Serena’s Art Heart

Serena 10″ x 10″ mixed-media

Happily, I have another Art Heart created for the exhibit coming up this February with Olivia’s Heart Fund. This heart depicts Serena’s story.

Serena’s parents learned about her heart defect during pregnancy after her 20 week ultrasound. After having a healthy first child, the news that there was a problem with this pregnancy came as a shock. Their daughter was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, a condition in which virtually the right side of her heart didn’t grow. Serena would need three stage surgeries before she was eight years old. Though she has her limits, she is adjusting to situation and having as close to a normal life as possible. Her mother describes her as full of spunk and a diva in her own right.
Since having Serena, her parents had another daughter who is heart healthy. With three children and the emotional toll of a child with CHD (congential heart defect), stress took its toll on the marriage. Serena’s mother now raises the three children as a single mother, but her focus is on living each day in happiness. The family chooses to be grateful and have fun with each other.
Now for me, every Heart story is about the family as well as the child, but this was really an example for me of how hard it is to keep it together with the stress of CHD. I pictured the home, the nest, a place of shelter and family, and wanted to incorporate that symbolism in the piece. After some research on birds I found that the heron is symbolic of aggressive self-determination, self-reliance, balance and wisdom. This seemed perfect to me for Serena’s mother. I played around a bit with some thumbnail sketches before settling in a great blue heron looking over the nest with one wing spread in a very human “embrace” around the nest. The three eggs within are for the three children, the second of which would be gold leaf. I hope Serena would like her solid gold status (very Divaliscious)!
The sketch
Once the sketch was finalized I transferred it to watercolor paper. Though it’s different than in the other hearts, I allowed the feathers on the crown of the heron to break the frame and overlap the heart edge. Since the nest would be many intertwined sticks, I just left that area open.
Working out the texture of the nest by painting one stick at a time
I dropped in a watercolor underpainting so that the pastel wouldn’t have to be ground in too deeply to fill the tooth of the paper. During this step I could work out the texture of the nest, overlapping many branches around the eggs.
The heart center is complete
I also was able to work out some of the details in the wing feathers during this step. Most of the watercolor would get hidden underneath the pastel layer later on, but it still helped me to refine the shapes.
A little runny on the outside edge, but that won’t hurt
Working from the center out, I completed the color in the heart, then around the outside edge. When I completed the underpainting I taped the paper to my artboard to dry flat.
Here’s where the magic begins!
Now for the pastel layer! I started with the head of the heron, working gently to keep the detail. Sometimes I like the watercolor step so much that it’s a bit nerve wracking to cover it up with pastel, but then you can see how much more saturated and velvety the color is as you go.
Some of the feather detail is coming out
I filled in a much darker color on the wing, to have a greater contrast with the beautiful head and neck. To really embed the paper with pigment I had to wet down the first layer of pastel, “painting” with it using a watercolor brush. Then I went over the dried surface with lighter pastels for the texture of the feathers. Pastel pencils came in handy for the smallest areas between feathers.
Gotta wear shades with the blinding reflection off that egg!
The nest was much easier to add detail into with pastel pencils since the watercolor underneath was somewhat dark. I added texture to the branches and further defined them as intertwined. I added gold leaf to Serena’s egg before completing the other eggs with a bright blue pastel.
Adding the glowy edge around the heart – several colors are blended
I flipped the painting to complete the green background area so that I would not smudge out the previous work. Once that was done I continued rotating the painting as I added the outer blue edge and transitioned the glowing color from bright to dark all around.
The finished painting
This is a very illustrative painting – I really love the finished effect. It tells a story, and I like that it asks the viewer to find out more. Still, even if you didn’t know the story, I think you can feel the emotion there.
To see the other Art Hearts, check out the Art Hearts page. 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, please consider making a donation.

5 thoughts on “Serena’s Art Heart

  1. Lisa I cant even tell you how emotional I am right now and how greatful and in aw. Thank you so much for putting our story in art. You captured this so well. My three “babies” mean the world to me. Serena will love her Golden Egg :)

  2. Stephanie – thank you for participating in this project! I know it must be a hard story to tell, but sharing it helps communicate the reality of CHD in our community. It's the strong people who inspire us – and you inspired me!

    I wish you, Serena and her brother and sister a life of happiness.


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