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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?

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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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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
My 2014 resolution was to be more creative. I came across a note I wrote six months in, “just pull out the paints.” Now, four years later, I realize keeping a resolution isn’t that simple. I know my success has been much more specific than that. 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, or stay away from sugar, etc.). Here are some of the strategies I’ve used to help me keep my creative resolution.

9 Tips to Help You 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. Learning about your topic will 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 it may help you connect with people with similar goals.
  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 remind 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 items support your resolution.
  7. Schedule time. You can’t change your eating, or exercise, or paint, or meditate, if you don’t have time. Make your resolution a priority by scheduling time for it.
  8. Be specific. Although my resolution was to be more creative, on a weekly basis I write a list of specific goals and to do items within that resolution.
  9. Challenge yourself. Over time the same thing gets boring. After you achieve the first level of success, challenge yourself with new goals within your resolution – a new type of exercise, sign up for a race, register for a class, commit to making a new healthy recipe each week, or try another art form. Keep things interesting!

According to statisticbrain.com 41% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions. Only 9.2% felt they were successful in achieving their resolution. I hope my tips help you keep your resolution this year. 🙂

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 and original seacapes are available at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek! The perfect gift for beach lovers.
“Light” by Eileen McKenna - capturing the light when painting in watercolors #coastalart #coastalinteriors


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Looking back and looking forward on my creative resolution

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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!


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Focusing and following through

newtree
My last post was about “Coming up with Ideas.” A few of you commented that you have no shortage of ideas. This makes sense as Maya Angelou famously said,

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

The “ideas” post was from the early days of my creative resolution. While reading through my old posts, I realized that focusing and finishing were recurring themes. Previously I wasn’t successful with my creative projects because I was always starting and stopping, and never finishing. Which left me feeling discouraged.

I started this creative journey in 2014, by finishing several old projects and doing several projects that I had always wanted to try. Accomplishing these things made me feel good, and so I kept going, with new projects.

I’ve come a long way since then. I try to draw or paint every day. I always shy away from the word “daily” because I’m more likely to paint and draw a lot for a day or two. Do nothing for a day or two, and then get back to it again.

I keep a notebook of “to do” lists and project ideas. I check off things as I go, and look back to see if I forgot anything. I’ll keep an old idea on the list for a while. Of course, I don’t get to everything, but it feels amazing to accomplish something that’s been on my list for months. The percentage of unfinished projects is much, much lower than it was before MCR.

Recently I wanted to be creative, but didn’t know where to start. I literally felt anxious. I sat down and wrote out all the ideas buzzing in my head. When I was done, I felt like I could breath again. Just writing the ideas down, cleared my head, and helped me prioritize. And then I started to create. 🙂


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Practicing on scrap paper before diving in

finalcone
After the debacle of the sunflower. I decided to practice on a scrap piece of paper before starting a painting of an Echinacea flower. This way I would have a plan on how to paint it.
scrap

The scrap paper coneflower came out pretty good, so I started my painting. I loved the start of this painting. But when I went back to add some details I felt like I messed it up. Why is it that working quick can look great, but sometimes when you work harder at something (more deliberately), you overwork it, and ruin it?
startofthecone

So here I am with a scrap of paper, that several people love, and an unfinished painting. And I am stuck.

I wrote the above 4 weeks ago! Ironically yesterday’s post was “Forcing myself to finish.” This Echinacea flower project is a great example of me not finishing – I felt I had ruined it, didn’t know how to proceed, so I stopped. Two days ago, I pulled it out, added details in ink, and declared it finished.

No matter how a project comes out it feels great to finish!