Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Online Video Lesson: Easy Birch Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners


Two years ago I created a blog post called “Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners.” The post outlined the steps I took to create this birch forest painting.Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners

I created this image to go with it and pinned it on Pinterest.
Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners

The post became my most viewed post. Currently it has over 47,000 views!

For a long time I aspired to create a watercolor video lesson. It is much easier to learn by watching something then to read about it. But I struggled with the exact format I would use to create the video lesson. Finally I came up with a format and figured my most popular post was the obvious lesson to start with.

Instead of a long continuous video where I explain what I’m doing as I paint the project, my format is as follows. For almost every step, you can listen as I explain the step. You can also read the slide to follow along. Then you can watch a video demonstration of that step. My hope is that this format will better communicate the nuance of each step.

I’m really excited to see how effective the video lesson is. The birch forest painting project is such a great project for beginners. You learn so much about watercolor while painting the project. And it yields a great final painting at any level.

Easy Birch Forest Watercolor Online Video Painting Lesson – Learn Watercolor with this simple project!

  • Learn several watercolor techniques
  • 10 step, easy to follow 17 minute video lesson
  • Listen and/or read the easy to follow instructions, watch a video demonstrations of each step
  • Great for watercolor beginners

Click here to purchase access to the Birch Forest Online Video Lesson. 

Watercolor techniques used:

  • Masking areas with tape
  • Wet on wet painting
  • Dry on dry
  • Using salt
  • Softening lines with water
  • Adding details in ink

Click here to purchase access to the Birch Forest Online Video Lesson. 

Would you like to: Be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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

Watercolor travel palette | regular creativity
It’s important to be creative on a regular basis. It’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the start of the school year. There is more of a routine, which helps me stick to regular creativity. Once the kids leave for school, I sit and play in my sketchbook, work on a painting in progress, or whatever strikes me. It’s a no pressure time.

Lately I’ve been carving out time for creativity, even on our vacation –  a few minutes in the hotel while we get ready, or now a morning on the back deck of the condo. The water and pine trees out back is such a contrast to the beach, which is a short walk from the front door. It’s fun to use different colors than I use with seascape painting. My Koi watercolor travel palette is serving me well. The paints are very saturated. I can mix them to get the desired colors.

I was also inspired by the ironwork while we were in Charleston.
Secret garden watercolor illustration Ironwork door watercolor illustration

Looking to add regular creativity to your life? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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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Avoidance

Painting figures in watercolor
It’s ironic that the project that started with such excitement and enthusiasm, is the same project that had me avoiding my paints last week. Every time I walked by my painting table and saw the work in progress I thought, “ugh.” I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t being creative, when I realized this project was the issue.

Watercolor
It wasn’t going well and I wasn’t sure how to fix it. The sky wasn’t coming out the way I wanted and efforts to “fix” it made it worse. I’ve been playing with painting skin tones, and was struggling with adding shadows. What to do?

Practicing figures in watercolor
I made myself sit down and practice skin tones and shadows. I painted the same man from a reference photo over and over. The first versions were horrible, but I began making progress.

The next day, I put the project to the side and painted shells in my sketchbook. Something simple, no pressure, just to play. It felt good. I’m glad I recognized that this painting was holding me back. I like to push myself to practice new things, but learning new things takes time and can be frustrating. I try to finish any painting I start, but sometimes you need to take a break, and come back to it later, or not. For me the important thing is getting back to creating!

I share creative tips and inspiration in my weekly newsletter. Sign up now and get the following freebies:

  • Watercolor Quick Start Guide – everything you need to know to get started in watercolor
  • 50 ideas on what to draw or paint

Sign up for the newsletter here.

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


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Creative Excitement

Creative excitement the start of a new watercolor painting | watercolor for beginners
This is the best feeling. It’s creative excitement. I’ve spent a little bit of time organizing my supplies, and now I’m sitting in front of a new creative project – a watercolor painting. I’ve done some prep work – I have my reference photo picked out, I’ve taped down my watercolor paper, I’ve measured and taped the horizon line, and I have a plan – I’m going to start with the figures.

There is so much hope and excitement at the beginning of a project. Sometimes a little nervousness too. I’m working larger than I normally do, and adding figures is fairly new too. I think it’s good to push ourselves, to expand our capabilities.

Later will come some struggle. It’s expected and if it was easy, it would be boring. I used to give up when a project got hard, but I’ve learned to push through – it’s extremely satisfying. I may not overcome the struggles perfectly but there’s always a lesson learned for next time.

New to watercolor? I have a pdf Quick Start Guide that will help get you started. Sign up for my newsletter and get the “What you need to know to get started with watercolor” pdf for FREE! Sign up here.
Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction

These fun and easy pdf tutorials, where you learn watercolor and create a beautiful painting at the same time are available for download in my Etsy shop.
Easy Starfish Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn Watercolor Techniques  Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips

 


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Adding Watercolor Figures

Watercolor sketch boy filling bucket by the oceanOcean lifeguards going for a dip Watercolor SketchGrandpa and little girl holding hands by the ocean watercolor painting
It’s World Watercolor Month and I’ve been working outside of my comfort zone by adding people to my watercolor sketches. I’ve been experimenting with first sketching in pencil, and also with going straight to paint – painting the shape of the body and then adding the clothes. It’s great practice for me, trying to capture the figures, and working on the highlights and shadows on different skin tones.
Watercolor sketch figures by the shore by Eileen McKennaWatercolor sketch figures walking along the shore by Eileen McKennaWatercolor sketch figure walking along the shore by Eileen McKenna

New to watercolor? I have a pdf Quick Start Guide that will help get you started. Sign up for my newsletter and get the ““What you need to know to get started with watercolor” pdf for FREE! Sign up here.
Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction

These fun and easy pdf tutorials, where you learn watercolor and create a beautiful painting at the same time are available for download in my Etsy shop.
Easy Starfish Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn Watercolor Techniques  Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips

 


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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
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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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
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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What you need to know to get started with watercolor

Would you like to: Be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing?
Learn about my new ebook Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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

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