Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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How to create an interesting Watercolor Background

In a recent post, Watercolor Wisdom, I mentioned showing my watercolor teacher my first watercolor painting and her saying, “No, no, no, you’re drawing.” At the time, I was quite proud of my painting and didn’t understand what she meant. But as my familiarity with watercolor grew, I began to understand. She was telling me to allow watercolor to do its thing. To give up some control, and work wet! To not use watercolor like it’s a paint by numbers project.

How to paint interesting backgrounds in watercolor

You can create interesting backgrounds in watercolor by allowing the colors to bleed into one another. It’s easy and fun!

1. Tape down your paper. If you are going to work wet, you have to tape down your paper to prevent wrinkling and buckling. I use painter’s tape and attach watercolor paper to a piece of cardboard. I use the back of old drawing pads.

2. Lightly outline your shape. Draw any shape – a starfish, a flower…

3. Wet the background leaving your shape dry. You want the paper to be damp (it will look shiny) but not a puddle. Watch a video demonstration on my IGTV here.

4. Apply the first color. When you touch your brush (dripping with paint) to the wet background the color will bleed onto the paper. Brush the color around a little but leave some white areas.

5. Apply a second color randomly by touching your brush to the paper. Don’t forget the remaining white areas of the background.

6. Continue adding colors randomly with this touching brush to wet background technique. Don’t over blend the colors by brushing too much.

7. Add secondary colors (smaller amounts of color) by flicking or tapping your brush as it’s held over your painting. I use my other hand to block my shape (keep paint off it).

8. Remove puddles. If there is an area where the paint is puddling, use a dry brush to absorb some of the excess.

9. Let the background dry. Don’t start painting your subject until your background is completely dry. If you don’t wait when you touch the edge of the wet background the paint will be sucked into your subject, flooding it with colors you may not want.

10. Erase paint if needed. If paint accidentally got on your subject you can remove it by using a damp brush and then blotting the brush onto a paper towel to suck up the color.

11. Paint your subject

Online video lessons are available in my shop.

Read my Watercolor Wisdom post here.


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Explore! We’ve got nothing but time

In the second year of my blog and my creative resolution, I was so inspired! I wanted to try everything. So many of the things I saw online interested me – designing repeating patterns, block printing, etc. That second year, I set out to try it all. As I struggled with cutting my first linoleum blocks, I realized how much time it would take to master block printing. To get “good” at any of the things on my list would require time and focus.

At that time I was making progress with watercolor and loving it. I was enjoying the feeling of moving beyond the struggling beginner stage. I also realized that if I continued to try everything, I was diluting my focus and time, and wouldn’t progress as much with watercolor. I made the decision to trim my list and keep watercolor at the top.

With the Coronavirus and self quarantine I, like many of you, find myself with lots of free time. Work has dried up, and leaving the house is extremely limited. I now have nothing but time. It’s not easy during these scary and uncertain times to put time into creating. Every morning I write a list of the “productive” things I want to accomplish. It motivates me. With each item I tackle – a chore, exercise, painting, writing a blog post, going outside, I’m motivated to do more things. The sense of accomplishment helps keep me positive.

Not sure what to put your energy into? My book takes you step by step through the process for introducing regular creativity into your life, finding inspiration, and exploring mediums. Learn about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

How to be an artist | how to start an art practice | explore art mediums
Available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon!


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Push Yourself

Watercolor painting by Eileen McKenna inspired by Degas | Degas’s dancers

This week, as I paint the final week of my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” email series, I’m so happy with what I’ve accomplished. It’s amazing what we can do when we venture outside of our comfort zone.

Painting Paris has given me the opportunity to revisit our trip, to learn more about Paris, to push myself creatively, and improve my watercolor skills. It’s like starting this blog six years ago. I made a commitment, announced it, and then felt accountable to following through. Before the blog I famously started creative projects and then abandoned them the first time it wasn’t easy.

I’ve learned it’s part of the creative process that there inevitably is a difficult phase. I no longer give up but push through and if pushing through doesn’t work I try again. And I appreciate the lesson each painting or sketch teaches me.

Recently I read an urban sketcher say, that sketching a place allows them to really see that place. I’m doing the painting after the fact, but I feel the same way. More than just looking back at photos of our trip to Paris, painting the photos is allowing me to relive it, see the details and it’s compelling me to dig deeper and learn more about aspects of our trip.

There were a few elements to the email series that I didn’t fully think through – the time it takes to do more detailed paintings – all while filming my process. The time it takes to edit the videos – five per week! Not to mention memory issues and technical problems that put my back five days and had me completely upgrading my desktop computer.

You don’t know what you don’t know until you do. Despite the frustrations and the time, I’m grateful to have learned as much as I have about video. I’m still fairly new to it but on my way. I never would have progressed as much if I hadn’t embarked on the email series and the idea to paint Paris on my own would have fizzled out much sooner.

I’m really proud of the content of the email series. I didn’t have it 100% mapped out when I launched it, and am happy with how it’s come together. Each of the four emails has a Paris related theme, includes tips on painting in watercolor, and includes five prompts within the week’s theme. There are detail on each prompt as well as links to learn more. There are several reference photos for each prompt on the Let’s Paint Paris pinterest board.

For each of the prompts there is a video showing my process for painting the prompt, where occasional watercolor tips pop up. (There is no audio in the videos.)

The “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” themes for the weeks are:

Week 1: Food (especially pastries!)

Week 2: The Architecture – Details of the city

Week 3: The Masters – Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Signac, etc.

Week 4: The Palace of Versailles

Each week as I started planning the prompts, searching for photos and links that gave further details, I became more and more inspired to paint that theme!

I loved thinking about my watercolor painting process and breaking it down into tips to share.

