Creativity is for Everyone!


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Learning from Others

My painting from Megan Elizabeth’s Acrylic Seascape class

I love watercolor – how you can add more and more water, how easily it spreads on the paper. I occasionally paint with acrylics but find myself struggling with them. They don’t spread as easily and you can’t add too much water because it breaks down the paint. Last weekend I took an online acrylic class “Acrylic Painting: Abstract Landscapes” with Megan Elizabeth, which focused on painting a seascape.

Often I try to figure things out myself, but I thought it would be a fun project for the weekend and might provide some insight into my own struggles with acrylics. The class, which is suitable for beginners, is easy to follow. I enjoyed learning how someone else approaches painting a seascape – which is my favorite subject. The biggest take away for me was observing the paints Megan uses – which are much more fluid than the heavy body ones I have. And she doesn’t mix her colors. She blends on the canvas. I’m always struggling with mixing the right color and then running out and not having enough. Definitely food for thought when I try my next seascape canvas.

Taking a class often reveals nuggets that can enhance your own art practice. They might not even be a key element to the lesson, but have value to you at for where you are in your art practice. I’ll never forget taking Val Webb’s Drawing Children class where she explained the nuances of a child’s face. I realized drawing (or painting) something involves knowing your subject really, really well. I applied this lesson to seascapes and spent more time observing the ocean.  

Ultimately we take advice from others and roll it into the way we prefer to do things. I’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to hold a brush and they reveal differing opinions. It’s good to know other options on how do things and then you can decide what works best for you.

Final painting from my Watercolor Seascape Painting online Class


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Time and learning new things during quarantine

Happy Face Mask Fabric Design | Sew your own mask!

I remember a saying when I was a kid, “You can be anything you set your mind to.” During self quarantine I’ve been thinking a lot about time. I think the saying really should be “You can be anything (or do anything) you set your TIME to.”

As I pursue new things – some out of curiosity, some out of necessity, some out of both – I realize now more than ever how important time is. Time waiting for the dough to rise. Time practicing sewing to make masks. Taking my time giving my husband a haircut.

Setting our mind to something, having a goal or intention, is important but it’s only the first step. Spending time working on something is the essential ingredient. Each time I bake bread I learn more about the process. The more I sit down to sew, the less it feels like starting over. I threaded the bobbin again today!

I have more time these days. I think it’s important to be intentional about what I spend my time on. I can do anything!

“Smiles Happy Face Mask” Fabric is available in my Spoonflower shop. Browse all my fabric designs here.


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How to Pick a Creative Project

I’ve been thinking I need a creative project to help motivate me during self quarantine, especially since things don’t seem to be opening up any time soon. If this is going to continue – for 2 weeks, a month, more? – it would be nice to have something to do, practice a skill, and work towards a goal or final product.

How to Pick a Creative Project

It’s a challenge to pick a project. I definitely have ideas, but it’s like standing at a fork in the road and not knowing which direction to take. Here’s how to pick a creative project:

Step 1. Write down all the ideas that have been floating around your head.

Step 2. Evaluate the ideas. Which items are things you really want to work on? Which project would yield results you’d be especially excited about? Which project could you see yourself being excited about every day?

Here’s my list so far:

  • Drawing Lesson – Continue developing my online drawing lesson.
  • iPad drawing – practice
  • Color Wheel Book – Continue working on – illustrate
  • Clay – Learn polymer clay and create sea creatures (as an example for in person art camp project).
  • Watercolor – work on a specific subject or in specific colors
  • Video – Create another video promo.
  • Sew masks
  • Other idea

My list is often filled with things I think I should do or would like the final results of, but not things I feel like working on EVERY DAY.

Having trouble picking one idea? Sometimes we don’t know until we try. Spend a day sampling the project ideas you are most interested in. Spend 15-20 minutes on each project. Which one sparks the most interest and excitement?

Step 3. Pick a project. Make a decision and stick with it.

Step 4. Plan your creative time. Pick the time (and place) that you will work on this project. It’s easier to remember and make it happen if it’s every day at the same time. Things don’t happen if you don’t plan for them to happen.

Step 5. Follow through! Every project has peaks and valleys. Push through the hard days, do the work and the results will follow. Even 15 minutes a day adds up and is progress!

Want to be creative but don’t know where to start? Start your creative journey with my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.

Learn more by clicking here.

Creative Exploration | How to be creative How to start an art practice
Start your creative journey today!

 

Plan your creative time  | regular creative practice | how to be creative | creative exploration

Plan your Creative Time | Creative Exploration – How to be creative | How to start an art practice


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Improvement Every Day – Sewing Masks and Designing Fabric

Sewing Masks tutorials - learning to sewing improving every day

For weeks I’ve wanted to try sewing a mask, but I don’t really know how to sew. From time to time I try, but then so much time passes I forget everything. It’s like starting over every time. I dusted off the machine and prayed it would work and that I wouldn’t have to do anything complicated with the bobbin. No such luck, the stitches were all wonky. When I looked closely at the bobbin, it didn’t appear to be threaded correctly. With the machine’s instruction manual at my side, I was able to rethread the bobbin. Finally, I was sewing! I’ll admit all my movements are awkward. I said to my husband, if sewing was cooking, I’d say, “I can’t even boil water.” Trying to pin the fabric was a struggle. Why did my mother make me take physics instead of Home Ec? I’ll tease her about that forever.

