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Designing for Valentine’s Day

Creative unique Valentine's Day prints cards gift tags | soccer Valentine | tree lover | sloths | cute hearts
I’ve been having fun painting and drawing designs for Valentine’s Day. After painting trees and creating my family tree digital download product, I thought a customizable “relationship tree” digital print would be cute! I also thought a lot of the kid Valentine’s are very girlie, so I designed cards with the boys and sporty girls in mind. My kids are beyond the age where they bring in cards for the class, but I remember those days – especially when I forgot to buy cards and was stuck making cards last minute. I would have loved the convenience of Printable Valentine’s Day cards. No need to leave the house!

Visit my Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt.

Customizable Family Tree Digital Download Printable | Unique Grandparent Mother's Day gift

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Another Swimmer Fabric Print!

Swim Champs Fabric Print Design by Eileen McKenna
I’m excited to announce another swimmer themed fabric is available in my Spoonflower shop!

“Swim Champs” joins eight other fabric designs in the Swimmer theme, perfect for making a quilt, bag, or any other sewing project for your favorite swimmer!
Swimmer Fabric Prints by Eileen McKenna available on Spoonflower | Swim Fabric Designs https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/eileenmckenna
Click here to visit my Spoonflower shop! Click here to see swim related sewing projects.


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How to Design an Invitation

How to Design Invitations | DIY Invites | Invitation Tutorial | Easy Invites
Designing an invite – especially for your own event – is so fun! Here are some easy steps to guide you through it.

1. Determine the style and aesthetic of your event. Your invite should be a reflection of the actual event. You don’t want a formal, elegant invite for a backyard BBQ. Is your event:

  • Formal and elegant
  • Whimsical and fun
  • Geared to kids
  • Sporty
  • Feminine
  • Other

2. Select the form of your invite:

  • Single card
  • Folded
  • Layered paper
  • Unique shape
  • Other  

Invitation forms | How to Design an Invitation by Eileen McKenna

3. Select a type of invite:

  1. Border art with text in the middle
  2. Small icon with text below
  3. Large art or image with text below or to one side
  4. ”All Art” with text in open areas
  5. Image in background behind the text
  6. Text as the art

Types of Invitations | How to Design an Invite by Eileen McKenna

4. Select a size. Keep in mind standard envelope sizes and postage rates. I believe square envelopes are more expensive to mail. Standard sizes:

  • A7 – 5” x 7”
  • A6 – 4.5” x 6.25”
  • A2 – 4.25” x 5.5” (1/4 of letter size paper)
  • Other

5. Select artwork that suits your theme. Digital download invitation borders and clipart are available in my Etsy shop – Click here to visit. Or use a photo of the guest of honor. Or both.

6. Collect all the key information of the event – The who, what, where, when, why, RSVP, and anything else you need to convey. Write it on scrap paper or print it out for the next step.

7. Layout. On your scrap paper divide the information into different levels of info and label it. The most important info is what the event is – Level 1. Level 2 is the date and place and Level 3 are the time and address. Use the same style to format anything within the same level. The style of the text is made up of font, text size, and color. Select colors from your chosen artwork. Use no more than two fonts that complement each other. While professional layout programs are great, Word and some free or inexpensive programs can do the job too. 
Levels of information in an invitation | How to design invitations

8. Paper. Select a thicker card stock than basic computer paper. Select specialty paper(s) or colored paper if it suits your event’s style and works with your chosen invite form and type.

9. Optional – Add embellishments. Keep in mind some embellishments will increase the cost of postage.

  • Ribbon
  • Sequins or rhinestones
  • Other

Whether you print at home or send you file to be printed at a copy shop, following these steps will help you achieve the perfect invites for your event! Click here to visit my Etsy Shop for downloadable invitation borders and clipart for your invitation designs.
How to Design Invitations using downloadable art Eileen McKenna

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” where I feature artists and makers, and link to inspiring art, design, and craft, inspiring places, interesting books, movies, and more. It’s a collection of all the things inspiring me delivered to your inbox every two weeks. Click here to sign up.
How to Design an Invitation | Create your own DIY Invites by Eileen McKenna


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The First Few Creative Days of 2019

Coastal inspired art | watercolor seascape by Eileen McKenna
2019 is off to a good start! I’m making drawing and painting a priority and try to work in the mornings, even if it’s just for a little bit. It’s fun to sit down with no real thought as to where it will lead and let things unfold.

With painting holiday themed things throughout December, it’s been a while since I painted a seascape. Looking through my stack of unfinished projects, I found the start of a seascape and suddenly felt inspired to finish it. (Our annual New Year’s Day walk at the beach may have also inspired this. The waves were crazy!) Painting the foam was so much fun!

There are two time-lapse videos on Instagram if you want to see how I went from here:
Step one painting the ocean in watercolor

to here:  The secret is a lot of white gouache!
Painting the ocean in watercolor final

As I was looking through my supplies this week, my kneaded eraser was nowhere to be found, I had only one sheet of watercolor paper left, and my favorite sketchbook was running low! I didn’t paint today but I did head to Blick to stock up on these essentials. I usually paint using 9” x 12” or 12” x 12” watercolor paper, but felt inspired to also grab a larger pad of 12″ x 16″.

