Dec 21, 2010

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 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!

Dec 17, 2010

Completed Art Books

One of the best ways to keep yourself creatively inspired and motivated is to be part of an art group. I am fortunate to know several women artists who live in the area, and we get together once a month, with a new project for each meeting. We will normally complete the artwork during the month and then bring in to group for review (though no one loses any points if the work is incomplete) and have some good food and wine.

For some reason our art group was on hiatus for a bit, but in November we set a date and managed to get our group back on track. We had been working on our art books off and on for the last year, and at this meeting we delivered the complete paintings to each other.

When we started the book project, five of us participated by designing book covers and selecting a book theme, so that the others could add an artwork for each page. At the time, I was really questioning my current career and trying to sort out what I should do for the future. So my book was themed Finding Yourself/Your Life Path. I suspect  the other ladies weren't thrilled with me as I tend to pick these weird themes that don't evoke a lot of imagery, but they are forgiving. Anyway, I really enjoyed this project, and would recommend it to anyone else looking for a creative idea to do with a group.

So here is the cover I created for my book, as well as the art that my group made:

Finding Yourself/Your Life Path (cover)  10"x10"  wax, watercolor, flowers and gold paint

For the book cover I just made a semi-abstract painting with the blues and purples, which felt really emotional  to me. The flowers are hydrangea blossoms from my garden, pasted down and sealed with gloss medium. Metallic paint and ink highlight the flowers. The figure is me (more or less) searching for the right path. The star is my guide as I try to find my way.

Nancy's artwork   5"x7"  watercolor

Nancy represented herself in a shaman-like figure. The staff she leans on is both organic and resembling a raven, which is a common totem for her. To me this figure looks peaceful and patient as if waiting for wisdom from the spirits.

Suzan's artwork  10"x10" acrylic

Suzan's artwork evokes memories of home, and to me, of childhood with intense color and a flat graphic style. Of places traveled in search of the one where you belong.

Margot's artwork  10"x10" wax, ink, acrylic and vinyl lettering

Margot's piece is very typical of her style - layers of paint, spidery branches of blown ink, and dripped wax.  Vinyl letters spell out who, what, where, why? Questions you would ask yourself in finding your place in life.

April's artwork  7 1/2"x5 1/2" mixed-media

April's piece is a hinged triptych. You have to look closely at the panels, but they contain photography enhanced with paint, beads and assemblage. On the sides are trees with beams of light passing through the branches and in the center is a fence stretching into the distance with lines of flags above. Under the panels are lines of text that read:
What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.  - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Appropriate again for finding one's self. Internal discovery.

Here are the finished artworks that I created for the other art books:

Raven Steals the Sun   5"x8"  acrylic and metallic inks

April's book was themed Tell me a Story. I blogged about the complete process of this painting last year, and the story I chose is a Haida creation tale, in which the Raven steals the sun, moon, stars, water and fire to share with the world. In the process, the raven singes his feathers, which is why they are black today.

Birds of a Feather  5"x4 1/2" ink and acrylic on textured gold foil

Margot's book was entitled Birds of a Feather. I took the theme literally, and tried experimenting with repurposed gold foil mounted on foam board. The board has a little give, and allowed me to inscribe on the surface to add some texture.

My Hands  14"x7"  collage and metallic inks

Nancy's book was Who Are You When No One is Looking? I had a rough time visualizing this one, and eventually experimented with a collage. I feel very moved by music, so that became the base. I added the two prints on the left - both are examples of my artwork from college. I traced my hand and added the hearts and the blue butterfly - both recurring symbols in my work involving purpose and transformation. The background is filled with stream-of-thought handwriting about who I feel I am.

Experimental Typography  6"x6"  digital print, acrylic and mettallic ink

Suzan's book was entitled Experimental Typography. I got lucky and found some scans online of the typeface, which I composited on the computer to match up the gridwork. I colored the print by hand and then enhanced/added the circles with metallic pens.

When all was said and done we wound up being inspired by the book themes, but didn't necessarily stick too closely too the dimensions or make the art completely flat. I also liked my pieces so much that I framed the 2D ones and have the art displayed in my living room. Our group is back to making individual pieces based on keywords we pick out at the end of each art night, and I'll be posting about the December artwork soon.


Dec 16, 2010

Making up for lost time

So the whole month of November passed me by before I managed to write a blog post. It's truly shameful! During my time away, there was a lot going on - I had to take some time out to complete a teaching proposal, then things got pretty busy, then after they slowed down a bit I went through a period of depression and panic that I might have to take on the kind of work that makes me very stressed and unhappy - the culmination of all those factors being that I couldn't get my head in the right place for blogging. My state of mind is better right now, but I have lots of catching up to do.

Woot! There's my artwork.

So where to start? I guess I'll go back to some of the art events I've participated in lately. The opening for the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative 10x10x10 Show was in mid-November, and featured over 60 artists and 144 works of art. Before I even got there I was thrilled to see one of my paintings featured on the PAC flyer and website (!).

My artwork in the top row

The PAC shows its works at the Blackstone Valley Visitors' Center in downtown Pawtucket, RI. The entire front entryway is dedicated to their shows, which makes it a great and accessible venue. The art was hung in grids of nine apiece. Each artist was allowed up to three works, allowing for many to be displayed as a complete row.

Looking really close...

Living statue from Ten31 productions. Very appropriate!

There was a pretty good crowd there too! And because later in the evening there was a talk from Ten31 productions , they had a living statue in attendance. This is the same company that is behind the gargoyles and human statues you see at the Providence Waterfire and other events in the area. This is the first time I've seen a "bronze" statue from them. The ones I've seen are normally "stone".

I love, love love the art in this block.

I also took some time to check out how other artists handle challenges like presentation and framing, what supports they use, how they create an emotional tone with their work, or create a more technical piece. If I had the budget I would have taken home several of the paintings here - the three oil landscapes painted on wood (or MDF) by Timothy Ohliger above were just gorgeous. They looked great hung as a series, and by the end of the opening nigh they were already sold. I'm sure they went as a set. The sunflowers above them by Marjorie Ball caught my attention as well.

The three pencil drawings in the top row are technically amazing.

The pencil drawings at the top of this group also caught my eye. While I am normally all about color, these drawings by David J Delay were so perfectly rendered that I would have loved to snatch one off the wall (I managed to hold back!).

My husband Brian (left) and friend Max were kind enough to attend the opening.
My other friends managed to evade the camera.

My husband is not an art buff himself, but being supportive he escorted me to the event (along with some other friends I suckered into going - Thanks guys!) It was wonderful to see so many pieces of artwork, and the group of us decided to head to Doherty's East Side Irish Pub for dinner and beer after the event. They have an extensive menu of beers (biggest I've ever seen) on draft, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can try a beer flight (4 or 6 samples). I tried the flight of four, with a couple of the beer fusions (bruised pear - Guinness and pear cider) and also a pumpkin ale. Very nice.

All in all a very good night. I'll continue the time warp in my next post.