Halloween Paper Quilt Making Fun!

Printable Halloween Quilt Activity Kit

The best part about creating a paper quilt is there is no sewing! Just print the patterned papers and the template. Cut squares out of the patterned paper. Assign the different papers a letter in the key. Then follow the template. You can create several different quilt designs with one printable kit. Just assign the papers to different letters in the key.

Printable Halloween Paper Quilt Making Kit
Printable Halloween Paper Quilt Making Kit

Watercolor Sunsets

Watercolor Sunset by Eileen McKenna | painting in watercolor

It’s been a summer of sunsets. I’ve been teaching the kids at the art center how to paint watercolor sunsets – showing them some of the color possibilities, and how to blend the colors. I encourage them to choose their own color combinations and I love seeing how different their skies are from one another. 

I’ve also been admiring virtual sunsets on Instagram and using some of those photos to paint from. The painting above is inspired by Heidi of @yankeeinsc. Heidi’s photos of sunset skies in South Carolina and the reflections are spectacular. Be sure to visit her on Instagram. 

I’ve also painted from photos taken closer to home. From the account of @sunnydog41 and @charmychar. It’s fun to make the personal connection when you paint someone’s photo. Soon we are going on a short road trip and I’m excited to take my own photos!

Explore your creativity. Learn watercolor.
Learn Watercolor, Explore your Creativity at shop.eileenmckenna.com.

For the Love of Watercolor

For the love of watercolor   | watercolor for beginners how to guide

Over a decade ago as a young mom, I took a drawing class followed by a watercolor class. A few years later, I got serious about creating everyday and started my blog. I set out to explore every medium in search of my thing. The early days of my blog involved pencil sketches and working with acrylics. Then one day I decided to add color to my sketchbook and pulled out my watercolors. BAM! It hit me – I loved watercolor! I never put them away again.

Over the last few years I have developed watercolor painting projects and other learning resources in PDF and video form. Today I’m super excited to announce my new guide called “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

What’s in the downloadable pdf guide: 5 chapters, 5 painting projects, 50 pages.

The exercises and painting projects walk you through and build upon the fundamentals of watercolor. 

The 5 painting projects include:

  1. Starfish Painting
  2. Birch Tree Forest Painting
  3. Ice Cream Cones Painting
  4. Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake Illustration
  5. Seascape Painting

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Learning from Others

My painting from Megan Elizabeth’s Acrylic Seascape class

I love watercolor – how you can add more and more water, how easily it spreads on the paper. I occasionally paint with acrylics but find myself struggling with them. They don’t spread as easily and you can’t add too much water because it breaks down the paint. Last weekend I took an online acrylic class “Acrylic Painting: Abstract Landscapes” with Megan Elizabeth, which focused on painting a seascape.

Often I try to figure things out myself, but I thought it would be a fun project for the weekend and might provide some insight into my own struggles with acrylics. The class, which is suitable for beginners, is easy to follow. I enjoyed learning how someone else approaches painting a seascape – which is my favorite subject. The biggest take away for me was observing the paints Megan uses – which are much more fluid than the heavy body ones I have. And she doesn’t mix her colors. She blends on the canvas. I’m always struggling with mixing the right color and then running out and not having enough. Definitely food for thought when I try my next seascape canvas.

Taking a class often reveals nuggets that can enhance your own art practice. They might not even be a key element to the lesson, but have value to you at for where you are in your art practice. I’ll never forget taking Val Webb’s Drawing Children class where she explained the nuances of a child’s face. I realized drawing (or painting) something involves knowing your subject really, really well. I applied this lesson to seascapes and spent more time observing the ocean.  

Ultimately we take advice from others and roll it into the way we prefer to do things. I’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to hold a brush and they reveal differing opinions. It’s good to know other options on how do things and then you can decide what works best for you.

Final painting from my Watercolor Seascape Painting online Class

Time and learning new things during quarantine

Happy Face Mask Fabric Design | Sew your own mask!

I remember a saying when I was a kid, “You can be anything you set your mind to.” During self quarantine I’ve been thinking a lot about time. I think the saying really should be “You can be anything (or do anything) you set your TIME to.”

As I pursue new things – some out of curiosity, some out of necessity, some out of both – I realize now more than ever how important time is. Time waiting for the dough to rise. Time practicing sewing to make masks. Taking my time giving my husband a haircut.

Setting our mind to something, having a goal or intention, is important but it’s only the first step. Spending time working on something is the essential ingredient. Each time I bake bread I learn more about the process. The more I sit down to sew, the less it feels like starting over. I threaded the bobbin again today!

I have more time these days. I think it’s important to be intentional about what I spend my time on. I can do anything!

“Smiles Happy Face Mask” Fabric is available in my Spoonflower shop. Browse all my fabric designs here.

Watercolor Ice Cream Cones Online Lesson

I miss teaching the kids at the art studio! We are all stuck home trying to stay motivated and creative. The positive in all of this is I’ve had time to develop a new watercolor lesson specifically for beginners with kids, and the young at heart, in mind – Watercolor Ice Cream Cones!

In this video painting lesson I’ve broken down the steps for painting ice cream cones. I introduce each step and then explain it. Kids can follow along, listening and watching, and then pause the lesson to complete that step. At any point they can go back to watch a step again.

Learn more here -> Watercolor Ice Cream Cones Online Video Painting Lesson

At any level, the results of this painting project are beautiful! It’s fun to complete the lesson more than once because with different color choices the final watercolor ice cream cones paintings will be quite different!

Throughout the lesson participants will learn the difference between wet and dry painting, as well as several watercolor fun techniques!

The lesson is an afternoon of painting fun and learning watercolor! The running time of the video is 20 minutes, but there are three places where the paint needs to dry before moving on. (Twice for 15 minutes. Once for about an hour.)

Learn more here -> Watercolor Ice Cream Cones Online Video Painting Lesson

After you purchase the video lesson, download the pdf file made available to you. It contains the link and password to access the lesson, and the list of supplies. Help the kids gather the supplies, access the video and they will be on their way to a fun time painting!

I would love to see their final paintings! Tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna.

Learn more here -> Watercolor Ice Cream Cones Online Video Painting Lesson

Watercolor art lesson for  kids | fun quarantine activity  |  watercolor lesson for beginners | how to paint in watercolor
Watercolor Art Lesson for Kids – fun and easy video tutorial

Why my watercolor skies aren’t “smooth” – the mystery solved!

For a while now I’ve been frustrated with my watercolor skies. If I don’t paint them lightly, they end up looking weird. It’s hard to describe but the paint looks funny – like a pattern of little blooms. Instead of smooth, they have a texture. I’ve wanted to seek help on this issue, but I was having a hard time articulating my problem.

A search on Pinterest for “watercolor skies” led me to Susan Chiang’s blog where I saw the phrase “granulating pigments.”

This is my issue!

Susan says, “When picking your blues, take note of granulating pigments. This will vary based on the color and manufacturer so the best way is to test it out yourself on a piece of paper.”

Now I know it’s a characteristic of the paint that is working against me and the look I want to achieve. Progress!

This post by Michelle Morris, on the Empty Easel, describes in depth the issue and why some paints don’t appear smooth: Know Your Watercolor Paint: Understanding Granulating, Transparent & Staining Colors

My next step is to test out the blues I have, as well as see if they are labeled to determine the best color and mixes for my skies to achieve that smooth look I want.

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.

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!