September Routines and Creative Goals

My friend asked me the other day how it was going with creating every day in August. I looked at her blankly until she explained that I had written in my newsletter that I was going to create every day in August. Red faced I admitted that not only had I failed in that goal, I had also forgotten about it.

September Routines and Creative Goals

what I’ve learned while pursuing a “creative life”

  • Goals motivate us
  • Keep your goals realistic
  • Be kind to yourself when you don’t meet your goals

When we falter in our regular creative practices, we need to brush ourselves off, adjust our focus and expectations, and try again. September is the perfect time for this!

I’ve always loved September- it has the fresh start feeling of the new year. Life gets back to more of a routine, especially if you have kids. I always use September as a chance to reassess my goals, projects and routines.

This year I’m starting a brand new job so everything will change in terms of my schedule. Up until now my schedule has been very flexible. I mostly work from home and teach at a kids art studio several afternoons a week. With my new schedule I will really have to prioritize to get stuff done.

One painting or illustration a week

I’ve decided that painting every single day isn’t going to be realistic for me. My September goal is to create one painting or illustration a week. When possible I will sit and paint. I truly believe even 10-15 minutes of painting makes such a difference!

As usual, I’ll paint what is inspiring me. Maybe I’ll paint within a theme each week. I’m sure the upcoming fall season will play a role. At some point I’ll dive into all the photos I took this summer. These projects will take a few days to complete, so while I won’t be painting every day, I’ll be painting a few days a week.

Any illustration work will not count towards my weekly painting project. I have to have some rules for myself.

Sharing with you

I also want to keep up with my blog and newsletter. I’ve been sharing my creative journey on this blog for almost eight years! I love thinking and writing about creativity and painting and collecting interesting links. If you aren’t signed up for my newsletter – sign up here:

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When I first made “My Creative Resolution” – the blog was what held me accountable each week. I had to create and post finished pieces – otherwise I would be revealing myself as someone who lost motivation and didn’t finish things. That was in fact what I was, but the blog helped me change that.

If you are looking to introduce regular creativity into your life check out my book Creative Exploration. I turned my journey into a process for others to follow. Creativity has brought so much joy and opportunity into my life!

Learn more here!

August Creative Exploration

Watercolor sunset sketch by Eileen McKenna

I’ve been missing painting regularly, so I’m dedicating August to Creative Exploration! Won’t you join me? There are no rules, just some suggestions to inject new life into your creative practice.

August Creative Exploration Ideas:

  • New creative schedule. Create daily (or regularly). Even 15 minutes a day is great! 
  • New place. Paint in a new place or paint a new place. I’ll be in some new places so I’m excited about this one!
  • New medium. Try a new medium. I’ve been wanting to incorporate collage into my watercolor journal pages. (Note to self – pack a glue stick!)
  • New ideas. All of the above helps open you up to new ideas! Keep track of them (and prioritize them) with my ideas worksheet – available on Etsy.

Let me know if you are joining me!

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

Printable Paper Quilt Making Kits – no sewing required!

Back in 2014 I saw a paper quilt in Country Living magazine. I thought it was such a great idea, especially because I can’t really sew and have always been drawn to quilts. I was inspired to create my own.

St. Patrick’s Day Paper Quilt

I wanted to create a St. Patrick’s Day themed paper quilt. The weather was horrible, so I avoided a trip to the craft store by using patterned papers I had at home and by designing some of my own.

I created a template so I could achieve a diamond quilt design. Each square on the template was assigned a letter. I also created a key so I knew which paper went with each letter. I thought it was interesting that if I changed which paper was assigned to the letters on the key, I would end up with a different quilt.

I had so much fun creating that first paper quilt. I thought others would enjoy making one too and wouldn’t it be convenient if they could print everything from home – the template, key and four patterned papers? I also thought it would be a great craft for other holidays. So that’s what I did! To date I’ve designed six printable paper quilt making quilts.

St. Patrick’s Day Paper Quilt Making Kit

Valentine’s Day Paper Quilt Making Kit

How to make a paper quilt

  • Print the kit – four patterned papers, template and key, and instructions
  • Cut the four patterned papers into squares using the trim marks and following the instructions
  • Cut the key off the template
  • Assign the four papers to the key (gluing the squares onto the key)
  • Following the letters on the key, glue the squares one patterned paper at a time
  • Your done! Make another quilt – Print another set, assign the papers differently, create a different design!

By switching up what papers are assigned to the key – many quilt design variations are possible! Have fun!

Download a Paper Quilt Making Kit

More Paper Quilt Making Kits:

Patriotic Paper Quilt craft activity for kids and adults for Memorial Day July 4th Labor Day

For more Seasonal Art Project Ideas:

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More St. Patrick’s Day Art Projects

Fields of Green Ireland Painting Tutorial
how to draw a leprechaun printable tutorial
Printable Ireland St. Patrick's Day Coloring Pages make a Coloring Book Kids Class Activity Digital Download is a great way to teach kids about Ireland. Color and fold to create a book! Perfect for St. Patrick's Day.

For more creative St. Patrick’s Day Ideas:

Read Teaching Children about Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day Painting Project

This Fields of Green Watercolor Painting Project will get you in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and take you on a “visit” to Ireland!

Fields of Green Ireland Painting Tutorial

Beginner Watercolor Painting Idea for St. Patrick’s Day

Ireland is said to have “40 Shades of Green” and in this beginner watercolor project we’ll use as many shades as possible! Beginner friendly! Step by step tutorial with photos walks you through painting this Irish landscape.

In this tutorial you’ll learn:

  • Masking with tape
  • Painting fades
  • Painting layers
  • Painting dry on dry
  • Using gouache – more opaque than watercolor
Painting an Irish Landscape in Watercolor

In addition to learning all these techniques – you’ll have a beautiful final painting when you are done!

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Watercolor paper. I use 9” x 12” Arches 140 lb. cold pressed paper. Trim to 9” x 11” to create a painting that works well in a 8” x 10” mat.
  • Painter’s tape – 1” wide
  • Watercolor paint. Colors: shades of green and/or blue and yellow for mixing greens (a touch of red can be added too), blues for sky (turquoise or other blue) and ocean (prussian or ultramarine blue), black, and orange (can mix with yellow and red) AND… 
  • Gouache – White Gouache (Gouache can go over watercolor. It is less translucent.)
  • Paint brushes – 1 large round brush – #6, one thin round brush – #1
  • Container of water
  • Paper Towel
  • Palette for mixing paint with water and mixing colors. Use a plastic lid or the top of a plastic egg carton.
  • Pencil, eraser (kneaded is best), ruler and scissors
  • Scrap of paper. Always test color mixes before touching your painting with your brush.

For a list of brands I use visit: https://mycreativeresolution.com/supplies/

Download the Tutorial

For more Seasonal Art Project Ideas:

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More St. Patrick’s Day Art Projects

how to draw a leprechaun printable tutorial
Printable Ireland St. Patrick's Day Coloring Pages make a Coloring Book Kids Class Activity Digital Download is a great way to teach kids about Ireland. Color and fold to create a book! Perfect for St. Patrick's Day.

For more creative St. Patrick’s Day Ideas:

Read Teaching Children about Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day Art Project

How to Draw a Leprechaun

A Fun St. Patrick’s Day Art Project

What is St. Patrick’s Day without a few leprechauns hanging around – right? The “How to Draw a Leprechaun” tutorial is fun for all ages!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Eraser – I like kneaded erasers – no pink smudges!
  • Color – use colored pencils, markers, watercolor paints, whatever you like to add color to your leprechaun!
  • Pen or Thin Marker – my choice is a Uniball Signo Black Gel Pen. It goes on so smooth!
how to draw a leprechaun printable tutorial

Download the Step by Step Tutorial!

The printable tutorial is available in my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt.

The pdf tutorial is 3 pages and is easy to follow.

Watch the Video

I want to see your leprechaun!

Tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna

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St. Patrick’s Day Painting Project for Beginners

Ireland is said to have “40 Shades of Green” and in this beginner watercolor project we’ll use as many shades as possible! Beginner friendly! Step by step tutorial with photos walks you through creating this Irish landscape.

In this tutorial you’ll learn:

  • Masking with tape
  • Painting fades
  • Painting layers
  • Painting dry on dry
  • Using gouache – more opaque than watercolor
Fields of Green Ireland Painting Tutorial

St. Patrick’s Day Paper Craft

Download this printable paper quilt kit and have fun making your own St. Patrick’s Day Quilt. The four patterned papers include sheep, leprechauns, symbols of Ireland – harp, shamrocks, and the Irish flag. Fun for all ages!

Download the St. Patrick’s Day Paper Quilt Kit in my Etsy shop here.

For more fun St. Patrick’s Day ideas read Teaching Children about Ireland.

This page 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!

Follow through on creative ideas with this simple tool!


One of the biggest problems we have as creatives is too many ideas. Have you ever been working on a project and you get an idea and “squirrel!” – You set off in a new direction? If the same thing happens again while you‘re working on the “new” idea, you’ll never finish anything!

One of the most helpful tools I use to keep me focused is a notebook. My notebook and morning routine have enabled me to keep my New Year’s Resolution (My Creative Resolution) for almost 8 years! Every morning I write in my notebook and check in with my creative projects.

Aside from daily writing, a critical part is checking back on previous entries. Doing this reminds me of past ideas and projects. It allows me to re-focus back on things I may have forgotten about. When I’m revisiting past entries I also can decide which ideas not to pursue, because it’s hard to get things done if we spread ourselves too thin. Looking back allows me to feel satisfaction when I’ve finished a project.

Sometimes I have an idea that in the moment I’m very excited about, but as time passes I lose confidence in it. But when an idea keeps popping up – I know it’s time to follow through.

This is how I was able to finish the book based on My Creative Resolution – “Creative Exploration.” The idea for the book kept coming back to me. I would work on it for a while and then move on to other things. When the book idea came back around for the second or third year in a row, I figured it was time. I immediately hired my own proofreader. I knew having a due date and someone else would hold me accountable to finish a draft.

If you are having trouble following through on your ideas, I encourage you to get your own notebook. Start writing down your goals and ideas. Check in with your notebook (and projects) daily. It makes a world of difference! Want to be creative but don’t know where to start? Try “Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.”

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!

Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. No more gathering with extended family. We’ll be home, just the five of us. Although we are limited, it is still important to celebrate and make it special. Two of my kids are coming home for college. Being together is always a reason to celebrate!

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year:

Baked Goods Drop Off

Even though we can’t be with our extended family – it would be really nice to bake things and drop them off on Thanksgiving morning. Show them we are thinking of them. This “Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread” recipe is my favorite. Pumpkin bread with a nice card would be so sweet! Baking and making cards would be great activities to get everyone in the spirit prior to Thanksgiving Day.

Watch the Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is always on in our house on Thanksgiving. Even though it won’t be a “parade” but prerecorded segments – I’ll gladly tune in as we prepare our Thanksgiving meal.

Set the Table

Even though our gatherings will be smaller, go all out – china, crystal. Whatever nice stuff you have – use it! Collect acorns and fall leaves to add to your table and make it more festive. Get the kids involved in creating handmade decorations! 

Don’t Skimp on the Sides

You might be tempted to go simpler with your menu – don’t! Make all the favorites. Get the kids involved! 

Gratitude Cards

We always go around the table on Thanksgiving and tell everyone what we are grateful for. 2020 has certainly reminded us what is important. Despite the circumstances we have a lot to be grateful for. These gratitude cards are available in my Etsy shop.

Table Activities

It’s nice to linger at the table on Thanksgiving, but sometimes that’s harder with little kids. Crayons and paper did the trick when our kids were small and we went out to eat. Here are a few Thanksgiving coloring pages available on Etsy to extend your table time.
Pilgrim coloring page fun Thanksgiving activity for kids

The Thanksgiving Walk

In my husband’s family it used to be a tradition to take a walk between the Thanksgiving meal and dessert. This year it would be especially nice, as we could walk with family that live nearby, while still keeping socially distanced.

Thanksgiving Slideshow/Video

After a walk and dessert, it would be awesome to take a “stroll down memory lane” and watch a slideshow or look through photos of previous Thanksgivings. The years go fast and the kids get so big!

Thanksgiving Art Project

How about an art project? This printable step by step tutorial for painting a turkey in watercolor is fun for all ages! Or create a realistic leaf with watercolor. Or create a fall paper quilt and see how different each family member’s quilt turns out! All projects are available in my Etsy shop.

Want to make it a full on paint night? Paint a Turkey on canvas with acrylics. Watch my process on YouTube:
 

Thanksgiving Family Movie

After eating a big meal, it’s nice to rest on the couch and watch a movie together. Just like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade ushers in the Christmas season with Santa, Thanksgiving night puts me in the mood for a Holiday classic like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Elf.” Or maybe we’ll watch a family classic like Indiana Jones or … hmmm. Time for us to each make a list of ideas!

Happy Thanksgiving!
~Eileen

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!

 

 

 

 

Finding creative inspiration during self quarantine

Finding creative inspiration during self quarantine

These days I can’t blame lack of time for a lack of painting. Being stuck at home, I’ve got nothing but time. What I am struggling with is what to paint. Sometimes it seems easier to go on my iPad than to figure out an idea.

Coincidentally my son asked me the other day, “Do you always know what you’re going to paint?” As I indicated, the answer is no, and it can be a real roadblock. When you are out and about, experiencing life, you are soaking up inspiration. Nowadays, not so much.

Here are some ways to find creative inspiration during self quarantine:

Go outside (in whatever way is safe for your situation). Walk around your neighborhood, or your yard, or sit by a window. The birds, trees, flowers, clouds, all provide inspiration. Absorb it, and take photos.

Look through your phone. What inspiration did you capture on your phone that you never drew or painted? Now you have time. I’ve made albums on my phone to separate inspiration photos.

Look online. If you have a subject in mind of course there are tons of photos online to choose from. There are also sites dedicated to providing reference photos for art. This post links to several sites with reference photos for drawing figures.

Technique. Perhaps there is a technique you admire others doing. Try it! Find reference photo appropriate to that technique and practice. I admire paintings with sun dappled water, so I found a photo and tried it.

Catalogs. I keep catalogs to use as reference. Athletic attire ones have great figures to practice from, and sometimes great scenery. Recently I painted a skier and mountains from an ad in a magazine. I also painted a woman doing a headstand. I love the Burpee plant and seed catalog, such beautiful flowers and vegetables to paint!

Look around your home. Walk slowly around your home and see if there are any interesting subjects or arrangements to paint. Try to look at your space with fresh eyes. Or paint or draw an ordinary scene like the couch with a lamp, but add interesting wallpaper to it. Reimagine your space.

Set up a still life. Create an interesting composition with things in your home. The refrigerator is a great source of interesting looking things. Cut some fruit in half.

Portraits. In self quarantine with loved ones? Make them the subject of your next project.

Color. Try a project where it’s less about what you are painting and more about the color palette you are using. You could even recreate a painting you’ve done before but with a different color palette. In my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program we explore painting using Monet’s winter palette. It is such an interesting exercise!

I’d love to hear how you’re staying inspired!

“Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” is a 4 week online program aimed at inspiring regular watercolor painting and learning through virtual immersion into the city of Paris! Learn more here.
Quarantine inspiration painting Monet’s winter palette in watercolor
Painting with Monet’s winter palette in the
“Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” 4 week online program. Learn more here.
Watercolor painting flowers self quarantine inspiration
Painting Marie Antoinette’s embroidered flowers in the “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” 4 week online program. The program is aimed at inspiring regular watercolor painting and learning through virtual immersion into the city of Paris! Learn more here.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. Be Competitive…with Yourself

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. Be Competitive...with Yourself

When I was a kid I compared myself to other people. Was I faster, smarter, a better artist than so and so? Part of this had to do with the insecurities of being young. I thought my “abilities” were set in stone. I never thought about how I could improve in an area. As a swimmer, it never occurred to me that I could train differently, harder, or improve my stroke to get better. And we didn’t have access to endless resources on the internet to help with improvement.

Comparing myself had negative effects on me. If someone was better it devalued what I could do. It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. In my book, Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life, I share the story of getting to high school and seeing amazing pencil portraits by a girl named Peggy. Seeing Peggy’s drawings made me feel bad about myself. It never occurred to me that I could learn new techniques and practice to develop my skills. Looking back – yes Peggy’s portraits were impressive, but all they really did was shine a light on the fact that I lacked shading skills, and experience with portraits. Instead I thought the “comparison” showed I lacked talent and wasn’t “good enough” for art school.

As an adult I’m much more focused on what I’m doing. When I paint, I’m challenging myself. I work at it because I enjoy it, but also because I want to improve. I now know that practice plays a huge part in developing skills. If I’m struggling with a technique I’ll spend time experimenting and sometimes look online for tips. I don’t necessarily equate knowing a technique with being “better” as I would have as a kid. I just think of the person (I learn from online) as more experienced in that area. Or I think of them as someone further along in their creative journey.

I think of each painting as a learning opportunity. What went well? What aspect do I need to work on? Identifying areas to improve upon is the first step to getting better. Even paintings that are unsuccessful are helpful in that they reveal areas to work on. And everyone has their own way of painting (drawing, creating, etc.), their own unique style, which is another reason not to comparing yourself to others. Keep the competition with yourself.

Start your creative journey with:
Creative Exploration book -
Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life
– Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

ONLINE LEARNING
easy watercolor online lesson for beginners fun project Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners