Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Gifts to Inspire Creativity

Christmas gifts to inspire creativity | unique holiday gifts for everyone creative artist
If you have creativity in your life – regular creativity – you already know what a gift it is. It’s a relaxing time, almost like meditation, and it can ease the anxiety associated with busy lives. What better gift this holiday season, than the gift of creativity? Here are a variety of gifts that will inspire creativity in your friends and family.

The items show below are all available on Amazon, just click the image to view the Amazon listing details. Read my disclaimer is below.

Art Set – Create a gift set with my “Creative Exploration Book,” favorite sketchpad, sketching pencils, kneaded eraser, and colored pencils. The recipient will be all ready to explore their creativity!

Painting Set – Watercolor is my favorite medium. I started with this Van Gogh watercolor tube set. Combine paints, brushes, a palette, and paper for a great gift!

Screen Printing Kit – I’ve wanted to try screen printing forever. I should add this to my list!


Block Printing Kit – Block printing is so fun and satisfying. This Speedball kit even includes ink!


Baking Set – Combine a baking book with pans or accessories. I love to bake and Williams-Sonoma products are some of my favorites!

Cooking Set – We just made a Gordon Ramsey recipe and it was the best Shrimp Scampi we ever had! And it didn’t take forever to prepare. Combine a recipe book with Gordon Ramsay knives or other cooking accessories for the perfect gift.

Gardening – How about a kit to grow a succulent garden?


Crochet – Combine a “How to Crochet” book with needles and yarn for a unique gift.

Embroidery – An embroidery kit is a great way to introduce someone to embroidery. Everything they need is included! Except maybe scissors.

This post contains affiliate links. 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: I have NOT used all the items in this post. Please refer to Amazon listings and reviews for specific product details. 


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How to Find a Hobby

There are transitions in our lives where we suddenly have more time for ourselves – the youngest starts kindergarten, the kids go off to college, or move out on their own, retirement. With many of these transitions there is a mix emotions, yearning for the time before, coupled with excitement for the possibilities of next phase.

People may advise – do something for you, get a hobby. But the question is often, but what? Here are steps to exploring and finding hobbies that you will enjoy.

1. Compile a list of everything that appeals you. Write a list of every hobby, activity, goal, project, that has peaked your interest over the years. Think both broadly and specific. For example, hiking (broad), refinishing the living room coffee table (specific).

2. Prioritize the items on your list. Use A, B, C, D to assign your level of interest. If there are several items with an A priority, number the As to prioritize them. Rewrite the As in order. You now have a list of what hobbies and projects to try. For more details on the prioritizing process click here.

3. Schedule the time. If you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen. Schedule time to research, learn, and engage in the hobby or project. I recommend at the least five short sessions, and one longer session each week. I try to paint for 15 minutes in the mornings, and once a week I schedule a longer painting session. Put it on your calendar!

4. Focus on one hobby or activity a week. Write a weekly to do list based on the hobby/activity you chose. For example, for hiking your list might include: researching hiking trails in your area, assessing your wardrobe for hiking gear, reaching out to friends to join you on a hike, looking online for hiking tips and info, planning a hike for the week, and ultimately going on a hike.

Tips: Start small. Don’t start out with a 5 hour hike or a large canvas. Try a shorter beginner trail or a small drawing on paper – something less intimidating. Don’t invest a lot. When possible use what you have at the start. If you determine you love a hobby and are going to continue with it, then spend money as needed.

5. Reflect on the week and the activity. Did you enjoy it? Do you want to continue with it? If so do it. If not, go to the next item on your list.

6. Repeat until you find something you want to continue with. Trying new things is fun, but at a certain point you may want to focus. Focusing allows you to improve in a specific area.

Through this process you may even uncover several hobbies you enjoy. You may also find something you like, focus on it for a few weeks or months, and then decide to move on to something else. At that point you can always refer back to your list – or create a new one – to find the next thing to try.

Interested in exploring your creativity? Creativity is for everyone! Talent is just a starting point.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

How to Find a Hobby You'll Enjoy | Retirement ideas


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NOW is the time for YOUR Creative Exploration to begin!

Creative Exploration book -

Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life is a 62 page pdf ebook with:

  • Over 30 Creative Tips
  • Step by Step Process for Introducing Regular Creativity for Six Weeks and beyond!
  • Worksheets for taking stock of your creative goals, history, past hurdles
  • Worksheet for organizing and prioritizing all of your creative ideas.
  • Detailed process for introducing you to different mediums – with flexibility for your interests.

Would you like to:

  • Be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings?
  • Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing?

Creative Exploration is for you! Order now by clicking here.

Creative Freebies - weekly creative planner color wheel printable stickers Creative Exploration ebook
Order Creative Exploration now through September 24th and receive the printable Bonus Kit for FREE!
  • Printable Creative Weekly Planner worksheet
  • Printable Color Wheel and Color Wheel worksheet
  • Printable Creative Exploration “Stickers”

Do you spend more time scrolling and pinning or liking, than doing your own creative projects? Do you dabble in creativity but can’t seem to develop a regular routine? Would you like to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Would you like to start on your own creative journey and explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing?

Creativity is for EVERYONE. Talent is just a starting point.

I once read about an artist and wondered who told her she should pursue creativity, who gave her permission? Thankfully I realized she gave herself permission, and it was time for me to give myself permission. I had goals that involved exploring mediums, developing skills, and finding inspiration, but what I didn’t expect was the feeling that creativity gives me. For a long time regular creativity eluded me, but I finally made a commitment that has brought so much joy into my life, for five years and counting.

I want that for you! I want to share my process for developing a regular creative practice and start you on your creative journey.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

regular creative practice | how to be creative | creative exploration


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Art Books

Recommended creative reading - art books - women artists, urban painting watercolor
I bought myself 2 early birthday presents:

Danielle Krysa’s book “A Big Important Art Book: Now with Women!” Danielle is the author of the wildly popular blog The Jealous Curator, creator of, one of my favorite podcasts, Art for your Ear, and author of several other books including a favorite of mine “Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative.”

Shari Blaukopf’s “Working with Color: Techniques for Using Media on the Go.” I have followed Shari’s blog “The Sketchbook” and admired her watercolor work since I started blogging. Her ability to paint the colors and shades of snow has always amazed me.

I can’t wait to read them!

Read more of my reading recommendations here: “Books for Creatives.”
19 Books for Creatives

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!
My Creative Collection a creative newsletter
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.


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Practice makes Progress

Acrylic seascape by Eileen McKenna | painting waves
Above my most recent acrylic seascape.

When I was younger and had less confidence in my artistic abilities I was hung up on talent. Nowadays I think of talent as just a starting point. It is almost irrelevant because if you work at drawing or painting, or whatever medium suits you, you will get better. I saw this in myself and in others (both online and in person). As I continue to paint my seascapes in acrylic paint (vs. my usual watercolor) I see how I have progressed. When I notice areas in a painting that need work, I try to improved them, or I think of ways to enhance these areas in the next painting. 

My first acrylic seascapes:
Transitioning from watercolor to acrylic
Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.


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Want to be Creative? Start here.

Want to be creative? Start here! creative inspiration | how to be creative
Want to be creative but don’t know how/where to start? Try these 3 steps!

  1. Open your eyes to inspiration – “stop and smell the roses.” Take off your blinders and notice things – The flowers on your walk, the fruit in the fridge, everyday objects. Ever look at how interesting the shape of scissors is? Take photos. Make a list of things to sketch.
  2. Start simply with paper and pencil. Sketch the things that catch your eye. Sketch everyday or every other day, even if it is for just 5 minutes. Form a creative habit.
  3. Practice makes progress. Sketch your subject not once but several times, studying the object as you draw. With each sketch you’ll learn more, and notice more. And as your sketch gets better – you’ll be motivated to continue your new creative practice.

A piece of printer paper and a pencil will suffice, but if you want to invest in your creativity purchase a sketchbook, a set of pencils, and an eraser. See my recommendations below:

Sketchbooks – don’t buy anything that you’ll feel is too nice, too “precious” – that you’ll be worried about ruining. You should feel free to practice and play in your sketchbook. I started with a Strathmore Sketch Pad. If you like book form try this Strathmore in 9″ x 12″, or 5.5″ x 8.5″.

Pencils – drawing pencil sets come with B pencils and H pencils. B pencils are softer, H are harder. A 6B is softer than a 2B. H pencils are great for fine lines, while Bs are great for shading. I use Derwent pencils.

Eraserkneaded erasers are the best. They remove the pencil from the paper (without leaving a pink smudge). I use this eraser.

Spend time in this creative phase – weeks, months, it’s up to you. When you are ready to “kick” it up a notch read this.

 

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

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

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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Creativity and Procrastination

Creativity and Procrastination
I’ve been frustrated this summer about not finishing my creative projects. I have a bunch of ideas I want to pursue but can’t seem to get anywhere. I knew that one problem was the fact that I had so many things that I was dabbling in. You can’t move very far forward if you keep changing paths. Also, I couldn’t blame time, I had the time, but I lacked the motivation to get to work.

On a recommendation, I downloaded the book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” and it immediately resonated with me.
Eat the frog - procrastination
Not only does the book address the things holding me back, but the author presents clear strategies to overcome this. Just reading a few pages motivated me!

Number one: I needed to define my primary goal, which is to continue revamping my online art shop. Once I identified this as the primary goal, and other projects as less important, I was motivated to attack the list of to do items (I already had). And once I accomplished one thing on the list, I was motivated to attack several other items – just as the quote above states.

Ironically this feeling, of being pulled in several directions and not finishing anything, isn’t new for me. In fact, when I started this blog (My Creative Resolution) it was my #1 problem. Having the blog, held me accountable – I felt I had to finish a project (or at least move forward) so I had something to post. And I was motivated to spend the first month or so pulling out old projects and finishing them. It was very cathartic, very satisfying, and very motivating.

I feel that way now, I’ve accomplished a lot with my online shop and am just waiting for new prints to come in. While I wait my mind is clearer to move onto the next priority – finishing my latest acrylic seascape painting. Prioritizing has helped me focus tremendously.

Click her for more info on “Eat that Frog!”

Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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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Filming Your Art Process

Filming Your Art Process #phone #stand
I’m really excited about the gift I recently received. It’s a stand to hold my phone above my work area so I can make a video of my painting process. The stand is called an Akron Kitchen Desk Table Stand.

Previously I would try to hold my phone or iPad in front of me so I could record a short snippet of my process. People seemed to like these videos and also like the posts where I showed the stages of a painting. Recording an entire painting from start to finish seemed like it would be interesting and helpful to share. And in timelapse you could see the entire process of a painting in a few minutes!

Click here to see one of my first videos with the new stand on Instagram. It’s where I add the foam of the ocean. What a difference from the starting point to the end!
Painting sea foam with white gouache #watercolor #ocean

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!

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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A New Year’s Resolution – Heading into Year 5!

A New Year’s Resolution - Heading into Year 5!
It’s hard for me to believe that 4 years ago – at the start of 2014 – I made a New Year’s Resolution to be creative. Before that I was creative off and on, often while taking a class, but never consistently. I wanted to be creative on a regular basis and find what interested me. I was open to any type of creativity, exploring was going to be part of the fun. I thought I might get into furniture refinishing.

Starting this blog, that I called “my creative resolution,” was to hold myself accountable – even if no one was reading. Although there have been ups and downs, and at times I even thought of stopping – this blog and regular creativity have brought tremendous joy to my life. I pushed myself to complete things, and achieve goals that I never would have without it. I’ve always found that the periods right after thinking about stopping, were hugely productive and creative.

That first year, I started with acrylics, but quickly went back to watercolors, realizing how much I love painting in watercolor. I love that you can’t fully control the results and have to go with the flow. Even though I’ve tried other mediums, watercolor is definitely my medium.

I started 2017 with the project of “painting the beach.” The beach has always been a special place to me – I grew up in a beach town, played there, worked there, and now live just 15 minutes away. As I started to have success with capturing the water, I felt I had found my thing. For most of the year I concentrated on painting the ocean and will continue this in 2018. You can see many of my ocean watercolors and purchase prints at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!

As I begin the 5th year of my creative resolution – I’m excited and hopeful. I know that when you put in the time and work amazing things are possible! Happy New Year!

Want to see my tips on keeping a resolution? Read 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

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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The Feelings of a Beginner

The feelings of a beginner #creativity #painting
I realized this weekend how discouraging it can be to be a beginner. I worked on two very different projects for me. One was a paper diorama. The other was painting two canvases with acrylics.

In both cases I was an unorganized mess. Materials all over. I had the wrong tools. I was literally uncomfortable. And in both cases, things weren’t turning out so great. Self doubt leaked in and I thought, “This is a waste of time.”

I realized this morning that all these feelings were related to being new to something. Thankfully, I had the perspective of the two very different projects. Otherwise I would have thought, “I’m not good at blank.” When I looked over at my watercolor setup this morning, I saw all the things these past years have given me – routines, methods, techniques, the right tools, etc. These things make it easier to sit down and create comfortably and not let self doubt in.

If I continue with acrylics or dioramas or any other new thing, over time things will get better and easier. If you are a beginner – don’t give up! Allow time to work out the kinks. You’ll start to feel  comfortable which will allow you to create more freely.

Want to explore creativity? My new book takes you step by step through the process for introducing regular creativity into your life, finding inspiration, and exploring mediums. Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

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

Creative Lessons - the feeling of a beginner | Don't be afraid to be a beginner