It’s funny – a few years ago my favorite size was 6” x 6” – so small! It was an accident that I went to the 12” x 12”. I ordered the wrong size, decided to give it a try, and have never looked back!


Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber ErasersCanson XL Mix Media PadsFluid Easy-Block Watercolor Paper Blocks

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!

the secret to painting watercolor seascapes | how to paint waves


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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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Painting in a Winter Wonderland

Winter skating scene by Eileen McKenna
Other than a one or two days when I had the flu, I’ve painted throughout the holiday season. You can see every post on Instagram @eileenmckenna. I really enjoy this relaxing time and the holiday and winter concepts I’ve explored. Anytime I’ve worked for a week or month within a theme, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of my ideas. One of my main goals for 2019 is to work within themes. First up Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

Winter illustrations by Eileen McKenna | ice skates hat mittens

To see my daily posts follow me on Instagram @eileenmckenna.


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Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
I am so excited to share with you this interview with Yuko Miki, the Artist and Illustrator behind Honeyberry Studios. Back in 2014, shortly after starting my blog, I began following (and admiring) Yuko’s daily “Happiness is” illustrations. In 2015, Yuko shared online that she was quitting her job and pursuing her art full time. Since then I’ve seen snippets of her full time artist life on Instagram @honeyberrystudios, but I’m excited to hear more about Yuko’s artist journey.

What inspired you to do your “Happiness is” project?
At the time (spring of 2014), I was toying with the idea of becoming a working artist. And then I thought, if I wanted to be a working artist, I should be making art every day and enjoy the process. So that’s why I decided to start my 365 day daily art project. I’d also learned about Lisa Congdon (one of my heroes) and her daily art projects and was deeply inspired by it. I wanted to get over my fear of putting myself out there, too. It was sort of a shock therapy where I’d post my drawing (and not always perfect) every day, and eventually I cringed less about sharing my work on the internet.

As far as the topic goes, I wanted it to be something that’s relatively easy. I first thought about making art about food I eat every day, like a food journal, but knew I’d eat the same thing over and over 😀 So then I thought of happiness and what makes me happy every day. I’m not naturally a glass-half-full kind of a person, so being more mindful about happiness would be a good practice for me anyway and decided to make an art about it for 365 days.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Happiness Is Daily Project

How was your daily drawing received? Were you surprised by the reaction?
It was received well. It resonated with many people. My subject was accessible and relatable. A lot of people are also looking for ways to practice mindfulness and want more positivity in their life. I grew my social media following during my project as well.

I also got attention from Sakura of America during my project because I was using their drawing pen (Micron) a lot in my art and hash-tagging them. They eventually hired me to make drawing tutorial videos for their YouTube channel and I still work for them.

The full-circle moment also came when Lisa Congdon featured my project in her speech about sketchbook practice in Portland, OR in October 2014. I was so honored to be recognized by one of my personal heroes, especially because the project and my creative journey was inspired by her.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | I Love Seattle by Yuko Miki
What type of work did you do at the time?
I was working as an Executive Assistant and HR Manager at a local non-profit domestic violence organization at the time. I’d worked there for 14 years in several different positions, majority of it in direct client service programs.

Tell us a little bit about your background (in general) as well as your creative background.
I was born and raised in Himeji, Japan. It’s a small town and our home was surrounded by rice paddies and mountains. When I was growing up, I didn’t appreciate living in a rural part of the town very much. My family also grew a lot of our food, too (on top of their regular jobs), and I thought being a farmer was very uncool. But now I know how fortunate I was to grow up with nature and we were self sufficient in many of our staple foods.

I liked drawing as a kid but never did anything with that in my teenage to early adult years. I started doodling as a hobby in my mid-30s. I took some art classes but am mostly self-taught.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Cards
What made you make the decision to go full time as an artist?

I’d been working at the non-profit for over 14 years – though I had several different positions throughout the years, I was becoming too comfortable. I needed a change. I was also itching to do something more creative and positive. I’d had my first Etsy shop since 2011 but I wasn’t selling very much and wondered how far I could take my business if I’d worked on it full-time. So I took a week off to think and sat down with my husband, Dave. We looked at our finances and found his income alone could support us for the foreseeable future. With his blessing, I gave my notice on that following Monday.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Gift Wrap
Once you went “full time” did you start with everything – art fairs, teaching, etc. or were things slowly introduced?

The very first thing I did was I went on a solo retreat. Leaving work that I had for 14 years was a big transition for me and I needed to take some time to process that. I spent a couple of days alone in my friend’s studio on beautiful Whidbey Island and set my intentions for the next phase of my life. I brainstormed my values and how I wanted to run my business. I also mapped out the year as far as what I needed to work on and put rough schedule on my calendar.

