Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Turning 50 and Setting Goals

Thanksgiving table activity I'm thankful for | kids adults
“I’m thankful for…” cards are available in my Etsy shop.

A few years ago my friend was turning 50 and she made a list of life improvements and goals she wanted to reach/accomplish during her 50th year. It was a great list – a positive list – incorporate daily exercise, take a trip without the kids to visit a friend, and other things focused on herself. What has really impressed me is that years later she maintains many of the positive changes.

So now that I’m about to turn 50 – I should have a list, shouldn’t I? Of course I have a list of projects I’m working on and a list of other “future” ideas – I make lists every day, but nothing stands out as a life goal, or a “midlife” goal.

  • I suppose writing a book would have been on my list if I hadn’t, back in September, self published my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life. A guide to introducing creativity into your life.
  • Being a guest on a podcast would also have been on my list, mostly because I listen to so many of them, but I had the great pleasure recently of being interviewed by Nache Snow of the Studio 78 podcast. A podcast about creative women entrepreneurs and how they started their side hustle or business endeavor. FYI the episode will air December 1st.
  • I do want one day to attend Craftcation, the business and makers conference is California, but I’m a few years away from that. Trips in the near future will be college tours and family trips.

So what are my life goals? What are my plans for 50? What have I always wanted to achieve? Possibly I’m stumped for answers because: I’m blessed with a loving (and funny) husband, three smart, healthy kids, a comfortable home (not too far from the beach), a patchwork creative career that is bringing me a lot of fulfillment, and my regular creative practice of painting, drawing, and writing about creativity – which brings me so much joy. Maybe I’m good. Maybe I’m ready for 50 already.

Pilgrim coloring page fun Thanksgiving activity for kids
Pilgrim coloring page is available in my Etsy shop.

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 -

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!


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I’m turning 50 and the kids are growing up

I paint the ocean in watercolor. Eileen McKenna

In 2020 I turn 50. It doesn’t bother me that much because I feel young, but it is strange. The biggest sign that I’m getting older is that we have one child away at college, another applying to colleges, and our “baby” started high school.

As I enter this new phase I was happy to find MidlifeRambler.com and connect with Katy the founder. Katy says,

“I started Midlife Rambler because I like reading so many of the great lifestyle blogs out there written by all the creative 30-somethings of the world but I wished I had something to read that was a little more focused on the interests and needs of women my age. 

Women my age often seem to be under-represented and it can be difficult to find places on the Internet that speak to us and value us. Women at midlife are entering a new phase of our lives: a phase where we (mostly) stop focusing on raising our children and starting planning our next act. What will that look like? What do we even want anyway?”

Personally, the things helping me with these transitions are having work that I’ve been able to expand on, and having a hobby that I love. I have had the pleasure of contributing an article on “Finding a Hobby you’ll love” to Midlife Rambler. Visit https://www.midliferambler.com/how-to-find-a-hobby-youll-love/ to read it.

Have advice on navigating the kids leaving the nest? I’d love to hear.

Photo by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.

Would you like 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.

Creative Exploration book -

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!


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Online Video Lesson: Easy Birch Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners


Two years ago I created a blog post called “Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners.” The post outlined the steps I took to create this birch forest painting.Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners

I created this image to go with it and pinned it on Pinterest.
Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners

The post became my most viewed post. Currently it has over 47,000 views!

For a long time I aspired to create a watercolor video lesson. It is much easier to learn by watching something then to read about it. But I struggled with the exact format I would use to create the video lesson. Finally I came up with a format and figured my most popular post was the obvious lesson to start with.

Instead of a long continuous video where I explain what I’m doing as I paint the project, my format is as follows. For almost every step, you can listen as I explain the step. You can also read the slide to follow along. Then you can watch a video demonstration of that step. My hope is that this format will better communicate the nuance of each step.

I’m really excited to see how effective the video lesson is. The birch forest painting project is such a great project for beginners. You learn so much about watercolor while painting the project. And it yields a great final painting at any level.

Easy Birch Forest Watercolor Online Video Painting Lesson – Learn Watercolor with this simple project!

  • Learn several watercolor techniques
  • 10 step, easy to follow 17 minute video lesson
  • Listen and/or read the easy to follow instructions, watch a video demonstrations of each step
  • Great for watercolor beginners

Click here to purchase access to the Birch Forest Online Video Lesson. 

Watercolor techniques used:

  • Masking areas with tape
  • Wet on wet painting
  • Dry on dry
  • Using salt
  • Softening lines with water
  • Adding details in ink

Click here to purchase access to the Birch Forest Online Video Lesson. 

Would you like 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.

Creative Exploration book -

Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction
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Draw Paint Craft 15 Minutes a Day

The path to regular creativity is to simply draw, paint, craft, or whatever interests you, for 15 minutes almost every day. If you schedule the time, and plan for it – even if you are busy – you should be able to manage 15 minutes of creative time most days.

