My Creative Resolution – Watercolor, Illustration, Print Pattern Design


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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


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First posts and first creative goals

Sketchbook

Inspired by other bloggers I’m revisiting my earliest posts.

My first post 12/30/13: Happy New Year!

“This year I’m taking my New Year’s resolution to a new level. I’m holding myself accountable, by making a commitment to blog about my progress. In the past I’ve been great in the ideas department, not as good in the follow through! But this time, I hope to draw, paint and create my way through 2014! Join me on the journey so you can witness the successes (and failures) and maybe we’ll both learn a thing or two on the way!”

My second post and a goal: Filling the Sketchbook
Sketchbook

“I plan on filling this sketch book. Although it is a bit daunting! I like saving all my old sketchbooks and looking through them. I even keep drawings that I am embarrassed by. They show me how far I’ve come. I look at old sketches with a fresh perspective and know what is “off.” Sometimes I look at a sketch and proudly think, “I did that?” As I thumb through, I am reminded of projects I was interested in. I can add some of those  to my list for the coming year.”

Present day…
Working in that sketchbook became an important part of my weekly creative practice, and it was a turning point when I started painting in it. I remembered how much I love watercolor! Unfortunately the paper in this sketchbook wasn’t made for adding paint. So when I found the Canson Mix Media sketchbook – that I still use today – I was thrilled. Love the thick bright white pages! In three years I’ve filled at least 8 sketchbooks! Goal reached, and then some!

Did you read:
Does Your Astrological Sign Affect Your Creativity?

This post contains affiliate links to products 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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I Used to be a Quitter

Painting waves. Sticking with it.I would start a creative project and if it didn’t immediately “work out” I would quit, thinking, “I can’t do this.” When I made my creative resolution 3 years ago, I suddenly felt more accountable. If I didn’t finish a project what would I write about? I began finishing the drawings and paintings I started. I even pulled out canvases long ago abandoned and finished them. Suddenly I had momentum and a building confidence.

Yesterday I began a painting of the ocean from a photo I took. I’m always excited and hopeful at the start. I tried to capture the different colors of the waves and it looked…awful. I almost took the painting and tossed it aside. It reminded me of those frustrating times when my vision and the painting in front of me didn’t match up and I would quit when I’d barely started. This time I persevered and continue to work on the painting. This is what I love about watercolor, that you build the layers up and work at the painting to transform it. As I worked I wondered what has changed from those days when I had piles of unfinished paintings?

What do I have now that I didn’t have then?

  • Determination – I want to make the painting work.
  • Dedication – I make time for painting almost every day, because it is important to me.
  • Confidence – I no longer accept that I do or don’t have the talent. Instead I know that if I continue to work I will be better than I was.
  • Experience – The more I paint the more I learn. I have a process and techniques that I use, and as I learn and try new things I add to this.
  • History – I have had paintings that I’ve deemed a success. This helps quiet the “I can’t do it.”
  • Knowledge that there usually is an ugly stage. It has to look bad before it looks good.
  • Lack of pressure – I don’t stress about the final result.
  • Enjoyment – I enjoy the process, of working at it, of learning with each painting.


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The power of creative prompts

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Happy New Year! I took the last few days “off” from my daily drawing and painting, but I’m gearing up to spend every day in January painting the beach.

I did spend a day or two getting a head start on this project. But there were more days where I thought about getting started but – without actually approaching the paints and paper – I didn’t know where to begin and quickly lost all motivation. Last month Marion who joined me in the Christmas countdown wrote – about following my prompts -that she liked not having to think about what to draw.

This really stuck with me and as I looked over the last two months, first following World Watercolor Group’s food prompts and then my own Christmas prompts, I realized how right Marion was. It makes it so much easier to not have to think about what to paint. Instead I would immediately jump to how I would interpret that prompt. Often I’d check the prompt the night before and have a plan when I started in the morning.

This week I struggled with motivating myself because even though I knew I wanted to paint the beach, I wasn’t sure how to get started. The “beach” is too broad. To overcome this stumbling block I wrote myself a prompt list for every day in January.

Focusing on painting the beach is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. For some reason I haven’t been able to do it beyond a painting here or there. When I saw how much I accomplished in November and December by following one theme each month I knew committing myself this month was part of the solution. That and telling YOU. Just like 3 years ago when I started this blog and told you I’m going to be creative on a regular basis. You hold me accountable and help me reach my goals. So thank you. 😊

What are your creative plans for the new year?


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Lessons Learned on my Creative Journey

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In the beginning, I paused every few months and wrote about what I’d learned so far about creating art, and about myself. Just 1 post shy of 300 posts I decided to reflect again. Here is what I’ve learned on my creative journey:

  1. There are ups and downs in a creative practice. Stick with it through the down times, an up time is coming, and you never know how high you’ll climb.
  2. Practice does make (almost) perfect.
  3. Accountability motivates you to get stuff done.
  4. You can retrain yourself to embrace better work habits.
  5. There is character and style to the “imperfect.”
  6. Share what you create, don’t create to share.
  7. Those beautiful Instagram posts only tell a sliver of a story. Don’t fall into comparing yourself.
  8. Interviews with other creatives tell much more of the story, and can be very real, and very inspiring. I love listening to podcasts.
  9. It takes time and work to develop your style.
  10. Capture the moments when you feel inspired – snap a photo or jot down a note, for later.
  11. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike or a plan to form, sit down and start creating, and things will start to unfold.

My other “lessons learned” posts:

What have you learned on your journey?


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Creativity breeds more creativity

tulips
I’m already noticing a difference in my level of creativity, just a week after restarting my creative habits. It’s amazing how sketching every morning – often for just 5 minutes – leads to more sketching and painting later in the day. As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

My creative habits were derailed a month or so ago, when I was busy with a work project. I forget how much I need my own creative projects. Working as a web and print designer, I have the pleasure of being creative with work. The downfall for me is relying on work as my creative outlet. Last month’s work project was very consuming and creatively fulfilling. I barely drew or painted during this time. Everything was great until the project wrapped up, and a new work project didn’t immediately replace it. I was out of the habit of working on my own stuff, so I was left feeling somewhat empty. As I wrote about in this post, I was having a really hard time motivating myself to work on my own projects.

Thankfully I was able to get back to it, although it’s not always easy to stick to it. I need to remember this lesson next time work gets very busy – to make time for my own creative projects, and to stick with my creative habits.

 


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7 tips to keep your New Year’s resolution

turtlerace
I came across a note I wrote six months into my 2014 resolution to “draw, paint, create.” I wrote simply “just pull out the paints.” I realize now, that keeping a resolution isn’t that simple.

I’m celebrating the second year of keeping my creative resolution, and committing to a third. There are ups and downs to any resolution. There are times when you are into it, and times when you aren’t. Sometimes it’s hard to just “pull out the paints” (or eat a salad, or put on your running shoes, etc.).

Here are 7 tips to keep your New Year’s resolution:

  1. Make a “positive” resolution. Your resolution should be about what you are going to do, not what you are not going to do. For example – Eat healthy vs. Stop eating junk.
  2. Research your resolution. Read books, magazines, blogs, or watch videos about your topic. Researching your topic will help motivate you, and help you on your journey.
  3. Tell people about your resolution. The more you tell others what you have resolved to do, the more you’ll feel committed to doing it, and maybe you’ll find a friend with a similar goal.
  4. Keep track of your progress. Keep a journal, or a blog about your journey, and include all your struggles and victories. Reread it from time to time to show yourself how far you’ve come. The blogging community can be very supportive!
  5. Be realistic. Start small. If your resolution is running, you can’t expect to run 3 miles the first day out. And if you do, you’ll probably not want to run the next day! Start small, and build on it.
  6. Spend money. You’ll be more motivated and committed, if you spend money. It’s the spending guilt! Buy new healthy snacks, new running sneakers, art supplies, or whatever item supports your resolution.
  7. Schedule time. You can’t change your eating, or run, or paint, or knit, if you don’t have time. Make your resolution a priority and schedule time for it.

Even though 45% of Americans make resolutions, only 8% are successful at keeping them.* I hope my tips help you keep your resolution this year. 🙂

*Source: http://www.statisticbrain.com


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Looking back and looking forward on my creative resolution

artistsetup

When I first made “my creative resolution” just before the start of 2014, my mission statement was: “Hoping to draw, paint, and create my way through 2014.”

I just wanted to be creative. I didn’t even know what I’d be working on. My interests were a varied list of painting, working with recycled materials, refinishing furniture, decorating my mantle, etc. The real goal was to be creative on a regular basis, and finish projects. I had a terrible habit of never finishing things. I made great progress in 2014, my interests became more focused on drawing and painting, and I finished almost everything I started, including some old projects.

At the start of 2015, my mission statement was: Continuing my creative journey into 2015.”

I knew I had come so far, and I wanted to keep growing, and learning. I wasn’t giving up. I had a long lists of goals, although this list, wasn’t as varied as the year before.

Things I want to try in 2015:

  1. Linocut
  2. Lettering
  3. Online workshops
  4. Painting on dark paper
  5. Doodling
  6. Video
  7. Patterns
  8. Maps
  9. Digital Brushes
  10. Watercolor Parties

Most of these items, I tried at least once. Some, like designing patterns (surface design), I adopted as a monthly goal. See all my 2015 patterns here.

My mission statement for 2016 is more of a declaration of me: “Painting, Illustration, Surface Design, and Animation.”

I want to continue painting, working on my illustration style, and designing surface patterns. And I want to learn and grow in the area of animation. See my recent post on exploring animation here.

It’s important to look at where you’ve been, and plan on where you want to go. These two years have been amazing for me. I’ve grown so much on this creative journey. I’ve met amazing friends. It has made me feel happy and fulfilled, and I’m excited about what 2016 will bring. 🙂


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A busy holiday season and how I set myself up for failure

  
After Halloween, I wrote a long list of all the creative things I wanted to accomplish before Christmas. I wanted to make paintings as gifts, do Christmas crafts, and on and on.

I thought with Christmas two months off, there was plenty of time. I was so wrong. The list was totally unrealistic. My life is pretty busy already with three kids, a husband, my own business, running, etc. During the holiday season things obviously get busier with parties, trips to the city, decorating, shopping, baking, etc. 

It’s important for me to recognize the reason why I failed to get these additional things done. Because my first instinct is to feel bad about it. When I realize there wasn’t time I feel better. It’s why most people who create for Christmas (professionally) start in July. 

I will try that this Summer, if I can get into the holiday spirit. I’ll also try to be more realistic and plan ahead – way ahead!