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Kick up your Creativity with Color!

Kick up your Creativity with Color! Steps to Creativity for everyone
Want to be creative but don’t know how/where to start? If you haven’t already, click here and start with these 3 steps! If you have started with the beginning 3 steps, then you’ve accomplished a lot!

  • Your eyes are open to inspiration. You take photos and make lists of things to sketch.
  • You’ve been sketching regularly in pencil. Hopefully noticing the difference between the softer B and the harder H pencils. You have a regular creative practice!
  • You don’t just draw something once – you practice drawing it several times. Take a moment to look through your sketches and see overall how much you’ve progressed!

Well done. When you are ready, move on to these steps – that are all about Color!

1. Colored Pencil or Watercolor? – The next logical step may seem to be colored pencils, but if you are itching to paint, and want something more fluid, I recommend watercolor. Here is where YOU decide what path your creative journey takes. This is about finding what YOU like. If you need recommendations on either see below.

2. Start simply with your sketchbook. Continue with your creative habit of sketching regularly – but now use color! You can use regular pencil first and then add color – or start directly with color. I recommend working in your sketchbook because it’s a no pressure, play zone, where you can practice and learn. Note: if you decide to use watercolor – please look at my sketchbook recommendation below, so your pages don’t buckle.

3. Beyond the sketch. After practicing in your sketchbook, it’s time for a drawing or painting that you spend more time on. After all your loose, quick sketches, you are ready. It can be a page in your sketchbook, or perhaps use a nicer paper – see recommendations below based on your choice of medium. Before you start, plan it out. Pick a reference photo, study it, and lightly plan it out in pencil.

When you are working on a drawing or painting for a longer period of time, stepping away and coming back to it with fresh eyes, helps a lot. I sometimes work with my reference photo and paper upside down – to check that things look right. Don’t expect immediate results. Don’t give up because it isn’t looking like you envision. I used to be a “quitter,” but I learned that it takes time, and the results often surprise me if I stick with it, and work through “mistakes.” In the end, any “weak” areas – are just things to work on for the next time. It’s a learning process. Good Luck!

My recommendations:

Colored PencilsPrismacolor Colored Pencils
Strathmore Bristol Vellum Pad – Smooth thicker, bright white paper – great for a colored pencil project.

Watercolor Tube Sets – I love Windsor & Newton paints and started with their affordable Cotman “student grade”
Canson Multimedia Sketchbook – I love this versatile, bright white, thicker sketchbook paper
Fluid Watercolor Paper – great for a watercolor painting. Tape down the sides to a larger piece of cardboard with painter’s tape to prevent buckling!

Colored Pastels are another option. I never really got the hang of them, but my daughter loves them. She uses the Prismacolor sticks.

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

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

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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Teaching kids to paint watercolor seascapes

Watercolor seascape seashell wall hanging project

Last week I had the opportunity to teach kids ranging from 1st grade through high school how to paint the ocean with watercolor. The seascape painting was part of a 12” seashell wall hanging project to be completed over three days. I was excited but nervous.

Even though the kids were somewhat divided up by age – the age range was the biggest challenge. The kids were so sweet and I really enjoyed getting to know them over the course of 3 days. And their paintings (and projects) turned out amazing.

I had the whole project mapped out, which was helpful. Finishing early worked out fine, because I used the extra time to allow them to play and experiment with watercolor. Finding a few fun projects on Pinterest helped. What I would improve on next time would be setting up the project to allow them to work more independently – if possible.

I hope the kids had fun and have a new appreciation for watercolor.


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Watercolor and my sketchbook

Mini watercolor seascapes
After a busy time, it feels good to be playing around with watercolor again. When I haven’t painted in a while it feels easier to dip my toe in by working in my sketchbook. At first I don’t know what to paint so I just doodle and play around. Usually inspiration strikes. I started painting a series of mini seascapes. I’m practicing for a workshop I’m teaching next week.

July is World Watercolor Month – learn more here.


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How to Paint the Ocean with Watercolor and Gouache

How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips
The beach has been the backdrop of my life. It’s where I was born and raised, played, worked as a lifeguard…and now enjoy summer days with my family. I spend a lot of time learning and practicing capturing the ocean in watercolor.

How to Paint the Ocean with Watercolor and Gouache:

1. Reference photo. I always work from a photo. I have the luxury of taking my own ocean photos, but even if you can’t, there are plenty of photos online to use as reference.

2. Tape your paper to a board. My favorite paper is Fluid watercolor blocks. I use the cardboard back of an old, larger pad and painter’s tape.