I didn’t start with everything but didn’t have a single focus either. A lot of the advice for creatives out there was “focus on one thing and grow it before adding something else” But I didn’t know what I should focus on first! I was making products with block printing and illustration, doing some commission work here and there, and also offering one-on-one creative coaching.

Teaching came a little later after I realized I didn’t want to make block printing products any more – I got bored and burned out printing the same things over and over. So I focused on creating more products based on my illustrations because it was easier to scale. I started teaching block printing instead. I did some craft fairs in the beginning but not too much – it took me a while to figure out how to be successful at craft fairs – I did many, many very unsuccessful shows in the beginning 😀
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | block printing class

Your posts about art fairs always seems so positive – how have you found doing them?
I love them! It’s a lot of work, but I like how I can move a lot of my products at shows. I get the most sales from doing craft fairs – when you have a product- based business like I do, you need to get in front of as many people as possible. It’s such a simple truth, but it took me a couple of years to actually internalize that and start doing more shows. I also work alone from home most of the time, so it’s nice to meet customers in person and hear their complements all day long 😀 The creative community in Seattle area is very strong and supportive, too. I’ve made many maker friends through fairs and markets.
Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | Spring Cards

What was a positive surprise to your full time artist journey?
I love working for myself. I did fine being an employee and working in a team, too, but being my own boss is SO nice. I love the freedom and the level of engagement I experience every day working towards my goal. I’m also a highly structured person, so it’s great not being interrupted by your co-workers all the time 😀

Negative surprise?
I don’t actually spend a lot of time making art. When people say how nice it is that I get to make art every day, I’m like “I make art maybe 20% of the time. 80% of the time is spent on marketing, responding to emails, packaging, shipping, keeping track of inventories, selling at markets, reaching out to retailers, etc.” It’s just part of being a solopreneur but it’s also an interesting dichotomy.

Interview with Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios on becoming a Full Time Artist | artist advice
What advice would you give others who are thinking about going full time as artists?

Don’t quit your day job until your creative business is making enough consistent income to replace your day job! Or you have other means to pay the bills (like have a big savings or a partner who can support you, like I did.) It can take years for your business to become consistently profitable, and you need to protect your passion – if you were taking on any creative opportunities that come your way just so you can pay the bills, you’ll be resentful and will eventually be burned out. Once you’re burnt out, that’s it. You’ll lose your passion and won’t be doing what you love or love what you do.

Also, don’t do something just because someone else is doing it and being successful. I have a friend who’s killing it with her original paintings. I was tempted to start making and selling original paintings as well, but it just didn’t appeal to me as much as other things I do. I also didn’t have time or energy for it. If I’d gone down that path, I would’ve spread my focus too much and slowed the growth of my business. Maybe eventually I want to do that, but I’m not gonna change my business model solely based on what’s working for other people.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself! It’s so easy to keep working 7 days a week when you have your own business. I was working non-stop when I first transitioned from my day job to a full-time business and started feeling burned out within two months. I started taking every 7th week off in October 2015 (inspired by seanwes at seanwes.com) and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Visit Yuko’s website where you can shop “happy art and stationery gifts” at honeyberrystudios.com. Follow her on Instagram @honeyberrystudios

Read my other interviews:
Interview with Charlie O’Shields creator of Doodlewash and founder World Watercolor Group
Interview with Crystal Moody of a Year of Creative Habits

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


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Retro Christmas Gifts for Kids

Unique Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids | Retro Holiday Gift Ideas Vintage Presents
As I’ve been creating my daily holiday illustrations counting down to Christmas, I’ve been thinking about when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s. My recent illustration was of 11 year old me, and I had to add tinsel to the tree to make it historically accurate! I remember that year and how thrilled I was to open a 45 record of “Oh Mickey you’re so fine.” Times have changed!

I clearly remember many of my favorite gifts, and I looked on Amazon to see if any of them are still available. I loved these gifts when I was a kid!

  1. Perfection – this was one of my favorite games – rushing to put the pieces in place before the timer ran out and it popped!
  2. Lite Brite – I loved making glowing pictures by putting in the colored pegs
  3. Operation – a classic game! Can you remove the bone without a buzz?!
  4. Hungry Hungry Hippos – loud and fun
  5. Don’t Break the Ice – I loved carefully tapping the ice
  6. Latch Hook Craft Project – I loved creating these!
  7. Rainbow Suspenders – We loved rainbows back then – on everything!
  8. Ventriloquist Doll – I couldn’t wait to get this doll. I can admit I never really mastered it!
  9. Stuffed Monkey – I wanted a real one, but my mom said no.
  10. Doll Stroller – I wheeled that thing all over the house!
  11. Silver Shoelaces – I thought I was the coolest with these.
  12. Pottery Wheel – my brother gave it to me back then, and I recently gave one to his daughter!

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!
*Please note items 1-5 are the updated products of the ones I owned. Items 6-12 are gift ideas for items similar to the ones I owned. Please refer to Amazon customer reviews for each item before purchasing. Thank you. 🙂


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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!