Painting in a Winter Wonderland

Winter skating scene by Eileen McKenna
Other than a one or two days when I had the flu, I’ve painted throughout the holiday season. You can see every post on Instagram @eileenmckenna. I really enjoy this relaxing time and the holiday and winter concepts I’ve explored. Anytime I’ve worked for a week or month within a theme, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of my ideas. One of my main goals for 2019 is to work within themes. First up Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

Winter illustrations by Eileen McKenna | ice skates hat mittens

To see my daily posts follow me on Instagram @eileenmckenna.



Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
I am so excited to share with you this interview with Yuko Miki, the Artist and Illustrator behind Honeyberry Studios. Back in 2014, shortly after starting my blog, I began following (and admiring) Yuko’s daily “Happiness is” illustrations. In 2015, Yuko shared online that she was quitting her job and pursuing her art full time. Since then I’ve seen snippets of her full time artist life on Instagram @honeyberrystudios, but I’m excited to hear more about Yuko’s artist journey.

What inspired you to do your “Happiness is” project?
At the time (spring of 2014), I was toying with the idea of becoming a working artist. And then I thought, if I wanted to be a working artist, I should be making art every day and enjoy the process. So that’s why I decided to start my 365 day daily art project. I’d also learned about Lisa Congdon (one of my heroes) and her daily art projects and was deeply inspired by it. I wanted to get over my fear of putting myself out there, too. It was sort of a shock therapy where I’d post my drawing (and not always perfect) every day, and eventually I cringed less about sharing my work on the internet.

As far as the topic goes, I wanted it to be something that’s relatively easy. I first thought about making art about food I eat every day, like a food journal, but knew I’d eat the same thing over and over 😀 So then I thought of happiness and what makes me happy every day. I’m not naturally a glass-half-full kind of a person, so being more mindful about happiness would be a good practice for me anyway and decided to make an art about it for 365 days.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Happiness Is Daily Project

How was your daily drawing received? Were you surprised by the reaction?
It was received well. It resonated with many people. My subject was accessible and relatable. A lot of people are also looking for ways to practice mindfulness and want more positivity in their life. I grew my social media following during my project as well.

I also got attention from Sakura of America during my project because I was using their drawing pen (Micron) a lot in my art and hash-tagging them. They eventually hired me to make drawing tutorial videos for their YouTube channel and I still work for them.

The full-circle moment also came when Lisa Congdon featured my project in her speech about sketchbook practice in Portland, OR in October 2014. I was so honored to be recognized by one of my personal heroes, especially because the project and my creative journey was inspired by her.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | I Love Seattle by Yuko Miki
What type of work did you do at the time?
I was working as an Executive Assistant and HR Manager at a local non-profit domestic violence organization at the time. I’d worked there for 14 years in several different positions, majority of it in direct client service programs.

Tell us a little bit about your background (in general) as well as your creative background.
I was born and raised in Himeji, Japan. It’s a small town and our home was surrounded by rice paddies and mountains. When I was growing up, I didn’t appreciate living in a rural part of the town very much. My family also grew a lot of our food, too (on top of their regular jobs), and I thought being a farmer was very uncool. But now I know how fortunate I was to grow up with nature and we were self sufficient in many of our staple foods.

I liked drawing as a kid but never did anything with that in my teenage to early adult years. I started doodling as a hobby in my mid-30s. I took some art classes but am mostly self-taught.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Cards
What made you make the decision to go full time as an artist?

I’d been working at the non-profit for over 14 years – though I had several different positions throughout the years, I was becoming too comfortable. I needed a change. I was also itching to do something more creative and positive. I’d had my first Etsy shop since 2011 but I wasn’t selling very much and wondered how far I could take my business if I’d worked on it full-time. So I took a week off to think and sat down with my husband, Dave. We looked at our finances and found his income alone could support us for the foreseeable future. With his blessing, I gave my notice on that following Monday.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Gift Wrap
Once you went “full time” did you start with everything – art fairs, teaching, etc. or were things slowly introduced?

The very first thing I did was I went on a solo retreat. Leaving work that I had for 14 years was a big transition for me and I needed to take some time to process that. I spent a couple of days alone in my friend’s studio on beautiful Whidbey Island and set my intentions for the next phase of my life. I brainstormed my values and how I wanted to run my business. I also mapped out the year as far as what I needed to work on and put rough schedule on my calendar.

I didn’t start with everything but didn’t have a single focus either. A lot of the advice for creatives out there was “focus on one thing and grow it before adding something else” But I didn’t know what I should focus on first! I was making products with block printing and illustration, doing some commission work here and there, and also offering one-on-one creative coaching.

Teaching came a little later after I realized I didn’t want to make block printing products any more – I got bored and burned out printing the same things over and over. So I focused on creating more products based on my illustrations because it was easier to scale. I started teaching block printing instead. I did some craft fairs in the beginning but not too much – it took me a while to figure out how to be successful at craft fairs – I did many, many very unsuccessful shows in the beginning 😀
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | block printing class

Your posts about art fairs always seems so positive – how have you found doing them?
I love them! It’s a lot of work, but I like how I can move a lot of my products at shows. I get the most sales from doing craft fairs – when you have a product- based business like I do, you need to get in front of as many people as possible. It’s such a simple truth, but it took me a couple of years to actually internalize that and start doing more shows. I also work alone from home most of the time, so it’s nice to meet customers in person and hear their complements all day long 😀 The creative community in Seattle area is very strong and supportive, too. I’ve made many maker friends through fairs and markets.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Spring Cards

What was a positive surprise to your full time artist journey?
I love working for myself. I did fine being an employee and working in a team, too, but being my own boss is SO nice. I love the freedom and the level of engagement I experience every day working towards my goal. I’m also a highly structured person, so it’s great not being interrupted by your co-workers all the time 😀

Negative surprise?
I don’t actually spend a lot of time making art. When people say how nice it is that I get to make art every day, I’m like “I make art maybe 20% of the time. 80% of the time is spent on marketing, responding to emails, packaging, shipping, keeping track of inventories, selling at markets, reaching out to retailers, etc.” It’s just part of being a solopreneur but it’s also an interesting dichotomy.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
What advice would you give others who are thinking about going full time as artists?

Don’t quit your day job until your creative business is making enough consistent income to replace your day job! Or you have other means to pay the bills (like have a big savings or a partner who can support you, like I did.) It can take years for your business to become consistently profitable, and you need to protect your passion – if you were taking on any creative opportunities that come your way just so you can pay the bills, you’ll be resentful and will eventually be burned out. Once you’re burnt out, that’s it. You’ll lose your passion and won’t be doing what you love or love what you do.

Also, don’t do something just because someone else is doing it and being successful. I have a friend who’s killing it with her original paintings. I was tempted to start making and selling original paintings as well, but it just didn’t appeal to me as much as other things I do. I also didn’t have time or energy for it. If I’d gone down that path, I would’ve spread my focus too much and slowed the growth of my business. Maybe eventually I want to do that, but I’m not gonna change my business model solely based on what’s working for other people.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself! It’s so easy to keep working 7 days a week when you have your own business. I was working non-stop when I first transitioned from my day job to a full-time business and started feeling burned out within two months. I started taking every 7th week off in October 2015 (inspired by seanwes at seanwes.com) and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Visit Yuko’s website where you can shop “happy art and stationery gifts” at honeyberrystudios.com. Follow her on Instagram @honeyberrystudios

Read my other interviews:
Interview with Charlie O’Shields creator of Doodlewash and founder World Watercolor Group
Interview with Crystal Moody of a Year of Creative Habits

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


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.