My Creative Resolution – Watercolor, Illustration, Print Pattern Design


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Acrylic Painting Winter Birch Trees

Acrylic Painting Winter Birch Trees for Beginners #painting #beginners #acrylics #winter #trees
I wanted to swap out the two canvases above the couch for something new and had been thinking of painting simple birch trees. I painted the blue background and white tree trunks but it needed more. I looked on Pinterest at successful birch paintings and thought of ways to improve mine. Once I had a few ideas, I hit the ground running and it was easy. It’s great when you have a plan!

The feelings of a beginner #creativity #painting
First steps:

  • Paint a medium blue background. I used a mixture of white and blue with a little red mixed in. (My goal was to coordinate with the blues in my living room.)
  • Paint vertical white areas for the trees. You don’t want perfect stripes because trees don’t have straight edges. They aren’t the same size and don’t grow perfectly up and down.
  • Add thin branches going at an upward angle from the tree trunks. (Be consistent – I had to cover up some of my branches with blue because I had too many in one area and none in another. In the end I painted just a few on each side of the trunks.)

Painting birch treesPainting birch trees
Add depth and details:

  • Paint a dark edge (black) on each side of the trees and then brushed it horizontally into the trunk to create that birch look.
  • Paint off white (buff white) on the trunks – the white alone is too flat. Cover part of the black edge and stroke horizontally.
  • Add white strokes to the trees here and there for highlights – with a dry brush (not too much paint).
  • Add white streaks vertically. Paint a few streaks and then with a dry brush, spread them out and blend them, so the blue shows through. This gives the background depth and makes it look more wintery.

 

I was really happy with how it came out and happy to hang it over the couch. I’m already planning another acrylic painting. Let me know if you give it a try!

Supplies:

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Have you visited my online shop? Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14″ at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek! The perfect gift for beach lovers.

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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Do it for the Process

 

Do it for the process. Creative meditation. #doitfortheprocess

I love the hashtag “#doitfortheprocess.” I don’t know who first used it, but the message behind it is an important one, especially for me.

Years ago when I took that first drawing class, I created a drawing of a bear that we were surprised looked somewhat realistic. It was a milestone for me. My husband wanted to frame it. I had to have it custom framed because it wasn’t a standard size. After that I tried to work within standard sizes because they’d be easier and much cheaper to frame. But, I became almost paralyzed to make a mark on a drawing because I might ruin a “framable” piece. By jumping ahead and assuming each piece was going in a frame, I put a lot of pressure on myself! When I realized the problem, I released myself and starting approaching each creative session as play. The sketchbook became important to me because it’s not usually for finished pieces.

Now that I started selling prints of my paintings, I sometimes feel that familiar pressure. I think, “I have to make this one good so I can add it to the shop.” Finishing a painting can be the most stressful part! I want to tweak it and make it “perfect” but I also don’t want to ruin it. “Do it for the process” has been running through my head a lot. I try to paint early in the morning, when the kids have just left for school. This time is meditative, relaxing. Especially now that I’m trying, again, to free myself from the pressure. Every painting doesn’t have to be sellable. It’s good to experiment and explore and push myself. It’s good to play.

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

Have you visited my online shop? Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14″ at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek! The perfect gift for beach lovers.


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The Feelings of a Beginner

The feelings of a beginner #creativity #painting I realized this weekend how discouraging it can be to be a beginner. I worked on two very different projects for me. One was a paper diorama. The other was painting two canvases with acrylics.

In both cases I was an unorganized mess. Materials all over. I had the wrong tools. I was literally uncomfortable. And in both cases, things weren’t turning out so great. Self doubt leaked in and I thought, “This is a waste of time.”

I realized this morning that all these feelings were related to being new to something. Thankfully, I had the perspective of the two very different projects. Otherwise I would have thought, “I’m not good at that.” When I looked over at my watercolor setup this morning, I saw all the things these past years have given me – routines, methods, techniques, the right tools, etc. These things make it easier to sit down and create comfortably and not let self doubt in (as much).

If I continue with acrylics or dioramas or any other new thing, over time things will get better and easier. If you are a beginner – don’t give up! Allow time to work out the kinks. Then you’ll have a comfortable “space” to freely create.

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

Have you visited my online shop? Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14″ at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek! The perfect gift for beach lovers.


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Painting the Ocean with White Gouache

Painting the ocean with white gouache #painting #gouache #ocean #waves

As I wrote about in my last post, I began painting the ocean in January. As is customary with watercolor, I was leaving the white of the paper bare for the white areas of my painting or I would remove paint with a damp brush or blot with a towel. This preplanning of what areas should be white at the start of the painting was proving difficult for me. And the white paper seemed too flat for the foam areas of the ocean.

So one day I opened up the white gouache…and everything changed for me. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor. You can paint over other colors even with white.

Compare the foam areas here:

To the foam here:
Watercolor beach landscape by Eileen McKenna

Eureka! I can add an underlying area of dark water, then add the white gouache on top. I can use a wet brush and blend the white with darker areas to soften it. I can add shadows on top of the white gouache and then add more gouache on that. I can “build up the layers” – which is the description of watercolor painting that always runs through my head while I work. It’s probably something my watercolor teacher once said.

