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Birthday Books

books for creatives | art book creative book watercolor painting book
I picked out these creative books for my birthday and they are proving to be great sources of inspiration!

Danielle Krysa’s book “A Big Important Art Book: Now with Women!” I love how the book is divided into art themes and features living artists (so Danielle could ask them lots of questions), as well as deceased artists, and projects for the reader too. Favorite quote from the introduction, “I was quite sure there were more than three women who had ever made art.” 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.

Austin Kleon’s Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. I found myself nodding along with Austin’s creative advice, like carve out a creative space and/or time. Yup I have that. But there are other tips that made me think, “Wow I never thought about that.” I just finished it and am planning on reading it again. We all need the push to “Keep Going.” I also loved Austin’s other books: Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share your Creativity and get Discovered and Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.

Shari Blaukopf’s “Working with Color: Techniques for Using Media on the Go.” I usually shy away from watercolor instructional books because they seem to say the same thing and are focused on the beginner. Shari’s book is more like a collection of her watercolor secrets. And I’ve wondered what her secrets were, since beginning to follow her blog “The Sketchbook” and admiring her work, back when I started blogging. Her ability to paint the colors and shades of snow has always amazed me. Her book has already motivated me to paint on the road – read about my travels and map making here.

Click to order on Amazon:

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Unique Gift Ideas for Mom and Grandma

Unique creative gifts for mom and grandma for Mother's Day | personalized gifts for mom and grandmother
It can be so hard to shop for Mom and Grandma. You want to give them something special, but they don’t want anything. Here are some creative ideas to make it easier.

Personalized bracelet. I ordered this bracelet for my mom from Belinda Carmichael on Etsy. It has all of our initials on it. She loves it.
Personalized bracelet for grandma mom | Creative gifts for mother’s day

Ring with birthstones. When I was kid we gave my mom a ring with each of our birthstones – Similar to this one. Now, there are a lot of creative birthstone jewelry options available. Check out the assortment on Etsy here.

Family tree. I personalize this family tree with all your family members, and provide you with a digital file, which you can print at home or send to a printer. Order one in my Etsy shop.
Customizable Family Tree Digital Download Printable | Unique Grandparent Mother's Day gift

Personalize all kinds of stuff with photos or artwork! Sites like Zazzle allow you to upload photos or art and put it on hats, mugs, pillows cards, etc. For a birthday trip we made hats with a picture of my mom on it. They were great! Recently, I took one of my mom’s favorites – an illustration of a girl hugging her mom’s legs – and made it into a card for her. Visit Zazzle.com.
Special Mother's Day card of a little girl hugging her mom's legs | unique Mother's Day card

Frame your own artwork or your kid’s artwork. For Christmas I framed an illustration of the house I grew up in at Christmas time and gave it to my mom.
Custom house illustration painting unique gift idea for mom and grandma

Similar frame on Amazon:
Click image to order.

Photos of children or grandchildren. Plan a photo shoot with all the children or grandchildren. For us, it is rare we can assemble everyone, remember to take a photo, and get a decent one. Instead I had everyone send me individual head shots, which I put together in a frame.

Frames on Amazon:
Click image to order.

Basket of her favorite things. My mom loves tea, so a few times I have picked out items in this theme.
Shamrock tea cup basket with Irish family flate

Similar items on Amazon:
Click image to order.

Personalized ring dish. When I take off my jewelry at night I place it in a pretty little dish a friend gave me. A personalized dish would be such as sweet gift. I love this Cherry Blossom “Mom” dish. 

Monogram bag with her “name.” One year I gave my mom a L.L. Bean bag with “Nannie” on it to hold all her grandmother essentials – tissues, books, snacks, etc. Isn’t she the best?!

Have you given your mom or grandmother creative gifts? I’d love to hear! Comment below.

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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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Organizing Watercolor Paint Colors and Tubes

Storage ideas watercolor tubes paint |
I paint with watercolor from tubes. Very little remains of my original set of Van Gogh tubes. I’ve since added individual tubes – of mostly Winsor & Newton and some (more economical Winsor & Newton) Cotman tubes. I also have my Holbein Gouache mixing set – of which I’ve had to replace the white several times. All the tubes I keep in an adjustable storage case I bought years ago.

For easy access, I keep my palette filled with paint. Today as I was painting, I thought “I need more light brown. Wait, what color is this light brown?” Between the burnt and raw siennas and various other browns, I had to do a little work and sampling of tubes to find the right paint. Recently I used the last of the green in the palette and when I refilled it, the green was totally different. A bit inconvenient when you are in the middle of a painting! The original green tube is long gone. I really need to keep better track of my colors!

I started this little sketch to fill in what the colors in the palette are. I’d like to do another one with room to paint swatches of each color. How do you keep track of your colors? How do you store your paint tubes?
Watercolor paint palette organizing and storing paint

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.

How to Design Invitations using downloadable art Eileen McKenna

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The First Few Creative Days of 2019

Coastal inspired art | watercolor seascape by Eileen McKenna
2019 is off to a good start! I’m making drawing and painting a priority and try to work in the mornings, even if it’s just for a little bit. It’s fun to sit down with no real thought as to where it will lead and let things unfold.

With painting holiday themed things throughout December, it’s been a while since I painted a seascape. Looking through my stack of unfinished projects, I found the start of a seascape and suddenly felt inspired to finish it. (Our annual New Year’s Day walk at the beach may have also inspired this. The waves were crazy!) Painting the foam was so much fun!

There are two time-lapse videos on Instagram if you want to see how I went from here:
Step one painting the ocean in watercolor

to here:  The secret is a lot of white gouache!
Painting the ocean in watercolor final

As I was looking through my supplies this week, my kneaded eraser was nowhere to be found, I had only one sheet of watercolor paper left, and my favorite sketchbook was running low! I didn’t paint today but I did head to Blick to stock up on these essentials. I usually paint using 9” x 12” or 12” x 12” watercolor paper, but felt inspired to also grab a larger pad of 12″ x 16″.

It’s funny – a few years ago my favorite size was 6” x 6” – so small! It was an accident that I went to the 12” x 12”. I ordered the wrong size, decided to give it a try, and have never looked back!


Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber ErasersCanson XL Mix Media PadsFluid Easy-Block Watercolor Paper Blocks

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the secret to painting watercolor seascapes | how to paint waves


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Retro Christmas Gifts for Kids

Unique Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids | Retro Holiday Gift Ideas Vintage Presents
As I’ve been creating my daily holiday illustrations counting down to Christmas, I’ve been thinking about when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s. My recent illustration was of 11 year old me, and I had to add tinsel to the tree to make it historically accurate! I remember that year and how thrilled I was to open a 45 record of “Oh Mickey you’re so fine.” Times have changed!

I clearly remember many of my favorite gifts, and I looked on Amazon to see if any of them are still available. I loved these gifts when I was a kid!

  1. Perfection – this was one of my favorite games – rushing to put the pieces in place before the timer ran out and it popped!
  2. Lite Brite – I loved making glowing pictures by putting in the colored pegs
  3. Operation – a classic game! Can you remove the bone without a buzz?!
  4. Hungry Hungry Hippos – loud and fun
  5. Don’t Break the Ice – I loved carefully tapping the ice
  6. Latch Hook Craft Project – I loved creating these!
  7. Rainbow Suspenders – We loved rainbows back then – on everything!
  8. Ventriloquist Doll – I couldn’t wait to get this doll. I can admit I never really mastered it!
  9. Stuffed Monkey – I wanted a real one, but my mom said no.
  10. Doll Stroller – I wheeled that thing all over the house!
  11. Silver Shoelaces – I thought I was the coolest with these.
  12. Pottery Wheel – my brother gave it to me back then, and I recently gave one to his daughter!

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!
*Please note items 1-5 are the updated products of the ones I owned. Items 6-12 are gift ideas for items similar to the ones I owned. Please refer to Amazon customer reviews for each item before purchasing. Thank you. 🙂


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The Magic of a White Gel Pen

Drawing with a white gel pen
I often use a gel pen to add black details and outlines to my watercolors, but every so often I change things up and add white outlines onto a dark painting or paper using a white Gelly Roll gel pen. It’s a different effect.

This was a watercolor wash I painted last week. Every time I walked by it, I thought about how vibrant the blue was and how good white outlines would look on it. I grabbed a few shells for reference and used my white Gelly Roll gel pen. The white really pops!

 

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

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Prep for the Beach Now and make getting ready a breeze!

Prep for the Beach Now and make getting ready a breeze! Essentials for packing for a day at the beach
Finally a warm day and we were headed to the beach, but I couldn’t seem to get packed up! What did I need? It took me forever to get ready to go. When I got home I got organized for next time!

Beach Day Musts:

  1. Beach chair, umbrella, and towel. Be prepared at a moments notice by leaving your gear in the car. My favorites – my Tommy Bahama chair and umbrella.
  2. Get a pedicure. Get those toes ready with a fresh coat of nail polish. My favorite new color “cabana.”
  3. Beach Bag – Have a designated tote just for the beach, packed and ready to go. My favorite – Scout bags.
  4. Sun protection! A wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. My favorites – Scala hats, classic Ray Ban Wayfarers, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer.
  5. Beach Bag essentials – A long sleeve T-shirt for cooler days, a good book, baby powder/cornstarch for wiping off sand, a plastic bags for protecting your phone and collecting shells.
  6. Drinks & Snacks. I get hungry sitting at the beach!


Wear your love for summer with this enamel Beach Pin

Beach Pin - 1" soft enamel pin with rubber clutch
1″ soft enamel pin with rubber clutch. Purchase through Paypal below.
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U.S. orders only.

Click here to see more summer love products!

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Watercolor Painting “Must Haves”

Painting “Must Haves” #watercolor #supplies #beginner

I’ve joined in on the fun with Mollie Makes magazine, a lifestyle and craft magazine for those who live creatively, and followed the prompts for #molliemakersweek. Today’s prompt was “must haves.” I recommend these products to anyone starting out in watercolor.

My “must haves”

My “making spot”
“Making Spot” #painting

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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 shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!

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!