Eileen McKenna Art & Design

Watercolor Art | Creative Inspiration to help you be creative on a regular basis


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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

 


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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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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! 

Watercolor Seascape Tutorial Download

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.