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Overcoming Creative Hurdles

Overcoming Creative Hurdles

Many things prevent us from being creative. Here are a few, with suggestions for overcoming them.

Time. We all lead busy lives, but if creativity is a priority you can find time for it. Wake up a few minutes early, watch less TV, or do it while you watch TV. Give up time spent on other things, or incorporate creativity WITH those things. I sometimes sketch while having my morning coffee and waiting to drive the kids to school.

Skill Level. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a project and feeling like you lack the skills to finish. I recommend pausing your project and using the available online resources. A quick YouTube video, followed by a practice session, can get you back on track.

Confidence. You may think it’s not worth it to spend your time on creativity because only the “talented” should spend time being creative. Should only yogis bother doing yoga, or olympic runners spend time running? There are benefits to creativity at every level!

Motivation. Wanting to be creative and actually doing it are not the same thing. Find ways to motivate yourself. Work on things that excite you. Participate in challenges. Create schedules and deadlines. Break down bigger projects into small tasks and assign a due date to each task.

Procrastination. I can spend hours planning in my notebook the creative projects I’m going to do, or next steps with current projects. The longer I procrastinate, the harder it is to break out of it and actually create. I take advantage of breaks in my day to change gears and stop procrastinating.

Distraction. There is so much distracting us. Set a daily reminder on your phone. “Were you creative today?” My reminder goes off at noon and reads, “Did you draw today?” It reminds me of what I want to do.

Focus. Have too many ideas and can’t focus on one? Try my Creative Ideas Worksheet. It will help you prioritize, focus, and finally make progress with your creative projects!

What hurdles get in the way of your creativity? I’d love to hear!

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Finishing your creative projects is important

Finishing creative projects
It’s such a good feeling to finish a creative project and motivation for the next one! I used to be awful about following through on my creative ideas. I would start a project excited about my idea and as soon as things got hard or weren’t easily working out like I envisioned I’d give up.
The finished painting:
Jones Beach jetty painting by Eileen McKenna
Where I started from today:
Jones Beach jetty painting in progress by Eileen McKenna
When I started my blog – My Creative Resolution, the first thing I did was pull out unfinished projects and finished them. I didn’t plan it that way I just did it. In doing this I learned so much about pushing through the hard parts of a project and I learned how rewarding and motivating it is to finish. I learned what turned out to be a crucial skill in the beginning of my creative journey. I also learned that done is better than perfect and never finished. And any “mistakes” I make are just lessons for the next project. If you read this far I hope I inspired you to pull out a neglected project and give it another try! Tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna if you do. 😀
Have so many ideas you don’t know where to start? Gain focus with 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
creative newsletter featuring artists crafts tutorials books shows and more | creative inspiration
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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Too Many Creative Ideas? Here’s How to Gain Focus.

Too Many Creative Ideas? Here’s How to Gain Focus.
As creatives we usually have no shortage of ideas. This is definitely true for me. I never have artist’s block. What I experience is feeling overwhelmed by ideas and not being able to pick a focus and direction.

Gain focus with 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

Before my blog and my creative resolution, I had many unfinished projects lying around. Having the commitment of this blog helped me learn to finish projects. In doing this, I also learned how motivating a sense of accomplishment is! It didn’t really matter what the final result was. What mattered was that I had an idea and executed it to completion. Armed with the learning experience of that finished project, I could decide on the next one.

Now that I’m a bit obsessed with accomplishing things, feeling overwhelmed by a huge list of ideas is very unsettling. This is what I typically do to work through too many ideas.

1. Write down every idea. On one or two pages, write down each idea on a line, one after another. Just getting them out of my head is a bit of a relief.

2. Pause for a moment, drink a coffee, and then read through the list.

3. Prioritize the items on the list. A book I loved – Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time – recommends labeling items as A, B, and C. A is the highest priority.

4. Number the A’s. Once the items are assigned A B or C, number the projects labeled A (priority). On a new page write the highest ranked A items, leaving several lines underneath each project. Write a few tasks necessary for this project under the project. This doesn’t have to include every task to complete the project, just the next few steps.

5. Write a To Do list. Because I typically have a few projects going on at once, I take the top tasks under the priority items and create a To Do list.

6. Pick one To Do list item and act on it and complete it.

7. Celebrate the completion of a task by checking it off the list.

8. Move on to the next item on the To Do list. Complete all the items on the list.

9. Create a new To Do list. Once the original to do list is completed, go back to the task lists under the priority projects and use some of the remaining tasks to create another To Do list.

10. Repeat creating To Do lists (and accomplishing the items on them) until the priority projects are completed.

11. Go back to the idea list, once the priority projects are completed. Read through and see if the A B C ratings you gave the remaining projects still apply. Adjust as needed and then go back and repeat steps 4 – 11. Some projects on your idea list will cease to interest you. Cross them off when that happens.

This process gives my mind clarity and then I can focus. I designed a Creative Ideas Worksheet that’s pretty and easy to use! Download it in my Etsy shop here.
Creative Ideas Planning Worksheet pdf for when you have too many creative project ideas

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!

creative newsletter featuring artists crafts tutorials books shows and more | creative inspiration

Too Many Creative Ideas? Here’s How to Gain Focus.


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Art Books

Recommended creative reading - art books - women artists, urban painting watercolor
I bought myself 2 early birthday presents:

Danielle Krysa’s book “A Big Important Art Book: Now with Women!” Danielle is the author of the wildly popular blog The Jealous Curator, creator of, one of my favorite podcasts, Art for your Ear, and author of several other books including a favorite of mine “Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative.”

Shari Blaukopf’s “Working with Color: Techniques for Using Media on the Go.” I have followed Shari’s blog “The Sketchbook” and admired her watercolor work since I started blogging. Her ability to paint the colors and shades of snow has always amazed me.

I can’t wait to read them!

Read more of my reading recommendations here: “Books for Creatives.”
19 Books for Creatives

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 Goals and the First Quarter of 2019

Creative goals
I decided it was a good time to see how on track I was with my creative goals for 2019. Ironically I couldn’t remember what my specific goals were. I had to look back to a post I wrote in December. Here’s what I wrote:

My Creative Plans for 2019

  • Paint within a theme. 15-30 day challenges. Explore a theme for two weeks or more. Give myself time off in between.
  • Grow my Etsy shop. At the end of 2018 I began offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy.
  • Learn and explore. I want to continue painting acrylics, would like to try block printing again, and have signed up for a sewing class!

My Creative Reality January – March 2019

I am not really painting in themes for 2 weeks to a month. But what I am doing is painting five mornings a week and working on what I feel like, which are often seasonal illustrations. I am very happy with how this is working out. The work I’m currently doing in the mornings is leading to products for my Etsy shop, as well as using all the accumulated illustrations I’ve painted over the last five years.

Growing my Etsy shop is still my number one project. I am really enjoying painting (of course) but also using those illustrations to design different types of digital products. I feel I won’t be truly able to gauge the success of my shop until I have 100 products in it (not including out of season products).

I haven’t really painted in acrylics BUT am committed to making that happen soon. I did take a sewing class and made a pillow, but haven’t motivated to try to make something else. I really want to use my own fabrics!

Teaching wasn’t a 2019 goal (It was a 2018 goal), but I embraced an opportunity that presented itself and began teaching first and second graders at an after school art studio. I loved it! I’ll get the chance again over the summer. One thing I try to do is be open to opportunities, even if they are out of my comfort zone.

I’m glad I took stock on how I’m doing so far. I’m happy with my progress. And even before doing this, I decided that I would try to pursue the other types of creativity on the weekends. Here are my revised goals.

My Creative Plans for 2019 – Revised

  • Paint regularly. 5 mornings a week
  • Grow my Etsy shop.  100+ products
  • Paint with acrylics on canvas. Seascapes including a 2 canvas piece.
  • Teach – online and in person. Note to self – finish the ice cream cone project. I have two other project tutorial PDFs in my Etsy shop.
  • Submit work to a gallery show (I have a specific one in mind)
  • Collaborate with a sewing blogger – is that you? Contact me!

As I write these revised goals I’m realizing that the more specific the goals, the easier it is to go for them. How’s your creative year going so far?

You may be interested in reading “Writing a checklist to help you achieve your Creative Goals”

My Creative Collection a creative newsletter
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Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” where I feature artists and makers, and link to inspiring art, design, and craft, inspiring places, interesting books, movies, and more. It’s a collection of all the things inspiring me delivered to your inbox every two weeks. Click here to sign up.

 


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Inspiration for painting flowers in watercolor

Creative morning setup
I don’t always have an idea or inspiration when I sit down to paint. Once I’m there at the table it’s rare I spend more than a minute or two coming up with an idea. I usually start with doodles in my sketchbook and then move on to paintings that are in progress. I’m in a good routine of sitting down most mornings right after the kids go to school before anything else starts. I’m so excited for spring and for flowers, so I’ve been painting from the Burpee catalog. I always listen to a podcast while I work. One of my new favorites is Etsy Conversations. What’s your creative routine?
Painting flowers in watercolor - ready for spring!

Have you visited my Etsy shop yet? There’s printables for each holiday, invitations, and even digital gifts!
Digital Downloads clipart prints invitations cards gifts | printable

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” where I feature artists and makers, and link to inspiring art, design, and craft, inspiring places, interesting books, movies, and more. It’s a collection of all the things inspiring me delivered to your inbox every two weeks. Click here to sign up.


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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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Inspiration at the Bird Feeder

Inspiration at the bird feeder by Eileen McKenna
This week I only had to glance out my window for inspiration. There are always birds at the feeder and unfortunately squirrels too. I’ve been in a good routine since the start of the year. Monday through Friday I sit and paint after I get back from bringing my son to school. I try not to get involved in anything else because then I may not get around to painting. Even if it’s a day I go out to work, I sit and paint for 15 minutes – if possible.

My goal for the new year was to work within themes, which I’ve done here and there. This week I definitely had a theme going on. Previous weeks I’ve worked on Valentine’s Day illustrations and more recently St. Patrick’s day illustrations. I’m really excited about the items I’ve been adding to my Etsy shop. Have you visited my Etsy shop yet?
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.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” where I feature artists and makers, and link to inspiring art, design, and craft, inspiring places, interesting books, movies, and more. It’s a collection of all the things inspiring me delivered to your inbox every two weeks. Click here to sign up.


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Need Creative Inspiration?

Every two weeks I share in my newsletter all the things inspiring me – artists/makers, different mediums, tutorials, places, books, TV, and more. My hope is to inspire you!

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The latest issue featured collage envelopes by Lydia of Inkdrop43212. Read more here.
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration

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Experimenting with Watercolor Mandalas

Experimenting with Mandalas - designing mandalas with watercolor paint | fabric print design
Recently in my newsletter, I featured the work of block printer Marta Harvey. (My newsletter is a collection of all the things inspiring me – artists, mediums, places, and more. Sign up here.) As I sat looking at a blank page in my sketchbook I thought about Marta and how she creates a sliver of a mandala and then prints several times, in different directions, to form her mandalas. I decided to draw a circle and divide the circle into halves and quarters and fill the sections with different designs using watercolor. Then I scanned the page in and separated the different designs, and for each design I repeated it to form a circle. My eyes are open to a new way to design fabric prints!

Have you visited my Etsy shop? Click to visit. 🙂
Printable Valentine's Day cards invitations gifts | Personalized Valentine's Day gifts