the advice of our vet, washed the dogs with Dawn dish detergent. I have laundered and wiped down anything I have touched that might carry the oil, and it looks like the rash has stopped spreading, so we are successful in that at least. I’ve been scrubbing down with Zanfel and am working on drying out the rash with a cream from the doctor. I just prepped some oatmeal for a bath that I am looking forward to tonight.

Husband is working from home this week, which has been helpful to me, but can’t be too much fun for him what with my current state. It’s somewhat depressing to be covered in itchy rash, and off and on I am pretty damn irritable. After one particularly low moment in which he said something along the lines of: “Well, I’ll do what I can but it’s challenging to get rid of the plants”, I think I lost my mind and yelled some demand about him being more positive and to just lie to me and say it will get better (!) for the sake of my sanity. I eventually regained my senses, but it’s been rough.

Since that outburst, hubby is doing his best to lift my spirits with much joking and poking and general silliness. He has also been kind in telling me that he thinks I am beautiful (hard to believe it when parts of your face look like sandpaper). I truly hope none of you out there get poison ivy, though it is unfortunately likely some of you will. I am looking forward to feeling human again soon.