Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Anniversary Map – the100dayproject

St. Ignatius Church Long Beach New YorkWedding reception illustrated mapPizza fishing illustrationsNew York City Apartment building | anniversary map unique creative giftLifeguard chair illustration

Last month I created a map of our important landmarks – our first apt., the church where we got married, the reception, favorite beaches, pizza, where the kids were born. I’ve always aspired to create illustrated maps so for #the100dayproject I am going to work on creating map illustrations. I’m so hesitant to say I’m doing it bc 100 days seems like a long time but I also know that 100 days is the perfect amount of time to hone a skill. I hope you’ll tune in to watch my progress and maybe you’ll be ordering up your own anniversary map towards the end! 🤣

My Creative Collection a creative newsletter
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Unique Gift Ideas for Mom and Grandma

Unique creative gifts for mom and grandma for Mother's Day | personalized gifts for mom and grandmother
It can be so hard to shop for Mom and Grandma. You want to give them something special, but they don’t want anything. Here are some creative ideas to make it easier.

Personalized bracelet. I ordered this bracelet for my mom from Belinda Carmichael on Etsy. It has all of our initials on it. She loves it.
Personalized bracelet for grandma mom | Creative gifts for mother’s day

Ring with birthstones. When I was kid we gave my mom a ring with each of our birthstones – Similar to this one. Now, there are a lot of creative birthstone jewelry options available. Check out the assortment on Etsy here.

Family tree. I personalize this family tree with all your family members, and provide you with a digital file, which you can print at home or send to a printer. Order one in my Etsy shop.
Customizable Family Tree Digital Download Printable | Unique Grandparent Mother's Day gift

Personalize all kinds of stuff with photos or artwork! Sites like Zazzle allow you to upload photos or art and put it on hats, mugs, pillows cards, etc. For a birthday trip we made hats with a picture of my mom on it. They were great! Recently, I took one of my mom’s favorites – an illustration of a girl hugging her mom’s legs – and made it into a card for her. Visit Zazzle.com.
Special Mother's Day card of a little girl hugging her mom's legs | unique Mother's Day card

Frame your own artwork or your kid’s artwork. For Christmas I framed an illustration of the house I grew up in at Christmas time and gave it to my mom.
Custom house illustration painting unique gift idea for mom and grandma

Similar frame on Amazon:
Click image to order.

Photos of children or grandchildren. Plan a photo shoot with all the children or grandchildren. For us, it is rare we can assemble everyone, remember to take a photo, and get a decent one. Instead I had everyone send me individual head shots, which I put together in a frame.

Frames on Amazon:
Click image to order.

Basket of her favorite things. My mom loves tea, so a few times I have picked out items in this theme.
Shamrock tea cup basket with Irish family flate

Similar items on Amazon:
Click image to order.

Personalized ring dish. When I take off my jewelry at night I place it in a pretty little dish a friend gave me. A personalized dish would be such as sweet gift. I love this Cherry Blossom “Mom” dish. 

Monogram bag with her “name.” One year I gave my mom a L.L. Bean bag with “Nannie” on it to hold all her grandmother essentials – tissues, books, snacks, etc. Isn’t she the best?!

Have you given your mom or grandmother creative gifts? I’d love to hear! Comment below.

This posts contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

My Creative Collection a creative newsletter
Want a dose of creative inspiration?
Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” where I feature artists and makers, and link to inspiring art, design, and craft, inspiring places, interesting books, movies, and more. It’s a collection of all the things inspiring me delivered to your inbox every two weeks. Click here to sign up.


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Creative Goals and the First Quarter of 2019

Creative goals
I decided it was a good time to see how on track I was with my creative goals for 2019. Ironically I couldn’t remember what my specific goals were. I had to look back to a post I wrote in December. Here’s what I wrote:

My Creative Plans for 2019

  • Paint within a theme. 15-30 day challenges. Explore a theme for two weeks or more. Give myself time off in between.
  • Grow my Etsy shop. At the end of 2018 I began offering my illustrations as digital downloads on Etsy.
  • Learn and explore. I want to continue painting acrylics, would like to try block printing again, and have signed up for a sewing class!

My Creative Reality January – March 2019

I am not really painting in themes for 2 weeks to a month. But what I am doing is painting five mornings a week and working on what I feel like, which are often seasonal illustrations. I am very happy with how this is working out. The work I’m currently doing in the mornings is leading to products for my Etsy shop, as well as using all the accumulated illustrations I’ve painted over the last five years.

Growing my Etsy shop is still my number one project. I am really enjoying painting (of course) but also using those illustrations to design different types of digital products. I feel I won’t be truly able to gauge the success of my shop until I have 100 products in it (not including out of season products).

I haven’t really painted in acrylics BUT am committed to making that happen soon. I did take a sewing class and made a pillow, but haven’t motivated to try to make something else. I really want to use my own fabrics!

Teaching wasn’t a 2019 goal (It was a 2018 goal), but I embraced an opportunity that presented itself and began teaching first and second graders at an after school art studio. I loved it! I’ll get the chance again over the summer. One thing I try to do is be open to opportunities, even if they are out of my comfort zone.

I’m glad I took stock on how I’m doing so far. I’m happy with my progress. And even before doing this, I decided that I would try to pursue the other types of creativity on the weekends. Here are my revised goals.

My Creative Plans for 2019 – Revised

  • Paint regularly. 5 mornings a week
  • Grow my Etsy shop.  100+ products
  • Paint with acrylics on canvas. Seascapes including a 2 canvas piece.
  • Teach – online and in person. Note to self – finish the ice cream cone project. I have two other project tutorial PDFs in my Etsy shop.
  • Submit work to a gallery show (I have a specific one in mind)
  • Collaborate with a sewing blogger – is that you? Contact me!

As I write these revised goals I’m realizing that the more specific the goals, the easier it is to go for them. How’s your creative year going so far?

You may be interested in reading “Writing a checklist to help you achieve your Creative Goals”

My Creative Collection a creative newsletter
Want a dose of creative inspiration?
Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” where I feature artists and makers, and link to inspiring art, design, and craft, inspiring places, interesting books, movies, and more. It’s a collection of all the things inspiring me delivered to your inbox every two weeks. Click here to sign up.

 


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Inspiration for painting flowers in watercolor

Creative morning setup
I don’t always have an idea or inspiration when I sit down to paint. Once I’m there at the table it’s rare I spend more than a minute or two coming up with an idea. I usually start with doodles in my sketchbook and then move on to paintings that are in progress. I’m in a good routine of sitting down most mornings right after the kids go to school before anything else starts. I’m so excited for spring and for flowers, so I’ve been painting from the Burpee catalog. I always listen to a podcast while I work. One of my new favorites is Etsy Conversations. What’s your creative routine?
Painting flowers in watercolor - ready for spring!

Have you visited my Etsy shop yet? There’s printables for each holiday, invitations, and even digital gifts!
Digital Downloads clipart prints invitations cards gifts | printable

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” where I feature artists and makers, and link to inspiring art, design, and craft, inspiring places, interesting books, movies, and more. It’s a collection of all the things inspiring me delivered to your inbox every two weeks. Click here to sign up.


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Need Creative Inspiration?

Every two weeks I share in my newsletter all the things inspiring me – artists/makers, different mediums, tutorials, places, books, TV, and more. My hope is to inspire you!

Sign up for the newsletter here.

Read the latest issues here.

The latest issue featured collage envelopes by Lydia of Inkdrop43212. Read more here.
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration

Sign up for the newsletter here.


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The First Few Creative Days of 2019

Coastal inspired art | watercolor seascape by Eileen McKenna
2019 is off to a good start! I’m making drawing and painting a priority and try to work in the mornings, even if it’s just for a little bit. It’s fun to sit down with no real thought as to where it will lead and let things unfold.

With painting holiday themed things throughout December, it’s been a while since I painted a seascape. Looking through my stack of unfinished projects, I found the start of a seascape and suddenly felt inspired to finish it. (Our annual New Year’s Day walk at the beach may have also inspired this. The waves were crazy!) Painting the foam was so much fun!

There are two time-lapse videos on Instagram if you want to see how I went from here:
Step one painting the ocean in watercolor

to here:  The secret is a lot of white gouache!
Painting the ocean in watercolor final

As I was looking through my supplies this week, my kneaded eraser was nowhere to be found, I had only one sheet of watercolor paper left, and my favorite sketchbook was running low! I didn’t paint today but I did head to Blick to stock up on these essentials. I usually paint using 9” x 12” or 12” x 12” watercolor paper, but felt inspired to also grab a larger pad of 12″ x 16″.

It’s funny – a few years ago my favorite size was 6” x 6” – so small! It was an accident that I went to the 12” x 12”. I ordered the wrong size, decided to give it a try, and have never looked back!


Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber ErasersCanson XL Mix Media PadsFluid Easy-Block Watercolor Paper Blocks

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the secret to painting watercolor seascapes | how to paint waves


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Kick up your Creativity with Color!

Kick up your Creativity with Color! Steps to Creativity for everyone
Want to be creative but don’t know how/where to start? If you haven’t already, click here and start with these 3 steps! If you have started with the beginning 3 steps, then you’ve accomplished a lot!

  • Your eyes are open to inspiration. You take photos and make lists of things to sketch.
  • You’ve been sketching regularly in pencil. Hopefully noticing the difference between the softer B and the harder H pencils. You have a regular creative practice!
  • You don’t just draw something once – you practice drawing it several times. Take a moment to look through your sketches and see overall how much you’ve progressed!

Well done. When you are ready, move on to these steps – that are all about Color!

1. Colored Pencil or Watercolor? – The next logical step may seem to be colored pencils, but if you are itching to paint, and want something more fluid, I recommend watercolor. Here is where YOU decide what path your creative journey takes. This is about finding what YOU like. If you need recommendations on either see below.

2. Start simply with your sketchbook. Continue with your creative habit of sketching regularly – but now use color! You can use regular pencil first and then add color – or start directly with color. I recommend working in your sketchbook because it’s a no pressure, play zone, where you can practice and learn. Note: if you decide to use watercolor – please look at my sketchbook recommendation below, so your pages don’t buckle.

3. Beyond the sketch. After practicing in your sketchbook, it’s time for a drawing or painting that you spend more time on. After all your loose, quick sketches, you are ready. It can be a page in your sketchbook, or perhaps use a nicer paper – see recommendations below based on your choice of medium. Before you start, plan it out. Pick a reference photo, study it, and lightly plan it out in pencil.

When you are working on a drawing or painting for a longer period of time, stepping away and coming back to it with fresh eyes, helps a lot. I sometimes work with my reference photo and paper upside down – to check that things look right. Don’t expect immediate results. Don’t give up because it isn’t looking like you envision. I used to be a “quitter,” but I learned that it takes time, and the results often surprise me if I stick with it, and work through “mistakes.” In the end, any “weak” areas – are just things to work on for the next time. It’s a learning process. Good Luck!

My recommendations:

Colored PencilsPrismacolor Colored Pencils
Strathmore Bristol Vellum Pad – Smooth thicker, bright white paper – great for a colored pencil project.

Watercolor Tube Sets – I love Windsor & Newton paints and started with their affordable Cotman “student grade”
Canson Multimedia Sketchbook – I love this versatile, bright white, thicker sketchbook paper
Fluid Watercolor Paper – great for a watercolor painting. Tape down the sides to a larger piece of cardboard with painter’s tape to prevent buckling!

Colored Pastels are another option. I never really got the hang of them, but my daughter loves them. She uses the Prismacolor sticks.

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

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

This post 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!


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Want to be Creative? Start here.

Want to be creative? Start here! creative inspiration | how to be creative
Want to be creative but don’t know how/where to start? Try these 3 steps!

  1. Open your eyes to inspiration – “stop and smell the roses.” Take off your blinders and notice things – The flowers on your walk, the fruit in the fridge, everyday objects. Ever look at how interesting the shape of scissors is? Take photos. Make a list of things to sketch.
  2. Start simply with paper and pencil. Sketch the things that catch your eye. Sketch everyday or every other day, even if it is for just 5 minutes. Form a creative habit.
  3. Practice makes progress. Sketch your subject not once but several times, studying the object as you draw. With each sketch you’ll learn more, and notice more. And as your sketch gets better – you’ll be motivated to continue your new creative practice.

A piece of printer paper and a pencil will suffice, but if you want to invest in your creativity purchase a sketchbook, a set of pencils, and an eraser. See my recommendations below:

Sketchbooks – don’t buy anything that you’ll feel is too nice, too “precious” – that you’ll be worried about ruining. You should feel free to practice and play in your sketchbook. I started with a Strathmore Sketch Pad. If you like book form try this Strathmore in 9″ x 12″, or 5.5″ x 8.5″.

Pencils – drawing pencil sets come with B pencils and H pencils. B pencils are softer, H are harder. A 6B is softer than a 2B. H pencils are great for fine lines, while Bs are great for shading. I use Derwent pencils.

Eraserkneaded erasers are the best. They remove the pencil from the paper (without leaving a pink smudge). I use this eraser.

Spend time in this creative phase – weeks, months, it’s up to you. When you are ready to “kick” it up a notch read this.

 

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

Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.

This post 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!


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Follow your Creative “Must”

Creative epiphany while reading "Crossroads of should and must"
There are things you have to do and things you should do. Sometimes I follow what I want to do. It’s never a mistake for my happiness to start the day by painting. It doesn’t have to be for very long, but it feels good and sets a great tone for the day. I have flexibility in my schedule and after I get the “have to’s” out of the way:

  • kids off to school
  • time sensitive work completed

I sometimes follow what I feel like doing:

  • painting
  • sketching
  • designing a print pattern
  • writing about creativity

These creative avenues bring me joy. If I don’t do them I literally get cranky. We have to give priority to these “wants” because there will always be “should’s” that come before them. In her book “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion,” Author Elle Luna sums it up perfectly. A “must” is
“something that we feel compelled to do regardless of fame or fortune; the work is the reward.”

Learn more about “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion” here.

What are your creative musts? What are you called to do?

 

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 shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!

This post 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!


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Creative Plans for 2018

Words for 2018 #creative #goals
I’m an ambitious list maker. And if I achieve things on my list, I add more things. When I started writing down what I wanted to accomplish in 2018, the list was getting out of control. I don’t want to set myself up for failure – with a list too long to possibly achieve. I thought about Crystal Moody of A Year of Creative Habits. Crystal picks one word to be the focus of the year.

Okay so maybe I can’t pick just one word, but I like how simplifying things to a few words can guide your year, while still allowing for things to evolve.

For 2018 I’ve selected the words Paint, Teach, Share, and Connect.

Paint. It sounds so simple, but I like to remind myself that creating is the reason for blogging, posting, pinning, etc. Painting is the core of it all. I’m continuing the theme from last year of Painting the Ocean in watercolor.

Teach. I really enjoy writing about creativity and specifically enjoy writing posts that share details on painting. I’d like to continue with these types of posts, as well as start creating videos. It’s so easy to learn by seeing someone do something. I’m also toying around with the idea of doing an in person workshop. 😬

Share. This past year I made my work available in a few ways. I started selling prints of my ocean watercolors online at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Through Zazzle, my artwork is available on cards, mugs, and ornaments. I’ve added to my designs that are available as fabric, gift wrap, and wallpaper through Spoonflower. As much as I enjoy creating, artwork stacks up in a drawer. It’s exciting to put it out into the world and fulfilling when others enjoy it.

Connect. This year I connected with Mary of the Daily Sew. Mary created an awesome drawstring bag, and a free downloadable pattern, using my Swimming Laps fabric. I also connected in person with Erin Andrews, the Interior Designer behind Indigo House Interiors. Read her post “A Coastal Inspired Holiday.” I’m very excited to have someone local that I can meet for coffee and talk about creative projects, business, and blogging! I hope to continue connecting with other creatives in the new year.

These words for 2018 – Paint, Teach, Share, Connect – offer goals, but also flexibility. Here’s to a creative new year!

Read my 2017 year in review here.

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 shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!