Jul 21, 2010

Charlie's Art Heart

Charlie  10" x 10" mixed-media

Today I am continuing with artwork for the Heart Art project with Olivia's Heart Fund. This next Art Heart is for Charlie, who was diagnosed with Truncus Arteriosus before she was born. Due to additional complications she was born a tiny 4 1/2 pounds.

Charlie's parents had 5 wonderful days with their daughter before her health declined and an emergency surgery had to be performed. She still needed surgery to correct the Truncus, which was pushed back another week. For 2 1/2 months her parents spent nearly every moment by their daughter's side as she fought for her life.

Unfortunately Charlie lost her battle with Truncus. In her parents letter, they expressed how loving her has changed their lives - in volunteering, sharing her story and raising awareness of congenital heart defect, they honor her memory. She has created purpose in their lives.

Knowing that this painting is for a CHD "angel", (the term is used to describe children who have passed in their battle with CHD) I began my design with white wings as the focus of the heart. This will be a common theme with each of the angel hearts, as it was in Olivia's painting. I had been picturing butterfly wings for this piece, and after discussing imagery with Charlie's mother Beatriz realized this was a perfect fit - for when her parents see butterflies they think of Charlie. The wings I based on a white morpho - a very rare butterfly.

The printed sketch - notched so that I could align the heart edges

I spent more time working on color options during the sketch phase this time - I wanted to keep pink as a one of  the core colors based on Beatriz's description. Also after some research I added peonies to the base of the heart, as they represent ambition - and to they correlate with the sense of purpose that Charlie brought to her parents' lives.

The sketch transferred to watercolor paper

After I was happy with the sketch, I printed it and transferred it to watercolor paper. The peonies are a complex flower, so they are outlined simply.

The watercolor underpainting

I added a base of watercolor to the sketch taking care to keep the main butterfly wings clean. With the delicate shading, I thought I would be better off adding details in water media instead of pastel. I also added some washes of metallic silver inks to get a shimmer on them.

Detail of the peonies in pastel

I started filling in the flowers with pastel, using sharpened pastel sticks and the occasional pastel pencil. Once they looked softer and more realistic, I filled in the inner and outer heart shapes.

Detail of the wings. The silver leaf really picks up the light.

I did go back and touch up all of the butterflies with paintbrushes as they are very tiny, and detailed. The last step was to revisit the large wings. I had rendered them as carefully as I could, but they didn't quite stand out enough for me. So I went over all of the inked spots on the wings with size and silver leaf. I also added white acrylic to the edges of the wings for more contrast with the background. 

The completed painting

This piece has a very delicate look, and the colors have a purity and innocence to them. I want each Heart Art to be individual and take on a life of its own, and I think that came through here. If you like this project, and would care to, please donate to Olivia's Heart Fund. All of the Heart Art will be framed and shown this coming February in support of the families who participated in the project, and all of those who have struggled with CHD.

Jul 19, 2010

Anna's Art Heart

Anna 10" x 10" mixed-media

So it has been a while since I have posted about the Heart Art project I am working on with Olivia's Heart Fund. I'm taking some time this summer to dedicate to this project, and catch up on blogging the process.

Anna's story is revolves around the number three - she was born with a heart with three chambers, both main arteries coming from the same ventricle. Often her coloring would be a bit blue as her heart struggled to pump oxygen rich blood to the body. From eight weeks old to four years old, Anna endured three open heart surgeries. Anna's mother Marie wrote so many things in her heart essay that brought imagery to mind -  that with each surgery, Anna's coloring became more pink, and in particular, this line:
"Nothing can prepare you for the heartache that occurs when your child's life lays in the hands of doctors."

So I imagined Anna's heart as this beautiful, fragile, piece of cracked art glass. One heart for each surgery, becoming more pink and less fractured as they grew. And they are held gently - cared for, loved, looking as if they are offered as a gift. Even the cracks in the hearts are more like lovely signs of character than flaws.

Thumbnails and printout of sketch
Once I had a concrete vision of the piece, I did some thumbnail sketches, took some photos of my hands to get the positioning correct, and created a composite sketch on the computer.

Graphite to transfer the sketch

Close-up of the transferred sketch 

Then I transferred the drawing to the watercolor paper. By using the side soft graphite pencil (FaberCastell Ebony) just cover the back of the drawing area completely, and using a harder pencil, trace out your image. Carbon paper can be used as well.

Watercolor layer over the sketch

I like to fill the drawings in with a solid layer of watercolor to add tooth for the pastel. In most cases I will work darker with the watercolor, because it is easier to brighten and lighten with the pastel.

The cracked glass effect in the hearts

Looking at some references for foiled and cracked glass, I reworked the inner hearts with more paint and metallic inks. As I worked on the outer heart, I thought it worked best softer, and more vibrant - so I rendered that one with pastel.

The original background underpainting

I really like these pieces with brightness and saturated color, so I had started out with an orange fill in the background. But after looking at the color story, I felt that wasn't working. Even though the pastel would eventually cover the outer areas of the artwork, I thought it best to recreate the watercolor first. The green and blue combination was more harmonious, and allowed the hands and inner hearts to stand out.

Recolored underpaintng

With the color resolved, I worked from the center out on the hands and background. Like the other Heart Art, I blended a radiant effect around the outer heart.

The completed heart

I'm happy with this heart, and the symbolism I was able to introduce that related to Anna's story. While the color is vibrant, I think it also has a gentle, contemplative quality. I have another heart in the works, which will be completed and posted soon. If you like the hearts, please consider coming to see them at the charity show in October of 2012, or donate to Olivia's Heart Fund.