Watercolor for Beginners

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Follow through on creative ideas with this simple tool!

One of the biggest problems we have as creatives is too many ideas. Have you ever been working on a project and you get an idea and “squirrel!” – You set off in a new direction? If the same thing happens again while you‘re working on the “new” idea, you’ll never finish anything!

One of the most helpful tools I use to keep me focused is a notebook. My notebook and morning routine have enabled me to keep my New Year’s Resolution (My Creative Resolution) for almost 8 years! Every morning I write in my notebook and check in with my creative projects.

Aside from daily writing, a critical part is checking back on previous entries. Doing this reminds me of past ideas and projects. It allows me to re-focus back on things I may have forgotten about. When I’m revisiting past entries I also can decide which ideas not to pursue, because it’s hard to get things done if we spread ourselves too thin. Looking back allows me to feel satisfaction when I’ve finished a project.

Sometimes I have an idea that in the moment I’m very excited about, but as time passes I lose confidence in it. But when an idea keeps popping up – I know it’s time to follow through.

This is how I was able to finish the book based on My Creative Resolution – “Creative Exploration.” The idea for the book kept coming back to me. I would work on it for a while and then move on to other things. When the book idea came back around for the second or third year in a row, I figured it was time. I immediately hired my own proofreader. I knew having a due date and someone else would hold me accountable to finish a draft.

If you are having trouble following through on your ideas, I encourage you to get your own notebook. Start writing down your goals and ideas. Check in with your notebook (and projects) daily. It makes a world of difference! Want to be creative but don’t know where to start? Try “Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.”

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!


Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!

Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. No more gathering with extended family. We’ll be home, just the five of us. Although we are limited, it is still important to celebrate and make it special. Two of my kids are coming home for college. Being together is always a reason to celebrate!

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year:

Baked Goods Drop Off

Even though we can’t be with our extended family – it would be really nice to bake things and drop them off on Thanksgiving morning. Show them we are thinking of them. This “Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread” recipe is my favorite. Pumpkin bread with a nice card would be so sweet! Baking and making cards would be great activities to get everyone in the spirit prior to Thanksgiving Day.

Watch the Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is always on in our house on Thanksgiving. Even though it won’t be a “parade” but prerecorded segments – I’ll gladly tune in as we prepare our Thanksgiving meal.

Set the Table

Even though our gatherings will be smaller, go all out – china, crystal. Whatever nice stuff you have – use it! Collect acorns and fall leaves to add to your table and make it more festive. Get the kids involved in creating handmade decorations! 

Don’t Skimp on the Sides

You might be tempted to go simpler with your menu – don’t! Make all the favorites. Get the kids involved! 

Gratitude Cards

We always go around the table on Thanksgiving and tell everyone what we are grateful for. 2020 has certainly reminded us what is important. Despite the circumstances we have a lot to be grateful for. These gratitude cards are available in my Etsy shop.

Table Activities

It’s nice to linger at the table on Thanksgiving, but sometimes that’s harder with little kids. Crayons and paper did the trick when our kids were small and we went out to eat. Here are a few Thanksgiving coloring pages available on Etsy to extend your table time.
Pilgrim coloring page fun Thanksgiving activity for kids

The Thanksgiving Walk

In my husband’s family it used to be a tradition to take a walk between the Thanksgiving meal and dessert. This year it would be especially nice, as we could walk with family that live nearby, while still keeping socially distanced.

Thanksgiving Slideshow/Video

After a walk and dessert, it would be awesome to take a “stroll down memory lane” and watch a slideshow or look through photos of previous Thanksgivings. The years go fast and the kids get so big!

Thanksgiving Art Project

How about an art project? This printable step by step tutorial for painting a turkey in watercolor is fun for all ages! Or create a realistic leaf with watercolor. Or create a fall paper quilt and see how different each family member’s quilt turns out! All projects are available in my Etsy shop.

Want to make it a full on paint night? Paint a Turkey on canvas with acrylics. Watch my process on YouTube:

Thanksgiving Family Movie

After eating a big meal, it’s nice to rest on the couch and watch a movie together. Just like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade ushers in the Christmas season with Santa, Thanksgiving night puts me in the mood for a Holiday classic like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Elf.” Or maybe we’ll watch a family classic like Indiana Jones or … hmmm. Time for us to each make a list of ideas!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!





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Woodland Creatures Birch Forest Watercolor Painting Project

This watercolor painting project is a new spin on a my original birch forest painting tutorial. The woodland creatures – an owl, a fox and a bunny – make this new beginner project fun for all ages!

It’s easier than it looks! The final painting may look complex but the instructions – with photos – walk you through the entire project step by step. It’s a great project for home schooling, for a group, or even painting on your own.

Watercolor techniques used:

  • Masking areas with tape
  • Wet on wet painting
  • Splattering
  • Dry on dry painting
  • Painting layers

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Watercolor paper. I use 9” x 12” Arches 140 lb. cold pressed paper. 
  • Painter’s tape
  • Watercolor paint. Colors: orange, yellow, cobalt blue, black
  • Paint brushes – 3 round (1 thick, 1 medium, 1 thin) and 1 flat.
  • Container of water
  • Paper Towel
  • Palette for mixing paint with water. You can use a plastic lid or the top of a plastic egg carton.

