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
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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


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!

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*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. 🙂


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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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!

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19 Books for Creatives

19 Books for Creatives

 Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share your Creativity and get Discovered
by Austin Kleon

This book was a huge motivator for me. I started out shy and embarrassed to share what I was making. I realized sharing is part of the process of “self discovery.”

“In chapters such as You Don’t Have to Be a Genius; Share Something Small Every Day; and Stick Around, Kleon creates a user’s manual for embracing the communal nature of creativity― what he calls the “ecology of talent.” From broader life lessons about work (you can’t find your voice if you don’t use it) to the etiquette of sharing―and the dangers of oversharing―to the practicalities of Internet life (build a good domain name; give credit when credit is due), it’s an inspiring manifesto for succeeding as any kind of artist or entrepreneur in the digital age.”

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
by Austin Kleon

Kleon’s advice is so inspiring, “Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path. Follow your interests wherever they take you.”

“You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.”

Making Art a Practice: How to Be the Artist You Are
by Cat Bennett

One of several of my favorite quotes from the book, “Here is where we are right now, so we go from here. We begin with one small step…It’s in doing the work that we see the next step.” This is something I need reminding of often.

“Helping artists catapult into further action, this guide is a treasury of insight and inspiration. Rather than focus on art techniques that build skills or overcome creative blocks through playful activities or writing, this guide walks the artist through exercises designed to develop the personal qualities critical to being an artist in the world, such as courage, the ability to look and see, and connection to the true creative self. This is a hands-on, experiential action book designed to get the reader creating art and exploring a variety of possibilities for being an artist. According to the teachings of this handbook, engagement with art is less about end results or products and more about the self-awareness and competence that frees the artist to seek out and create work that is vital.”

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert

“A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.”
— PopSugar

“Gilbert offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.”

Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are
by Danny Gregory

I love the easy reading of this book, with plenty of illustrations throughout. It is filled with “zillions” of ideas on how to be creative, that you can fit into any lifestyle.

“Packed with the signature can-do attitude that makes beloved artist Danny Gregory a creativity guru to thousands across the globe, this unique guide serves up a hearty helping of inspiration. For aspiring artists who want to draw and paint but just can’t seem to find time in the day, Gregory offers 5– to 10–minute exercises for every skill level that fit into any schedule—whether on a plane, in a meeting, or at the breakfast table—along with practical instruction on techniques and materials, plus strategies for making work that’s exciting, un-intimidating, and fulfilling.”

Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative
by Danielle Krysa

I know all about my inner critic holding me back! It’s nice to hear I’m not alone and learn ways to tell it to be quiet.

“This book is duct tape for the mouth of every artist’s inner critic. Silencing that stifling voice once and for all, this salve for creatives introduces ten truths they must face in order to defeat self-doubt. Each encouraging chapter deconstructs a pivotal moment on the path to success—fear of the blank page, the dangers of jealousy, sharing work with others—and explains how to navigate roadblock. Packed with helpful anecdotes, thoughts from successful creatives, and practical exercises gleaned from Danielle Krysa’s years of working with professional and aspiring artists—plus riotously apt illustrations from art world darling Martha Rich—this book arms readers with the most essential tool for their toolbox: the confidence they need to get down to business and make good work.”

The Artist’s Way: A Spriritual Path to Higher Creativity
by Julia Cameron

My friend, a poet, had gotten off track with her writing as she spent time promoting her book and teaching. This book motivated her to start her “morning pages.” Now, she is on fire with creativity. This book was the spark she needed to get back to her craft.

“The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. Still as vital today—or perhaps even more so—than it was when it was first published one decade ago, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work. In a new introduction to the book, Julia Cameron reflects upon the impact of The Artist’s Way and describes the work she has done during the last decade and the new insights into the creative process that she has gained. Updated and expanded, this anniversary edition reframes The Artist’s Way for a new century.”

Medium Specific

Once Upon a Piece of Paper
by Andrea D’Aquino

My neighbor talked for years about wanting to work in collage. I gave her this book and a week later she was showing me her first collage – a conceptual piece with sentimental items used in it. I was beyond impressed!

“A 112-page paperback book plus a pad of 100 unique collage papers on two-sided sheets, all inside of a beautiful hardcover case with an elastic band. Find out how layers of simple paper can create mysterious and beautiful worlds within worlds through the art of collage. Once Upon a Piece of Paper: A Visual Guide to Collage is a dynamic mix of art-making wisdom, creative inspiration, and fun activities to guide curious artists on the art of collage. Readers are treated to a simple yet sophisticated “look and learn” approach, all in a very special package.”

Thanks for the recommendation Crystal Moody.

The Acrylic Painter’s Book of Styles and Techniques
by Rachel Rubin Wolf

As a mostly self taught artist, I loved reading about how different artists approach their painting process in such different ways. It made me feel there is no “right” way.

“Instructive and inspirational, this book brings together the diverse styles of seven top acrylic painters to illustrate the versatility and creative excitement of acrylics. You’ll learn their tips, tricks, and techniques in 28 step-by-step demonstrations. Each artist’s section ends with a brilliant gallery of finished work.”

Self Improvement

Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life
by Gretchen Rubin

Understanding the power of habits is key to your creative practice. I was having the hardest time trying to will myself to sit down and paint when I happened to pick up this book and realized I had gotten out of the habit of creating. Learning about habits has helped me get back on track and stay on track with my creative practice.

