my creative resolution

Painting, Illustration, Surface Design, and Animation


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Try String Art! A heart shaped tutorial.

finalstringartheart
I’ve been wanting to try string art for months. When I saw my Valentine’s Day pattern printed – I knew it would make the perfect background. Have you been wanting to try string art? If so, gather these materials and read on.

  • 8″ x 10″ frame with the glass removed
  • 8″ x 10″ piece of cork board (or use an additional piece of corrugated cardboard)
  • 3 pieces of 8″ x 10″ corrugated cardboard
  • patterned paper cut to 8″ x 10″
  • red embossing thread
  • nails – I used wire nails (#18 x 3/4″), approx. 50 nails
  • hammer
  • scissors
  • spray mount or other adhesive
  1. Take the glass out of the frame and use the frame backing to cut the cork board, cardboard pieces, and patterned paper.
    cutpaper
  2. Apply adhesive to the patterned paper and secure to cork board
    spraysmooth
  3. Place paper and cork board (facedown) into the frame. Put one – three cardboard pieces behind it. If frame backing fits, use it. Otherwise use tape to secure cardboard to the back of the frame. Use enough cardboard for a tight fit. Flip frame over.
    cardboardtapepaper
  4. Cut out heart to use as template
    cuttemplate
  5. Place heart in the center of the frame and use a nail to poke holes (equally spaced) around the heart.
    poke
  6. Remove the heart and hammer nails into the holes.
    nail nails
  7. Knot one end of the embossing string to one nail. Trim loose string.
    tie
  8. Wrap string around a nail on the opposite side of the heart. I wrapped the string fully around the nail, before string the next nail.
    firstwrapstring1
  9. Continue stringing the heart by wrapping around nails on the opposite sides (randomly). String until the heart is filled in, and every nail is wrapped at least once.
    string2 string3
  10. Then, wrap around each nail in clockwise order, completing an outline of the heart.
    stringedge
  11. Display your beautiful creation!
    finalstringart

I want to see your creation! Post your work and tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna. Use #mcrstringheart. See more of my pattern designs here.


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A Valentine’s Day Card and a past career

valentineEMcKennasmw
When my daughter was born fifteen years ago, I left my Art Director job to stay home. I did a little freelance work, but focused on starting a custom invitation and announcement business. Since I didn’t draw and paint the way I do now, the business was part work and part creative outlet. For a while I really enjoyed it, and created some beautiful things. I produced everything myself – trimming and folding, and often added hand details – bows, buttons, layered paper, etc.

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At this point in the industry there were some websites out there, but nothing like the explosion that was to come. I did this on the side, while taking care of my three little kids, from 2000-2007/8. Over time I realized I was spending a lot of time – because it was custom work – designing, finding paper, etc. And I didn’t necessarily get paid for all of it – there was only so much I could charge (that people were willing to spend). It no longer felt like a creative outlet. And by this point, I was taking drawing and painting classes.

The way to make money was to offer a few designs to pick from – and then just fill the orders. But as a designer, what was the fun in that? At the same time, that I was losing interest in the business, the economy shifted. People were not willing to spend money on invitations. Also, the internet was exploding with cute, affordable designs. I toyed with the idea of opening my own online shop. In the end I didn’t, because there was so much competition, and I was burned out.

I started working part-time in an office (email marketing). I found it a nice break from the three little kids at home, and it was much much easier to separate work and home. I spent several years working, outside the house, as a Graphic Designer, dabbling in freelance work from home, and the occasional invitation. I now work exclusively for myself, directly for clients, offering Graphic Design (print/web), and Marketing (social media/email).

What is so amazing, is all that has happened since 2007. Randomly, on Twitter I found Thortful. Thortful is an app, that allows you to upload a card design – make it available to others and/or print it for yourself. They are new, and are just cards. (They are based in the U.K., so I’m wondering what shipping to the U.S. will be.)

Of course there are so many other sites that allow you to upload your designs and purchase and/or sell them on stuff. The one I’ve know the longest is cafepress.com. In the last few years, I’ve learned of society6.com, zazzle.com, redbubble.com, spoonflower.com. Many of these sites have their own twist. I’d love to know, do you have a recommendation?

I’m not sure as a designer, which gives you the best chance of actually making money – again there seems to be a lot of competition. I wonder if there are people out there who make a chunk of their living off these type of sites. It is nice, that you don’t have to handle the production. That you can outsource it without producing large quantities (that you don’t need/might not sell.) You can focus on being a designer. What an amazing world we live in. And what’s coming next?! 


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Valentine’s Day Art

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Last year I got into the spirit of Valentine’s Day and created art every day, for 14 days, within that theme. I posted my creations on Instagram. It was a great learning experience, as I learned to dig deeper into a theme – once the obvious ideas were out of the way. I really fell in love with Instagram and it’s power to motivate me. This year, of course, I’m planning another countdown to Valentine’s Day on Instagram. Follow along @eileenmckenna. I am so excited by all the possibilities! If you’d like to join in the fun, tag your work #mcrvalentinesday

My display of last year’s “Valentine’s Day” work:
valentinesdaymantle


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Valentine’s Day Patterns

squarewrap
Last February I designed my second pattern, ever, in the Valentine’s Day theme. As I continued throughout the year, designing more patterns, my style evolved and my techniques changed. I wanted to design another pattern, this year, in the same theme, to see how I would approach it differently. Even though last year’s design was created with hand drawn elements – it was painted digitally.

Last year’s pattern:
valentine2015sm
Learn more about that process here.

