Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Perfectly Imperfect Lines

Perfectly imperfect black lines - adding lines with a smooth black gel pen
I used to be afraid to use markers or ink pens. The black lines were so permanent compared to pencil lines I could easily erase and fix. I thought the lines had to be perfectly straight, circles had to be perfect curves. That’s not easy to do!

Even though I was afraid of ruining my watercolors, a few years ago I was inspired to start adding lines using a smooth black gel pen – a Uniball signo. My lines were wobbly, my circles egg shaped. I began to see that perfect lines were boring. Imperfect lines look hand drawn. Where perfect lines look almost computer generated, imperfect lines have a bit of style. I still wince occasionally when I start adding lines and they look a bit wonky, but I’ve learned to go with it and embrace the imperfection.

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Back to Daily Creative Habits

Back to daily creative habits. Shells in the sketchbook.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve done minimal drawing and painting. Periods like this seem to be a pattern for me. I think about doing creative work all the time, but I put everything before it – even binge watching shows on Netflix. It’s not creative block. I have tons of ideas. I just can’t seem to make myself pick up the sketchbook or sit down with my paints. And as the days go by it gets harder, and harder.

Experience has shown me that these periods can be avoided if I maintain the habit of drawing daily in my sketchbook. So today as I finally grabbed my sketchbook – I made the commitment to draw in it everyday. Other than making the time, I don’t put pressure on myself to make the results great. I know if I do the work, and play around, good things will come. I already feel happier after drawing these shells that I collected recently.

I first learned about the power of habits when I read Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.” Back then I had also fallen out of the habit of being creative. I learned from the book that it was harder for me to be creative because I had to make the conscious decision to do it. It was an internal willpower battle every time and was no longer something I did without thinking.

Creative Habits and Gretchen Rubin's book "Better than Before"

Rubin perfectly states it here,
“When we change our habits, we change our lives. We can use decision making to choose the habits we want to form, we can use willpower to get the habit started; then – and this is the best part – we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. We take our hands off the wheel of decision, our foot off the gas of willpower, and rely on the cruise control of habits.”

Read Better than Before.

This post contains affiliate links to products 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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Holly

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Day 11 of the Christmas countdown. Working on the lights and darks. Was fortunate enough to have a holly bush around the corner to take reference photos of. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

See the posts of everyone following along: Marion, Teri, Carol


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Creative prompts Advent Calendar

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I’ve been on a roll the last 2 months creating everyday. In October I participated in InkTober, drawing in ink in my sketchbook. By the end of October I was adding watercolor to my sketches. This month I followed the World Watercolor Group’s November prompts which were all food. I was so happy to be back working in watercolor. Other than fruit, I don’t really paint food so it was out of my comfort zone. I appreciated the push because other than my pathetic brussel sprouts, I was really happy with many of my paintings.

For December, I’m getting into the spirit of Christmas! I created this prompt list for myself, but welcome anyone who wants to join in! All mediums are welcome! Let me know if you do and tag your work #adventmcr so I can see. I’m on Instagram too @eileenmckenna.

I’ve done holiday countdowns before – Valentine’s Day (twice) and St. Patrick’s Day. The challenge with those was always what to paint. This time I’ve created a prompt list to follow. I’m a little nervous about committing to creating everyday in the busiest month of the year, but I know overall I won’t regret it. In both October and November challenging myself has led to some pieces I’m really proud of.

My watercolor cherry pie

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A fall ink illustration

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To add ink or not to add ink? That is the question.

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I have to admit, I sometimes don’t know the right answer to this question. Most often my style is to work in watercolor and add details in ink. But sometimes I hesitate to add the ink details.

When I think about, the occasions where I question adding ink, are when I’ve added a lot of details in watercolor – a lot of layers. Sometimes the decision is easy. The painting looks finished, like these donuts. Other times I’m not sure – like the cupcake above.

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Adding the ink is definitely a different look. Just watercolor is softer and sometimes more realistic looking. Adding ink looks more illustrated, more whimsical. Like this cup of cappuccino and this ice cream sundae.

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One thing is for sure – once a line of ink is added, there’s no turning back. I often think of scanning and printing a painting and adding ink details to the printout. This way I can make sure I like it before touching the original painting.


