Creative Resolution

It’s hard to believe, it’s been eight years since I made a resolution that changed my life. On New Year’s Eve in 2013, I made a creative resolution to make creativity a part of my daily life. Prior to that I dabbled in a few drawing and painting classes, but I wanted more.

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Back then I didn’t know what mediums I would work in – I thought I might refinish furniture. I just knew I wanted to explore all possibilities and that was the exciting part! I learned a lot about myself, especially in the beginning. Prior to my creative resolution, I was a serial quitter. I quit projects when they got challenging. By pushing through, I learned that all projects have a tough part. Once I began finishing projects, I was motivated to finish new ones. Finishing became addicting!

My resolution had an immediate effect on me. Simply put, regular creativity made me happier. Over time, new opportunities presented themselves. Three and a half years ago I began teaching at a kids’ art studio. I also now teach adult workshops at my local library. I’ve illustrated a few children’s books. This September I left graphic design behind and became a museum educator. None of these things were on my radar or would have been possible had I not made my creative resolution.

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The main thing I learned is that “talent is just a starting point.” Don’t let a self perceived lack of “talent” hold you back from creating!

Need guidance on starting your own creative routine and exploring subjects and mediums? Check out my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.

It’s the perfect time of year for a creative resolution of your own!

Looking to explore your creativity…

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A few of my favorite things…

This year we are doing something new. Usually, we each pick a name out of a hat and buy a gift for that person. This year, my sister-in-law suggested we buy a “few of our favorite things.”

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

– from the Sound of Music

What a fun idea! Maybe the gifts we will become our new favorite things.

My favorite thing?

Painting in watercolor of course! I bought a starter watercolor tube set, watercolor paper, painter’s tape, white gouache and to offer some instruction my book: Beginner Watercolor Exploration. 

I can’t wait to see all the gifts and I hope the person who picks mine is excited to try watercolor!

What are your favorite things?

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Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide
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Look a little longer

I’ve been working at a museum since September. Last week, I learned that on average people view a work of art for only FIVE seconds! Can you believe that? Actually, who am I kidding? I’ve certainly zipped through a museum focused on what was for lunch.

In my role at the museum, I work with kids and we ask them to focus on the details, to look for a longer amount of time and to share what they see. It is really fun and fulfilling!

The other day, I glanced out the window at one of our Crepe Myrtles. The tree glows when the sunlight hits it. I thought about the five second statistic and how it’s not just about artwork, but things that inspire us. How long do we sit and observe something that strikes us? I know myself, I’m pretty impatient. If something inspires me, I’ll take a photo or rush to pull out my sketchbook. While drawing is a way to help you observe, I thought, “What if I just look at the tree for a few minutes?” What else will I notice?

As I sat there I was amazed at all the colors in one tree – green, orange, gold, red, purple. The leaves, hit by the sun, glowed – like they are on fire. When the sun went behind a cloud, the colors dimmed. As I looked at the closely entwined branches rising upward from the soil, I could imagine them taking on the shape of a woman. 

Next time something inspires me, instead of snapping a quick photo and walking away, I’m going to spend a few minutes really looking and noticing all the details.

How about you?

Looking to explore your creativity…

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Setting yourself up for Creative Success

I’m excited for Inktober, excited to get back to daily creativity. I’ve adjusted to my new work schedule and am ready to fit drawing and painting in. This is how I’m setting myself up for a successful October and how you can too!

Inktober check off calendar – Eileen McKenna

Organize your supplies. I’ve selected the tools I’ll be using for daily ink drawings – a sketchbook that isn’t great with watercolor but the smooth white pages are perfect for ink. I have enough pages left for all of October plus a few warmup pages. I even dated all the pages to make sure. And I have my favorite ink pen ready – a Uniball signo.

Find something or someone to hold you accountable. I printed a small calendar for daily checking off. I plan on posting my daily work on Instagram. When we feel we have to check in with someone or something (like social media) it helps keep us on track.

Schedule creative time. Pick the time of day you plan on creating. For me it’s early morning before work. It’s a nice relaxing way to start the day. If something gets in the way, I can always catchup later in the day.

“Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life"
Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life”

Make a plan. The more detailed your plan the better. I recommend in my book Creative Exploration that you start simple – pencil and paper. Each week after that you can try out different mediums. I’m participating in Inktober so I’ll be using an ink pen. When the mood strikes I’ll add watercolor. The benefit of some kind of plan is to prevent you from either not sitting down to create because you don’t know what to do or from sitting down and not having any direction. In Creative Exploration I recommend keeping a running list of subject ideas to refer to when you need it.

Find a creative space. Having a designated creative space makes a big difference. Years ago I took over our dining table and leave my supplies out. It makes sitting down to create so easy. No setup needed. Sometimes when I want to get back in the zone, I spend time organizing my supplies and space. By the time I’m done, I’m so ready to get to work!

Be kind to yourself. No one is perfect. Missing a day here or there isn’t the end of the world. Forgive yourself and pick up your pen or paints the next day. Don’t let one day turn into a week.

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September Routines and Creative Goals

My friend asked me the other day how it was going with creating every day in August. I looked at her blankly until she explained that I had written in my newsletter that I was going to create every day in August. Red faced I admitted that not only had I failed in that goal, I had also forgotten about it.

September Routines and Creative Goals

what I’ve learned while pursuing a “creative life”

  • Goals motivate us
  • Keep your goals realistic
  • Be kind to yourself when you don’t meet your goals

When we falter in our regular creative practices, we need to brush ourselves off, adjust our focus and expectations, and try again. September is the perfect time for this!

I’ve always loved September- it has the fresh start feeling of the new year. Life gets back to more of a routine, especially if you have kids. I always use September as a chance to reassess my goals, projects and routines.

This year I’m starting a brand new job so everything will change in terms of my schedule. Up until now my schedule has been very flexible. I mostly work from home and teach at a kids art studio several afternoons a week. With my new schedule I will really have to prioritize to get stuff done.

One painting or illustration a week

I’ve decided that painting every single day isn’t going to be realistic for me. My September goal is to create one painting or illustration a week. When possible I will sit and paint. I truly believe even 10-15 minutes of painting makes such a difference!

As usual, I’ll paint what is inspiring me. Maybe I’ll paint within a theme each week. I’m sure the upcoming fall season will play a role. At some point I’ll dive into all the photos I took this summer. These projects will take a few days to complete, so while I won’t be painting every day, I’ll be painting a few days a week.

Any illustration work will not count towards my weekly painting project. I have to have some rules for myself.

Sharing with you

I also want to keep up with my blog and newsletter. I’ve been sharing my creative journey on this blog for almost eight years! I love thinking and writing about creativity and painting and collecting interesting links. If you aren’t signed up for my newsletter – sign up here:

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When I first made “My Creative Resolution” – the blog was what held me accountable each week. I had to create and post finished pieces – otherwise I would be revealing myself as someone who lost motivation and didn’t finish things. That was in fact what I was, but the blog helped me change that.

If you are looking to introduce regular creativity into your life check out my book Creative Exploration. I turned my journey into a process for others to follow. Creativity has brought so much joy and opportunity into my life!

Learn more here!

August Creative Exploration

Watercolor sunset sketch by Eileen McKenna

I’ve been missing painting regularly, so I’m dedicating August to Creative Exploration! Won’t you join me? There are no rules, just some suggestions to inject new life into your creative practice.

August Creative Exploration Ideas:

  • New creative schedule. Create daily (or regularly). Even 15 minutes a day is great! 
  • New place. Paint in a new place or paint a new place. I’ll be in some new places so I’m excited about this one!
  • New medium. Try a new medium. I’ve been wanting to incorporate collage into my watercolor journal pages. (Note to self – pack a glue stick!)
  • New ideas. All of the above helps open you up to new ideas! Keep track of them (and prioritize them) with my ideas worksheet – available on Etsy.

Let me know if you are joining me!

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How to Motivate to Finish Creative Projects

Watercolor Sunset Painting by Eileen McKenna

For three months this sunset painting sat unfinished. I couldn’t motivate to pick it up and work on it, until now. What changed?

For one thing, with the holidays behind us and a new fresh year ahead, I recommitted to creativity. My goal is to sit and paint every morning for at least 15 minutes. So far this year, I’ve done just that plus a few days at the end of 2020.

When I sit down to paint I usually have no plan. Sometimes I start by organizing my art supplies. That’s when I uncovered this painting (but immediately set it aside). I often start by playing in my sketchbook. There is no pressure with a sketchbook. I feel free to explore. As I paint, ideas come to me.

It’s so interesting how you can go from no idea…to painting bananas…to “It’s time to finish that sunset.” It just proves how important it is to regularly sit down to paint, to show up every day.

There are days that nothing exciting happens on the page, but that’s part of the creative process too. No matter what the results, time spent being creativity clears my mind.

I encourage you to paint, draw (or whatever) for 15 minutes each day. You never know what it will lead to!

*****

Ready to get started in watercolor? The “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” is for you!

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises & projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

Inject calm into the holiday season with this 15 minute daily practice

Commit to creativity this December!

December can be a crazy month as we prepare for the holidays. I don’t even need to remind you that things are extra stressful this year. One of my favorite things to do in December is to create every single day.

Creativity is very important to me, but life always seems to want to pull me away from it. I should say I let life (and Netflix) pull me away. Because December is such a full month, I find it the most important time to recommit to creativity. I encourage you to the same. Just 15 minutes a day can be such a stress reliever!

For the last few years, I’ve created an illustration each day in December. This year I’m trying a new medium – block printing. I’ve gotten a head start – I organized my tools, watched a few YouTube videos, sketched a few ideas. I’ve even carved two small designs!

In the past my goal was to post a completed illustration each day. This year I simply want to work in the new medium for at least 15 minutes a day. I have to admit it’s hard to be a beginner! That first day carving my linoleum block felt so awkward. But I know from experience that a month of focusing on one thing can lead to real progress.

I hope you’ll join me in creating every day!

There are a lot of great kits to get you started with a new medium in this blog post.

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4 tips for professional looking invitations | Christmas holiday invites | Cookie Swap invitation

Follow through on creative ideas with this simple tool!


One of the biggest problems we have as creatives is too many ideas. Have you ever been working on a project and you get an idea and “squirrel!” – You set off in a new direction? If the same thing happens again while you‘re working on the “new” idea, you’ll never finish anything!

One of the most helpful tools I use to keep me focused is a notebook. My notebook and morning routine have enabled me to keep my New Year’s Resolution (My Creative Resolution) for almost 8 years! Every morning I write in my notebook and check in with my creative projects.

Aside from daily writing, a critical part is checking back on previous entries. Doing this reminds me of past ideas and projects. It allows me to re-focus back on things I may have forgotten about. When I’m revisiting past entries I also can decide which ideas not to pursue, because it’s hard to get things done if we spread ourselves too thin. Looking back allows me to feel satisfaction when I’ve finished a project.

Sometimes I have an idea that in the moment I’m very excited about, but as time passes I lose confidence in it. But when an idea keeps popping up – I know it’s time to follow through.

This is how I was able to finish the book based on My Creative Resolution – “Creative Exploration.” The idea for the book kept coming back to me. I would work on it for a while and then move on to other things. When the book idea came back around for the second or third year in a row, I figured it was time. I immediately hired my own proofreader. I knew having a due date and someone else would hold me accountable to finish a draft.

If you are having trouble following through on your ideas, I encourage you to get your own notebook. Start writing down your goals and ideas. Check in with your notebook (and projects) daily. It makes a world of difference! Want to be creative but don’t know where to start? Try “Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.”

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!