My Creative Resolution – Watercolor, Illustration, Print Pattern Design


Painting the Ocean with White Gouache

Painting the ocean with white gouache #painting #gouache #ocean #waves

As I wrote about in my last post, I began painting the ocean in January. As is customary with watercolor, I was leaving the white of the paper bare for the white areas of my painting or I would remove paint with a damp brush or blot with a towel. This preplanning of what areas should be white at the start of the painting was proving difficult for me. And the white paper seemed too flat for the foam areas of the ocean.

So one day I opened up the white gouache…and everything changed for me. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor. You can paint over other colors even with white.

Compare the foam areas here:

To the foam here:
Watercolor beach landscape by Eileen McKenna

Eureka! I can add an underlying area of dark water, then add the white gouache on top. I can use a wet brush and blend the white with darker areas to soften it. I can add shadows on top of the white gouache and then add more gouache on that. I can “build up the layers” – which is the description of watercolor painting that always runs through my head while I work. It’s probably something my watercolor teacher once said.

A favorite foam painting – Surf Camp #1
 "A Cloudy Day at Surf Camp"

Lots of white gouache work here:
Crashing Wave by Eileen McKenna
See more of my seascape paintings here.

The small box of gouache paints I have contains cyan, magenta, yellow, white, and black. It is considered a “mixing box” – from it you can mix any colors. I think I bought it because I heard about gouache and wanted to try it. But it remained mostly unused until this year. The white is called Primary White. Since I’ve been using the white quite often it is running out. When I went to order a new tube of white – several different whites gouaches came up online – Zinc, Permanent, etc. I wondered, “What was the difference?” The comments on this online page shed a little bit of light, but mostly made me think – stick with what works. Primary white is considered good for mixing, which considering the box it came in makes sense. I don’t mix it much before using it, but I do blend it with other colors on the page as I paint. Let me know if you try painting the ocean with white gouache.

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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 Take a peek! The perfect gift for beach lovers.

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Stop, don’t ruin it! There is always the next painting.

Watercolor painting by Eileen McKenna
Last week I was finishing up a painting and kept noticing what I’ll call weaknesses – areas I wanted to better capture. In an effort to improve the painting I kept tweaking it. In the end I overworked it and should have left it the way it was.

I’m learning that as you paint, especially the same subject, you find new areas that you want to improve on. At first, when I started focusing on painting the ocean, my goal was to capture the water – the waves, the shadows, the movement. As I got better at that, I focused on making the foam look more realistic. Then it was adding more interest to the sky. Not just painting a blue sky, but clouds, and light from one direction. I even did two paintings that the clouds are almost the focal point. Now my goal is to capture the way the light hits the water.

This sliding scale means that with each painting I may achieve a previous goal, but a new one is likely to reveal itself. With the last painting I should have quit while I was ahead. With this painting, I stopped myself. I did accomplish more than the last, and there is always the next painting.

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 Take a look!


Tips and tools that prove invaluable

Watercolor beach painting
When I think about the progress I’ve made in the past two months, there are a few things that standout out to me. First watching videos of other artists painting waves gave me some great tips (which I wrote about here.)

Second, one of the artists was using a flat brush so I bought a couple to try. The smaller flat brush has become invaluable to me.

Lastly, when I started using white gouache for the foam of the waves it was a turning point.

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 Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints

14 tips on painting waves in watercolor
 Process for Painting the Beach in Watercolor


Learning by painting every day

I’m still amazed that painting every day is such a learning process. Some days of course aren’t great and/or they don’t yield great results, but other days I try things and learn so much, make so much progress – regardless of what the final result is. I guess when you create every day, you’re picking up where you left off, it’s a continuous thing. If I have a thought to try a different color for the skin or leave more white paper or whatever, I remember it the next day. When you paint only here and there – you’re practically starting over every time, instead of building on the previous day.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been very mindful of trying to capture highlights and shadows. And since I started working in the beach theme I’ve been thinking a lot about skin tones and the shadows on the skin. I was very happy with the results of the skin of the little girl. I mixed yellow ochre and permanent rose and then mixed in white gouache. The white gouache adds a creaminess that I like. For the shadows of the skin tone I mixed in a little franch ultramarine. When I can, I add the compliment of a color to achieve the shadow instead of black. I was happy with the results. 😀




Day 14 of the Christmas countdown. Here in NY the forecast is for a couple of bitter cold days. I would much prefer some snow! I’ve been using my gouache paints to create the night sky and the snow. It’s thicker than watercolor. See yesterday’s sky here.

Marion painted an adorable snow scene here. Check out Teri’s snowy scene on Instagram.

Draw/paint along with us. Tag adventmcr when posting.




Wreath with a polar bear


…or is it a polar bear with a wreath? 😂 Day 2 Christmas countdown.

Here is the creative prompt list if you’d like to join in. All mediums are welcome! Use hashtag #adventmcr when posting.


Marion is following along – see her day 2 drawing here.


Painting potatoes and donuts


Today’s painting prompt is potatoes. My parents’ parents were born in Ireland, so my mom made a lot of potatoes when I was growing up. I hated them, but I think the only food I liked were sugar cereal and candy so that isn’t saying much. I used to hide my food at dinner to make it seem like I ate. One time I pretended to drink my milk but actually was spitting my mashed potatoes into the milk. I put my unfinished milk glass in the refrigerator. Later my mom made tea and went to pour a little of my milk into her cup, but out plopped my mashed potatoes. I have come to like potatoes but rarely make mashed. Most holidays I ask my mom to bring hers.

Yesterday’s prompt was donuts. I like them much better! 😄



Starting the year off right with a painting.

It felt so good, to set up yesterday – take my paints out, tape down the paper, fill the water – just go through the process. I’ve missed it. I’ve painted only sporadically during the holiday season. Setting up is kind of a calming.

I had no idea what I wanted to paint, I just knew I wanted to get back into it. Penguins popped into my head, and orange sunset skies. I looked online for some reference photos and found a great one tagged #penguinlove. I wish I could find the photographer of the inspiration photo. It’s so awesome, I can’t really take credit for the painting. I usually try to take my own reference photos, but there aren’t any penguins here in NY!

How’s your year starting out? Have you starting on your resolution? 🙂


Painting Winter with Gouache

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reaching for the gouache paints. It started somewhat unintentionally when I decided to paint a nighttime snowy sky. At first I thought, I thought I had to keep the snow areas white (paper), so I was leaving white circles as I painted the black sky. Which was tedious! I was so happy when I started to flick white gouache paint onto the black and it was much more opaque than I was expecting.

Flicking paint is one of my favorite things. 🙂

After that, I continued with this dark snowy sky in several of my paintings.houses

I started playing with gouache paints back in June. See the June posting, and learn more about gouache paints here.