Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Creativity and Procrastination

Creativity and Procrastination
I’ve been frustrated this summer about not finishing my creative projects. I have a bunch of ideas I want to pursue but can’t seem to get anywhere. I knew that one problem was the fact that I had so many things that I was dabbling in. You can’t move very far forward if you keep changing paths. Also, I couldn’t blame time, I had the time, but I lacked the motivation to get to work.

On a recommendation, I downloaded the book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” and it immediately resonated with me.
Eat the frog - procrastination
Not only does the book address the things holding me back, but the author presents clear strategies to overcome this. Just reading a few pages motivated me!

Number one: I needed to define my primary goal, which is to continue revamping my online art shop. Once I identified this as the primary goal, and other projects as less important, I was motivated to attack the list of to do items (I already had). And once I accomplished one thing on the list, I was motivated to attack several other items – just as the quote above states.

Ironically this feeling, of being pulled in several directions and not finishing anything, isn’t new for me. In fact, when I started this blog (My Creative Resolution) it was my #1 problem. Having the blog, held me accountable – I felt I had to finish a project (or at least move forward) so I had something to post. And I was motivated to spend the first month or so pulling out old projects and finishing them. It was very cathartic, very satisfying, and very motivating.

I feel that way now, I’ve accomplished a lot with my online shop and am just waiting for new prints to come in. While I wait my mind is clearer to move onto the next priority – finishing my latest acrylic seascape painting. Prioritizing has helped me focus tremendously.

Click her for more info on “Eat that Frog!”

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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Creative Ritual and “Resistance”

Creative Ritual and “Resistance”
I had some welcome free time this weekend and happily set up my acrylic paints outside. Now that I’m working with bigger canvases I know I need to set up my easel and get comfortable painting upright – but for now I’m still painting flat.

As I set up my supplies, I thought about how the ritual of setting up, gets you in the creative frame of mind. (I leave my watercolors permanently set up on our dining room table – so I often miss out on this.)

I don’t paint as often as I’d like to. It’s usually not for lack of time.  Sometimes, even though I want to, I can’t seem to motivate myself. I’ve heard this (problem) called “resistance” – by Author Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. When I can push through and create, I never regret it. Even if the results don’t wow me. Creating is such a relaxing feeling, such a release, that great results are just the icing on the cake.

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

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

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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Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas

Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas #creativity
I had the pleasure this week of hearing Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer, and author of the famous book, “The Creative Habit” speak at Hofstra University. Her book, which I already read, is on many “best books on creativity” lists. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear her speak. She was no nonsense and honest, especially in her advice to the young dancers in the audience.

She began the talk, after introducing herself, by going through the book briefly and summarizing each chapter. Then she asked for questions from the audience, and while some were specific to dance, some were great questions that led to interesting answers – like “How do you know the difference between brainstorming and over thinking things?”

Twyla talked about the time she left NYC and went to a farm, where she and other dancers “worked.” No thought of celebrity or success, or social media (which didn’t exist at the time), but just focusing on dance. I appreciated this reminder that creativity is about putting in the work.

She said, “It takes work to have new ideas.” They don’t just hit you out of nowhere. You have to get going first. You have to be in the habit of “going.” She talked about the “rituals of preparation” and how important they are – whatever they are for you – to get you going. Once you have an idea, you move on from the ritual.

As a painter this all makes sense to me. The importance of sitting down every day to paint. Starting with anything to warm up and get going. I sometimes find the sitting down part is the hardest. Life is always trying to get in the way, even guilt that I should be doing something else. But this thought replaces the guilt, “I am a painter. I paint.”

Learn more about “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp here.

This posts 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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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 blank.” 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.

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. You’ll start to feel  comfortable which will allow you to create more freely.

Want to explore creativity? My new book 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!

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

Creative Lessons - the feeling of a beginner | Don't be afraid to be a beginner


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Being “In” a Painting

Painting waves in watercolor | creative habitsPainting for an entire hour proved impossible this morning, as I had things to do. But a half hour is better than nothing. As I worked, I thought about how daily work keeps you “in” a painting. You’re engaged in the project, even thinking about it when you are away from it. Being “in” a painting helps bring you back to your creativity. It’s easier to get to work – you know what to work on, perhaps you’ve even thought out how to tackle an area of the painting. But when a few days pass without revisiting your painting or project, that thread is broken. It’s harder to motivate to sit down and create, because you might not remember where you left off or possibly even what you were working on.

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Painting – a schedule and a plan

Seascapes - first later | watercolor | painting | watercolor layers | ocean beach painting
All three of my kids leave for school early this year. I decided my new goal is to spend the extra hour in the morning painting. As soon as I set the goal I immediately questioned it. An hour? That’s a long time. Usually I work on paintings in short spurts, allow the watercolor to dry and come back to it later. How could I paint for an entire hour?

A plan began to form in my mind. For my early morning sketchbook work, I often use a pen. What if my hour of painting included sketching with paint? The no pressure exploratory work I enjoy in my sketchbook?

Now I’m excited about my painting hour. For one thing I have a scheduled time, which will help ensure it happens, and secondly I have a plan.

My morning painting plan:

  • Work from 7:30-8:30am
  • Listen to an artist podcast interview
  • Begin with sketchbook painting. Select two colors to paint with. Explore the shades of each and mixing of the two.
  • Move on to a painting or two.

Areas to explore during my painting sessions:

  • Color – get to know better the colors in my palette
  • Sketching with paint
  • Figure painting
  • Portraits
  • Ocean Painting

It wasn’t enough to declare this summer that I was going to focus on my creativity. I’ve learned I need to schedule the time and make a plan to make sure my goals are met.

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Back to Creativity

Daily sketchbook work | creative habits day As much as I’m excited about the extra time I’ll have once the kids are back in school, I know how easy it is to put all the “have to’s” first and let creativity slide. If I’m being honest, time is not always the factor, sometimes it’s easier to knock an item off the to-do list than to motivate myself to create.

I already have an ambitious list of “back to school” resolutions and goals for September. This last morning of summer vacation I thought, in the simplest terms, what do I really want? To draw and paint is the answer. Past experience has shown me that daily sketchbook work and starting the day with creativity are two things that help me maintain creativity.

In the mornings, as the kids get ready I usually have some down time. Sometimes I work in my sketchbook, but more often I write in my notebook, usually about plans to be creative, and I go on my iPad. I’ve decided that I will not go on my iPad. I won’t look at email or social media during this time. I will write in my notebook, my morning brain dump, and I’ll draw in my sketchbook. It will be the “no pressure draw what ever I see” kind of work.

This year all three of my kids will be gone by 7:30 am, which brings me to my next “back to school” resolution. For 1 hour I will paint. I’ll paint my watercolor seascapes, I’ll play with shapes and color in my sketchbook. As I write this I’m already thinking, “Wow an hour is really long.” But really it isn’t. People don’t go to work or school for one hour. If I want to switch projects, I can practice hand lettering, or figures, or illustration.

The beauty of this early morning painting time, is I can do it no matter what else I have to do that day – work, appointments, errands, etc. I’ve been given an extra hour. It’s a gift, I need to use wisely.

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Pick a picture, pick a subject…

Sketchbook painting
…and start drawing and painting. Sitting with my coffee this morning, I was beating myself up for not painting this week. But when I looked back on the week and all I did – work, back to school stuff including orientations, meetings, haircuts, doctors’ appointments, and birthday preparations – it makes sense. Okay I forgive myself. Now what? Pick a picture.

So I did. I didn’t overthink it, I picked one and started painting in my sketchbook. I didn’t select good watercolor paper and tape it to a board – to prepare for a “frame-able” piece. I selected a page with writing on the back. No pressure, just pick a picture and get back to work.

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Get back into a Creative Groove

Getting back into a creative groove
After a busy week I was so excited to get back into a creative groove. But sometimes it isn’t so easy to dive right in. I may think about it, write in my notebook about it, but still I can’t seem to get going. Thankfully, I’ve learned steps to overcome this.

How to get back into a creative groove:

  • Start working in a sketchbook everyday.
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just play.
  • Work on whatever strikes your fancy. Limitations can be stifling.
  • When inspiration strikes go with it. Don’t wait. Don’t let it pass. Fan the flames of your creativity by going with that spark of an idea.

After a few days, you’ll start to build momentum. Your daily sketchbook work will lead to other ideas. Playing will lead to creating more finished pieces.

And don’t feel guilty because a break can be a good thing. A time to step back and reassess the type of projects you’ve been working on. But I don’t like to let a break go on too long, because it makes it harder for me to get back to it.


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20 consecutive days of drawing and painting

Feathers in my sketchbook. 20 days of drawing consecutively.

My mom called to say, “You haven’t painted today.” Thanks for the reminder mom.

Yesterday I didn’t feel like it but I grabbed my sketchbook anyway. I didn’t want to break my streak. I grabbed a magazine and inspired by the feathers on the cover, started drawing. One night this week I even got out of bed when I realized I’d forgotten to draw! I know how quickly one skipped day can become two or three or more.

Drawing from magazines - Real Simple

Even when I’m reluctant to start drawing or painting once I get started  the switch flips and I’m into it.

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The newsletter goes out every other week and is all the things that are inspiring me – artists and makers, places, crafts and art mediums, tutorials, podcasts, interesting articles, and more. My hope is to inspire you!