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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.

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Vacation and creative inspiration

Vacation is such a great time to clear your mind and soak up creative inspiration. My daughter and I spent the week visiting schools in the Carolina’s. We covered Clemson University, University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, and UNC Wilmington. All four schools had beautiful campuses. All were very different. We both loved the city of Charleston.

University of South Carolina

College of Charleston

Charleston

One highlight was visiting Wrightsville beach near UNCW. Walking out on the large pier that juts into the ocean was amazing. We could stand next to the breaking waves and the surfers, and continue further out above the ocean.

Wrightsville Beach Pier

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach

Eileen McKenna

Me

I certainly took tons of photos that I hope to paint from! I love that the shots are of different angles. Usually my seascapes are from the perspective of standing on the beach. See my collection of watercolor seascapes here.

 

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

Have you visited my online shop? Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14″ at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!


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Start with basic brushstrokes

Watercolor setup. Eileen McKenna. #artist #setup
It has been over a week since I last painted – gasp! Work has been busy and I could make other excuses. Things haven’t slowed down, BUT this morning instead of diving right in I thought, “Sometimes we have to make time for the things that are important to us.”

Brushstrokes

I set up all my stuff – which had been put away to use the dining room table. I turned to a blank page in my sketchbook and grabbed a tray of extra blue paint and started making strokes. I had no thoughts about what I would paint. Then I grabbed a fan brush and started playing with that. The strokes reminded me of beach grass.

Beach walkway sketch

Next thing I’m doing a watercolor sketch of the path down to the beach. The jump from no idea to an inspired idea was so quick. So don’t wait for an idea to strike! Sit down, set up, start with some basic lines or brushstrokes. Who knows where it will lead!

I’m so proud that after a year of painting the ocean, there are 21 paintings in my shop,  available as prints on watercolor paper or canvas. Browse them all at shop.eileenmckenna.com.

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


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Yellow InkTober – Days 21-24

Lemon slices by Eileen McKenna #inktober #lemons #yellow
After using white ink on blue paper, I decided to try black on yellow for the next couple of sketches. It was especially fitting for the Day 21 prompt of “juicy,” and my lemon slices.

Running trail. InkTober sketch by Eileen McKenna
Day 22 – Trail. I found an inspiration photo on Instagram by photographer Codi Mathison.


Day 23 – Furious. I searched Instagram for #angrytoddler and found the funniest story about a little girl who ate the cheese between the Ritz cracker sandwiches, lined them up on the couch, and then was demanding more! 🤣


Day 24. I drew a quick sketch of Rick from the Walking Dead, inspired by the season premiere.

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

I’ve added three new watercolor ocean paintings to my shop! Prints are available at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a look!


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Painting every morning – week 3

Painting every morning | Eileen McKenna watercolor artist
My back to school resolution of painting every morning during my “extra” hour is going great! I don’t always get to paint for the entire hour, as I sometimes have things to do before I leave the house, but I sit down Monday through Friday (and sometimes on the weekends too). I remember the advice Charlie O’Shields, Creator of doodlewash.com gave me when I interviewed him. “If you want to form a daily art habit you have to decide how much time you can devote to it and protect that time with your life.” And I’ve done that, turning down a walking date with a friend, and not using the time for my running.

Benefits to working every day at a set time:

  • No need for the internal struggle to motivate myself
  • More progress on my paintings
  • More progress on developing skills
  • I mentally stay “in” a painting and often work at other times too

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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Swimming. A Creative Muse

Swim Meet
The competitive swim season ended a few weeks ago. With only a week left in summer, we will probably visit the town pool only once or twice more. The pool and swimming has been a source of creative inspiration for me for the past few years.

This summer I designed fabrics in the swimming/pool theme:
Pool themed fabric designs - Swimming Laps, Pool Tiles, Goggles. Fabrics for all the swimmers!
Click
here for more info on the fabrics.

and did two paintings:
Watercolor Swim Race by Eileen McKenna.
Swim meet warm ups. Painting swimming pools in watercolor.

Here are other swim inspired pieces from previous years:

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The last item in the slideshow (the “Vets” cards with goggles) was the first time I added ink to a watercolor. It was a turning point for me and has become something I do often.

Want to read more about the place, artists and makers, etc. inspiring me? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here! My goal is to inspire you! Learn more about the newsletter here.


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Appreciating living by the beach

Surf campWe sometimes take things that are “normal” for granted. I grew up in a beach town and now live 10 minutes from the beach. After a beautiful afternoon at the beach, followed by a morning watching my son participate in surf camp, I realized, “We are SO lucky.”

When I was a kid, there was no surf camp. How lucky these kids are that learning to surf is so accessible! How lucky that camp isn’t on asphalt, but on the beach. Skudin Surf Camp is run amazingly. Seeing the kids popping up and standing as they take their first wave in is inspiring.
Surf camp
I’m trying to get my fill of beach days before summer ends. 😎

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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Inspiration behind the Enamel Beach Pin

Beach Pin - 1" enamel pin by Eileen McKenna
I sketched an idea for a beach pin on a post it note. It was a simple illustration of the perfect spot at the beach. To show my love for the beach and summer. I added a rainbow umbrella as a nod to my dad, who always had an umbrella attached to the arm of his beach chair.

I first started drawing the design with a stylus on my iPad, but I wanted crisp straight edges, so I switched to the desktop and the mouse. The black lines in the illustration indicated where the metal of the pin will be – I chose gold. (The colored enamel is in the areas between the metal.) I love enamel pins because they are dimensional illustrations!

I’m was so excited when the beach pins arrived and one came on a trip to the beach. Look how good it looks on my beach hat!
Beach Pin - 1" soft enamel pin with rubber clutch
Beach Pin – 1″ soft enamel pin with rubber clutch
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Order one and pin it to your hat or bag. It’s the perfect way to show your love for summer and the beach. Wear it on your beach hat, pin it to your bag, or add it to a bottle of wine with a ribbon.
Beach Pin - 1" soft enamel pin with rubber clutch. Celebrate summer!