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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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More Confidence with Acrylics on Canvas

More Confidence with Acrylics on Canvas | tips on painting seascapes
I’m back to painting with acrylics on canvas (instead of my usual watercolor). It was last May that I bought a stack of small canvases and painted seascapes on them – learning with each set. Since then, I’ve dabbled here and there with acrylics.

This time around, I feel more confident and freer. I was thinking about why that was, and I figured it out. When starting with a brand new canvas, I feel pressure about the final product. Since I’ve been reusing old canvases, it has felt like play. I feel free to learn and experiment. I’m not as worried about the final product or about making mistakes. And if I don’t like something, I’m diving back in to change it. In the painting below, the horizon was so high up the perspective felt weird and unnatural, so I lowered it.

Years ago in a drawing class I created a drawing of a bear that we loved. It was an awkward size and was expensive to have custom framed. After that I began mapping out the frame sizes of my drawings before even starting them! The pressure of creating frameable pieces paralyzed me. I was afraid to make a mark and ruin a drawing. When I realized what I had done to myself, I began approaching my drawings and paintings as play. It was so freeing. But it’s easy to feel free with paper. The weight of a canvas did the same thing to me!

I just went to the art store for new paint and brushes. Eventually I’d like to create a 2 panel painting for over the couch, but I didn’t buy the canvases yet. I’m going to continue playing with the canvases I have, until I feel ready.

Prints and original seascapes are available on my website shop.eileenmckenna.com Come visit 🙂

 

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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!
My Creative Collection a creative newsletter
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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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

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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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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.

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Organizing Watercolor Paint Colors and Tubes

Storage ideas watercolor tubes paint |
I paint with watercolor from tubes. Very little remains of my original set of Van Gogh tubes. I’ve since added individual tubes – of mostly Winsor & Newton and some (more economical Winsor & Newton) Cotman tubes. I also have my Holbein Gouache mixing set – of which I’ve had to replace the white several times. All the tubes I keep in an adjustable storage case I bought years ago.

For easy access, I keep my palette filled with paint. Today as I was painting, I thought “I need more light brown. Wait, what color is this light brown?” Between the burnt and raw siennas and various other browns, I had to do a little work and sampling of tubes to find the right paint. Recently I used the last of the green in the palette and when I refilled it, the green was totally different. A bit inconvenient when you are in the middle of a painting! The original green tube is long gone. I really need to keep better track of my colors!

I started this little sketch to fill in what the colors in the palette are. I’d like to do another one with room to paint swatches of each color. How do you keep track of your colors? How do you store your paint tubes?
Watercolor paint palette organizing and storing paint

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How to Design Invitations using downloadable art Eileen McKenna

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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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The First Few Creative Days of 2019

Coastal inspired art | watercolor seascape by Eileen McKenna
2019 is off to a good start! I’m making drawing and painting a priority and try to work in the mornings, even if it’s just for a little bit. It’s fun to sit down with no real thought as to where it will lead and let things unfold.

With painting holiday themed things throughout December, it’s been a while since I painted a seascape. Looking through my stack of unfinished projects, I found the start of a seascape and suddenly felt inspired to finish it. (Our annual New Year’s Day walk at the beach may have also inspired this. The waves were crazy!) Painting the foam was so much fun!

There are two time-lapse videos on Instagram if you want to see how I went from here:
Step one painting the ocean in watercolor

to here:  The secret is a lot of white gouache!
Painting the ocean in watercolor final

As I was looking through my supplies this week, my kneaded eraser was nowhere to be found, I had only one sheet of watercolor paper left, and my favorite sketchbook was running low! I didn’t paint today but I did head to Blick to stock up on these essentials. I usually paint using 9” x 12” or 12” x 12” watercolor paper, but felt inspired to also grab a larger pad of 12″ x 16″.

It’s funny – a few years ago my favorite size was 6” x 6” – so small! It was an accident that I went to the 12” x 12”. I ordered the wrong size, decided to give it a try, and have never looked back!


Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber ErasersCanson XL Mix Media PadsFluid Easy-Block Watercolor Paper Blocks

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the secret to painting watercolor seascapes | how to paint waves