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Creative Freedom

Seascape paintings by Eileen McKenna my top 9 2018 #topnine
Over 10 years ago I took a drawing class that reintroduced art to my life. The class was a mix of new people and regulars who took the class every semester. Soon I became a “regular” too. Us regulars worked somewhat independently, but also loosely followed the class assignments. It was a great experience.

After a few years I began to want more. I didn’t want to limit myself to only creating when class was in session, or within class assignments, and I wanted to discover, “what would I create if I was 100% free to pursue anything?” This was the point where I started this blog. I was really excited about the possibilities. I thought a career in hand painting furniture was on the horizon – it wasn’t. I only refinished one table. But I was free to paint that table, paint signs, finished old canvas paintings, and rediscover my love for watercolor. A year later I tried block printing, surface design, etc. Some things stuck and some didn’t.

On the eve of 2019, I’m feeling this excitement. I have the freedom to pursue anything. My interests have definitely gotten more focused, but at the same time the possibilities are endless. I can’t wait!

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


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Looking forward to a Creative 2019

Family tree watercolor painting
Since making my creative resolution on the eve of 2014 – I’ve been blogging and creating art on a regular basis for five years! I love being creative and miss it when I let life get in the way. I’m always happy when I make room for it again.

It’s exciting to look forward to 2019 and make plans and think about my goals. I know that a goal, project, or deadline really motivates me. I also know working within a theme is really interesting and produces some pleasantly surprising results. This year within the Christmas theme but without a list of prompts, I explored different things like my childhood Christmas memories.

My Creative Plans for 2019

  • Paint within a theme. 15-30 day challenges. Explore a theme for two weeks or more. Give myself time off in between.
  • Grow my Etsy shop. At the end of the year I began offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy. Before I developed illustration skills, I was a graphic designer looking for art to incorporate into my designs. It’s fun now to be on the other side of things, offering clipart, invitation backgrounds, etc. to help others with their DIY design projects. It’s also fun to think about each holiday or occasion and figure out what digital products people may need, and then to see what the response is to that new product. I recently painted a customizable family tree which I’m very excited about!
  • Learn and explore. I want to continue painting acrylics, would like to try block printing again, and have signed up for a sewing class!

Personalized Family Tree watercolor painting personalized

I’ve been thinking of the book, “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion” by Elle Luna, and trying to avoid creating a list of things that I feel I should do and instead create a list of things I feel passionate about doing.

Read my post “My Creative Year in Review 2018”

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

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 Creative Year in Review 2018

My Creative Year in Review
Before I get carried away with ideas for 2019, it’s important and helpful for me to look back on 2018, to see what I accomplished, what worked, and what didn’t. The guiding words I selected for 2018 were: paint, teach, share, and connect.

Paint
Creating is the point of everything. It’s what brings me happiness, it’s why I started the blog in the first place. Above all, even when I’m creating products or loading things in my shop, I always want to remember to make time for painting and I did this in 2018.

As is the norm for me, I have times when I’m very prolific and other times when I let life get in the way. I’ve learned that a project, goal, or deadline, really motivates me. In May I bought a stack of small canvases and declared I’d focus on painting seascapes in acrylics instead of my normal watercolor. Painting with acrylics reminded me what it felt like to be a beginner. I was also reminded that practice leads to progress. Currently I’m committed to painting watercolor illustrations every day of the holiday season – a huge motivator for me.

Teach
I did post a few tutorial blog posts this year – on painting seascapes and on creativity in general, but what was really exciting was I was asked to teach watercolor to kids for a week of summer camp. It was fun, terrifying, enlightening, and exhausting! I really loved the kids. We’ll see what in person opportunities come my way in 2019.

This year I began filming mini videos of my process which is fun and I enjoy sharing. I keep saying I need to create longer step by step videos. We’ll see what the new year brings.

Share
This year I offered my artwork in many new ways including selling originals online, selling at my first in person vendor event, and offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy. I’m really excited, particularly about my Etsy shop. Before I developed illustration skills, I was a graphic designer looking for art to incorporate into my designs. It’s fun to be on the other side of things, offering clipart, invitation backgrounds, etc. to help others with their design projects. It’s also fun to think about each holiday or event and figure out what digital products will help people, and then to see what the response is to that new product.

Connect
I’m really enthusiastic about my newsletter. I share all the things inspiring me. I have the opportunity to connect with other artists who I feature, and I love hearing from readers who enjoy what I share. Sign up here!

Other fun things this year:

When I look back it’s been a great, full year of new projects, opportunities, and connections. I’m excited for 2019!


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Kick up your Creativity with Color!