4. Tape your horizon line. To ensure a straight line I tape it. I eyeball how much from the photo and measure and mark with pencil both sides of my paper so it’s straight. Put the tape above your marks.
Tape your horizon for a straight edge when painting the ocean in watercolor

5. Mix your colors. I use ultramarine, cadmium red, and cadmium yellow and mix them to achieve the different shades of the ocean. Since the ocean is many different colors I find this to be the best way to achieve the natural looking colors I’m looking for. The color of the distant ocean is usually bluer, the waves that are closer are greener, and underneath the foam is brown water. Very wet sand reflects the sky and has a bluish tint. As the sand gets further from the ocean (and is drier), it is lighter.

6. The first layer. I paint with a brush, wet with paint, onto dry paper. I start at the horizon with a bluer mix for the distant ocean and switch to a greener mix for closer waves. For the underneath of the foam of the crashing wave I add a little grey (made from my mix of blue, red, and yellow) and light greens. In front of the wave, I use a browner blue mix and closer to the shore, where the foam is, I use a brown mix. The sand closes to the water’s edge is darkest. From there I lighten the brown (make more translucent) with water for the drier sand. I cover most of the paper.
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | painting tips
Let your first layer dry. The first layer often looks like a blob – don’t be discouraged! Watercolor is all about building up the layers and nothing is really permanent. You can manipulate and even erase the paint (by touching it with a wet brush and blotting the brush on a paper towel).

7. Adjusting the first layer – If your first layer is a bit washed out, add more paint to darken it. Use your photo as your guide. You can use this time to add darks and lights in the distant ocean, as well as within the wave in the foreground. If your first layer is very dark, you can use a wet brush to pull up some of the paint, to create highlights.

8. The sky. When your ocean at the horizon is completely dry, gently peel up the tape. The simplest way to paint the sky is to start at the top of the painting (I always turn it clockwise to paint the sky). Paint with a brush saturated with cerulean blue at the top of the painting (on your right if you turned it). Test the saturation of cerulean blue on a scrap of paper before touching your painting. Paint a few thick strokes, then dip your brush into your water, and paint another few strokes touching your first one. Paint to horizon line, dipping in water again if needed. You are watering down the paint as you get closer to the horizon line. The sky is lighter at the horizon and more saturated as you look up from there. Read this post if you want to explore painting more complex skies.
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | painting tips

9. The foam – White gouache. Add the foam in the break of the wave and closer to the shore with white gouache. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor so you can paint with white over other colors. Use a flat brush and create overlapping horizontal zig zag lines for the foam close to shore. The flat brushes I use are: 1/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″. In the breaking wave use different techniques – with a round brush paint circular strokes, and paint small dots or specks (stippling).
Painting with gouache
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | painting tips

Let this layer dry.

10+. Adding details. Compare your painting to your reference photo. They do not need to be exact! What areas need more detail, highlights, shadows, or color changes, etc.? This can involve several additional layers, with drying time in between, or just one or two. It all depends on the look you are going for – how loose, how realistic.

Details I add:

In the foam: I usually add more shadows (with dark brown or grey) within the foam, and blend it with the gouache, and more white gouache zig zag strokes on top of that.

In the crashing wave: There is a lot of depth in a crashing wave. I usually add shadows on top of the gouache and then add more gouache on top of that. Add little white dots for spray. I sometimes pat my finger on top of these so they look more natural. Depending on my reference photo, I may need to paint on the barrel of the wave (with a mostly dry brush). I usually add darker areas in the water in front of the breaking wave.

Distant ocean: If needed – dark and light areas for forming waves, and moving water.

Dark sand at the ocean’s edge: Right next to the edge of the water add a dark line of brown. Then go back with a wet brush and touch the line to “bleed” the brown.
Painting the ocean's edge
Add more paint to the wet area if necessary to create more wet sand.
Painting the ocean's edge

Calling it done! I usually work on a painting on and off for about a week. When I think it is close to being done, I prop it up and look at it from across the room. I may add a few more details. Sometimes it’s better to call it done, because tweaking it, may affect other areas. I’ll remember the “challenges” with a painting and try to overcome them in the next painting. I’d love to see YOUR seascape! Email me at lidesigner@yahoo.com.
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | painting tips

View my collection of watercolor seascapes here. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

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

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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Capturing the Bluest Blue Sky

Painting the sky in watercolor

I’m happy with the results of the sky above, which is ironic because I thought this painting was a lost cause. This is what it looked like:
Blue skies in watercolor

In an effort to capture the saturated blue of the sky (with a hint of purple), I had previously used several colors (including cadmium red and ultramarine) and the above was the result. It was too purple, and too dark. It looked like a cloudy day.

I didn’t give up. I removed a lot of the paint  by wetting it and soaking it up with the brush, and also blotting with a paper towel. Then I added cerulean blue on top. It was this layering of the colors that helped achieve the blue I was looking for. I don’t think the cerulean alone would have worked as well.

I also painted clouds and highlights with white gouache. I’ve been using white gouache for the foam of the ocean for a while but only recently have I been using it in my skies. I’m loving the results. Just shows that you gotta push through the ugly stage!

Read more on painting watercolor skies here:
Painting the sky in Watercolor #watercolor #skies #sky 

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

View my collection of watercolor seascapes at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

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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Painting my favorite candy – Dots

Painting candy packaging - Dots #candy #illustration #food
Uppercase Magazine – a favorite creative magazine of mine – recently had a call for submissions of artwork of your favorite packaging. I of course picked one of my favorite childhood candies, DOTS, to paint. (And Yes, I ate all the DOTS.)

One of my goals this year is to get my artwork “out there.” I’m not necessarily searching for places to submit my work, but staying alert for opportunities, in places that I’m a fan of.

So far:

I view each submission as a victory, regardless if I’m accepted or not. It is an accomplishment to follow through and submit, and in many cases create new art for the submission. And just like the old lottery slogan, “You’ve got to be in it, to win it.”

 

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!

This 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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No Expectations, No Pressure

Practicing watercolor portraits
I’ve learned that creating regularly makes me happy and starting the day by painting sets a great tone for the day. Sometimes I need to create without worrying about the outcome. It’s not always relaxing to sit and create something that you plan on posting or selling.
Practicing watercolor portraits
Sometimes I pick something that’s a challenge for me, like painting the shadows and skin tones of a face in watercolor, and I just sit and paint and practice. I do this almost unintentionally to relieve myself of any pressure to perform. When there is no expectations there is no pressure.

Why do my self portraits look so much like my dad? 😂

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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Two paintings of the same subject

I often start and work on more than one painting at a time. It’s nice to have another painting to grab when you’ve reached the point with a painting where the newest layer needs to dry. Sometimes I work on more than one painting from the same reference photo. I’m not trying to create duplicate paintings. I’m giving myself the opportunity to try different things, to learn, to explore.

Two paintings of the same subject

The paintings above are from the same photo. In one there is a seagull. The crashing part of the wave is slightly different. Even the color of the sky, the detail of the sand. For me it’s not about which one is better. It’s more about what I learned during the painting process.

See my collection of seascape paintings at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

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


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Add a notebook to your painting setup

Eileen McKenna watercolor artist
I find it useful to have a small notebook opened next to my palette. This way if I have a thought for a blog post, want to remember which blue I’m using, or whatever, I can just scribble a note to myself. I also write down the date and time of the photo I’m painting from. This way it’s easier to find on my iPad when I sit down again to paint. This saves me a lot of time.

Curious what my favorite art supplies are? Read
 

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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Watercolor Skies

Blue Wave #11 by Eileen McKenna https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/

Blue Wave #11

Prints available at shop.eileenmckenna.com.

When I first started painting my seascapes, the skies were simple blue gradations, with the lightest blue closest to the horizon. With each seascape painting I started playing a bit more with the sky – trying to achieve the perfect sky blue, adding other colors as a glow on the horizon, adding a bit of texture for clouds.

Then I did two painting with gray cloudy skies, which were a lot of fun.

Surf Camp 1 by Eileen McKenna https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/

Surf Camp 1

Surf Camp 2 by Eileen McKenna https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/

Surf Camp 2

Now more often than not, I’m adding colors and texture to my skies, like in these recent paintings.

Watercolor Seascape "November 1" by Eileen McKenna

November 1 by Eileen McKenna

Watercolor Seascape "November 2" by Eileen McKenna

November 2 by Eileen McKenna

I’m still striving to find the perfect mix of blue for “sky blue,” especially to capture those bright blue sky, summer days.

I even searched online for “best watercolor blue for the sky” and found a great post on Scratchmade Journal by Tonya, who experimented and discovered,
“almost any combination of blues can be used to create a realistic sky in watercolor, but no single blue worked well alone.”

See all my seascape paintings and compare the skies at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14.”

 

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