This year I painted, in watercolor, several squares in pinks and reds. I thought it would be interesting to arrange them as tiles. The squares would be uneven and irregular because they were hand painted. Then (separately) I painted several hearts and the word love. In Photoshop, I arranged the watercolor squares, and “knocked” the hearts and words out of the squares, and created a repeating pattern.

The original artwork:
heartssquares

This year’s Valentine’s Day Pattern:
redpinksquaresfinal

I got extremely enthusiastic about my design and, even though I haven’t purchased a single Valentine’s Day gift, I ordered a roll of gift wrap from Spoonflower.com. I either have to start shopping for things to wrap, or start crafting. Hmmm, I have some ideas!


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Bananas for Monkeys

monkeypatternrepeat
When I was little I wanted a pet monkey so badly. I told my mom, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep it in the closet when we go out.” As if that was the least of her worries. I doubt monkeys were on the approved pet list in my NYC suburb.

The latest Spoonflower design challenge is “Year of the Monkey.” A couple of weeks back, I played around in my sketchbook, but nothing great emerged. But, I couldn’t get the contest out of my mind. So, with just a couple of days left until the deadline, I started sketching again. See my sketches here and what I’m learning about surface design.

It feels great to follow through and enter the contest. Before I started “My Creative Resolution” in 2014, I was notorious for having an idea and not following through, especially if my first draft wasn’t successful.

If you’d like to check out the other “Year of the Monkey” submissions, or vote for someone you know’s design (wink wink) click here. :)


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Logo Design Process

Eileen McKenna

logodesign
Recently, as I worked on a logo design for a local art studio, I thought about how my process is the same for every logo project, and has been the same for years.

  1. Client interview. One of the most important steps! Learn what the client is looking for, the image they want to portray, and if they have ideas of their own, color preferences, etc.
  2. Pencil sketches. I always start with a pencil and paper, and sketch out as many concepts as I can. I also try to explore the logo as different shapes.
  3. Font analysis. This is where I go through my font catalog, and find different font options that support my concepts and the “feel” we are going for. I view the company/client name in the different fonts, and narrow the choices down.
  4. Create/find artwork. I draw (on the computer) any artwork/illustrations that will be part of the logo. If…

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Designing Patterns – important things to remember.

monkeysketch
If I knew what I was getting into, maybe I wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about pursuing pattern design. Ha ha. I say this because I am realizing all the aspects that go into designing for fabric, gift wrap, and beyond. My head was spinning a bit this weekend, as all I took it all in.

Things I need to remember:

  1. Select colors from a color guide, don’t rely on the computer screen. As a graphic designer, I should know this, but I get caught up in the screen colors and forget. Then my swatch arrives and I’m surprised by the colors! And I have a fabric swatch of Spoonflower’s color guide! Now, I’m keeping it next to my computer.
  2. What is the repeat? I get caught up in the illustrations, and forget that the way they work together is almost more important than what they are. I’m reading an interesting book called Patternalia, An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, & Other Graphic Patterns. It’s a quirky book. I’ve already started to look at patterns differently. In the book, they mention pattern effects like “figure-ground reversal – This is where the figure and background are equally sized and therefore easily confused with each other.”
  3. Observe other patterns. I find observing helpful when I’m trying to learn something new. Looking through patterns, determining if I think they are “successful,” and why, is really helping me. Again, it is all about how the elements work together and repeat.
  4. Is simpler better? I definitely overcomplicate things. I need to remember that simple is often better. Some of the successful Spoonflower patterns I looked through, had the simplest elements.

I decided to give the latest Spoonflower contest a try: The Year of the Monkey. I started by doodling in my sketchbook. At first, my monkeys were downright scary – too realistic, too scary. After I simplified them, they got cuter. When I had a few I liked, I started to sketch out how they could work together. I was getting very detailed and complicated, with many elements. When I sat at the computer, and scanned in my favorite illustrations, I made the decision to simplify. The deadline is today after all! ;)

Planning the pattern:
monkeysketch2


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Painting with color

Today I decided to paint with lots of bright cheery colors. I’ve been creating all weekend and thinking about what to post. Sometimes, when too much time has past, I overthink what to write about. It’s usually a case of too many ideas! I complicate things. So to simplify – this is what I’m painting right now. :)


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Learning the keys to successful surface design

valentine2015repeatsm
At the end of last year, I had just started ordering my pattern designs in wrapping paper and fabric. It’s totally different, to not only see the pattern printed, but then work with the gift wrap and fabric. As I wrapped presents in my designs and other designs, I became aware of things that I never noticed before. Most importantly that a lot of the designs have some elements that are upside down and some right side up. This way, there is no correct side.

Over the summer, when I ordered fabric in my sandcastles design, I experimented with making it into a pillow. I realized how important the size of the repeat is. If it is too big, and you try to make a small pillow (or wrap a small present), then most of the design gets cut off.

These are things you don’t notice when you are creating on the computer. As I continue to pursue surface design this year, my goal is to not only design patterns, but have them printed as gift wrap or fabric, and (most importantly) create something with them – to be the end user. I think it’s the best way for me to learn how to make successful designs.

Earlier this week I tweaked last year’s Valentine’s Day design and ordered a swatch (see above). Specifically, I changed how the pattern repeated. I’m am excitedly waiting it’s arrival! I am also working on a second Valentine’s Day themed pattern, that has more of a watercolor feel.

Original Repeat:
valentine'sdaypattern

To see the 12 patterns I designed in 2016, click here.

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