Kick up your Creativity with Color! Steps to Creativity for everyone
Want to be creative but don’t know how/where to start? If you haven’t already, click here and start with these 3 steps! If you have started with the beginning 3 steps, then you’ve accomplished a lot!

  • Your eyes are open to inspiration. You take photos and make lists of things to sketch.
  • You’ve been sketching regularly in pencil. Hopefully noticing the difference between the softer B and the harder H pencils. You have a regular creative practice!
  • You don’t just draw something once – you practice drawing it several times. Take a moment to look through your sketches and see overall how much you’ve progressed!

Well done. When you are ready, move on to these steps – that are all about Color!

1. Colored Pencil or Watercolor? – The next logical step may seem to be colored pencils, but if you are itching to paint, and want something more fluid, I recommend watercolor. Here is where YOU decide what path your creative journey takes. This is about finding what YOU like. If you need recommendations on either see below.

2. Start simply with your sketchbook. Continue with your creative habit of sketching regularly – but now use color! You can use regular pencil first and then add color – or start directly with color. I recommend working in your sketchbook because it’s a no pressure, play zone, where you can practice and learn. Note: if you decide to use watercolor – please look at my sketchbook recommendation below, so your pages don’t buckle.

3. Beyond the sketch. After practicing in your sketchbook, it’s time for a drawing or painting that you spend more time on. After all your loose, quick sketches, you are ready. It can be a page in your sketchbook, or perhaps use a nicer paper – see recommendations below based on your choice of medium. Before you start, plan it out. Pick a reference photo, study it, and lightly plan it out in pencil.

When you are working on a drawing or painting for a longer period of time, stepping away and coming back to it with fresh eyes, helps a lot. I sometimes work with my reference photo and paper upside down – to check that things look right. Don’t expect immediate results. Don’t give up because it isn’t looking like you envision. I used to be a “quitter,” but I learned that it takes time, and the results often surprise me if I stick with it, and work through “mistakes.” In the end, any “weak” areas – are just things to work on for the next time. It’s a learning process. Good Luck!

My recommendations:

Colored PencilsPrismacolor Colored Pencils
Strathmore Bristol Vellum Pad – Smooth thicker, bright white paper – great for a colored pencil project.

Watercolor Tube Sets – I love Windsor & Newton paints and started with their affordable Cotman “student grade”
Canson Multimedia Sketchbook – I love this versatile, bright white, thicker sketchbook paper
Fluid Watercolor Paper – great for a watercolor painting. Tape down the sides to a larger piece of cardboard with painter’s tape to prevent buckling!

Colored Pastels are another option. I never really got the hang of them, but my daughter loves them. She uses the Prismacolor sticks.

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

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

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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Creative Plans for 2018

Words for 2018 #creative #goals
I’m an ambitious list maker. And if I achieve things on my list, I add more things. When I started writing down what I wanted to accomplish in 2018, the list was getting out of control. I don’t want to set myself up for failure – with a list too long to possibly achieve. I thought about Crystal Moody of A Year of Creative Habits. Crystal picks one word to be the focus of the year.

Okay so maybe I can’t pick just one word, but I like how simplifying things to a few words can guide your year, while still allowing for things to evolve.

For 2018 I’ve selected the words Paint, Teach, Share, and Connect.

Paint. It sounds so simple, but I like to remind myself that creating is the reason for blogging, posting, pinning, etc. Painting is the core of it all. I’m continuing the theme from last year of Painting the Ocean in watercolor.

Teach. I really enjoy writing about creativity and specifically enjoy writing posts that share details on painting. I’d like to continue with these types of posts, as well as start creating videos. It’s so easy to learn by seeing someone do something. I’m also toying around with the idea of doing an in person workshop. 😬

Share. This past year I made my work available in a few ways. I started selling prints of my ocean watercolors online at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Through Zazzle, my artwork is available on cards, mugs, and ornaments. I’ve added to my designs that are available as fabric, gift wrap, and wallpaper through Spoonflower. As much as I enjoy creating, artwork stacks up in a drawer. It’s exciting to put it out into the world and fulfilling when others enjoy it.

Connect. This year I connected with Mary of the Daily Sew. Mary created an awesome drawstring bag, and a free downloadable pattern, using my Swimming Laps fabric. I also connected in person with Erin Andrews, the Interior Designer behind Indigo House Interiors. Read her post “A Coastal Inspired Holiday.” I’m very excited to have someone local that I can meet for coffee and talk about creative projects, business, and blogging! I hope to continue connecting with other creatives in the new year.

These words for 2018 – Paint, Teach, Share, Connect – offer goals, but also flexibility. Here’s to a creative new year!

