Katelyn and Julia’s Art Heart

Katelyn and Julia 10″x10″ watercolor and pastel

During the last month I recently completed another Art Heart for my project with Olivia’s Heart Fund. This heart illustrates the story of sisters Katelyn Rose and Julia Kate.

At her three month ultrasound, doctors discovered that Katelyn Rose had a heart defect. The right ventricle was not formed, the valves to that ventricle and the pulmonary valve were too small, and there were holes in her heart. For the remainder of the pregnancy, her parents went through many test and appointments praying that somehow their daughter would be OK. Within days of her birth Katelyn Rose underwent her first heart surgery, which went well. Over the next few days her health improved and she started to eat. But on the sixth day things changed dramatically as her blood pressure dropped. Doctors discovered that the left side of her heart showed signs of damage as well, and that she would most likely need a heart transplant.

Days passed, and no heart was available. Katelyn Rose’s heart would still not work on its own, and she was eventually taken off the heart and lung bypass machine. She passed away at twelve days old.

The next few years were extremely difficult for her parents, but eventually they found hope in that they were pregnant again. With trepidation they went to the first ultrasound, only to found that this child was afflicted with the same heart defect. Again, they prayed as they went through more testing. The news was better this time – there was more blood flow in utero than originally thought, and her condition improved during the pregnancy. When Julia Kate was born, she would not need a full surgery. Though there were ups and downs, she was allowed to go home at eleven days old. Five years later she has still not had any procedures.

The sketch with the first layers of watercolor

Well this was another complex story to visualize. I wanted to incorporate imagery for remembrance, wings for Katelyn Rose, something for Julia Kate, but be hopeful and youthful. I had a lot to think about! This, of course after I stopped crying from reading the essay (again!).I settled on roses in honor of Katelyn Rose. While roses are not typically flowers of remembrance, as her namesake they fit, and I thought in an arbor they would symbolize her passage into the afterlife. Someplace beautiful, peaceful, hopeful. During the sketching process the arbor became a circular gate, as both the place we cannot go (yet) and circular as cyclical and eternal. Upon the gate is my symbol for Julia Kate. The ribbon represents youth and childhood – her life on this side with us. White wings are always representative of the child who has passed. There are eleven roses cascading over the gate – remembering that Julia Kate came home to her family on the eleventh day, and a twelfth rose in the ribbon for the twelfth day on which Katelyn Rose went home to God.

leaves and vines are added
Because there was a lot of tight detail expected in this piece, I took my time and filled in the sketch with watercolor very carefully. First the main color of the roses and the ribbon, Then the leaves and sky, letting each area dry a bit so that the colors wouldn’t run into each other.
The gate and background are filled in, and more detail is added to the roses
More layers of color are added to the roses with a nearly dry brush. If I needed to lighten any of the petals, I could add some plain water and blot out the color. Detail and shading is painted onto the feathers of the wings. Color is also added to the gate and to the background.
Pastel is layered and blended over the watercolor base
Once the entire painting is filled in with the watercolor, and allowed to completely dry, I go back and add pastel. This was handy for adding a shimmery highlight and a softer surface on the ribbon, and to clean up any areas that were too edgy with the watercolor. The last step is to add the outer edge to the heart with several shades of pastel, blending out a radiant glow. I also was able to warm up the color at this point – I wanted the yellow to be joyful and feel like childhood.
The completed artwork

Normally I also find an area that I highlight with a metallic at some point, but in this case I didn’t feel it belonged there. This is the seventh piece in my series of Art Hearts for Olivia’s Heart Fund. If you’d like to read more about the project please check out the Art Hearts page on my blog. 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 feel inspired to make a donation to the charity please click here or on the button below to visit the charity’s site. Thank you!


2 thoughts on “Katelyn and Julia’s Art Heart

  1. I am in awe of the beautiful respresentation of my daughters story. There are so many great things about your art…where do I begin.

    “This heart illustrates the story of sisters Katelyn Rose and Julia Kate.”
    When I read that line, it made me feel so many emotions, sadness, joy, and grief. Sadness and grief for the loss we have experienced both as losing a daughter, but also Julia losing a sister, but joy in the fact that we didn't really lose her…she is still there, just in Heaven, we did meet her, loved her, gave her everything we could, and we will see her again… As I read your postings and look at your art I see so much beauty that the overwhelming sense of Hope is what I am left with. Hope of the time beyond the gate that we will share. Hope in the life of Julia, the youth, the happiness and love she brings to us everyday.

    I can't wait to show Julia. I know she is going to be overjoyed. This is the first anything for “Julia and her sister.” YOU have given us that.. words cannot express…..thank you.
    What a wonderful gift. God Bless you!
    -Melissa, Mom to Katelyn Rose and Julia Kate

  2. Melissa, thank you so much for the kind words! Knowing that the artwork elicits this response is the best that I can hope for. That, and the hope that by sharing your story this way, other people will understand at least a little about CHD and the affect it has on families.

    Thank you (and your daughters) for being part of the Heart Art. :-)


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