The email series is not available now, but I plan to release it again in the future – make sure you’re on my newsletter list if you’d like to be notified when it becomes available again. It’s a great program to inspire you, motivate you to paint daily, and help improve your watercolor skills. Sign up for my newsletter here.


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Keep Trying

Cafe de Flores Paris France watercolor sketch

The other day I was working in my sketchbook, painting the outside of a Parisian cafe. Buildings and perspective are not my strong point. I am impatient and like to just dive in and start painting with minimal pencil sketching – which is probably why I struggle with perspective. Anyway, I quickly realized my sketch was not going to work. The placement of things was off and there wasn’t any saving it. No big deal except, filming and creating a painting of a cafe is part of my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” series and I was committed to delivering the video, which meant I had to paint a cafe.

So I tried again. It didn’t start out great but I persevered and used a trick I sometimes use, which is to flip my painting and the reference photo upside down. This allows me to “see” things differently. It has to do with the right and left brain. I worked through the painting and was moderately pleased with the results. I was VERY pleased that I’d pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I thought of the saying, “You never know what you can do until you try.”

Ironically after I edited the video, of the cafe painting process, I ran into technical issues exporting it. It took several days of troubleshooting and trying different things including re-editing it several times, before I was finally able to export it and add it to the other “Let’s Paint Paris” videos.

I couldn’t help but see the correlation between working through the painting of the cafe and working through the technical video issues. In both cases I had to stay committed to the final goal, but I also had to stay focused on the step right in front of me.

Commit to your goal, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Focus on the next step, and then the one after that. Celebrate when finished. Sometimes what is most valuable is what you learned on the way to your goal.


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Free Watercolor USA Flag & Fireworks

Free Watercolor USA Flag & Fireworks clipart for scrapbooking blog and social media

Sign up for my newsletter here and receive the high resolution Flag & Fireworks clipart jpg image in your inbox. It’s great for blogs, social media, scrapbooking, creating invites and more! My newsletter goes out every two weeks and is a collection of all the things inspiring me:

  • artists and makers
  • places
  • crafts and all different art mediums
  • tutorials
  • podcasts
  • books
  • articles
  • shows
  • and more!

The newsletter arrives early Saturday mornings, just in time to enjoy with your coffee. My hope is, by sharing what is inspiring me, I’ll inspire you! Sign up for the newsletter here.

You can browse past newsletter issues here. Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at any time.

I look forward to sharing with you!
😀 Eileen
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My Creative Collection is an inspiring newsletter for all types of makers! Sign up at https://mycreativeresolution.com/newsletter/


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Several paintings at once takes the pressure off

Several paintings at once takes the pressure off
I always have a few paintings in progress at once. With watercolor it’s about having to wait for the layers to dry. With acrylics it’s convenient to have a few going on, when you have the paint mixed up and ready.

Having more than one, takes the pressure off one particular painting. During my drawing class days, I became so stressed about a drawing I was working on. I was afraid to add a single mark and ruin it. Thankfully I realized the unnecessary pressure I put on myself to make every drawing frame-able, and I relaxed way back!

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. 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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The second set of Acrylic Seascapes

Transitioning from watercolor to acrylicTransitioning from watercolor to acrylic
With 10 sets of 12” square canvases to complete this month, I have many paintings in various stages. For these 2, the second set of my acrylic canvas challenge, I wanted to add more lights and darks within the green of the wave. (See before below).
From watercolor to acrylic. Seascapes
I’m learning that with acrylics, it is better to work on a whole area of a painting to better blend the paints and create highlights and shadows. To do this, you need all those colors mixed and ready. I realized this yesterday when I tried to just add some highlights. Without the dark paint to blend into, my quick tweak didn’t go well.

Today I sat and mixed the paints and worked on finishing these. I was beginning to regret fussing with the paintings at all – you fix one area, and sometimes ruin another. At a certain point you have to call a painting done, and take what you learned to the next painting. Overall I’m happy with my progress so far this month.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. 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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A Magical Time at Disney World

Mickey and Minnie Disney World paradeWe had so much fun on our recent trip to Disney World! I highly recommend taking the kids when they are older because it’s a lot more fun going on rides with teenagers than managing diapers and strollers and all of that.

Magic Kingdom fireworks

Highlights of the trip:

  • The fireworks ay the Magic Kingdom – they project images onto the castle. It’s amazing! The people standing next to me got engaged during the fireworks!
  • The gorillas at Animal Kingdom, and the safari.
  • The Everest Expedition roller coaster at Animal Kingdom.
  • Meeting Star Wars characters at Hollywood Studios. I met Chewbacca!

Disney World is truly a place for all ages!

Everest Expedition roller coaster at Animal Kingdom
Gorillas at Animal Kingdom


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Follow your Creative “Must”

Creative epiphany while reading "Crossroads of should and must"
There are things you have to do and things you should do. Sometimes I follow what I want to do. It’s never a mistake for my happiness to start the day by painting. It doesn’t have to be for very long, but it feels good and sets a great tone for the day. I have flexibility in my schedule and after I get the “have to’s” out of the way:

  • kids off to school
  • time sensitive work completed

I sometimes follow what I feel like doing:

  • painting
  • sketching
  • designing a print pattern
  • writing about creativity

These creative avenues bring me joy. If I don’t do them I literally get cranky. We have to give priority to these “wants” because there will always be “should’s” that come before them. In her book “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion,” Author Elle Luna sums it up perfectly. A “must” is
“something that we feel compelled to do regardless of fame or fortune; the work is the reward.”

Learn more about “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion” here.

What are your creative musts? What are you called to do?

 

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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Christmas Countdown Day 19 & 20/25 – Santa’s Bag 🎁 and Santa 🎅🏻

Santa
Paint/draw along with me!
Creative prompts for Christmas countdown #Christmas #creative #advent

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.