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Retro Christmas Gifts for Kids

Unique Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids | Retro Holiday Gift Ideas Vintage Presents
As I’ve been creating my daily holiday illustrations counting down to Christmas, I’ve been thinking about when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s. My recent illustration was of 11 year old me, and I had to add tinsel to the tree to make it historically accurate! I remember that year and how thrilled I was to open a 45 record of “Oh Mickey you’re so fine.” Times have changed!

I clearly remember many of my favorite gifts, and I looked on Amazon to see if any of them are still available. I loved these gifts when I was a kid!

  1. Perfection – this was one of my favorite games – rushing to put the pieces in place before the timer ran out and it popped!
  2. Lite Brite – I loved making glowing pictures by putting in the colored pegs
  3. Operation – a classic game! Can you remove the bone without a buzz?!
  4. Hungry Hungry Hippos – loud and fun
  5. Don’t Break the Ice – I loved carefully tapping the ice
  6. Latch Hook Craft Project – I loved creating these!
  7. Rainbow Suspenders – We loved rainbows back then – on everything!
  8. Ventriloquist Doll – I couldn’t wait to get this doll. I can admit I never really mastered it!
  9. Stuffed Monkey – I wanted a real one, but my mom said no.
  10. Doll Stroller – I wheeled that thing all over the house!
  11. Silver Shoelaces – I thought I was the coolest with these.
  12. Pottery Wheel – my brother gave it to me back then, and I recently gave one to his daughter!

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend.* 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 items 1-5 are the updated products of the ones I owned. Items 6-12 are gift ideas for items similar to the ones I owned. Please refer to Amazon customer reviews for each item before purchasing. Thank you. 🙂



My Creative Year in Review 2018

My Creative Year in Review
Before I get carried away with ideas for 2019, it’s important and helpful for me to look back on 2018, to see what I accomplished, what worked, and what didn’t. The guiding words I selected for 2018 were: paint, teach, share, and connect.

Creating is the point of everything. It’s what brings me happiness, it’s why I started the blog in the first place. Above all, even when I’m creating products or loading things in my shop, I always want to remember to make time for painting and I did this in 2018.

As is the norm for me, I have times when I’m very prolific and other times when I let life get in the way. I’ve learned that a project, goal, or deadline, really motivates me. In May I bought a stack of small canvases and declared I’d focus on painting seascapes in acrylics instead of my normal watercolor. Painting with acrylics reminded me what it felt like to be a beginner. I was also reminded that practice leads to progress. Currently I’m committed to painting watercolor illustrations every day of the holiday season – a huge motivator for me.

I did post a few tutorial blog posts this year – on painting seascapes and on creativity in general, but what was really exciting was I was asked to teach watercolor to kids for a week of summer camp. It was fun, terrifying, enlightening, and exhausting! I really loved the kids. We’ll see what in person opportunities come my way in 2019.

This year I began filming mini videos of my process which is fun and I enjoy sharing. I keep saying I need to create longer step by step videos. We’ll see what the new year brings.

This year I offered my artwork in many new ways including selling originals online, selling at my first in person vendor event, and offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy. I’m really excited, particularly about my Etsy shop. Before I developed illustration skills, I was a graphic designer looking for art to incorporate into my designs. It’s fun to be on the other side of things, offering clipart, invitation backgrounds, etc. to help others with their design projects. It’s also fun to think about each holiday or event and figure out what digital products will help people, and then to see what the response is to that new product.

I’m really enthusiastic about my newsletter. I share all the things inspiring me. I have the opportunity to connect with other artists who I feature, and I love hearing from readers who enjoy what I share. Sign up here!

Other fun things this year:

When I look back it’s been a great, full year of new projects, opportunities, and connections. I’m excited for 2019!


Working Outside of my Comfort Zone

I couldn’t be happier with where my last two holiday illustrations have led me. This year I’m not following any prompts, but working within the holiday/winter theme. Without the prompts I feel freer to paint different things within the theme.

Tonight I was laying on the couch thinking about how I hadn’t painted, how my neck hurt from sitting at the computer, how I really didn’t feel like painting, had no ideas, and how I was freezing. I was scrolling through Instagram and I saw an illustration on @hopeandeasel by @girlpowerillustrations of a girl with a scarf and suddenly I was inspired to paint a self portrait of me with a scarf. A self portrait, a face – both are totally out of my comfort zone. And I was so happy with how it came out! If I wasn’t pushing myself to paint every day, it never would have happened.
Me freezing, a self portrait by Eileen McKenna

Yesterday, when I was thinking about what to paint, the plastic candle decorations we had when I was little kept popping into my head. But what was I going to paint – the four foot tall plastic candles? Then I decided to paint my childhood home decorated for the holidays. I was so pleased with how it came out, especially for sentimental reasons as the house is no longer ours. Again I was working outside my comfort zone.
My childhood home at Christmas

My previous Christmas Illustrations are available as holiday cards on zazzle.com. And as digital downloads for your projects on Etsy.com.


Painting Daily during the Holiday Season

Santa and Mrs. Claus illustration
It’s been over a week that I’m back to daily drawing and painting. I even have a reminder that pops up on my phone, “Did you draw today?”

It’s amazing how you can sit down to paint, without a thought of what you’ll paint, and ideas will start to come to you. Of course using google images for reference helps too! I love how the results of the day’s painting can be so unexpected.
Daily holiday illustration
It’s a relaxing time which I thoroughly enjoy – why had I let it get away from me? I have to try hard to keep up with it even beyond the holidays. To see my daily posts follow me on Instagram @eileenmckenna.

My previous Christmas Illustrations are available as holiday cards on zazzle.com. And as digital downloads for your projects on Etsy.com.


Back to Daily Creativity

Christmas illustrations | Reindeer art | holiday clip art available for digital download on Etsy
I had forgotten how good it feels to just sit and paint, no real thought about the outcome. Feeling free to explore ideas that come to me. It’s almost meditative. I was busy with other creative projects and frankly let procrastination get in the way. But now I’m committed to creating daily. I’ve enjoyed painting holiday illustrations the past few years. It’s a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season.

I’ve made my illustrations into holiday cards available on Zazzle:
Holiday cards on Zazzle | unique Christmas cards | Christmas art

And many of the illustrations are available for download in my Etsy shop for use in your creative projects.
Holiday Art | Christmas watercolor art Digital downloads Etsy


I’m Thankful for…

I'm Thankful for Printable Cards for Thanksgiving Day kids activity
I’m Thankful for…

My family – my husband and three kids, who are my everything. And our extended family too!

Our home – this cute Cape Cod house, filled with love, and light – great for painting. And it’s not too far from the beach!

This blog – that has motivated me – for close to five years – to be creative and pursue my own projects, which has filled me with such joy.

What are you Thankful for?
My printable Thankful Cards are available for download in my Etsy shop. 

I'm Thankful for Printable Cards for Thanksgiving Day kids activity

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My First Vendor Event – Recap and Tips

My first vendor event - recap and tips | selling my paintings in person
I survived my first event, selling my paintings in person. Here are my thoughts:

Table Setup: Aim for height and various angles – don’t lay everything flat. I like how my table came together. You could view things from far away. I brought a floor easel, a small wooden box, and a wooden wine stand to prop my paintings up.

Price cards. I know I never like asking people how much something costs. Having little price cards made it easy for people to learn prices and for me. People were handing me almost exact change when they were ready to purchase!

To talk or not to talk to browsers? I’m not sure of this answer. You want to be friendly, but people do like to browse without pressure. Because of the setup I wasn’t able to stand behind the table. And when the workshop started I was sitting a little bit away. If people were browsing for several minutes I said, “Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Several price points. Aside from whether or not someone likes your painting, purchasing a canvas, especially a large canvas is a commitment. A person needs the wall space in a room that goes with the aesthetic of the painting, not to mention the money. When you have items at several price points, including lower price points, it’s easier for people to buy. There aren’t so many hurdles. I sold the lower price points – pins, mini canvases that have a rope for hanging (like on a tree or small wall space), and prints. I did have a few people who expressed interested in the larger paintings and asked about size, etc. For them I had business cards on my table.

Entry Fee and Breakeven Point. This wasn’t an issue for me because I didn’t have to pay a fee for the event. My only “expense” was my time and I was supporting my friend Erin Andrews of Indigo House Interiors and attending her Interior Design workshop. But I thought about the vendor events I did many years ago when I designed invitations and stationery. If you are thinking about doing an event, think about the cost and how likely it would be for you to recoup the cost. For example back then I sold stationery for a few dollars. I would have to make quite a few sales just to cover a $50 or $75 event entry fee. Compare that to now, where selling one smaller canvas would cover the cost of the event.

Compare event fee to the size of the expected crowd. When considering an event you should think about the cost, how many attendees it usually draws and the type of attendee. If it is specifically an art fair, you know the attendees will be people interested in art, but all the vendors at the fair are essentially your competition. How many paintings is one person likely to buy? Not that many. But if you are at a more general vendor event there may be very few artists. You do have to keep in mind the type of fair. If the attendees are used to items for less than $25, it may be hard for them to buy a canvas that is priced well over $100.

Table placement. At a large event, the location of your table can play an important part in the amount of traffic you get.

I am considering doing another event because I learned I have the inventory and would like the opportunity to try to sell it to a larger crowd. Just before the holidays is good timing!

You may have missed the event but you can still shop at my website shop.eileenmckenna.com.


My First Vendor Event

Selling art prints at a vendor fair
For the first time – tonight – I’ll be selling my paintings in person at a small vendor event. I’ve shied away from selling my paintings at these types of events, because I did a few when I designed invitations and stationery and they weren’t financially worth the time I put in to them.

I’m working with a different, reputable vendor to enable me to offer art prints for sale at reasonable price points. You can shop too at my website shop.eileenmckenna.com.

The event is an interior design workshop my friend Interior Designer Erin Andrews of Indigo House Interiors is hosting. I was very flattered when she invited me to sell. I want to support her, as she is supporting me. I figured the size of the event makes it less scary.

I don’t have any expectations as far as profit. I’m really doing it as an experiment. I want to see what kind of reaction I get to my work. Are people more interested in prints or canvas originals? I also thought it would motivate me to look through my stuff and figure out what to sell and how to present it all. I’m looking forward to meeting the other vendors, who are creative friends of Erin’s that she has talked about.

Similar to teaching watercolor this past summer, this opportunity came to me, and I’m looking forward to the experience.


Acrylic Painting Routines

Acrylic Painting Routines

Since I began painting in acrylic vs. my usual watercolors, I’ve developed a routine. This routine of how I set up and arrange my paint, brushes, water, etc., makes me feel as if I’m emerging from beginner status.

Setting up is more extensive than just pulling out my watercolors, but I like thinking about what I’m going to paint as I get ready. Because it is more involved, I do it less often. I find it’s most efficient to work on a few paintings at once, especially since I’m concentrating on the same subject – the ocean.

I’ve solved a question, I had way back in the early days of my blog, of whether to use an easel or not. I prefer to paint flat and like the 12” x 16” canvas size. It is a manageable size to paint on a table. I’ve learned that anything larger is too cumbersome on the table. For larger canvases, after banging them around a bit, I learned to put them on my easel. Maybe I’ll finally get comfortable using it.

Early on I struggled with the first coat on the canvas – the canvas soaks up all the paint! I read that gesso helps the paint go on more smoothly. So now I apply a coat of gesso to each canvas before painting – wait 24 hours for it to dry – and then the paint goes on easier!
Acrylic Painting Routines - priming the canvas with gesso

Painting in acrylics is very different than watercolor. With acrylics it’s easier to blend and manipulate an area of the painting when the paint in that area is wet. Right now I have five new canvases gessoed and ready to go, and I’m excited about the possibilities.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!


Create Seasonal Place Cards

Thanksgiving place cards | place card template | Thanksgiving table decor centerpieces place settings
Pretty up your Thanksgiving table this year with seasonal place cards. I’ve created a word template to get you started on creating your place cards.


  • Select a font
  • Type in your names
  • Import artwork – The Watercolor Leaf Border Art is available in my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt
  • Print, trim and fold

Alternative to importing artwork – follow other steps and hand paint or draw on each place card. A fun project for the kids. Let me know how your place cards come out!

Download the word (docx) place card template here.
Visit my Etsy shop to browse seasonal downloadable art!