It’s hard to commit to a daily painting challenge

Daily Painting Challenge | Regular Creativity Creative Practice
It’s hard to commit to a daily painting challenge but every time I do, and stick with it, I’m always happy with the results. The first few times I did my Christmas countdown (daily watercolor illustrations counting down to Christmas) I followed prompts. Last year and this year, I’ve allowed myself the freedom to paint whatever fits into the Christmas/winter/holiday theme. I love the flexibility to explore.

The first few days of a daily challenge can feel a little awkward, or stiff. But after that you open up to the inspiration around you. Flipping through a skiing catalog I saw a Telluride ad that I thought would be so cool to paint. It was totally outside of the normal thing I would do. I enjoyed the process and was pleased with the results. The thing I get most excited about are the ideas. Last year I painted a girl with a record player in front of a tinsel covered tree – me as a kid, playing a favorite gift.

Daily painting or drawing is hard, especially during the busy holiday season. But the break from the busyness and the interesting creative process of coming up with new ideas is so worth it!

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 -

Illustrated Map Making

Illustrated map making #the100dayproject Charleston

I’m over a third of the way through my #the100dayproject – illustrated map making. If you are thinking about making a map, here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  • Decide ahead of time the theme or point of view of the map. For example, is it a map of food destinations, tourist spots, local spots, or a personal map?
  • Research the area to make sure you know what the important places are.
  • Write a list of the places that will be illustrated.
  • How many elements are necessary? I’m still trying to determine how many elements make a good map – make it full but not too cluttered?
  • Decide on the style, color palette, etc. I paint in watercolor and often add details in ink. The elements should all be in a similar style.
  • Develop a process. I hand paint the background and all the elements separately and put them together in Photoshop. Text is added on the computer. I create the illustrations at about 3-4” and reduce them. Painting them at this small size allows me to skip details that will be lost when reducing, but also fit some details – that if I worked at 1” I wouldn’t be able to paint or see!
  • Create a schedule. Currently I’m creating one map element per day. Deadlines are my own, but if a map was a commission, it would be helpful to have a schedule. X number of elements created in X number of days plus the time to put it all together on the computer. Allowing buffer time for client input is always a good idea.
  • Composition. Often liberties have to be taken to fit the map. The map doesn’t have to be exact proportions.
  • Create a library of common elements. As I create more maps, I create elements that can be reused – trees, lifeguard chair, beach umbrella. I’m organizing my files to make it easy to find stuff.

So far I’ve worked on maps of:

  • Fire Island, NY – completed
  • Point Lookout, NY – elements completed, all in Photoshop, finalizing needs to be done
  • Nashville, TN – access if more elements need to be created
  • Charleston, SC – currently illustrating the map elements and creating a list

Other map ideas:

  • Long Beach, NY (my hometown)
  • Long Island, NY. Long Island is a large area, trying to think of what the focus of the map would be
  • Maps inspired by trips we’ve taken – Maine or Acadia National Park, National Parks in Utah

How much I’ll accomplish by day 100, I don’t know. I do know that I’ve wanted to create maps for years, but never got past trying for 15 minutes. #the100dayproject gives me the motivation to keep going, work through the process, learn, explore. Starting was easy. Continuing isn’t, but I’m determined to see it through. That can be said for not just the bigger project but finalizing each map. Pushing myself produces results.

My Fire Island map is available for download in my Etsy shop. Click here to visit my Etsy shop where I sell digital clipart, invitations, prints, painting tutorials, and even personalized family trees!
Illustrated Fire Island map | Day 25 #the100dayproject

Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction

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Celebrating Day 25 of #the100dayproject with a Fire Island Map

Illustrated Fire Island map | Day 25 #the100dayproject
I’m proud to announce that my Fire Island map is now available for download in my Etsy shop. I’ve been spending the first 25 days working on elements of three maps, so to finalize one of the maps is very satisfying. Click here to visit my Etsy shop where I sell digital clipart, invitations, prints, and even personalized family trees!

I’m a quarter of the way through my #the100dayproject. 100 days seems less daunting, or does is it? I’m really good at starting projects. It’s my Aries nature. Sticking with them is the hard part. I learned early in my creative journey that it’s great to try new things, but you don’t progress in an area if your efforts are scattered. I have to work hard to stay focused. What does your astrological sign say about your creative habits?

Today I was reading an email from #the100dayproject and there was a worksheet that has a spot for how you’ll celebrate the 100th day of the challenge. Hmm, how will I celebrate? You know what would be awesome – to visit the Fire Island lighthouse! It’s such a fun day trip. The lighthouse is the only part of Fire Island that you can drive to. The walk to the lighthouse is a cool boardwalk through the dunes. Usually when we go we bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the beach after climbing to the top of the lighthouse. The perfect way to celebrate!

Fire Island lighthouse Fire Island lighthouse Fire Island beach Robert Moses state park Fire Island beach Robert Moses state park

Travel and Illustrated Map Making in Nashville

Illustrated Map Making in Nashville Cowboy boots
It’s a fun twist to my illustrated map making project to be able to explore a new city – Nashville 🎸 – with map making in mind. These worn boots were inspired by the County Museum Hall of Fame and Museum. The costumes are unbelievable! So far it’s easier to paint while traveling then I thought it would be. The Koi travel watercolor set and small Canson watercolor pad are working out great. The colors in the Koi travel set are unbelievably rich and saturated and the pages in the Canson pad are nice and thick. I set them up on the desk at the hotel. I’m not one for painting in public.
Illustrated Map Making in Nashville
As a kid I saw The Grand Ole Opry on tv. Minnie Pearl, with the price tag hanging off her hat, is my most vivid memory. I never thought I’d actually visit the Grand Ole Opry. I’m thinking of becoming a country music fan.
Illustrated Map Making in Nashville Grand Ole Opry
In progress – Nashville’s Union Station, a former railroad terminal now hotel. It’s clock tower stood out to me as we rode around downtown, especially when it glowed at night. It’s hard to capture all the detail in a 4” illustration that will be reduced to 1”. I guess that’s one of the challenges in map making. Another challenge is picking out which sites to illustrate. It seems so subjective. Whether you’re a tourist or local in a place, the sites that are important to you may not be the same spots that stand out to others. I’m almost a quarter of the way through #the100dayproject! You can see snippets of my Nashville trip in my Instagram stories @eileenmckenna – saved under “Nashville.”
Illustrated Map Making in Nashville Union Station

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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

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Everything is coming up roses!

Watercolor Roses Heart Valentine's Day or Anniversary Card Digital Download on Etsy
I am having such a good time, turning my sketchbook illustrations into various digital downloads for my Etsy shop

My shop offers:

  • Invitation borders and backgrounds
  • Clipart
  • Digital prints like family trees
  • Printable watercolor painting tutorials
  • Logos

Printable Valentine's Day cards invitations gifts | Personalized Valentine's Day gifts

With each season and holiday, I’m inspired to paint and draw new things and I can’t wait to see what’s to come. Please come visit my shop! 🙂

Customizable Family Tree Digital Download Printable | Unique Grandparent Mother's Day gift

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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.

The Magic of a White Gel Pen

Drawing with a white gel pen
I often use a gel pen to add black details and outlines to my watercolors, but every so often I change things up and add white outlines onto a dark painting or paper using a white Gelly Roll gel pen. It’s a different effect.

This was a watercolor wash I painted last week. Every time I walked by it, I thought about how vibrant the blue was and how good white outlines would look on it. I grabbed a few shells for reference and used my white Gelly Roll gel pen. The white really pops!


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

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!