Read my 2017 year in review here.

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!


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A New Year’s Resolution – Heading into Year 5!

A New Year’s Resolution - Heading into Year 5!
It’s hard for me to believe that 4 years ago – at the start of 2014 – I made a New Year’s Resolution to be creative. Before that I was creative off and on, often while taking a class, but never consistently. I wanted to be creative on a regular basis and find what interested me. I was open to any type of creativity, exploring was going to be part of the fun. I thought I might get into furniture refinishing.

Starting this blog, that I called “my creative resolution,” was to hold myself accountable – even if no one was reading. Although there have been ups and downs, and at times I even thought of stopping – this blog and regular creativity have brought tremendous joy to my life. I pushed myself to complete things, and achieve goals that I never would have without it. I’ve always found that the periods right after thinking about stopping, were hugely productive and creative.

That first year, I started with acrylics, but quickly went back to watercolors, realizing how much I love painting in watercolor. I love that you can’t fully control the results and have to go with the flow. Even though I’ve tried other mediums, watercolor is definitely my medium.

I started 2017 with the project of “painting the beach.” The beach has always been a special place to me – I grew up in a beach town, played there, worked there, and now live just 15 minutes away. As I started to have success with capturing the water, I felt I had found my thing. For most of the year I concentrated on painting the ocean and will continue this in 2018. You can see many of my ocean watercolors and purchase prints at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!

As I begin the 5th year of my creative resolution – I’m excited and hopeful. I know that when you put in the time and work amazing things are possible! Happy New Year!

Want to see my tips on keeping a resolution? Read 9 Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year’s resolution.
9 Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year's resolution #resolution #new #years

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!


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My Creative Year in Review 2017

I paint the ocean in watercolor. Eileen McKenna

I am excited to look back on 2017 and equally excited to plan for 2018! This year has been a great one for me in terms of growth as an artist. I have continued in areas I’m interested in and explored new ones. Here are the details.

Painting the ocean in watercolor – I started this project in January and have continued with it all year. Capturing the ocean in watercolor has been a goal of mine for a long time. I’m so happy with my progress and feel that working with this subject will be something I continue with for a long time. See some of my favorite ocean watercolors here.

Designing fabric print patterns – After first dabbling in this in 2015, 2017 was the second year I committed to designing a pattern each month – although not always on schedule! I designed my most popular fabrics this year, including “Swimming Laps.” I plan on continuing this in 2018 and am already experimenting with some new ideas. See my collection of fabrics on Spoonflower here.

Collaboration – I love designing fabrics but can’t sew. This year Mary of the Daily Sew graciously agreed to create something with my fabric and write a post about it. Mary created an awesome drawstring bag, a free downloadable pattern, and in the end sent me the bag! Mary went above and beyond. You can meet the nicest people online! I hope to have more collaborations in the new year.

Tuturial Posts – I wrote a few step by step posts this year and was thrilled to have one published on doodlewash.com. I’m such a fan of Charlie O’Shields and the watercolor community he has built. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned to help others and I’d like to continue writing these types of posts.

My Creative Collection newsletter – I started the newsletter in March and am loving this new form of creativity. I love curating all the things inspiring me, and hearing back from those that enjoy the newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Daily challenges – I wasn’t as diligent with my InkTober sketches this year, but am very committed to the second year of my Christmas countdown. Challenges can really motivate me. I’ve heard family and friends actually say that they can’t wait to see what I’ll post next. To hear that people are actually engaged in what I’m doing is thrilling. I’ll definitely do the Christmas countdown next year and now that I’m thinking about it a countdown to summer would be really fun!

Selling prints online – In August I launched my online shop selling prints of my watercolor ocean paintings. It was always a goal to sell my work in some way, but I first needed 3.5 years of self discovery as an artist before I felt ready. I guess my goal was always to have a cohesive body of work. I finally felt I had that to offer after painting the ocean for months. And as such a beach lover, the work felt so very me. Visit my shop at shop.eileenmckenna.com. One thing that is very exciting is having prints made at larger sizes on canvas.

Writing 500+ blog posts – I never expected when I started the blog, to hold myself accountable creatively speaking, that I would enjoy writing so much. I really love sharing my thoughts on a specific project or creativity in general. And I love the online friends I’ve made over the years. Thank you for your support!

My artwork on products – A friend wanted a card of a Christmas tree I painted last year. I uploaded it to Zazzle, so she could order it and got bit by the bug of uploading my designs and seeing them on cards, ornaments, and mugs. Some of the ornaments were quite popular (at least with my mom). This is a fun thing I’d like to continue with. Visit my Zazzle shop here.

Enamel Pins – Last year I had my nutcracker illustration made into a pin. Based on the support – mainly from friends and family – it wasn’t a monetary loss, so I was encouraged enough to have a beach pin made. Needless to say, the beach pins weren’t a huge hit, or hit of any kind. But I had them made, not because I expected them to be a seller, but creatively I wanted the illustration to be a pin! That being said, when you outlay money and don’t make it back, it puts a damper on your creative mojo. So that’s probably the end of the pins for me. See my enamel pins here.

Connections – Just this month, I’ve been featured on two blogs with other creatives. One opportunity was an “in real life” connection I made with my friend’s sister-in-law, who I knew was a creative and a blogger and had wanted to connect with for a while. Erin Andrews is the Interior Designer behind Indigo House Interiors. Read her post “A Coastal Inspired Holiday.” Erin is a talented designer and such a great writer! I’m very excited to have someone local that I can meet for coffee and talk about creative projects, business, and blogging!

The second feature was on Alisa Burke’s blog. Alisa is a freelance painter and mixed media artist, with a very popular blog. When I read that she was looking for artists to feature on her blog during the holiday season – not for a fee but to give back, I was like, “wow!” I applied and was accepted to be included! Read Alisa’s post “Shop handmade this season” here.

I applied to be included in another publication, but was not accepted “at this time.” I tried not to be discouraged by the rejection, but to celebrate the victories I had, and celebrate that I’m putting myself out there and plan on continuing to do so in 2018!

I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished in 2017, and think it’s important for us all to look back and see how far we’ve come! I made “my creative resolution” at the start of 2014. That is four years that I’ve kept my resolution and have continued to challenge myself within this resolution every year. It has brought a lot of joy to my life and I’ve accomplished things I never would have achieved if I hadn’t made that initial resolution and committed myself to doing it. I’m excited for 2018!

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.

Photo by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.


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Committed to painting. No excuses!

Committed to painting | Artist's setup
I could have written about how I couldn’t paint this morning during my “extra” hour because they were demo-ing my bathroom. But, I realized in the time it would take to lament about not being able to paint, I could sit down and paint tonight. So I did. I started two new paintings, which will help motivate me to paint tomorrow. I’ve been loving painting every day – I don’t want to lose that! The bathroom will be a month long project. I need to make it work. 🙂

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!


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Painting every morning – week 3

Painting every morning | Eileen McKenna watercolor artist
My back to school resolution of painting every morning during my “extra” hour is going great! I don’t always get to paint for the entire hour, as I sometimes have things to do before I leave the house, but I sit down Monday through Friday (and sometimes on the weekends too). I remember the advice Charlie O’Shields, Creator of doodlewash.com gave me when I interviewed him. “If you want to form a daily art habit you have to decide how much time you can devote to it and protect that time with your life.” And I’ve done that, turning down a walking date with a friend, and not using the time for my running.

Benefits to working every day at a set time:

  • No need for the internal struggle to motivate myself
  • More progress on my paintings
  • More progress on developing skills
  • I mentally stay “in” a painting and often work at other times too

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Back to Creativity

Daily sketchbook work | creative habits day As much as I’m excited about the extra time I’ll have once the kids are back in school, I know how easy it is to put all the “have to’s” first and let creativity slide. If I’m being honest, time is not always the factor, sometimes it’s easier to knock an item off the to-do list than to motivate myself to create.

I already have an ambitious list of “back to school” resolutions and goals for September. This last morning of summer vacation I thought, in the simplest terms, what do I really want? To draw and paint is the answer. Past experience has shown me that daily sketchbook work and starting the day with creativity are two things that help me maintain creativity.

In the mornings, as the kids get ready I usually have some down time. Sometimes I work in my sketchbook, but more often I write in my notebook, usually about plans to be creative, and I go on my iPad. I’ve decided that I will not go on my iPad. I won’t look at email or social media during this time. I will write in my notebook, my morning brain dump, and I’ll draw in my sketchbook. It will be the “no pressure draw what ever I see” kind of work.

This year all three of my kids will be gone by 7:30 am, which brings me to my next “back to school” resolution. For 1 hour I will paint. I’ll paint my watercolor seascapes, I’ll play with shapes and color in my sketchbook. As I write this I’m already thinking, “Wow an hour is really long.” But really it isn’t. People don’t go to work or school for one hour. If I want to switch projects, I can practice hand lettering, or figures, or illustration.

The beauty of this early morning painting time, is I can do it no matter what else I have to do that day – work, appointments, errands, etc. I’ve been given an extra hour. It’s a gift, I need to use wisely.

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints