take inspiration from spark to final art project with these 8 steps

1. seek inspiration

The first step is to seek inspiration: Take a walk, flip through a magazine, visit the beach, a park, a museum, go away for a weekend or on a vacation. There are so many ways, big and small, to find inspiration.

Sometimes just the mindset of looking for inspiration, will helps us see it. Last year, I did a project called “Finding Joy,” where every day I looked for and painted a moment of joy. It was such a positive way to face the day.

2. Document

The easiest way to record something inspiring is to take a photo. Fill your phone with all the things that inspire you throughout the day. Some people carry around with a sketchbook and pencil – even a small set of paints, and for capturing special moments.

Here are some of my favorite travel supplies.

3. reflect

Many people seek inspiration, document it and then forget about it. It’s important to look back through your photos and reflect on them. What made that thing inspire you? Was it the way the sun reflected on the water or the way a painter’s brushstrokes looked? Write it down.

I take a lot of photos. It’s great when I’m ready to paint and can’t think of a subject. I scroll through my phone, remembering all the inspiring moments, and pick one to paint.

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4. play

Spend time playing in a sketchbook, exploring ideas that the inspiration generates. This could be using different mediums or doing thumbnail drawings or paintings to explore an idea.

Playing in my sketchbook is an important part of my creative practice. My favorite sketchbook – the Canson Multimedia – can handle a lot of different types of media – watercolor, acrylic, pastel, etc.

5. research

Depending on what the inspiration is, research can go into different directions. If the work of an artist inspires you, you could learn more about the artist and their technique.

I was inspired by a Monet painting of a snowy landscape, called The Magpie – the painting glowed. I did some research and found out the Monet had a “winter palette” of colors he used to paint winter scenes. I emulated his palette, using watercolors and did my own painting of The Magpie. It was so fun and I learned a lot!

6. Plan

Whether you write it down – like I do – or just verbalize it, it’s important to state what your goal is. It holds you accountable to follow through.

After an amazing trip to Paris with my family, I decided to spend time painting Paris. I opened it up for others to join me as I painted and created the course “Let’s Paint Paris.” The program is watercolor lessons that build upon one another, with videos where you watch my process as I paint all things Paris. It was so much fun, and allowed me to be even more inspired by the things that caught my eye in Paris.

7. Prep

Don’t forget to allow time to gather the supplies you’ll need for a project! Not having the right supplies can be a roadblock to following through on an idea. Plus it’s fun to shop!

I leave my watercolor supplies out on my table, so I’m always prepped for a watercolor project. It makes it easier to sit and paint.

8. create

The fun part is carrying out your idea. I’m always super excited to start. But, there was a time I would get very discouraged when I went from excited to frustrated – when a project got hard. I used to quit when I hit this part and ended up with a bunch of unfinished projects.

Eventually I learned that the hard part is part of the process. That realization made it so much easier to deal with and work through. The satisfaction of finishing a project, motivated me to tackle more projects.

I write all about working through the hard part and share many other tips on creativity in my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.

Explore your creativity at https://eileenmckenna.com/shop/

Creative Resolution

It’s hard to believe, it’s been eight years since I made a resolution that changed my life. On New Year’s Eve in 2013, I made a creative resolution to make creativity a part of my daily life. Prior to that I dabbled in a few drawing and painting classes, but I wanted more.

Explore your creativity at https://eileenmckenna.com/ebook/

Back then I didn’t know what mediums I would work in – I thought I might refinish furniture. I just knew I wanted to explore all possibilities and that was the exciting part! I learned a lot about myself, especially in the beginning. Prior to my creative resolution, I was a serial quitter. I quit projects when they got challenging. By pushing through, I learned that all projects have a tough part. Once I began finishing projects, I was motivated to finish new ones. Finishing became addicting!

My resolution had an immediate effect on me. Simply put, regular creativity made me happier. Over time, new opportunities presented themselves. Three and a half years ago I began teaching at a kids’ art studio. I also now teach adult workshops at my local library. I’ve illustrated a few children’s books. This September I left graphic design behind and became a museum educator. None of these things were on my radar or would have been possible had I not made my creative resolution.

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The main thing I learned is that “talent is just a starting point.” Don’t let a self perceived lack of “talent” hold you back from creating!

Need guidance on starting your own creative routine and exploring subjects and mediums? Check out my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.

It’s the perfect time of year for a creative resolution of your own!

Looking to explore your creativity…

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Painting – a schedule and a plan

Seascapes - first later | watercolor | painting | watercolor layers | ocean beach painting
All three of my kids leave for school early this year. I decided my new goal is to spend the extra hour in the morning painting. As soon as I set the goal I immediately questioned it. An hour? That’s a long time. Usually I work on paintings in short spurts, allow the watercolor to dry and come back to it later. How could I paint for an entire hour?

A plan began to form in my mind. For my early morning sketchbook work, I often use a pen. What if my hour of painting included sketching with paint? The no pressure exploratory work I enjoy in my sketchbook?

Now I’m excited about my painting hour. For one thing I have a scheduled time, which will help ensure it happens, and secondly I have a plan.

My morning painting plan:

  • Work from 7:30-8:30am
  • Listen to an artist podcast interview
  • Begin with sketchbook painting. Select two colors to paint with. Explore the shades of each and mixing of the two.
  • Move on to a painting or two.

Areas to explore during my painting sessions:

  • Color – get to know better the colors in my palette
  • Sketching with paint
  • Figure painting
  • Portraits
  • Ocean Painting

It wasn’t enough to declare this summer that I was going to focus on my creativity. I’ve learned I need to schedule the time and make a plan to make sure my goals are met.

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

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints