My 11 month long project – Painting the Ocean

I paint the ocean in watercolor. Eileen McKenna

After participating in three separate month long challenges in 2016, I saw how focusing on a single theme or medium can lead to real progress in ideas or skills or both. So when I completed the last challenge I decided to focus January (2017) on figuring out how to paint the ocean. I often wondered, “How do you capture the ocean in paint?” I was determined to find out! January led to February and on and on, and I’m still painting the ocean! I’ve progressed in so many areas, but am finding new areas to strive for. The ocean is an amazing subject because it changes so much.

Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas which is 11″ x 14″, at The perfect gift for the beach lover in your life!

I grew up just blocks from the beach and now live a 10 minute car ride away. It is truly my favorite place. When I began making real progress with my ocean paintings, I felt I had found my thing. As 2017 winds down, I don’t anticipate stopping. If anything I can’t wait to drive down to the beach and take some new reference photos!

Eileen McKenna
That’s me on the left, age 3 or 4, with my first best friend Nancy.

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Photo of me with the “mini” canvas by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.


Giving the gift of art

Side surfer watercolor print by Eileen McKenna #coastalart
I went to a party the other night and as a gift for the person of honor, I framed a print of my “Side Surfer” watercolor painting. While in the process of framing the print, I began questioning my idea. It’s one thing to offer your art for sale – people are free to buy it or not. But if you give it to someone, you are assuming they’d want it. When I realized I had to cut a custom size mat, I almost gave up and ran to the store for a generic gift. But I kept going and in the end was happy with the result. And my friend seemed to like it. 😊

I’ve added new watercolor paintings to my shop! Prints are available at Take a look!

Stages of a watercolor wave painting

Stages of a watercolor wave painting By Eileen McKenna
It felt good the other morning to sit and paint. I didn’t have any ongoing paintings, so first I set up several boards – taping the watercolor paper down. For this painting I worked with the paper still stuck to the pad – not as effective as taping it down, but I ran out of boards.

I started 4 paintings in one sitting, using two reference photos. The goal of painting two from the same photo was to do one version that was a quicker less detailed version. Although I can’t say this will actually happen this time around.

It’s always easier for me to sit and paint when I have a painting in progress, especially if I don’t let too much time pass between working on it. And since you need to allow time for the layers to dry, I like having at least two paintings to work on at once.

When I came home later in the day, the paintings were on my mind, so I picked one to work on some more. I ended up focusing solely on this one and finished it by the end of the day.

Here are the stages:

First layer:
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Second layer. I needed to darken things up a bit.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Third layer. Still tweaking the color of the ocean. Started added the foam.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Fourth layer – more foam. After this I added more color to the sky.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Prints of my watercolors are available at Come visit!

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Three New Ocean Watercolor Paintings

September was especially beautiful at the beach this year. It stayed warm much longer than usual. The surf was often very rough because of the hurricanes brewing far from shore. Here are three watercolors I painted from photos taken last month. And I took a ton more photos to last me through the winter!

These three September paintings are now available for sale as prints on watercolor paper or gallery wrapped canvas. Click here to visit my online shop.

West by Eileen McKenna | Watercolor seascape #coastalinteriors
September by Eileen McKenna | Watercolor seascape #coastalinteriors
Yellow Sky by Eileen McKenna | Watercolor seascape #coastalinteriors
Yellow Sky

All of the prints in my shop are available on watercolor paper or gallery wrapped canvas!
Click here to visit my online shop.
Blue Wave #11 Canvas Print by Eileen McKenna | Watercolor seascapes #coastalinteriors

Wave print on canvas!

Seascape canvas print of Blue Wave #11 by Eileen McKenna | #coastalart
I paint in watercolor and have only dabbled with acrylics on canvas. Seeing one of my watercolors blown up and printed on canvas is really exciting. It adds another layer of interest to the painting. A few steps away you see the ocean and the waves. When you step closer you see the brushstrokes.

The design of my home is, not surprisingly, very beachy. So this canvas, Blue Wave #11, fits right in. Next up to select a few of my square ocean paintings, have them printed on canvas, and hang them side by side.

All the paintings in my shop are available as Giclee art prints on gallery wrapped canvas. Take a look at

The Green Collection

The Green Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints at
I’ve added six new paintings to my online shop! Four of the paintings are “The Green Collection.” You may remember that in August I launched my shop with “The Blue Collection.” Grouping the paintings by the color of the ocean made perfect sense to me when the giclee printer suggested it. Something that has always fascinated me about the ocean, is how the same water, in the same place, can be different colors at different times.

The Green Collection is the second set of watercolor paintings I’ve released as Limited Edition Giclee Art Prints. Click here to visit my online shop.

The paintings in the Green Collection are (from left to right):

  • Jetty Surfer
  • Breaking Wave
  • Rolling In
  • Windy Day

The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints at


Jetty by Eileen McKenna, beach watercolor painting available as giclee art prints.
The focus of this painting is the rocks – the jetty. I had fun creating the different shapes and shadows of the rocks. I’m especially proud of the wet look of the sand where the water has just receded. And of course this painting needed a seagull.

The beaches in my hometown are delineated by the jetties. They are an unmistakable characteristic of our beaches. So it seemed appropriate to have them be the star of a painting.

“Jetty” is part of “the Blue Collection” and is available as a Limited Edition Giclee Art Print in my online shop!