Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Drawing “cute” illustrations

happyvalentinesday
A while back, I worked hard to learn about illustrating in a “children’s book style.” I really studied up on it. (See below for the links to the posts I wrote on my progress.) This week I wanted to do a cutesy illustration of a boy with a box of chocolates and a little girl. I first bought a box of chocolates – we all need a little chocolate, right? Then I had my ten year old, pose with the chocolates under his arm and then as the opposite figure. I didn’t want the illustration to be realistic, but I figured having some reference photos would be helpful.

I went straight to my watercolor paper (taped down on a board), and drew with pencil. I didn’t like it at all. My son looked more like a man than a boy, and there was nothing cutesy about the illustration.

sketch1cd

I remembered how drawing something over and over, can really help me arrive at the results I want. So, the next day I pulled out my sketch book and did several versions of the little couple. I remembered the things I learned from observing children’s book illustrators:

  • exaggerate features – like big eyes or wacky teeth
  • color palette – stick to 3 colors
  • kids – small bodies, big heads
  • outline

Following this advice, I made the heads bigger and rounder, and the bodies smaller. The illustrations definitely looked cuter.
cutedoodles

I went back to my watercolor paper, erased the original illustration, and started over, following the style from my sketchbook.
sketch2cd

I thought a heart behind them would really emphasize the theme, so I painted a pink heart and a red background. Then I used my pen to create the ink outlines, using the pencil lines as a guide. I waited a bit, so I was sure the ink was dry, and erased all the pencil. I thought about the color palette I wanted. Instead of using blue from the tube, I added pink to it, to mute it, and make it work better with the pinks and reds.

I’m happy with the results, especially compared to my original illustration.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Lots of love from New York! And if you are also in the Northeast – stay warm!
Eileen

Other posts I’ve written about children’s book illustration style:


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Only 16 Days til Christmas!

daystilchristmas
I had a list, a mile long, of all the creative projects I was going to work on this month. The best laid plans and all that! Instead, (in addition to everyday life), I’ve been going to parties, decorating the house, and shopping, with a little creative time squeezed in.

Since, I’m starting to feel like I have the Christmas preparations under control, and there aren’t any parties this weekend, I’ll hopefully have more creative time. Whatever I don’t get done this December, I’ll have to pick up over the Summer. Although I don’t think I’ll be in the Christmas spirit then!

When I was younger, I wanted to be a cartoonist. I wasn’t particularly good at drawing or writing cartoons (my 10 year old son is awesome at them), but I loved reading them – Cathy, Ziggy, For Better or Worse. Here is my cartoon, to show you what’s been going on in my world.

Hope all is well with you! 🙂


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Digital Intervention with Photoshop

boywithleaves1
For the most part, I like to keep my art hand drawn or painted. The exception is when I’m working on designing a repeating pattern. But sometimes, my 20 years of experience with Photoshop, comes in handy with my artwork.

I painted this tree a couple of weeks ago and thought, “It really needs a boy playing in the leaves.”
treealone

Separately in my sketchbook I created a couple of version of the boy, based on my youngest son.
boywithleaves

I scanned both, opened them in Photoshop, and started playing around. The possibilities are endless!
boywithleavesfiguring

I choose one boy and added a shadow so he wouldn’t seem so “floaty.” I also added some extra leaves in an area that looked weird.

I don’t normally use Photoshop with my artwork because the original goal of “my creative resolution” was to develop my drawing and painting skills. But it is nice to have the tools to use, when the need arises!

 


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Focusing and following through

newtree
My last post was about “Coming up with Ideas.” A few of you commented that you have no shortage of ideas. This makes sense as Maya Angelou famously said,

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

The “ideas” post was from the early days of my creative resolution. While reading through my old posts, I realized that focusing and finishing were recurring themes. Previously I wasn’t successful with my creative projects because I was always starting and stopping, and never finishing. Which left me feeling discouraged.

I started this creative journey in 2014, by finishing several old projects and doing several projects that I had always wanted to try. Accomplishing these things made me feel good, and so I kept going, with new projects.

I’ve come a long way since then. I try to draw or paint every day. I always shy away from the word “daily” because I’m more likely to paint and draw a lot for a day or two. Do nothing for a day or two, and then get back to it again.

I keep a notebook of “to do” lists and project ideas. I check off things as I go, and look back to see if I forgot anything. I’ll keep an old idea on the list for a while. Of course, I don’t get to everything, but it feels amazing to accomplish something that’s been on my list for months. The percentage of unfinished projects is much, much lower than it was before MCR.

Recently I wanted to be creative, but didn’t know where to start. I literally felt anxious. I sat down and wrote out all the ideas buzzing in my head. When I was done, I felt like I could breath again. Just writing the ideas down, cleared my head, and helped me prioritize. And then I started to create. 🙂


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For my Dad – a painting of memories

dadscard
A few weeks ago I was walking through Barnes & Noble when the book “Wherever You Go?” by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler caught my eye. I love Eliza Wheeler’s illustrations. I loved that she created worlds and scenes. I was really inspired by her work.

I wanted to try to create my own scene and I decided that a homemade card for Father’s Day was the perfect project. As a parent, I can’t help but think back on my own childhood and some treasured outings with my dad. The yearly trip to his office in Manhattan was a highlight for me – the subway, a street hotdog, his office at the telephone company, etc. I also fondly remember our Saturday morning trips to the beach. My mom was working one summer so it was just the two of us. My dad was the one who taught me to body surf.

The interesting (and unintentional) thing about my card is it really represents my dad – the city boy who ended up settling by the beach. The little boy who went to sleep with the subway rattling outside his bedroom window, who now goes to sleep to the sound of waves crashing.

I am hoping to paint more scenes in the future.

My steps:
1. Pencil sketch. 2. Ink 3. Watercolor
pencildadink


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Please vote for my Sandcastle pattern in this week’s Spoonflower contest! Thank you!

sandcastleEM
I would be so grateful if you took a minute to vote for my pattern “Sandcastles on Long Island.” Just click here: http://www.spoonflower.com/contest_voters_temp/new?contest_id=306

Uploading a pattern to Spoonflower is something I’ve wanted to do for years, since I first read about Spoonflower in Country Living. I used their Sandcastles contest as extra motivation to finally upload a pattern. I’ve ordered a yard of the fabric and can’t wait to show you when it arrives!

Thank you so much for the support you have given me all along, and for casting your vote for “Sandcastles on Long Island.” 🙂


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2015 – off to a great start!

doodles
So far I’ve been working on several of my 2015 goals and it’s only the first week of January! Here’s what I’ve hit so far.

Lettering and Doodling – Every couple of days I pull out my sketch book and doodle and practice my lettering. I’m finding that I can create more whimsical, simpler illustrations if I’m not looking at the object. If I’m looking at an object, I feel compelled to make it realistic looking.

Patterns – While I was doodling the other day, I realized that some of these doodles could be made into a pattern. This pushed me to continue with a theme – cosmetics. So my pattern plan is to continue doodling and at a later date, I’ll look through my sketchbook to find things to use.

Linocut – I’m totally intimidated by all those tools! But, I haven’t forgotten about my number one goal! Right now I’m sketching out some ideas and I promise (oh no, why did I just write that?) that in the next few weeks you’ll see my first linocut. I’m planning on trying it on dark paper, which would encompass goal #4 too!

Video – I made my first videos. I wanted to share one with you, but I need to first figure out how to make the videos compatible with WordPress. Even though I compressed my videos, they weren’t in a format that I could upload to WordPress and I’m not ready to open a youtube account. Don’t worry, you aren’t missing much – it was a shaky video where I’m painting some branches!

Here is my complete list of 2015 goals in case you missed that post.

Things I want to try in 2015:

  1. Linocut. 
  2. Lettering.
  3. Online workshops.
  4. Painting on dark paper.
  5. Doodling.
  6. Video.
  7. Patterns.
  8. Maps.
  9. Digital Brushes.
  10. Watercolor Parties.

 

I hope you are off to a good start too! 🙂


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Back to the drawing board with Beach Girl’s Face

backtodrawingboard
Last week I struggled with the face of my “beach girl” in a fun watercolor painting where she was floating in a pool. I “erased” her face several times and destroyed the paper. It was extremely frustrating.

Looking back I realized that just diving in to paint her face was a bit of a mistake. I haven’t quite figured out how to paint her face. A while back I arrived at a cute pencil drawing of her face, but how does that apply to watercolor? I’ve decided I don’t want her to have just a couple of lines and dots – for eyes. I want to add a little more detail. But I’m not sure how.

It was naive of me to think I could just wing it. If I had started with her face, in the floating painting, I would have thrown away several versions. Instead I painted everything around her face and thought I’d figure it out. (That is the Aries in me!) I now realize figuring it out is going to take time, work, patience and lots of practice.

I’ve been working on this all week. First I did pencil sketches using photos of my daughter (the inspiration behind beach girl). It is amazing how hard it is to capture the essence of a person. Is it the shape of her eyes? her chin? Then I spent time mixing colors, to figure out the right skin tone. I mixed Permanent Rose and Cadmium Yellow pale. Then I added Yellow Ochre. I’m still playing around with how much of each. And I’m still struggling with what color to mix for the shadows on her face. Add payne’s grey? or the compliment?
mix2mix

I painted the shape of her head in the skin tone. Then I experimented with adding the detail – the hard part! I hated all of them. But, I learned from them – the pencil is too sharp and fine, too much detail in this one, etc.
skintone

Today, I decided to try again. Before I started I looked at sample watercolor illustrations. Then, I tried again. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I am further along then last week!