Finally, I made a mask! It was pretty decent! The second one wasn’t so great. The next night I tried again and the two I made came out okay. The following night was even better. I’m seeing improvement every day! That’s what happens when we keep practicing right? I’ve been experimenting to see which tutorial video mask I like the best. These are the 3 I’ve tried. #1 fits around the nose. #2 and #3 have folds and expand over your face. They all have aspects I like. Does anyone have a mask tutorial they recommend?

The unexpected bonus is that I can finally make something with the fabrics I designed! I have a pile of fabric samples. Recently I designed a new one with watercolor smiles on it. It’s what I miss about going to the supermarket – you can’t see anyone’s smile. You can check out my fabric designs on Spoonflower here or visit Spoonflower and design your own! Not sure how to create a repeating pattern from your artwork? Read this post.

Happy Face Mask watercolor Smiles Fabric


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A Project to Motivate and Inspire

Watercolor poppies

I need a project to motivate and inspire me. Something to break up the routine and dull-drums of the week. Without a project I’m bored.

For me, a project doesn’t need to come from someone else. I’m just as motivated by my own projects and challenges. A deadline certainly helps, even if it’s self imposed.

Right now I’m embracing the freedom to work on anything now that my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” project has wrapped up. But I also need something to get me excited to create and to hold me accountable.

I took a trip down memory lane to review some of my bigger projects:

  • This Blog – when I started it and it was new, it was so motivating! I finished so many projects just because I wanted to post the final product. “Finishing” was a skill I had to learn.
  • Designing one fabric a month. In the early days of the blog I was so intrigued by surface design! I now have a collection of fabric designs on Spoonflower.
  • Month Long Challenges – I participated in several, back to back challeges – InkTober, a month of World Watercolor Group’s prompts (food), and my own Countdown to Christmas. These focused months led to me dedicating myself to…
  • Painting Watercolor Seascapes – Originally a month long project it lasted well beyond that (a year?, 2 years?), and is still a focus of mine. I’ve just launched an watercolor seascape painting online lesson to share all I’ve learned.
  • Acrylic Seascapes – I dedicated a month to exploring seascapes in acrylics. I learned so much and progressed so much. I’m dying to get back to acrylics!
  • The 100 Day Challenge – I participated in the 100 Day Challenge and focused on illustrated map making, something I was curious about for years. The project was great, but map making was a side interest that took over and 100 days was way too long. I didn’t make it to the end.
  • Finalizing my book on creativity. Since the early days of the blog I had ideas for a book. Finally I committed to finishing it and hired an editor as the accountability I needed to finish -> Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.
  • “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” – After our trip to Paris, I was so excited to paint what inspired me. I decided to invite others along via a paid email series. The program included four weekly emails with watercolor tips, a Paris theme, specific prompts with details and links to learn more, reference photos, and videos of my process painting each prompts. Turning the idea to paint Paris into a shared experience pushed me and motivated me so much! I dove much deeper into the theme than I would have if I painted alone. But I almost bit off more than I could chew – painting and filming and editing five videos a week was a lot even without the technical issues I experienced. But, I learned so much.

A project is great because it gets you excited and forces you to focus, but it’s important to remember that saying yes to one thing is essentially saying no to other things. I want to be intentional about picking my next project. In the meantime, I’m painting poppies. 🙂

Start your creative journey with:
Creative Exploration book -
Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life
– Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

ONLINE LEARNING
easy watercolor online lesson for beginners fun project Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners


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Painting Watercolor Seascapes

Watercolor seascape painting lesson - How to paint the ocean in watercolor online video lesson
Three years ago I started painting watercolor seascapes. I wanted to find the answer to, “How do you capture the ocean in paint?” I had just finished participating in three back to back month long challenges and I saw how focusing on a single theme or medium leads to real progress in ideas and skills.

Focusing on seascapes was so valuable. Painting the same subject over and over helped me progress so much. I developed a process for painting seascapes that I continue to follow. Over time I added white gouache – more opaque than watercolor – to my process. I also incorporated some techniques I learned that others use.

I observed the ocean (both in person and the photos I took) to truly “see” what I was trying to paint. I continued well past one month. When summer came and I went in the ocean I momentarily had the feeling that I was IN a painting.

Even now three years later the ocean is my favorite subject. It’s such an amazing subject because it changes so much. The water in the same exact spot can change based on weather and tides even within a short time period.

I’m excited to announce that my online watercolor seascape painting video lesson. During the lesson we paint using a specific reference photo. But aside from learning to paint the seascape pictured above, you’ll learn the process to follow which can then be applied to your own photos.

Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners

The lesson is appropriate for all levels. Beginners should have a basic understanding of watercolor before trying this lesson.

If you are completely new to watercolor sign up for my newsletter and get the “What you need to know to get started with watercolor” pdf for free!

Other resources for complete beginners:

Click here to order the Watercolor Seascape Painting Lesson.

______________________

Looking to explore creativity? Get my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life! Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


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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

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


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Soaking up Inspiration

Soaking up inspiration for the next seascape painting
It’s hard to know what I enjoy more, a visit to the beach or time spent painting. Recently I did both in the same day. Obviously it was a good day.
Beach day by Eileen McKenna
Beach day by Eileen McKenna shadow in the foam
The beach visit was an early morning one with my husband and coffee. Love those.

The painting session – which took place at home later on – was with acrylics on canvas, instead of my usual watercolor. I’ve been itching to get back to acrylics. I worked on a canvas I had already started, and was able to finish it, which felt great.
Acrylic seascape painting by Eileen McKenna

I’m looking forward to another day like this one!

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.


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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