Eileen McKenna Art & Design

Watercolor Art | Creative Inspiration to help you be creative on a regular basis


Leave a comment

Push Yourself

Watercolor painting by Eileen McKenna inspired by Degas | Degas’s dancers

This week, as I paint the final week of my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” email series, I’m so happy with what I’ve accomplished. It’s amazing what we can do when we venture outside of our comfort zone.

Painting Paris has given me the opportunity to revisit our trip, to learn more about Paris, to push myself creatively, and improve my watercolor skills. It’s like starting this blog six years ago. I made a commitment, announced it, and then felt accountable to following through. Before the blog I famously started creative projects and then abandoned them the first time it wasn’t easy.

I’ve learned it’s part of the creative process that there inevitably is a difficult phase. I no longer give up but push through and if pushing through doesn’t work I try again. And I appreciate the lesson each painting or sketch teaches me.

Recently I read an urban sketcher say, that sketching a place allows them to really see that place. I’m doing the painting after the fact, but I feel the same way. More than just looking back at photos of our trip to Paris, painting the photos is allowing me to relive it, see the details and it’s compelling me to dig deeper and learn more about aspects of our trip.

There were a few elements to the email series that I didn’t fully think through – the time it takes to do more detailed paintings – all while filming my process. The time it takes to edit the videos – five per week! Not to mention memory issues and technical problems that put my back five days and had me completely upgrading my desktop computer.

You don’t know what you don’t know until you do. Despite the frustrations and the time, I’m grateful to have learned as much as I have about video. I’m still fairly new to it but on my way. I never would have progressed as much if I hadn’t embarked on the email series and the idea to paint Paris on my own would have fizzled out much sooner.

I’m really proud of the content of the email series. I didn’t have it 100% mapped out when I launched it, and am happy with how it’s come together. Each of the four emails has a Paris related theme, includes tips on painting in watercolor, and includes five prompts within the week’s theme. There are detail on each prompt as well as links to learn more. There are several reference photos for each prompt on the Let’s Paint Paris pinterest board.

For each of the prompts there is a video showing my process for painting the prompt, where occasional watercolor tips pop up. (There is no audio in the videos.)

The “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” themes for the weeks are:

Week 1: Food (especially pastries!)

Week 2: The Architecture – Details of the city

Week 3: The Masters – Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Signac, etc.

Week 4: The Palace of Versailles

Each week as I started planning the prompts, searching for photos and links that gave further details, I became more and more inspired to paint that theme!

I loved thinking about my watercolor painting process and breaking it down into tips to share.

The email series is not available now, but I plan to release it again in the future – make sure you’re on my newsletter list if you’d like to be notified when it becomes available again. It’s a great program to inspire you, motivate you to paint daily, and help improve your watercolor skills. Sign up for my newsletter here.


2 Comments

Keep Trying

Cafe de Flores Paris France watercolor sketch

The other day I was working in my sketchbook, painting the outside of a Parisian cafe. Buildings and perspective are not my strong point. I am impatient and like to just dive in and start painting with minimal pencil sketching – which is probably why I struggle with perspective. Anyway, I quickly realized my sketch was not going to work. The placement of things was off and there wasn’t any saving it. No big deal except, filming and creating a painting of a cafe is part of my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” series and I was committed to delivering the video, which meant I had to paint a cafe.

So I tried again. It didn’t start out great but I persevered and used a trick I sometimes use, which is to flip my painting and the reference photo upside down. This allows me to “see” things differently. It has to do with the right and left brain. I worked through the painting and was moderately pleased with the results. I was VERY pleased that I’d pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I thought of the saying, “You never know what you can do until you try.”

Ironically after I edited the video, of the cafe painting process, I ran into technical issues exporting it. It took several days of troubleshooting and trying different things including re-editing it several times, before I was finally able to export it and add it to the other “Let’s Paint Paris” videos.

I couldn’t help but see the correlation between working through the painting of the cafe and working through the technical video issues. In both cases I had to stay committed to the final goal, but I also had to stay focused on the step right in front of me.

Commit to your goal, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Focus on the next step, and then the one after that. Celebrate when finished. Sometimes what is most valuable is what you learned on the way to your goal.


Leave a comment

Painting Watercolor Seascapes

Watercolor seascape painting lesson - How to paint the ocean in watercolor online video lesson
Three years ago I started painting watercolor seascapes. I wanted to find the answer to, “How do you capture the ocean in paint?” I had just finished participating in three back to back month long challenges and I saw how focusing on a single theme or medium leads to real progress in ideas and skills.

Focusing on seascapes was so valuable. Painting the same subject over and over helped me progress so much. I developed a process for painting seascapes that I continue to follow. Over time I added white gouache – more opaque than watercolor – to my process. I also incorporated some techniques I learned that others use.

I observed the ocean (both in person and the photos I took) to truly “see” what I was trying to paint. I continued well past one month. When summer came and I went in the ocean I momentarily had the feeling that I was IN a painting.

Even now three years later the ocean is my favorite subject. It’s such an amazing subject because it changes so much. The water in the same exact spot can change based on weather and tides even within a short time period.

I’m excited to announce that my online watercolor seascape painting video lesson. During the lesson we paint using a specific reference photo. But aside from learning to paint the seascape pictured above, you’ll learn the process to follow which can then be applied to your own photos.

Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners

The lesson is appropriate for all levels. Beginners should have a basic understanding of watercolor before trying this lesson.

If you are completely new to watercolor sign up for my newsletter and get the “What you need to know to get started with watercolor” pdf for free!

Other resources for complete beginners:

Click here to order the Watercolor Seascape Painting Lesson.

______________________

Looking to explore creativity? Get my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life! Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


Leave a comment

Is the key to watercolor – layers or patience or both?

Recently I was talking to a friend who paints in acrylics. When I said I painted in watercolor she said, “You must be very patient.” I was so surprised by her comment, because actually I’m not patient at all!

As I teach and share more and more of my watercolor process I continually come back to layers. Watercolor painting is all about building up the layers. Paint the first layer wet and loose. Let it dry. Work drier and with thinner brushes with each added layer. As you add the layers, it’s like focusing a lens on a subject. Your painting gets more and more “in focus” as you add layers/finer details.

I’ve been teaching a kids painting class, primarily acrylics. Occasionally we paint in watercolor. What I notice with the kids is they paint one layer and declare the painting done. They are reluctant to wait for it to dry and then add to it.

Maybe I’m more patient than I give myself credit for. I look at each painting like a challenge. The first layer is a blob – the ugly stage. Can I work at it and turn it into something?

Ready to explore creativity? Read my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life – Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


2 Comments

Are you “creative” or “not creative”?

Are you creative or not creative?
Recently I went to a high school reunion. I went to an all girls high school – which is quite a bonding experience! The “reunion” was a party a bunch of us threw to celebrate our fiftieth birthdays. It was a lot of fun and great to see and spend time with this great group of “girls.”

A few friends commented that they love watching me paint on Instagram. One said that she didn’t remember me being creative in high school. While I loved art class in high school, I certainly didn’t spend my off hours creating. What I think is interesting is that when it comes to creativity most people have an us or them mentality. They assign themselves to one camp or the other – creative or not creative.

They assume you must have an innate talent to paint and probably have always done it. What I believe is that ANYONE can do it. You might deem yourself “terrible” at the start, but with time and effort it is almost impossible to NOT get better. But, it’s hard to convince some people of this. It’s almost like converting them to a new religion. They firmly believe they belong in the “not creative” camp and aren’t willing or don’t think it’s possible to venture out.

What camp are you in? Have you ventured out of your original camp? Or are you ready to?

Ready to explore creativity? Read my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life – Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


2 Comments

Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor!

lets paint Paris in Watercolor an email series | Learn Watercolor
Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor!

Join me in February for The “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” Email Series – an inspirational program for February 2020 (4 weeks) aimed at inspiring regular watercolor painting through virtual immersion into the city of Paris – the food, the architecture (no straight lines required), the Masters and more! At the start of each week, you’ll receive an email outlining the theme for the week. Week 1 is food. Think colorful macarons! The email will include daily optional prompts with stories about each prompt, links to reference photos and videos AND a link to an instructional video. Learn/practice watercolor as you go!

Together We Will

Paint Daily – just 10 minutes a day is enough! Themes and prompts provided, as well as the stories behind them.
Learn/Practice Watercolor – I’ll share my tips and tricks on my favorite medium. Video of my process included each week!
Immerse ourselves into Paris – a virtual trip – the food, the architecture (no straight lines required), the Masters, and more!

Sign Up Now

to get the early bird rate of just $12.99*
for the February 2020 email series.

Learn More Here

Early bird rate expires 1/17/2020. Regular price $24.99.

__________________________________________________________

What are your creative plans for 2020? Hoping for a creative year but don’t know where to start? Try my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life – Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


6 Comments

Make this the year your reach your goals and keep your resolutions!

Creative New Year - reach your goals keep your resolution
I hope you had a wonderful holiday with family and friends! I’m excited for 2020 – for a year filled with creativity! The fresh start of the new year always leaves me energized. For several years, armed with a new sketchbook I swore this would be the year that creativity would become a regular part of my life. But year after year, after a few weeks the sketchbook and my creative intentions would be forgotten. Until, at the start of 2014 I made My Creative Resolution – the resolution and the blog. I have kept My Creative Resolution for six years! It has changed me so much. I learned that the joy of creating has more to do with the feeling you get during the process than the final results. And that with time and practice you can improve in anything.

So what are your hopes for 2020? I’ve gathered a few resources to assist you with planning goals, organizing creative ideas, staying focused and keeping resolutions:

Here’s to reaching your goals in 2020!
Happy New Year!

What are your creative plans for 2020? Hoping for a creative year but don’t know where to start? Try my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life – Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


Leave a comment

Creative Plans for 2020 – It’s My 6 Year Blog Anniversary!

Creative Plans for 2020 - It's My 6 Year Blog Anniversary!
I am definitely someone who has to keep their creative ideas reined in. I learned during the second year of My Creative Resolution, that trying new things is fun, but learning and progress with new mediums takes time and dedication. If you scatter your time and energy across many different things, you don’t significantly progress in any one area. Growth takes focus.

At the time I tried block printing and thought, “This is cool. This is harder than I thought.” and “It would take time to get better at this.” After a year of trying things in 2015, I decided to focus on watercolor.

As I think about next year. The first thing that happens is I get excited about the idea of “shiny new things.” Then I pause and remember the lesson I learned and really think, “What do I want to focus on in 2020?”

There are two sides to my creative life – me as a creative pursuing what interests me and me growing a creative business. It’s important for me to make the distinction otherwise my list for 2020 will be all business ideas.

Creative business ideas:

Creative ideas:

  • Daily morning work is an important part of my art practice. Keeps me calm and creative. I enjoy it! I paint whatever strikes me that morning. It’s a no pressure time.
  • Seascapes – I am still drawn to the ocean. I never tire of visiting, photographing, and painting the ocean.

My creative ideas seem almost boring because I’m just continuing with more of the same, but as much as a new idea would be “shiny and new” I can’t think of one that would top my interest in the above.

When I write the words that describe me and what I’m interested in it’s, “inspire creativity, teach, paint in watercolor, and the beach.” This just confirms I have the right goals in mind for 2020. I’m sticking to the path I’ve been on.

What are your creative plans for 2020? Hoping for a creative year but don’t know where to start? Try my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life – Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


Leave a comment

It’s hard to commit to a daily painting challenge

Daily Painting Challenge | Regular Creativity Creative Practice
It’s hard to commit to a daily painting challenge but every time I do, and stick with it, I’m always happy with the results. The first few times I did my Christmas countdown (daily watercolor illustrations counting down to Christmas) I followed prompts. Last year and this year, I’ve allowed myself the freedom to paint whatever fits into the Christmas/winter/holiday theme. I love the flexibility to explore.

The first few days of a daily challenge can feel a little awkward, or stiff. But after that you open up to the inspiration around you. Flipping through a skiing catalog I saw a Telluride ad that I thought would be so cool to paint. It was totally outside of the normal thing I would do. I enjoyed the process and was pleased with the results. The thing I get most excited about are the ideas. Last year I painted a girl with a record player in front of a tinsel covered tree – me as a kid, playing a favorite gift.

Daily painting or drawing is hard, especially during the busy holiday season. But the break from the busyness and the interesting creative process of coming up with new ideas is so worth it!

Want to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


2 Comments

Gifts to Inspire Creativity

Christmas gifts to inspire creativity | unique holiday gifts for everyone creative artist
If you have creativity in your life – regular creativity – you already know what a gift it is. It’s a relaxing time, almost like meditation, and it can ease the anxiety associated with busy lives. What better gift this holiday season, than the gift of creativity? Here are a variety of gifts that will inspire creativity in your friends and family.

The items show below are all available on Amazon, just click the image to view the Amazon listing details. Read my disclaimer is below.

Art Set – Create a gift set with my “Creative Exploration Book,” favorite sketchpad, sketching pencils, kneaded eraser, and colored pencils. The recipient will be all ready to explore their creativity!

Painting Set – Watercolor is my favorite medium. I started with this Van Gogh watercolor tube set. Combine paints, brushes, a palette, and paper for a great gift!

Screen Printing Kit – I’ve wanted to try screen printing forever. I should add this to my list!


Block Printing Kit – Block printing is so fun and satisfying. This Speedball kit even includes ink!


Baking Set – Combine a baking book with pans or accessories. I love to bake and Williams-Sonoma products are some of my favorites!

Cooking Set – We just made a Gordon Ramsey recipe and it was the best Shrimp Scampi we ever had! And it didn’t take forever to prepare. Combine a recipe book with Gordon Ramsay knives or other cooking accessories for the perfect gift.

Gardening – How about a kit to grow a succulent garden?


Crochet – Combine a “How to Crochet” book with needles and yarn for a unique gift.

Embroidery – An embroidery kit is a great way to introduce someone to embroidery. Everything they need is included! Except maybe scissors.

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog! Please note: I have NOT used all the items in this post. Please refer to Amazon listings and reviews for specific product details.