A favorite foam painting – Surf Camp #1
 "A Cloudy Day at Surf Camp"

Lots of white gouache work here:
Crashing Wave by Eileen McKenna
See more of my seascape paintings here.

The small box of gouache paints I have contains cyan, magenta, yellow, white, and black. It is considered a “mixing box” – from it you can mix any colors. I think I bought it because I heard about gouache and wanted to try it. But it remained mostly unused until this year. The white is called Primary White. Since I’ve been using the white quite often it is running out. When I went to order a new tube of white – several different whites gouaches came up online – Zinc, Permanent, etc. I wondered, “What was the difference?” The comments on this online page shed a little bit of light, but mostly made me think – stick with what works. Primary white is considered good for mixing, which considering the box it came in makes sense. I don’t mix it much before using it, but I do blend it with other colors on the page as I paint. Let me know if you try painting the ocean with white gouache.

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

Have you visited my online shop? Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14″ at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek! The perfect gift for beach lovers.

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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My 11 month long project – Painting the Ocean

I paint the ocean in watercolor. Eileen McKenna

After participating in three separate month long challenges in 2016, I saw how focusing on a single theme or medium can lead to real progress in ideas or skills or both. So when I completed the last challenge I decided to focus January (2017) on figuring out how to paint the ocean. I often wondered, “How do you capture the ocean in paint?” I was determined to find out! January led to February and on and on, and I’m still painting the ocean! I’ve progressed in so many areas, but am finding new areas to strive for. The ocean is an amazing subject because it changes so much.

Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas which is 11″ x 14″, at shop.eileenmckenna.com. The perfect gift for the beach lover in your life!

I grew up just blocks from the beach and now live a 10 minute car ride away. It is truly my favorite place. When I began making real progress with my ocean paintings, I felt I had found my thing. As 2017 winds down, I don’t anticipate stopping. If anything I can’t wait to drive down to the beach and take some new reference photos!

Eileen McKenna

That’s me on the left, age 3 or 4, with my first best friend Nancy.

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Photo of me with the “mini” canvas by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.

 


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Giving the gift of art

Side surfer watercolor print by Eileen McKenna #coastalart
I went to a party the other night and as a gift for the person of honor, I framed a print of my “Side Surfer” watercolor painting. While in the process of framing the print, I began questioning my idea. It’s one thing to offer your art for sale – people are free to buy it or not. But if you give it to someone, you are assuming they’d want it. When I realized I had to cut a custom size mat, I almost gave up and ran to the store for a generic gift. But I kept going and in the end was happy with the result. And my friend seemed to like it. 😊

I’ve added new watercolor paintings to my shop! Prints are available at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a look!


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Capturing the Light

“Light” by Eileen McKenna - capturing the light when painting in watercolors #coastalart #coastalinteriors
I’ve been painting the ocean for most of this year. Each painting is a learning experience – getting better in some aspects, struggling in others, and discovering new areas to strive to capture. As I got better with the form of the wave, the movement of the water, the foam,  I experimented with textured cloudy skies. And I’m always working towards mixing the perfect color for the ocean – which is different in every reference photo!

A new goal surfaced – to better capture the light. I struggled with it in areas of a few paintings, and wasn’t happy with the results. I picked the reference photo for the painting above because it was all about the light. That’s why I’m calling this one “Light.” I’m proud of the results.

If you’d like to order a print of this painting or any of my other watercolors click here.


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Final days of Inktober

InkTober prompt Mask Day 31 #inktober
Mask – InkTober prompt day 31. This year I didn’t do a great job drawing every day. Instead I’d do a few drawings to catch up and then let myself fall behind again. I’ve always had trouble working every day. Some days I’m into it and other days I’m busy doing other things.

Dustin from Stranger Things. An InkTober sketch by Eileen McKenna
Day 27. Dustin from Stranger Things. He’s my favorite.

Beach cruiser Inktober sketchbook Eileen McKenna
Day 28. Beach cruiser on the boardwalk.


Day 29 and 30. Sketches from a Mollie Makes magazine. Making up for the missing days. 😂

Happy Halloween!


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Stages of a watercolor wave painting

Stages of a watercolor wave painting By Eileen McKenna
It felt good the other morning to sit and paint. I didn’t have any ongoing paintings, so first I set up several boards – taping the watercolor paper down. For this painting I worked with the paper still stuck to the pad – not as effective as taping it down, but I ran out of boards.

I started 4 paintings in one sitting, using two reference photos. The goal of painting two from the same photo was to do one version that was a quicker less detailed version. Although I can’t say this will actually happen this time around.

It’s always easier for me to sit and paint when I have a painting in progress, especially if I don’t let too much time pass between working on it. And since you need to allow time for the layers to dry, I like having at least two paintings to work on at once.

When I came home later in the day, the paintings were on my mind, so I picked one to work on some more. I ended up focusing solely on this one and finished it by the end of the day.

Here are the stages:

First layer:
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Second layer. I needed to darken things up a bit.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Third layer. Still tweaking the color of the ocean. Started added the foam.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Fourth layer – more foam. After this I added more color to the sky.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Prints of my watercolors are available at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Come visit!

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