Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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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”

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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


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Everything is coming up roses!

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

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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Creative Freedom

Seascape paintings by Eileen McKenna my top 9 2018 #topnine
Over 10 years ago I took a drawing class that reintroduced art to my life. The class was a mix of new people and regulars who took the class every semester. Soon I became a “regular” too. Us regulars worked somewhat independently, but also loosely followed the class assignments. It was a great experience.

After a few years I began to want more. I didn’t want to limit myself to only creating when class was in session, or within class assignments, and I wanted to discover, “what would I create if I was 100% free to pursue anything?” This was the point where I started this blog. I was really excited about the possibilities. I thought a career in hand painting furniture was on the horizon – it wasn’t. I only refinished one table. But I was free to paint that table, paint signs, finished old canvas paintings, and rediscover my love for watercolor. A year later I tried block printing, surface design, etc. Some things stuck and some didn’t.

On the eve of 2019, I’m feeling this excitement. I have the freedom to pursue anything. My interests have definitely gotten more focused, but at the same time the possibilities are endless. I can’t wait!

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Looking forward to a Creative 2019

Family tree watercolor painting
Since making my creative resolution on the eve of 2014 – I’ve been blogging and creating art on a regular basis for five years! I love being creative and miss it when I let life get in the way. I’m always happy when I make room for it again.

It’s exciting to look forward to 2019 and make plans and think about my goals. I know that a goal, project, or deadline really motivates me. I also know working within a theme is really interesting and produces some pleasantly surprising results. This year within the Christmas theme but without a list of prompts, I explored different things like my childhood Christmas memories.

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 the year I began offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy. Before I developed illustration skills, I was a graphic designer looking for art to incorporate into my designs. It’s fun now to be on the other side of things, offering clipart, invitation backgrounds, etc. to help others with their DIY design projects. It’s also fun to think about each holiday or occasion and figure out what digital products people may need, and then to see what the response is to that new product. I recently painted a customizable family tree which I’m very excited about!
  • Learn and explore. I want to continue painting acrylics, would like to try block printing again, and have signed up for a sewing class!

Personalized Family Tree watercolor painting personalized

I’ve been thinking of the book, “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion” by Elle Luna, and trying to avoid creating a list of things that I feel I should do and instead create a list of things I feel passionate about doing.

Read my post “My Creative Year in Review 2018”

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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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Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
I am so excited to share with you this interview with Yuko Miki, the Artist and Illustrator behind Honeyberry Studios. Back in 2014, shortly after starting my blog, I began following (and admiring) Yuko’s daily “Happiness is” illustrations. In 2015, Yuko shared online that she was quitting her job and pursuing her art full time. Since then I’ve seen snippets of her full time artist life on Instagram @honeyberrystudios, but I’m excited to hear more about Yuko’s artist journey.

What inspired you to do your “Happiness is” project?
At the time (spring of 2014), I was toying with the idea of becoming a working artist. And then I thought, if I wanted to be a working artist, I should be making art every day and enjoy the process. So that’s why I decided to start my 365 day daily art project. I’d also learned about Lisa Congdon (one of my heroes) and her daily art projects and was deeply inspired by it. I wanted to get over my fear of putting myself out there, too. It was sort of a shock therapy where I’d post my drawing (and not always perfect) every day, and eventually I cringed less about sharing my work on the internet.

As far as the topic goes, I wanted it to be something that’s relatively easy. I first thought about making art about food I eat every day, like a food journal, but knew I’d eat the same thing over and over 😀 So then I thought of happiness and what makes me happy every day. I’m not naturally a glass-half-full kind of a person, so being more mindful about happiness would be a good practice for me anyway and decided to make an art about it for 365 days.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Happiness Is Daily Project

How was your daily drawing received? Were you surprised by the reaction?
It was received well. It resonated with many people. My subject was accessible and relatable. A lot of people are also looking for ways to practice mindfulness and want more positivity in their life. I grew my social media following during my project as well.

I also got attention from Sakura of America during my project because I was using their drawing pen (Micron) a lot in my art and hash-tagging them. They eventually hired me to make drawing tutorial videos for their YouTube channel and I still work for them.

The full-circle moment also came when Lisa Congdon featured my project in her speech about sketchbook practice in Portland, OR in October 2014. I was so honored to be recognized by one of my personal heroes, especially because the project and my creative journey was inspired by her.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | I Love Seattle by Yuko Miki
What type of work did you do at the time?
I was working as an Executive Assistant and HR Manager at a local non-profit domestic violence organization at the time. I’d worked there for 14 years in several different positions, majority of it in direct client service programs.

