Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Take control of where you are headed in the new year and reach your goals!

Sometimes we coast through our days, time passes, and we find ourselves no closer to reaching our goals. This year be intentional, set a goal for the year, and focus on that one thing. Set yourself up for success by creating a plan.

Write it down! What is your goal for the year? Be specific!

What steps are necessary to achieve this goal? If needed, do research to help you answer this question.

Schedule time to work towards your goal. Even a small amount of time adds up. When will you work towards your goal?

Invest in your goal – buy running gear, art supplies, a camera, or whatever thing supports your goal. Making an investment will motivate you to stick with your plan. What item will spark excitement and help you reach your goal?

Check in with yourself regularly about your progress and what you are learning. I write daily in my notebook about my creative projects. This helps keep me focused and on track. When will you touch base with yourself on your progress?

Hold yourself accountable. Ideas include asking a friend to be your accountability partner, and posting about your goal and progress online. How will you hold yourself accountable?

Celebrate milestones. A goal can be a huge daunting thing. Breaking into down into manageable tasks makes it more approachable. Celebrating milestones in your journey to continue to propel yourself forward towards the bigger goal. “Celebrating” can be an actual activity, a purchase, or simply the act of recognizing the completion of a task. What milestones could you celebrate? How will you celebrate?

Challenge yourself. Over time the same thing can get boring. When you start feeling bored, challenge yourself with new things within your goal – a new type of exercise, a race, a class, a daily or weekly commitment like a drawing a day or making a new recipe each week. Keep things interesting!

Expect ups and downs but commit to sticking with your goal. It’s normal to be initially excited and motivated about your goal. But over time, the daily work towards a goal can be less exciting. Expect that you will lose enthusiasm at times. During these period keep the bigger goal in mind. Imagine how good it will feel to arrive at that place! Keep going, don’t give up! Forgive yourself when you have an “off” week and recommitment for the next week. Make a commitment to yourself!

I‘ve created a Goal Worksheet to help you create a successful plan! Download it in my Etsy shop here.

Need help gaining focus with your ideas? Try my Creative Ideas planning worksheet – Download it in my Etsy shop here.
Creative Ideas Planning Worksheet pdf for when you have too many creative project ideas

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!

Take control of where you are headed in the new year and reach your goals!


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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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10 “How to” Posts on Painting, Graphic Design, Creativity and more!

10 "How to" Posts on Painting, Graphic Design, Creativity and more! | acrylic painting watercolor tutorial diy round up post
It’s still amazing to me that I made a commitment to be creative, created this blog to hold myself accountable, have continued with it for over five years, and have published over 600 posts! This from someone who previously couldn’t finish a creative project. Here’s a round up of my best “How to” posts.

How to Design Invitations. I’ve been a Graphic Designer for over 20 years. I wrote this post to share the process of designing invitations. Designing invites has always been one of my favorite projects. Visit my Etsy shop for invitation borders, backgrounds, and clipart that make the invitation design process easier!

How to Design Invitations | DIY Invites | Invitation Tutorial | Easy Invites

How to Paint the Ocean. For the last few years I have dedicated myself to capturing the ocean in watercolor. This post shares my step by step process and my secret ingredient.
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips 

Transitioning from Watercolor to Acrylics was such a challenge and I’m still learning every time I pull out a canvas. In this post I share the top differences between the two, to help others make a more smooth transition.
Going from watercolor to acrylics, painting acrylic seascapes

Easy Forest Watercolor Project – is a great one for watercolor beginners. Create an interesting forest and learn and practice five watercolor techniques along the way. It’s actually one of my most popular posts and I’ve heard such nice things from the people who have tried it. There was even a group at a library that tried it.
Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners

Creating Repeating Patterns. Early on in my blogging days I began noticing the art of Surface Design. This post explains how to turn your art into a repeating pattern.
How to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop. For fabric prints, gift wrap, wallpaper and more.

Creativity is for everyone. For me being creative is less about the final product and more about the joy I get from being creative. I wish I realized sooner that talent doesn’t mean much. It’s just a starting point. If you have the desire to be creative and work at it regularly, your skills will improve.
Want to be creative? Start here! creative inspiration | how to be creative

Winter Birch Tree Painting. I wanted to add wintery art to my living room so I created these birch tree paintings in acrylic and shared my process in this post.
Easy Acrylic Birch Tree Painting #beginner #painting

Developing your own Illustration Style. When my kids were small I desperately wanted to illustrate a children’s book. But, not only were my skills not there, but I didn’t have a style. I scoured the internet looking for ways to develop my own style. In this post I share what I learned.
6 Tips on Developing your own Illustration Style 

Ways to Find Inspiration. It’s very rare that I don’t have ideas. For me time is more of a struggle, as well as following through on ideas. This post shares ways to find inspiration.
10 Ways to come up with ideas for your creative projects

Logo Design Process. I shared a peek into my life as a graphic designer in this post about designing logo.
Logo Design Process

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter -“My Creative Collection.” A collection of all the things that inspire me, in the hopes of inspiring you! Sign up here!
My Creative Collection


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Teaching Children about Ireland

A few years ago at my kids’ elementary school we celebrated Ireland for our annual International Day. I had the pleasure of co-chairing the event with my friend Lisa. The goal was of course to teach the children about Ireland, but our approach was to cover all their senses. If it wasn’t a fire hazard I would have had peat burning!

Bagpipes, a Brogue, and an Irish Poem
In the morning as the children approached the school, they could hear the sound of bagpipes. One of the school’s own alumni, a boy named Patrick, was playing the bagpipes to greet the students. The Irish flag hung in the school’s foyer. The school day started with local Irish poet Connie Roberts giving the morning announcement over the loud speaker, and reading an Irish poem.

“Walking Tour of Ireland”
The landscape of Ireland is one of it’s greatest features. We covered the hallways with photos of the beautiful landscapes. Classes took turns taking a “walking tour of Ireland” – looking at the photos, reading and learning about what was pictured. Other things that were visually represented included the painted doors of Dublin, and the different sports in Ireland (soccer, hurley, etc.). A glass cabinet contained things from Ireland – sweaters, tea pots, crystal, an Irish cap, a shillelagh, etc.

“Mark your Sheep”
Prior to the day, students were given an outline of a sheep to decorate anyway they liked. The instructions with the sheep stated,
“Decorate a sheep for International Day – Ireland. Use any material (cotton balls, pipe cleaners, paint, etc.). Be creative! Farmers often mark their sheep with a colored dot, so they know which sheep is theirs. How will you mark your sheep? Fun Fact: There are approximately 8 million sheep in Ireland!” One wall of the school was filled with the students’ sheep – grazing in a green field of course.Children decorating sheep to learn about Ireland | creative ways to teach children about Ireland

Homemade Cardboard Blarney Castle
The tours culminated in visiting our Blarney Castle. We built a castle out of appliance boxes and the kids visited and learned about receiving the “gift of gab.”
homemade cardboard Blarney Castle | creative ways to teach children about Ireland

Irish Step Dancing
My friend Lisa planned the event of the day. All the kids gathered in the gym and watched an amazing performance by Schade Academy of Irish Dance, a local Irish step dancing school. The dancers were fabulous, even the very, very youngest. Their traditional Irish step dancing outfits were beautiful!

Tea
In the afternoon we visited the classrooms serving tea. Unfortunately hot tea was vetoed – they didn’t want anyone getting burned – but the kids got the idea.

Creative Activities
In their individual classrooms the students watched videos about Ireland and worked on various activities. The younger kids colored pages with Irish symbols. The older kids traced Celtic symbols with glue and sprinkled the glue with green glitter. Coloring pages are a great way to show children the symbols, landscape, and even mythical stories of Ireland. I’ve created printable coloring sheets which are available individually or order the printable book which contains several sheets. Fold them and create your own book about Ireland! Visit my Etsy shop at: www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt
printable leprechaun pot of gold rainbow coloring sheet kids activity St. Patrick's Day printable shamrocks coloring sheet kids activity St. Patrick's Day
Printable Ireland castle sheep fields coloring sheet for St. Patrick's Day Printable Ireland thatch cottage fields coloring sheet for St. Patrick's Day
Printable Ireland St. Patrick's Day Coloring Pages make a Coloring Book Kids Class Activity Digital Download is a great way to teach kids about Ireland. Color and fold to create a book! Perfect for St. Patrick's Day.
The printable book contains six coloring sheets. Fold them and create your own book about Ireland!

I’d love to hear the creative ways you teach your kids about Ireland! Comment below.


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Create Seasonal Place Cards

Thanksgiving place cards | place card template | Thanksgiving table decor centerpieces place settings
Pretty up your Thanksgiving table this year with seasonal place cards. I’ve created a word template to get you started on creating your place cards.

Steps:

  • Select a font
  • Type in your names
  • Import artwork – The Watercolor Leaf Border Art is available in my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt
  • Print, trim and fold

Alternative to importing artwork – follow other steps and hand paint or draw on each place card. A fun project for the kids. Let me know how your place cards come out!

Download the word (docx) place card template here.
Visit my Etsy shop to browse seasonal downloadable art!


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4 Tips for Professional Looking Invitations

4 tips for professional looking invitations | Christmas holiday invites | Cookie Swap invitation
It’s not hard to make your invites more professional looking. Think about the type occasion – is it formal or casual? For children or adults? Design the invite with the vibe of the party, and these four tips in mind:

  1. Size. Don’t design your invite to be 8.5” x 11” (letter) size. Instead choose a standard invite size (so it fits in a standard size envelope.) Popular sizes are 5” x 7” and 4.25” x 5.5”. You can fit 2 invites (next to each other) on a letter size sheet when printing. Then trim to desired size.
  2. Fonts. Use two fonts. Highlight important elements on your invite with a font suitable to the vibe of the occasion. Make important information bigger. Use a simpler font for details.
  3. Artwork. Use artwork – there’s so much affordable artwork to download online on sites like Etsy. Visit my Etsy shop here. Choose border artwork, or clipart for the top of the invite, or even use artwork in the background – making sure the text is still readable. A photo of the guest of honor is also a good option especially for kid parties.
  4. Text Color. Use one or two colors. Black plus one color is a safe way to go. Select the colors from the artwork or photo.

Added details for added interest:

  • Make the paper with the text a little smaller and layer on top of a piece of interesting paper (that is the final invite size). Attach the two pieces of paper with glue or hole punch, and tie them together with a ribbon.
  • Glue an element or two – like sequins, or anything that fits your occasion’s theme.
  • Order envelopes in one of your colors.

Browse my Etsy shop for downloadable holiday art, borders, and backgrounds for your next invitation project!

Download a free editable text template file (word doc):
invitetemplate_eileenmckenna

4 tips for professional looking invitations | fall halloween holiday invites