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Teaching kids to paint watercolor seascapes

Watercolor seascape seashell wall hanging project

Last week I had the opportunity to teach kids ranging from 1st grade through high school how to paint the ocean with watercolor. The seascape painting was part of a 12” seashell wall hanging project to be completed over three days. I was excited but nervous.

Even though the kids were somewhat divided up by age – the age range was the biggest challenge. The kids were so sweet and I really enjoyed getting to know them over the course of 3 days. And their paintings (and projects) turned out amazing.

I had the whole project mapped out, which was helpful. Finishing early worked out fine, because I used the extra time to allow them to play and experiment with watercolor. Finding a few fun projects on Pinterest helped. What I would improve on next time would be setting up the project to allow them to work more independently – if possible.

I hope the kids had fun and have a new appreciation for watercolor.

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Watercolor and my sketchbook

Mini watercolor seascapes
After a busy time, it feels good to be playing around with watercolor again. When I haven’t painted in a while it feels easier to dip my toe in by working in my sketchbook. At first I don’t know what to paint so I just doodle and play around. Usually inspiration strikes. I started painting a series of mini seascapes. I’m practicing for a workshop I’m teaching next week.

July is World Watercolor Month – learn more here.


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Know your Subject

Knowing your subject when painting | painting the ocean
I often think about an online class I took by Val Webb called “Drawing Children.” At the time, I was amazed at how well Val knows the nuances of the faces and figures of children. Now as I paint the ocean – almost exclusively, mostly in watercolor, but recently in acrylics – I think about not just the techniques to make the painting look realistic, but the characteristics of the ocean.

As I was painting the water, specifically the foam at high tide, I was painting and pulling back the strokes, because I was thinking about how the water is being pulled back by the tide. This is something you wouldn’t know just by looking at a photo. All the time I’ve spent at the beach might be making a difference in my painting. Last summer, after painting the ocean all winter, I looked and observed the water differently than before.

Work in progress where I was “pulling back”
Know your subject - painting the ocean

My son recently asked if I was going to paint anything else. I guess to him, every painting is similar. To me I’m learning with each painting. The ocean looks so different at different times and different angles. I’m sticking with the ocean, and I’m currently challenging myself by working to capture this amazing subject in acrylics.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

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Capturing the Bluest Blue Sky

Painting the sky in watercolor

I’m happy with the results of the sky above, which is ironic because I thought this painting was a lost cause. This is what it looked like:
Blue skies in watercolor

In an effort to capture the saturated blue of the sky (with a hint of purple), I had previously used several colors (including cadmium red and ultramarine) and the above was the result. It was too purple, and too dark. It looked like a cloudy day.

I didn’t give up. I removed a lot of the paint  by wetting it and soaking it up with the brush, and also blotting with a paper towel. Then I added cerulean blue on top. It was this layering of the colors that helped achieve the blue I was looking for. I don’t think the cerulean alone would have worked as well.

I also painted clouds and highlights with white gouache. I’ve been using white gouache for the foam of the ocean for a while but only recently have I been using it in my skies. I’m loving the results. Just shows that you gotta push through the ugly stage!

Read more on painting watercolor skies here:
Painting the sky in Watercolor #watercolor #skies #sky 

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

View my collection of watercolor seascapes at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

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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Two paintings of the same subject

I often start and work on more than one painting at a time. It’s nice to have another painting to grab when you’ve reached the point with a painting where the newest layer needs to dry. Sometimes I work on more than one painting from the same reference photo. I’m not trying to create duplicate paintings. I’m giving myself the opportunity to try different things, to learn, to explore.

Two paintings of the same subject

The paintings above are from the same photo. In one there is a seagull. The crashing part of the wave is slightly different. Even the color of the sky, the detail of the sand. For me it’s not about which one is better. It’s more about what I learned during the painting process.

See my collection of seascape paintings at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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Watercolor Skies

Blue Wave #11 by Eileen McKenna https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/

Blue Wave #11

Prints available at shop.eileenmckenna.com.

When I first started painting my seascapes, the skies were simple blue gradations, with the lightest blue closest to the horizon. With each seascape painting I started playing a bit more with the sky – trying to achieve the perfect sky blue, adding other colors as a glow on the horizon, adding a bit of texture for clouds.

Then I did two painting with gray cloudy skies, which were a lot of fun.

Surf Camp 1 by Eileen McKenna https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/

Surf Camp 1

Surf Camp 2 by Eileen McKenna https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/

Surf Camp 2

Now more often than not, I’m adding colors and texture to my skies, like in these recent paintings.

Watercolor Seascape "November 1" by Eileen McKenna

November 1 by Eileen McKenna

Watercolor Seascape "November 2" by Eileen McKenna

November 2 by Eileen McKenna

I’m still striving to find the perfect mix of blue for “sky blue,” especially to capture those bright blue sky, summer days.

I even searched online for “best watercolor blue for the sky” and found a great post on Scratchmade Journal by Tonya, who experimented and discovered,
“almost any combination of blues can be used to create a realistic sky in watercolor, but no single blue worked well alone.”

See all my seascape paintings and compare the skies at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14.”

 

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Taking a step back

Take a step back to view your painting and decide if it’s done.

I like to prop a painting up on the mantle, step back, and look at it from different angles. After working up close it’s a good way to see if it is done. And there’s my tree in the mirror! 🎄

Stages:
Stages of a watercolor ocean painting by Eileen McKenna

Stages of a watercolor ocean painting by Eileen McKenna

Stages of a watercolor ocean painting by Eileen McKenna

Stages of a watercolor ocean painting by Eileen McKenna

Stages of a watercolor ocean painting by Eileen McKenna

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! The perfect gift for beach lovers.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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Creative Holiday Gifts for budgets big and small

Ornaments #ornaments #creative #gifts #Christmas

If you are looking for a creative gift, browse my ornament designs at www.zazzle.com/eileen_mckenna.

Want to make a bigger impact? Canvas prints make a great gift! Browse the available paintings at shop.eileenmckenna.com.
Mini canvas

How about some wearable holiday spirit? Give an enamel Nutcracker Pin!
Nutcracker enamel pin 
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Currently shipping only in the continental U.S.

Get creative with your gift wrap! Six holiday designs to choose from – including these toy soldiers, available at www.spoonflower.com/profiles/eileenmckenna.
Christmas toy soldier gift wrap

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Painting the Ocean with White Gouache

Painting the ocean with white gouache #painting #gouache #ocean #waves

As I wrote about in my last post, I began painting the ocean in January. As is customary with watercolor, I was leaving the white of the paper bare for the white areas of my painting or I would remove paint with a damp brush or blot with a towel. This preplanning of what areas should be white at the start of the painting was proving difficult for me. And the white paper seemed too flat for the foam areas of the ocean.

So one day I opened up the white gouache…and everything changed for me. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor. You can paint over other colors even with white.

Compare the foam areas here:

To the foam here:
Watercolor beach landscape by Eileen McKenna

Eureka! I can add an underlying area of dark water, then add the white gouache on top. I can use a wet brush and blend the white with darker areas to soften it. I can add shadows on top of the white gouache and then add more gouache on that. I can “build up the layers” – which is the description of watercolor painting that always runs through my head while I work. It’s probably something my watercolor teacher once said.

A favorite foam painting – Surf Camp #1
 "A Cloudy Day at Surf Camp"

Lots of white gouache work here:
Crashing Wave by Eileen McKenna
See more of my seascape paintings here.

The small box of gouache paints I have contains cyan, magenta, yellow, white, and black. It is considered a “mixing box” – from it you can mix any colors. I think I bought it because I heard about gouache and wanted to try it. But it remained mostly unused until this year. The white is called Primary White. Since I’ve been using the white quite often it is running out. When I went to order a new tube of white – several different whites gouaches came up online – Zinc, Permanent, etc. I wondered, “What was the difference?” The comments on this online page shed a little bit of light, but mostly made me think – stick with what works. Primary white is considered good for mixing, which considering the box it came in makes sense. I don’t mix it much before using it, but I do blend it with other colors on the page as I paint. Let me know if you try painting the ocean with white gouache.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

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! The perfect gift for beach lovers.

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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My 11 month long project – Painting the Ocean

I paint the ocean in watercolor. Eileen McKenna

After participating in three separate month long challenges in 2016, I saw how focusing on a single theme or medium can lead to real progress in ideas or skills or both. So when I completed the last challenge I decided to focus January (2017) on figuring out how to paint the ocean. I often wondered, “How do you capture the ocean in paint?” I was determined to find out! January led to February and on and on, and I’m still painting the ocean! I’ve progressed in so many areas, but am finding new areas to strive for. The ocean is an amazing subject because it changes so much.

Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas which is 11″ x 14″, at shop.eileenmckenna.com. The perfect gift for the beach lover in your life!

I grew up just blocks from the beach and now live a 10 minute car ride away. It is truly my favorite place. When I began making real progress with my ocean paintings, I felt I had found my thing. As 2017 winds down, I don’t anticipate stopping. If anything I can’t wait to drive down to the beach and take some new reference photos!

Eileen McKenna

That’s me on the left, age 3 or 4, with my first best friend Nancy.

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Photo of me with the “mini” canvas by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.