These brief creative periods reinforce your creative priorities, and allow you to get in the creative mindset – which will lead to more creativity, and longer creative session when time allows.

Carving out 15 minutes of creative time says, “This is important to me.” And it is calming and meditative. As you work creative ideas and plans may form – write down your ideas!

Regular creativity opens you up to inspiration, even during other parts of your day.

Want to explore creativity? My new ebook takes you step by step through the process for introducing regular creativity into your life, finding inspiration, and exploring mediums.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

Draw Paint Craft 15 Minutes a Day the path to regular creativity


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How to Find your Thing – Art Medium, Subject, Style

How to Find your Thing - Art Medium, Subject, Style | Creative Exploration | creative process discovery
A while back I read an article about an artist who used mannequin parts in her work. I was so inspired by the story! (Not to start creating with mannequin parts.) I was so intrigued that this artist had arrived at a place where this was her thing. How did she get there?

At the time, I had been dabbling in a few continuing ed art classes, but was ready for more. What would I work on if I was totally free to work on anything? If I was free from teachers and classmates, and even the confines of a classroom, what would I create?

It was with this curiosity and excitement that I made My Creative Resolution – the commitment and the blog – and began my creative journey. I was filled with so many ideas and possibilities. I began to create regularly and explore.

In the beginning I wished my work was more cohesive. I was all over the place. Now I know, that’s how you start – by trying everything that interests you – subjects and mediums alike.

Some things are passing fancies, others become common themes that connect your work. The more we persist with a medium, the more time we put in, the more our unique style and skills emerge.

Here is how to find your thing – medium, subject, style:

  • Commit your time to pursuing it.
  • Put in the work regularly.
  • Follow what interests you and try different things.
  • Focus on the mediums and subjects that appeal to you.
  • Continually put in the work.

Ready to find your thing? My new ebook takes you step by step through the process for introducing regular creativity into your life, finding inspiration, and exploring mediums.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!


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Your Creative History and a Free Worksheet from “Creative Exploration”

“What experiences in your life have shaped your attitude towards creativity and your own abilities?

What has held you back?

What is your biggest creative fear?

Many of us have had experiences where comments from others have affected our confidence and our feelings of worthiness regarding creativity. I was considered pretty creative in my younger years. I loved art class in elementary school. When Mrs. Kareska pushed the cart filled with art supplies into our room I would be bursting with excitement. I recall a project where we were given tissue paper to use to create Christmas cards. The tissue paper was to mimic stained glass. Immediately I had the idea of a wreath with berries on a door. I remember the thrill of realizing my vision.

In high school art class I became aware that other people were more “talented” than I was. One girl, Peggy, drew the most amazing pencil portraits. The shading was incredible. Thinking back on it now, I know that I couldn’t have created those with the skills I had at that time. But it has dawned on me that if I had practiced and learned shading and other techniques, I could have created my own version of portraits that would have made me proud. At the time, I just assumed Peggy could do amazing portraits and I couldn’t.”

Think about your Creative History –> Download a free worksheet about Creative History by clicking here. It’s a sneak peek inside the Creative Exploration ebook.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

how to be creative | creative exploration | regular creative practice | creative worksheet your creative history

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!

 


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How to Find a Hobby

There are transitions in our lives where we suddenly have more time for ourselves – the youngest starts kindergarten, the kids go off to college, or move out on their own, retirement. With many of these transitions there is a mix emotions, yearning for the time before, coupled with excitement for the possibilities of next phase.

People may advise – do something for you, get a hobby. But the question is often, but what? Here are steps to exploring and finding hobbies that you will enjoy.

1. Compile a list of everything that appeals you. Write a list of every hobby, activity, goal, project, that has peaked your interest over the years. Think both broadly and specific. For example, hiking (broad), refinishing the living room coffee table (specific).

2. Prioritize the items on your list. Use A, B, C, D to assign your level of interest. If there are several items with an A priority, number the As to prioritize them. Rewrite the As in order. You now have a list of what hobbies and projects to try. For more details on the prioritizing process click here.

3. Schedule the time. If you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen. Schedule time to research, learn, and engage in the hobby or project. I recommend at the least five short sessions, and one longer session each week. I try to paint for 15 minutes in the mornings, and once a week I schedule a longer painting session. Put it on your calendar!

4. Focus on one hobby or activity a week. Write a weekly to do list based on the hobby/activity you chose. For example, for hiking your list might include: researching hiking trails in your area, assessing your wardrobe for hiking gear, reaching out to friends to join you on a hike, looking online for hiking tips and info, planning a hike for the week, and ultimately going on a hike.

Tips: Start small. Don’t start out with a 5 hour hike or a large canvas. Try a shorter beginner trail or a small drawing on paper – something less intimidating. Don’t invest a lot. When possible use what you have at the start. If you determine you love a hobby and are going to continue with it, then spend money as needed.

5. Reflect on the week and the activity. Did you enjoy it? Do you want to continue with it? If so do it. If not, go to the next item on your list.

6. Repeat until you find something you want to continue with. Trying new things is fun, but at a certain point you may want to focus. Focusing allows you to improve in a specific area.

Through this process you may even uncover several hobbies you enjoy. You may also find something you like, focus on it for a few weeks or months, and then decide to move on to something else. At that point you can always refer back to your list – or create a new one – to find the next thing to try.

Interested in exploring your creativity? Creativity is for everyone! Talent is just a starting point.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

How to Find a Hobby You'll Enjoy | Retirement ideas


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NOW is the time for YOUR Creative Exploration to begin!

Creative Exploration book -

Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life is a 62 page pdf ebook with:

  • Over 30 Creative Tips
  • Step by Step Process for Introducing Regular Creativity for Six Weeks and beyond!
  • Worksheets for taking stock of your creative goals, history, past hurdles
  • Worksheet for organizing and prioritizing all of your creative ideas.
  • Detailed process for introducing you to different mediums – with flexibility for your interests.

Would you like to:

  • Be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings?
  • Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing?

Creative Exploration is for you! Order now by clicking here.

Creative Freebies - weekly creative planner color wheel printable stickers Creative Exploration ebook
Order Creative Exploration now through September 24th and receive the printable Bonus Kit for FREE!
  • Printable Creative Weekly Planner worksheet
  • Printable Color Wheel and Color Wheel worksheet
  • Printable Creative Exploration “Stickers”

Do you spend more time scrolling and pinning or liking, than doing your own creative projects? Do you dabble in creativity but can’t seem to develop a regular routine? Would you like to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Would you like to start on your own creative journey and explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing?

Creativity is for EVERYONE. Talent is just a starting point.

I once read about an artist and wondered who told her she should pursue creativity, who gave her permission? Thankfully I realized she gave herself permission, and it was time for me to give myself permission. I had goals that involved exploring mediums, developing skills, and finding inspiration, but what I didn’t expect was the feeling that creativity gives me. For a long time regular creativity eluded me, but I finally made a commitment that has brought so much joy into my life, for five years and counting.

I want that for you! I want to share my process for developing a regular creative practice and start you on your creative journey.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

regular creative practice | how to be creative | creative exploration


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It all comes down to you

Achieving goals

We went to an indoor rock climbing place for my son’s birthday. I knew he wanted us all to climb and I was fine with that. I’d done it years ago, so I thought it would be no problem. I was all harnessed up, at the bottom of the first wall, when I realized this was going to require effort! If I wanted to get up there, I was going to have to pull myself up. You’re probably saying, “well of course.” I don’t know what I was thinking! For some reason I thought it was going to be easy.

I started climbing and even though I refused to look, I sensed that I was getting further and further from my family, and higher and higher. I’m definitely more anxious than I was years ago, when I last tried it. I becoming afraid of going too high and didn’t make it to the top of that wall, or the next one. I did make it to the top of the wall in this photo!

I couldn’t help but see the analogy between climbing and achieving goals. We might start out thinking that painting, or writing a book, or whatever, won’t be that hard, but when you really get into it, you realize it is. Even if the process (of painting or writing or whatever) is easy for you, the commitment and dedication to finish a project is hard. And when you put yourself out on a limb and go for a goal, even with your family supporting you, it can still be scary.

One of the main things that helps me achieve goals is focus. I try to think carefully about what I want to spend my time on, what goals are important to me. If I pick a project on a whim, I can lose interest or confidence in the project, and I end up jumping from idea to idea without accomplishing anything. But with a carefully selected goal in mind, I have an easier time staying on task. I may falter for a time but the importance of the project will bring me back around.

What helps you achieve your goals?

I share creative tips and inspiration in my weekly newsletter. Sign up now and get the following freebies:

  • Watercolor Quick Start Guide – everything you need to know to get started in watercolor
  • 50 ideas on what to draw or paint

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Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction


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Designing and formatting my own book is surreal!

Creative Exploration
After 20+ years as a graphic designer, it’s surreal to be designing and formatting my own book. As I format the headings, subheadings, insert images, etc., I’m revisiting the copy and I’m so excited to share the content and message of the book. Creative Exploration – is a step by step six week process for introducing regular creativity into your life – exploring mediums, finding inspiration, focusing on projects, and welcoming the joy that comes from creating. I developed the process based on the creative journey I went through, and shared on this blog.

It all started with my first post back in December 2013, when I expressed my desire to be creative on a regular basis. Back then, I didn’t think that much about art mediums or subjects, I just wanted to be creative, and to explore what that would look like for me.

Creative Exploration includes many of creative tips I’ve learned over the last five years. One of the most important ones – creativity is for everyone.

Do you wish you could be creative? You can! Do you wish you could do it more often? You can! Do you wish you could find “your thing?” Creative Exploration is for you. Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!