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InkTober recap

Participating in InkTober was a great motivator. I got into the habit of working daily which was great. I didn’t follow the prompts but worked on what inspired me. I held off on adding Watercolor to my ink sketches, but towards the end I gave in. And purely by chance I got to meet the creator of InkTober Jake Parker!

I felt so good about doing all 31 days that this month I’m following the World Watercolor Group’s prompts. I’m glad to be back using Watercolor. Of course I’m still adding in some ink too!

Here are my favorites:

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The story behind a painting

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I’m participating in World Watercolor Group’s November daily painting prompts. I worked in my sketchbook all through October for InkTober, so I thought the prompts would motivate me to continue.

As I posted my “croissants” on November 1st, I thought about Charlie O’Shields’ (the founder of World Watercolor Group) posts. Charlie seems to always tell a story about his “doodlewashes.” They often make me laugh and make me think of stories of my own. Here’s what I posted on the 1st:

“In the spirit of Charlie the founder of the World Watercolor Group, here’s a story to go with my croissant. In my early 20s my friend and I were backpacking in Europe and went to a small town in the south of France. At an outdoor cafe I ordered a croissant. With my New York accent it sounded more like “crescent.” The waiter insisted we pronounce it correctly before he would bring them. If I remember correctly croissant is pronounce more like qua-sant. It wasn’t a bad lesson for me. At the time I honestly thought everyone must speak some English. By the way the waiter in Czechoslovakia didn’t speak any. We had no idea what we were ordering when we pointed to the menu. Imagine how happy we were when we found the McDonalds!”

Today as I was catching up on yesterday’s painting, I was sneaking some of my son’s Halloween candy. It was totally ironic that today’s prompt is sugar candies.

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I recently interviewed Charlie O’Shields. Check it our here.

If you want to particpate in the World Watercolor Group’s November prompts you can see them here. Be sure to tell the story. 😉


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Happy Halloween!

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I remember when the kids were so little, I worried they would wobble off the porch when someone opened the door for them. After 15 years of trick or treating, this was the first year that even the youngest didn’t need me to tag along. Not only did I stay home, but it was my oldest who gave out the candy.

Today is the final day of InkTober. I’m very proud of my consecutive 31 days of drawing in ink. The challenge really helped motivate me. All 31 drawings are posted on my Instagram @eileenmckenna.


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What are you going to be for Halloween?

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This sketch (for InkTober) was done using as reference a photo of my kids from several Halloweens ago. When I was a kid I loved dressing up. “What are you going to be?” we asked each other.

Looking back I loved the creativity of a handmade costume or hand “pieced” together costume – I didn’t sew. We didn’t have catalogs of costumes arriving at our door like there are now. One year I was a spider. I stuffed black tights and hung them from my waist as my spider legs. A few years ago I saw something similar for sale in a catalog!

I still dress up and piece together a costume from this or that. Last year I was Cruella Deville. The year before that I was Little Red Riding Hood. I still don’t know what I’ll be this year. So…what are you going to be?!

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You never really know how a drawing will turn out

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As you put your pen to the page to make that first mark, you never really know how things will turn out. At least I don’t know. Sure I have a vision in my head, but that doesn’t mean it will turn out that way.

Personally, I don’t really plan much, I get an idea and just dive in and see what happens. If I’m drawing in ink – which I’m doing a lot this month for InkTober – I rarely do a pencil sketch first. Unless the drawing involves a face or body, then I will do some planning in pencil to get things looking “right.”

I was really pressed for time with this “little guy in the leaves.” The inspiration photo was one of my youngest son probably 8 or 9 years ago. I used pencil first to plan things a little – because you can’t erase ink. I was pleasantly surprised with the results in such a short time.

This drawing experience was the opposite of yesterday’s! I was drawing in the car during my older son’s practice. I first focused in on a nearby car. Within a minute or two of drawing the car, it drove off! Without the car there I had a hard time finishing that part. I drew the car in front of me, but my pen started running out, probably because I was drawing upright on the steering wheel. I ended up focusing on drawing the chain link fence. Like I said, you never know what the result will be when you start drawing!

See all my InkTober blog posts: