My Creative Year(s) in Review

Creative year in review | creative new year resolution
At the end of each year I try to reflect on my intentions for the year versus the reality. This exercise is important for me especially because I’m the type to reach a goal and then turn around and create new ones, without really recognizing my accomplishment. As I finish the sixth year of My Creative Resolution (the blog and the commitment to regular creativity), I decided to look back on my entire creative journey, by determining the words that defined each year:

  • 2014 – Finishing/following through, developing a creative practice
  • 2015 – Trying different things – watercolor was a constant
  • 2016 – Challenging myself and sticking with my creative journey through ups and downs
  • 2017 – Focusing to learn and improve my skills. Painting seascapes became a focus and remains one. I created my first “how to” post.
  • 2018 – Paint, teach, connect were my intentions for the year and they matched reality. I had my first in person teaching opportunity!
  • 2019 – Embrace uncomfortable opportunities and goals

I’m proud to say that I’ve become someone who embraces scary and uncomfortable opportunities and goals, which has led to experiencing amazing things. I now regularly teach a kid’s after school drawing and painting class. I initially terrified, but now I love it.

Writing a book that turned my creative journey into a process for others to follow to introduce creativity into their own lives, was intimidating. Having the idea was easy, but following through and finalizing it was hard! That’s why I’m so proud that this year I self published Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.

Since writing my first “how to” step by step painting post, I’ve aspired to create video lessons. There were so many obstacles – I don’t want to be on camera, how to create it, I don’t want to record my voice, etc. It took a few years to figure out the format and the how to, and to get comfortable with putting myself (and my voice) out there. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is finalize a project like this. Now I have the Birch Forest Watercolor Online Video Painting Lesson template to follow for the next video lesson. Next up is “Painting a Seascape.”

The interesting thing about my creative journey is how much I’ve changed. From starting out as someone who aspired to be creative but didn’t know the how or the what, to six years later wanting to inspire creativity in others. Want to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -

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My Creative Year in Review 2018

My Creative Year in Review
Before I get carried away with ideas for 2019, it’s important and helpful for me to look back on 2018, to see what I accomplished, what worked, and what didn’t. The guiding words I selected for 2018 were: paint, teach, share, and connect.

Creating is the point of everything. It’s what brings me happiness, it’s why I started the blog in the first place. Above all, even when I’m creating products or loading things in my shop, I always want to remember to make time for painting and I did this in 2018.

As is the norm for me, I have times when I’m very prolific and other times when I let life get in the way. I’ve learned that a project, goal, or deadline, really motivates me. In May I bought a stack of small canvases and declared I’d focus on painting seascapes in acrylics instead of my normal watercolor. Painting with acrylics reminded me what it felt like to be a beginner. I was also reminded that practice leads to progress. Currently I’m committed to painting watercolor illustrations every day of the holiday season – a huge motivator for me.

I did post a few tutorial blog posts this year – on painting seascapes and on creativity in general, but what was really exciting was I was asked to teach watercolor to kids for a week of summer camp. It was fun, terrifying, enlightening, and exhausting! I really loved the kids. We’ll see what in person opportunities come my way in 2019.

This year I began filming mini videos of my process which is fun and I enjoy sharing. I keep saying I need to create longer step by step videos. We’ll see what the new year brings.

This year I offered my artwork in many new ways including selling originals online, selling at my first in person vendor event, and offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy. I’m really excited, particularly about my Etsy shop. Before I developed illustration skills, I was a graphic designer looking for art to incorporate into my designs. It’s fun to be on the other side of things, offering clipart, invitation backgrounds, etc. to help others with their design projects. It’s also fun to think about each holiday or event and figure out what digital products will help people, and then to see what the response is to that new product.

I’m really enthusiastic about my newsletter. I share all the things inspiring me. I have the opportunity to connect with other artists who I feature, and I love hearing from readers who enjoy what I share. Sign up here!

Other fun things this year:

When I look back it’s been a great, full year of new projects, opportunities, and connections. I’m excited for 2019!

My Creative Year in Review 2017

I paint the ocean in watercolor. Eileen McKenna

I am excited to look back on 2017 and equally excited to plan for 2018! This year has been a great one for me in terms of growth as an artist. I have continued in areas I’m interested in and explored new ones. Here are the details.

Painting the ocean in watercolor – I started this project in January and have continued with it all year. Capturing the ocean in watercolor has been a goal of mine for a long time. I’m so happy with my progress and feel that working with this subject will be something I continue with for a long time. See some of my favorite ocean watercolors here.

