Creativity is for Everyone!


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Blending with Colored Pencil

When I took my first drawing class as an adult (about 12 years ago), colored pencils quickly became my favorite medium. I was using my kids’ Crayola pencils and they were doing the job quite nicely. This brown bear was one of my first drawings.

Over time I became frustrated with my small selection of colors. You might think the answer is to buy a larger set of pencils. But, you’ll never have enough colors and what about darks within an object? Another student in the class – a skilled woman named Donna – had the answer. She taught me how to blend the colors.

I was thrilled when I was able to create the terra-cotta colored pot for this kitten to sit in.

The key to blending is to color with the side of the tip of the pencil not the point. The color goes on lighter, leaving some of the paper exposed. Notice the difference in the photo below. The brown and green vertical lines are colored with the tip, the brown and green to the right of that is colored with the side of the tip.

After applying a color, add your second color on top of it. Then use a third color – a lighter color like white – to blend the two colors. I used yellows and light tans to blend the colors in my leaf coloring page. I love how it came out!

Download the leaf coloring page from my Etsy shop here.
Fall Leaves coloring page


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Watercolor Basics ~ other important things you need!

Watercolor basics - other important things you need

In my previous Watercolor Basics posts I covered paper, brushes and paint but there are a few other items that are also important to have on hand.

Water – With watercolor paint, you need water to dilute your paint and to clean your brushes. I like to have two containers of water on hand so I have a backup when the first container gets dirty. Jars, cups, mugs, all work well. I prefer the container be white or clear so I know what color the water is.

Paper towel – the simplest ingredient but so important. I constantly dab my brushes on my paper towel to absorb excess water.

Scrap of paper for testing what’s on your brush before you touch your paper.

Tape, cardboard, ruler and pencil – Before I start painting I always tape my paper (with painter’s tape) to a larger piece of cardboard (the back of an old pad). This prevents the paper from buckling when it gets wet. Another thing I often do is tape the horizon line. I measure and mark both sides of the paper and then apply tape from one side to the other.

Egg cartons – I have paints in my palette. I have a mixing tray that contains commonly mixed colors and then I have tons of egg cartons! I use the top of the plastic egg carton as another mixing tray.

Mug – to hold all my brushes, pencils, etc.

Ipad – for viewing reference photos.

Phone and earbuds – for taking photos and listening to my favorite podcasts while I paint.

Did you read these Watercolor Basics posts?

Watercolor Basics – Paint
Watercolor Basics – Brushes
Watercolor Basics – Paper

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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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Watercolor Basics ~ Paint – What type of paint should you use?

There are several types of watercolor color paint including – pans (or cakes), tubes, and liquid. Many paints are available in student and artists grades. Student grades are a more affordable option, but usually have less pigment.

Pans (or cakes) – When I was starting out I associated watercolor pan sets with the paints I used as a child. I have since learned that the pans available today contain rich, saturated colors and are widely used by many watercolor artists. Just like my Sakura Koi travel palette!

Tubes – I started with tubes and have stuck with them. I was originally gifted a set of Van Gogh tubes. The set includes a variety of colors. It’s a great set to start out with. As I used up my Van Gogh tubes, I began replacing them with Winsor & Newton tubes. I also began adding other colors (like pink and purple) with Winsor & Newton tubes, sometimes with their student grade brand Cotman.

My Palette – I squeezed small amounts of most of my colors into my palette. I reactivate dried paint by mixing it with water. Sometimes I work directly from the tube and use a mixing tray or the top of a plastic egg carton to add water or mix colors. You don’t actually need tons of colors – I often create paintings from primarily just three colors – Ultramarine, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow.

Liquid – Watercolor paint also comes in liquid form. Some liquid watercolors – like the ones below – have an eye dropper top. This seems like a great way to guarantee that you mix the same colors every time – just keep track of how many drops you use. My friend uses liquid watercolors and her colors are rich and vibrant.

Which type of paint you use is a personal preference. I don’t think there is a wrong answer. Pick one to try and see how you like it!

Tip – always keep a scrap piece of paper nearby to test the saturation of a color and/or your color mix before touching your painting!

Did you read these Watercolor Basic posts?
Watercolor Basics – Brushes
Watercolor Basics – Paper 5 Tips.

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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!
Watercolor Basics ~ Paint - What type of paint should you use?

 

 

 


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Watercolor Basics ~ Brushes: What types of brushes should you use

If you have ever stood in an art store paintbrush aisle, you know how overwhelming selecting brushes can be. There are brushes for every medium, synthetic and natural brushes, and brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes. I have a variety of brushes but in truth I only use a few.

Here are some tips for selecting brushes:

  • Round brushes are the most commonly used brushes for painting in watercolor
  • Thick and thin. If you could only buy two brushes I would recommend a medium sized round brush for larger areas (like a 6 or an 8) and a thinner round brush (like a 1 or 2)
  • Natural vs. synthetic. Synthetic brushes tend to be more affordable and are a good option (especially when you are just starting out.)

Over time I’ve learned:

  • Flat brushes are great for horizontal lines. I use flat brushes for certain details when painting seascapes.
  • Very thin brushes (less than 1s) are great for fine lines and detail.

I rarely use bigger brushes (10+). I may use them to wet a background or to paint a gradient in the sky but I primarily use size 8 and smaller. It’s a personal preference that may have to do with the size of the paintings I most commonly create (8”x10”). My choices may also have to do with style I paint in. Some artists paint in a looser style perhaps using larger brushes, and some in a much tighter more realistic style, perhaps using thinner brushes.

There are also specialty brushes for creating certain types of lines like a fan brush. More often than not, I stick with the brush in my hand instead of switching brushes.

Caring for your brushes:

  • Wash your brushes and lay them flat to dry on a paper towel.
  • Don’t leave your brushes sitting in water. It will cause the paint on the brush to chip off.
  • Use an old brush to reactivate dried out paint. I’ve squeezed my paint into a palette. When I want to use a color, I mix it with water. To protect my newer brushes I use an old brush to stir the water into the dried out paint.

The more you paint, the more your own personal preferences and brush needs will emerge. Start with a few round brushes and add from there.

If you missed the last Watercolor Basics post you can read it here –> Watercolor Basics – Paper 5 Tips.

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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!
Watercolor Basics - What types of brushes to use

 

 

 


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Gifts to Inspire Creativity

If you have creativity in your life – regular creativity – you know what a gift it is. It’s relaxing – almost like meditating. What better gift this holiday season than the gift of creativity? Here are a variety of gifts that will inspire creativity in your friends and family.

Click any image below to view the Amazon listing details. Please read my disclaimer below.

Art Set

Create a gift set with my “Creative Exploration Book,” favorite sketchpad, sketching pencils, kneaded eraser, and colored pencils. The recipient will be all ready to explore their creativity!

Painting Set

Watercolor is my favorite medium. Combine my “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide.” with paints, brushes, a palette, and paper for a great gift!
Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

Clay Kit

This kit is the perfect gift to get someone started in Polymer Clay. I know because it’s the kit I bought when I wanted to give sculpting a try. It comes with a huge variety of colors as well as tools. Sculpting with polymer clay is easy and fun and your creations bake right in the oven!

Block Printing Kit

Block printing is so fun and satisfying. Create one design and print several copies of it! Pair the Speedball block printing kit with Strathmore cards. The Speedball kit even includes ink and Strathmore makes such nice papers!

Screen Printing Kit

I’ve wanted to try screen printing forever. I should add this to my list!

Baking Set

Combine a baking book with pans or accessories. I love to bake and Williams-Sonoma products are some of my favorites!

Cooking Set

Learn from one of the best! We just made a Gordon Ramsey recipe and it was the best Shrimp Scampi we’ve had! And it didn’t take forever to prepare. Combine a recipe book with Gordon Ramsay knives or other cooking accessories for the perfect gift.

Gardening

How about a kit to grow a succulent garden?


Crochet

Combine a “How to Crochet” book with needles and yarn for a unique gift.

Embroidery

An embroidery kit is a great way to introduce someone to embroidery. Everything is included – except maybe scissors. 🙂

Christmas gifts to inspire creativity | unique holiday gifts for everyone creative artist
This post contains affiliate links. 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: I have NOT used all the items in this post. Please refer to Amazon listings and reviews for specific product details. 


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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:

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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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.

This posts contains affiliate links. 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
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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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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