The printable pdf instructions are available in my Etsy shop here.

Let me know if you try it – I’d love to see!


Ready to get started in watercolor? The “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” is for you!

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

Learn more here!

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

Fun Beginner Winter Art Project Learn Watercolor Kid Art

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Paint a Turkey

How to paint a turkey

As I cleared the Halloween stuff off the mantle and setup up the Thanksgiving decorations I realized my selection was lacking. What to do? Grab a small canvas and paint a turkey of course!

Watch my process in the Youtube video below. Please like and subscribe!

Looking to follow along? You can find a list of my paint colors below.

Watch the video here.

View more fun Fall projects here!

Paint colors I used:

  • Tan – mixed from yellow and brown
  • Brown
  • Dark brown – mixed from brown and black
  • Black
  • Deep Red/Maroon – Alizarin Crimson or mix red with a little blue
  • Pink – mixed from white and deep red
  • Light blue – mixed from white, blue, and a little pink
  • White
  • Green – mixed from Phthalo Green and white

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Take Time to Appreciate your Work

Tar time to appreciate your work

If you’ve been creating for a while – whatever the medium – I encourage you to take time to look through your work. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your progress and proud of the work you’ve created.

When I first started painting I realized that while you are working on something you are hypercritical of a piece. It makes sense – you are working at it to achieve the best work you can. After some time passes, when you are “removed” from a piece, you can appreciate it with a less critical eye. 

There is so much to learn from simply reviewing our work – what subjects and themes we are interested in, new phases in our style or technique, what areas we may want to work on, pieces we’d like to finish, and ideas for new projects.

I’ve been reviewing my watercolor paintings and recent sketchbook work from the last 7 months. It’s like a time capsule. So much good stuff from such a weird time in the world! I enjoyed the Monet inspired practice work I did. So fun! It was inspired by “The Masters” week from my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program. 

As I collected and reviewed my paintings, I decided to restock my shop with a selection of original paintings. Keep an eye out for the restock announcement because with originals – once a painting is sold it’s gone!

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Blending with Colored Pencil

When I took my first drawing class as an adult (about 12 years ago), colored pencils quickly became my favorite medium. I was using my kids’ Crayola pencils and they were doing the job quite nicely. This brown bear was one of my first drawings.

Over time I became frustrated with my small selection of colors. You might think the answer is to buy a larger set of pencils. But, you’ll never have enough colors and what about darks within an object? Another student in the class – a skilled woman named Donna – had the answer. She taught me how to blend the colors.

I was thrilled when I was able to create the terra-cotta colored pot for this kitten to sit in.

The key to blending is to color with the side of the tip of the pencil not the point. The color goes on lighter, leaving some of the paper exposed. Notice the difference in the photo below. The brown and green vertical lines are colored with the tip, the brown and green to the right of that is colored with the side of the tip.

After applying a color, add your second color on top of it. Then use a third color – a lighter color like white – to blend the two colors. I used yellows and light tans to blend the colors in my leaf coloring page. I love how it came out!

Download the leaf coloring page from my Etsy shop here.
Fall Leaves coloring page

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Watercolor Basics free download!

Watercolor Basics free pdf download
I have been painting in watercolor for over twelve years. When I first started out I didn’t know anything about paper or paint or even brushes. For months I used the wrong paper and it showed! Over the years I’ve tried different paints, papers and brushes. I created the “Watercolor Basics” pdf to give you the information I was missing when I started. I want you to start your watercolor journey with the right tools and tips, so that you’ll have success and develop a love of watercolor like I did! 

To receive the free pdf, just sign up for my weekly newsletter – a collection of all the things inspiring me, in hopes of inspiring you! 

Sign up for the Watercolor Basics free download here!


Ready to get started in watercolor? The “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” is for you!

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

Learn more here!

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

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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

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How to Paint a Fall Leaf in Watercolor

This week, find a leaf that inspires you and paint it. I’ve uploaded a video of my process for painting a leaf:

  • With pencil I outline the basic shape.
  • I use just three colors – cadmium yellow, cadmium red, and ultramarine blue and mix colors as I go. From those three colors I create all the fall colors I need – purples, maroons, browns.
  • I work wet encouraging the colors to bleed into one another.

It’s fun and relaxing. Check out the video below and watch my painting process. Then find your leaf and start painting. I’d love to see – tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna.

Please like the video and subscribe!

Want a comprehensive guide to getting 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

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Painting Leaves in Watercolor

Fall Leaves in Watercolor by Eileen McKenna

Recently I painted a pile of leaves in watercolor. It was an easy relaxing process:

  • Collect a few leaves
  • Trace the leaves
  • Mix fall colors from yellow, red and blue
  • Work wet and encourage the colors to bleed and blend.

Believe it or not, I’m often more interested in how it feels to sit and paint than what the final results are. Sure, there is satisfaction in how a painting comes out and sometimes frustration when I can’t achieve my vision. But the process of sitting and painting is…the best.

I shared a video on how I created the watercolor pile of leaves painting. Grab your paints and give it a try!

Please like the video and subscribe!

Want a comprehensive guide to getting 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