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I’m behind but it’s okay #the100dayproject

work in progress Jones Beach State park map
I’m on day 67 of #the100dayproject, while most people are on day 75. Thankfully every email they send says, “Wherever you are is a great place to be. Truly. You’re on your own path and your own timeline.” This is great, because otherwise being “behind” might cause me to give up. I’m more than halfway there, I can’t give up!

Even if the 100 days doesn’t end the way I wanted or expected, the process and the self discovery is definitely worth it. I’ve always enjoyed working within a theme and working on illustrations for beach locations is right up my alley. But, what isn’t up my alley, is painting buildings – all those straight lines! The other aspect of my map making project that I struggle with is the computer time. I love painting in my sketchbook, but once I’m on the computer, placing the illustrations on my map background, then it feels like work.

I thought I’d have more completed maps by now. Instead, I have too many illustrations that I have a hard time fitting on a map. 😂

I have a lot of respect for those that create custom illustrated maps as their business. For now I’m still too intimidated to add custom maps to my Etsy shop. Truth be told, I’m probably more intimidated by the “commission” idea than the illustrated map idea. Maybe the next 33 days (or more) will boost my confidence.

Click here to visit my Etsy shop where I sell digital prints, clipart, invitations, 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 creative newsletter featuring artists crafts tutorials books shows and more | creative inspiration
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Easy Starfish Watercolor Art Lesson for Beginners PDF Tutorial

Easy Starfish Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn Watercolor Techniques
The “Easy Starfish Watercolor Painting for Beginners Step by Step Printable PDF Project Instructions” is a fun project to help you learn watercolor. This two page pdf contains:

  • Supply list
  • Step by step instructions with color photos
  • Techniques
    • Taping your paper
    • Wet on Wet painting
    • Bleed and blend background
    • Different ways to apply paint
    • Building up the layers
    • How to soften hard edges
  • Bonus starfish template for tracing

Visit my Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt to download the Easy Starfish Watercolor project pdf.

New to watercolor? The perfect companion to the Easy Watercolor Starfish Project is the “What you need to know to get started with watercolor” pdf. It’s the perfect introduction to watercolor. And you can download it for FREE by signing up for my newsletter. Sign up for the “My Creative Collection” Newsletter by clicking here!
The newsletter is a curated collection of all the things inspiring me and comes out every two weeks. Just in time for your Saturday morning coffee, you’ll get to read about other artists, different art mediums, places, all things creative! The newsletter contains links to books I’ve read, shows I’m loving, tutorials, interesting videos, and more! Sign up now for a free download off “What you need to know to get started with watercolor.”

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


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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

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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What you need to know to get started with watercolor

Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction
Watercolor is such a fun medium to work in. I love it! I’ve created a two page pdf to give you the basics.
It’s “What you need to know to get started with watercolor” and contains:

  • What supplies you’ll need
  • How to set up
  • How to use watercolor:
    • Shading
    • Wet vs. Dry
    • Painting Layers
  • Simple exercises to get you started

It’s the perfect introduction to watercolor. You can download it for FREE by signing up for my newsletter. The newsletter is a curated collection of all the things inspiring me and comes out every two weeks. Just in time for your Saturday morning coffee, you’ll get to read about other artists, different art mediums, places, all things creative! The newsletter contains links to books I’ve read, shows I’m loving, tutorials, interesting videos, and more! Sign up now for a free download off “What you need to know to get started with watercolor.”

Sign up for the “My Creative Collection” Newsletter by clicking here!

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


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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

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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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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