Tell us a little bit about your background (in general) as well as your creative background.
I was born and raised in Himeji, Japan. It’s a small town and our home was surrounded by rice paddies and mountains. When I was growing up, I didn’t appreciate living in a rural part of the town very much. My family also grew a lot of our food, too (on top of their regular jobs), and I thought being a farmer was very uncool. But now I know how fortunate I was to grow up with nature and we were self sufficient in many of our staple foods.

I liked drawing as a kid but never did anything with that in my teenage to early adult years. I started doodling as a hobby in my mid-30s. I took some art classes but am mostly self-taught.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Cards
What made you make the decision to go full time as an artist?

I’d been working at the non-profit for over 14 years – though I had several different positions throughout the years, I was becoming too comfortable. I needed a change. I was also itching to do something more creative and positive. I’d had my first Etsy shop since 2011 but I wasn’t selling very much and wondered how far I could take my business if I’d worked on it full-time. So I took a week off to think and sat down with my husband, Dave. We looked at our finances and found his income alone could support us for the foreseeable future. With his blessing, I gave my notice on that following Monday.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Gift Wrap
Once you went “full time” did you start with everything – art fairs, teaching, etc. or were things slowly introduced?

The very first thing I did was I went on a solo retreat. Leaving work that I had for 14 years was a big transition for me and I needed to take some time to process that. I spent a couple of days alone in my friend’s studio on beautiful Whidbey Island and set my intentions for the next phase of my life. I brainstormed my values and how I wanted to run my business. I also mapped out the year as far as what I needed to work on and put rough schedule on my calendar.

I didn’t start with everything but didn’t have a single focus either. A lot of the advice for creatives out there was “focus on one thing and grow it before adding something else” But I didn’t know what I should focus on first! I was making products with block printing and illustration, doing some commission work here and there, and also offering one-on-one creative coaching.

Teaching came a little later after I realized I didn’t want to make block printing products any more – I got bored and burned out printing the same things over and over. So I focused on creating more products based on my illustrations because it was easier to scale. I started teaching block printing instead. I did some craft fairs in the beginning but not too much – it took me a while to figure out how to be successful at craft fairs – I did many, many very unsuccessful shows in the beginning 😀
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | block printing class

Your posts about art fairs always seems so positive – how have you found doing them?
I love them! It’s a lot of work, but I like how I can move a lot of my products at shows. I get the most sales from doing craft fairs – when you have a product- based business like I do, you need to get in front of as many people as possible. It’s such a simple truth, but it took me a couple of years to actually internalize that and start doing more shows. I also work alone from home most of the time, so it’s nice to meet customers in person and hear their complements all day long 😀 The creative community in Seattle area is very strong and supportive, too. I’ve made many maker friends through fairs and markets.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Spring Cards

What was a positive surprise to your full time artist journey?
I love working for myself. I did fine being an employee and working in a team, too, but being my own boss is SO nice. I love the freedom and the level of engagement I experience every day working towards my goal. I’m also a highly structured person, so it’s great not being interrupted by your co-workers all the time 😀

Negative surprise?
I don’t actually spend a lot of time making art. When people say how nice it is that I get to make art every day, I’m like “I make art maybe 20% of the time. 80% of the time is spent on marketing, responding to emails, packaging, shipping, keeping track of inventories, selling at markets, reaching out to retailers, etc.” It’s just part of being a solopreneur but it’s also an interesting dichotomy.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
What advice would you give others who are thinking about going full time as artists?

Don’t quit your day job until your creative business is making enough consistent income to replace your day job! Or you have other means to pay the bills (like have a big savings or a partner who can support you, like I did.) It can take years for your business to become consistently profitable, and you need to protect your passion – if you were taking on any creative opportunities that come your way just so you can pay the bills, you’ll be resentful and will eventually be burned out. Once you’re burnt out, that’s it. You’ll lose your passion and won’t be doing what you love or love what you do.

Also, don’t do something just because someone else is doing it and being successful. I have a friend who’s killing it with her original paintings. I was tempted to start making and selling original paintings as well, but it just didn’t appeal to me as much as other things I do. I also didn’t have time or energy for it. If I’d gone down that path, I would’ve spread my focus too much and slowed the growth of my business. Maybe eventually I want to do that, but I’m not gonna change my business model solely based on what’s working for other people.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself! It’s so easy to keep working 7 days a week when you have your own business. I was working non-stop when I first transitioned from my day job to a full-time business and started feeling burned out within two months. I started taking every 7th week off in October 2015 (inspired by seanwes at seanwes.com) and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Visit Yuko’s website where you can shop “happy art and stationery gifts” at honeyberrystudios.com. Follow her on Instagram @honeyberrystudios

Read my other interviews:
Interview with Charlie O’Shields creator of Doodlewash and founder World Watercolor Group
Interview with Crystal Moody of a Year of Creative Habits

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