Designing fabric print patterns – After first dabbling in this in 2015, 2017 was the second year I committed to designing a pattern each month – although not always on schedule! I designed my most popular fabrics this year, including “Swimming Laps.” I plan on continuing this in 2018 and am already experimenting with some new ideas. See my collection of fabrics on Spoonflower here.

Collaboration – I love designing fabrics but can’t sew. This year Mary of the Daily Sew graciously agreed to create something with my fabric and write a post about it. Mary created an awesome drawstring bag, a free downloadable pattern, and in the end sent me the bag! Mary went above and beyond. You can meet the nicest people online! I hope to have more collaborations in the new year.

Tuturial Posts – I wrote a few step by step posts this year and was thrilled to have one published on I’m such a fan of Charlie O’Shields and the watercolor community he has built. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned to help others and I’d like to continue writing these types of posts.

My Creative Collection newsletter – I started the newsletter in March and am loving this new form of creativity. I love curating all the things inspiring me, and hearing back from those that enjoy the newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Daily challenges – I wasn’t as diligent with my InkTober sketches this year, but am very committed to the second year of my Christmas countdown. Challenges can really motivate me. I’ve heard family and friends actually say that they can’t wait to see what I’ll post next. To hear that people are actually engaged in what I’m doing is thrilling. I’ll definitely do the Christmas countdown next year and now that I’m thinking about it a countdown to summer would be really fun!

Selling prints online – In August I launched my online shop selling prints of my watercolor ocean paintings. It was always a goal to sell my work in some way, but I first needed 3.5 years of self discovery as an artist before I felt ready. I guess my goal was always to have a cohesive body of work. I finally felt I had that to offer after painting the ocean for months. And as such a beach lover, the work felt so very me. Visit my shop at One thing that is very exciting is having prints made at larger sizes on canvas.

Writing 500+ blog posts – I never expected when I started the blog, to hold myself accountable creatively speaking, that I would enjoy writing so much. I really love sharing my thoughts on a specific project or creativity in general. And I love the online friends I’ve made over the years. Thank you for your support!

My artwork on products – A friend wanted a card of a Christmas tree I painted last year. I uploaded it to Zazzle, so she could order it and got bit by the bug of uploading my designs and seeing them on cards, ornaments, and mugs. Some of the ornaments were quite popular (at least with my mom). This is a fun thing I’d like to continue with. Visit my Zazzle shop here.

Enamel Pins – Last year I had my nutcracker illustration made into a pin. Based on the support – mainly from friends and family – it wasn’t a monetary loss, so I was encouraged enough to have a beach pin made. Needless to say, the beach pins weren’t a huge hit, or hit of any kind. But I had them made, not because I expected them to be a seller, but creatively I wanted the illustration to be a pin! That being said, when you outlay money and don’t make it back, it puts a damper on your creative mojo. So that’s probably the end of the pins for me. See my enamel pins here.

Connections – Just this month, I’ve been featured on two blogs with other creatives. One opportunity was an “in real life” connection I made with my friend’s sister-in-law, who I knew was a creative and a blogger and had wanted to connect with for a while. Erin Andrews is the Interior Designer behind Indigo House Interiors. Read her post “A Coastal Inspired Holiday.” Erin is a talented designer and such a great writer! I’m very excited to have someone local that I can meet for coffee and talk about creative projects, business, and blogging!

The second feature was on Alisa Burke’s blog. Alisa is a freelance painter and mixed media artist, with a very popular blog. When I read that she was looking for artists to feature on her blog during the holiday season – not for a fee but to give back, I was like, “wow!” I applied and was accepted to be included! Read Alisa’s post “Shop handmade this season” here.

I applied to be included in another publication, but was not accepted “at this time.” I tried not to be discouraged by the rejection, but to celebrate the victories I had, and celebrate that I’m putting myself out there and plan on continuing to do so in 2018!

I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished in 2017, and think it’s important for us all to look back and see how far we’ve come! I made “my creative resolution” at the start of 2014. That is four years that I’ve kept my resolution and have continued to challenge myself within this resolution every year. It has brought a lot of joy to my life and I’ve accomplished things I never would have achieved if I hadn’t made that initial resolution and committed myself to doing it. I’m excited for 2018!

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 Take a peek! The perfect gift for beach lovers.

Photo by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.