“The author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, tackles the critical question: How do we change? Gretchen Rubin’s answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits? Better than Before answers that question.”

An Enemy Called Average
by John Mason

I often wondered, “What holds me back?” And that was the reason I picked up this book. Mason writes, “If you want a place in the sun, expect blisters.” That hit the nail on the head. A fear of criticism held me back. Expecting criticism as a part of life, has been very freeing.

“This is the new, updated and expanded version of the national best-selling book, An Enemy Called Average, originally published in 1990. Stand Out – Don’t Blend In! Within every person is a desire to be fully who they were created to be. No one really wants to just get by. Regardless of where you are in life, how much you have or have not accomplished, God is not finished with you yet! Divided into 52 nuggets of truth, An Enemy Called Average is a source of godly wisdom, scriptural motivation, and practical principles. The words of this book will stir up the gifts and dreams within you. Instead of digging through ten pages to find one good idea, you’ll find ten good ideas on every page. Think about it… Your problem is your promotion. Worry is interest paid in advance on something you may never own. The faith to move mountains always carries a pick. People are born originals, but most die copies. Ideas go away, but direction stays. Stop every day and look at the size of God.”


In the Company of Women
by Grace Bonney

I am a huge fan of Design Sponge’s Grace Bonney. I just finished listening to the archives of her podcast – After the Jump – and immensely enjoyed her interviews and learned so much from them. I ordered my copy of this book and know it will be a perfect extension of her informative, inspirational podcast.

“Across the globe, women are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and starting creative businesses. In the Company of Women profiles over 100 of these influential and creative women from all ages, races, backgrounds, and industries. Chock-full of practical, inspirational advice for those looking to forge their own paths, these interviews detail the keys to success.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King

I loved this book. A combination memoir and look into his writing process, this book tells King’s story, facing many rejections, and also gives an in depth look into his writing process. He compares writing a book to unearthing the fossils of a dinosaur – even he doesn’t know the ending until he is finished writing it.

“Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.”

For the Creative Entrepreneur

Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist
by Lisa Congdon and  Meg Mateo Ilasco

I am a huge fan of the Author, Illustrator Lisa Congdon. This book is a great collection of all the ways you can turn your creativity into a business.

“You don’t have to starve to be an artist. Build a career doing what you love. In this practical guide, professional artist Lisa Congdon reveals the many ways you can earn a living by making art—through illustration, licensing, fine art sales, print sales, teaching, and beyond. Including industry advice from such successful art-world pros as Nikki McClure, Mark Hearld, Paula Scher, and more, Art, Inc. will equip you with the tools—and the confidence—to turn your passion into a profitable business.”

Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business
by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho

I love all the books in this series.

“This book will teach all types of creatives illustrators, photographers, graphic designers, animators, and more how to build a successful business doing what they love. Freelancing pros Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho explain everything from creating a standout portfolio to navigating the legal issues of starting a business. Accessible, spunky, and packed with practical advice, Creative, Inc. is an essential for anyone ready to strike out on their own.”

Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community
by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho

If you are a creative, you probably blog about your work and process. In this book Joy Cho, a successful blogger, who among other things designs lines for Target – offers her insights on blogging. Joy started blogging between jobs and it became her job!

“This authoritative handbook gives creative hopefuls a leg up. Joy Cho, of the award-winning Oh Joy!, offers expert advice on starting and growing a blog, from design and finance to overcoming blogger’s block, attracting readers, and more. With a foreword from Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge plus expert interviews, this book will fine-tune what the next generation of bloggers shares with the world.”

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
by Timothy Ferriss

Everyone should read this book about working smarter not longer and harder.

“Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.”

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
by Chris Guillibeau

I love learning about how other people started their businesses and even more appealing are stories where people didn’t need to borrow tons of money to start successful businesses. This book is very inspiring!

“Here, finally, distilled into one easy-to-use guide, are the most valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment. It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even if you don’t consider it such — and what other people will pay for. You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees. All you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.”

Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer: The Evolution of a $1M Web Designer
by Liam Veitch

Whatever your area of work, this book is about becoming more successful by simply changing your mindset from freelancer to business owner.

“This book dives deep on making freelancing more stable, beating “treading water” cycles, repelling ‘bad apple’ clients, multiplying online exposure and follows the journey of Liam, with honest, clear advice and guidance from laptop and rented desk to $1m web agency.”

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Painting Larger

12" x 12" Watercolor beach paintings

Quite by accident I almost doubled the size of the watercolor paper I was using and I’m so glad. For years I happily painted on 8″ x 8″ paper. When I went on Amazon, I ordered the Fluid Watercolor paper in 12″ x 12″ instead of my normal 8″ x 8″. When the package arrived the pads looked huge!

At first I was disappointed, but then thought, “I’ll try them out. Maybe I’ve outgrown that small size anyway.” Months later I can’t imagine working so small! Lately I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that the pages are bound together on 2 sides. I sometimes paint with the paper still attached to the pad, instead of removing it and taping it down to a board.

Here is a collection of my “mini” 8″ x 8″ paintings.

8 inch watercolor paintings

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11 Art Supplies I can't paint without