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Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas

Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas #creativity
I had the pleasure this week of hearing Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer, and author of the famous book, “The Creative Habit” speak at Hofstra University. Her book, which I already read, is on many “best books on creativity” lists. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear her speak. She was no nonsense and honest, especially in her advice to the young dancers in the audience.

She began the talk, after introducing herself, by going through the book briefly and summarizing each chapter. Then she asked for questions from the audience, and while some were specific to dance, some were great questions that led to interesting answers – like “How do you know the difference between brainstorming and over thinking things?”

Twyla talked about the time she left NYC and went to a farm, where she and other dancers “worked.” No thought of celebrity or success, or social media (which didn’t exist at the time), but just focusing on dance. I appreciated this reminder that creativity is about putting in the work.

She said, “It takes work to have new ideas.” They don’t just hit you out of nowhere. You have to get going first. You have to be in the habit of “going.” She talked about the “rituals of preparation” and how important they are – whatever they are for you – to get you going. Once you have an idea, you move on from the ritual.

As a painter this all makes sense to me. The importance of sitting down every day to paint. Starting with anything to warm up and get going. I sometimes find the sitting down part is the hardest. Life is always trying to get in the way, even guilt that I should be doing something else. But this thought replaces the guilt, “I am a painter. I paint.”

Learn more about “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp here.

This posts 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 hopefulness and working through the ugly stage of watercolor

Creative hopefulness - the beginning of a watercolor paintingI’m was excited to sit and paint yesterday morning. It felt like a clean slate as I’d be starting a new set of paintings. I have plenty of new beach photos to choose from because last week I took a spontaneous detour to the beach where I took tons of photos and videos.

The first layers of a watercolor painting
It’s been a few weeks since I started a set of new watercolors and I was feeling very inspired – very hopeful. Sometimes because the first layers of a watercolor – for me – are the ugly stage, I lose that excitement. But I’ve learned to stick with paintings, work through the ugly stage. I’m committed to not giving up and seeing what I can do with them.

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! The perfect gift for beach lovers.


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The Feelings of a Beginner

The feelings of a beginner #creativity #painting I realized this weekend how discouraging it can be to be a beginner. I worked on two very different projects for me. One was a paper diorama. The other was painting two canvases with acrylics.

In both cases I was an unorganized mess. Materials all over. I had the wrong tools. I was literally uncomfortable. And in both cases, things weren’t turning out so great. Self doubt leaked in and I thought, “This is a waste of time.”

I realized this morning that all these feelings were related to being new to something. Thankfully, I had the perspective of the two very different projects. Otherwise I would have thought, “I’m not good at that.” When I looked over at my watercolor setup this morning, I saw all the things these past years have given me – routines, methods, techniques, the right tools, etc. These things make it easier to sit down and create comfortably and not let self doubt in (as much).

If I continue with acrylics or dioramas or any other new thing, over time things will get better and easier. If you are a beginner – don’t give up! Allow time to work out the kinks. Then you’ll have a comfortable “space” to freely create.

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! The perfect gift for beach lovers.


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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


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Time, a Clear Head, and Creative Productivity

Creative productivity
I sometimes complain that I don’t have enough time. Summer break has started and the kids are at swim practice for only two hours each morning. That is a huge difference from the six hours they were at school. But I’m still feeling very productive in my work and creative projects. How is that possible?

I have more to do. When I have one straggling little project, I’m not motivated. For some reason when I have multiple projects going on it lights a fire under me. Just this morning I noticed that with each item I checked off my list, I was motivated to tackle the next item.

I’m not being pulled in a million directions. If things are busy in a few areas I can focus on them. Entertain the kids, do my work, take care of the household tasks/errands, work on my creative projects. A few weeks ago there were tons of end of year school things to prepare for and attend, etc. That made getting to the other stuff hard. Life is feeling simpler these days.

It’s the quality of the time not the quantity. I’ve had plenty of free afternoons where the most I accomplished is binge watching shows on netflix. If I have a clear mind I can be creative. Mornings are my best time. And being creative leads to more creativity.

Strike when the iron is hot. If I have any idea for a blog post or thoughts for the next issue of my newsletter, I try to embrace that and write it then. I’m most productive when I’m called to work on something than when I have to do something.

I’m more productive when time is limited. Give me an open week and I’ll struggle with when to do what. Give me a small window of time, like 2 hours when the kids are at swim, and I’ll hit the ground running.

I’m a list maker in all aspects of my life. When it comes to my creative projects, I have a general list I look at often, to make sure I’m working on all the areas I want to work on.

My Creative List

  • Fabric Prints – at least one new design a month
  • Enamel Pins – summer pin coming soon
  • Painting
  • Daily Sketchbook Work
  • Writing blog posts – at least 2x a week
  • Create newsletter – My Creative Collection – every other week

Marketing List

  • Continue exploring having art giclee prints made
  • Create a shopping cart to sell prints, etc.
  • Post on Instagram several times a week
  • Pin on Pinterest daily
  • Include affiliate links when it works with content

How do you stay productive?


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Creative Epiphany

Creative epiphany while reading "Crossroads of should and must"
Several years ago I had an epiphany. I read an article about an artist and as I admired her lifestyle – finishing school and dedicating her time to creating art, I wondered, “Who gave her permission to be an artist? Her parents? Her boyfriend? Her teachers?” Sometime later, I don’t know if it was minutes or months, I realized SHE gave HERSELF permission. And the reason I didn’t go to art school wasn’t because my mom questioned the choice, it was because I didn’t believe in myself.

Today I started reading, “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion” by Elle Luna. Immediately I thought back to my epiphany and the moment I finally gave myself permission to be creative (the catalyst for this blog). Notice I still have a hard time saying “to be an artist.”

In the book Luna makes the distinction between a job, a career, and a calling – “something that we feel compelled to do regardless of fame or fortune; the work is the reward.”

This perfectly explains my desire to be creative. I paint, draw, write, design patterns, etc. because it makes me feel JOY. I don’t do it for others – although positive feedback does propel me forward! I don’t do it for income – although when someone orders a fabric I designed I do feel a thrill. And I’ve been thinking very carefully about selling my work, because I don’t want to jeopardize that joy. I want to continue to make what I feel called to create.

Reading this book I had a second epiphany. I should spend more time doing what brings me joy and stop feeling guilty for the shoulds. The I should work more, clean the house more, etc. Just this week I was thinking about my summer work schedule, and thinking of pursuing additional clients. Instead I’m going to pursue more joy and see where that takes me. 😀

If you’d like to order a copy of the book click here. On a side note – thank you to Yuko of www.honeyberrydiary.com for recommending this book on her blog. Yuko left her job to create art full time! The tagline of her blog is “Do what you love. Be Happy.”

This posts contains affiliate links to products 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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Don’t Stifle Your Own Creativity

Watercolor robin in my sketchbook
Yesterday morning the first thing that caught my eye was a robin on my patio. I was inspired to paint him, but hesitated for a moment. I’ve been painting the beach and beach related things since January. A robin doesn’t fit into my theme. Then I had a break through thought – I’m letting my theme and focus stifle my creativity.

For weeks I’ve been trying to get back into painting. I knew that – for me – working daily in my sketchbook helps bring out other creativity. What I love about my sketchbook is the lack of pressure – draw anything, mess up, add watercolor – it’s all good! But, I had been putting pressure on myself by limiting myself to beach things. Pressure to stay within the theme, pressure to post daily on Instagram.

I’ve recognized my mistake and am changing my attitude. I painted the robin. And tomorrow who knows?

Hey, have you signed up for my email newsletter yet? The next issue comes out soon! It’s called My Creative Collection and is all about the things that inspire me and hopefully will inspire you! You can sign up here. For more information on the newsletter read this post.


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All About Portraits

The fourth issue of my newsletter comes out tomorrow and it’s all about portraits. Sign up here so you don’t miss it!

I started “My Creative Collection” to share all the things that inspire me, in hopes of inspiring you! It contains artists and makers, places, crafts and art mediums, tutorials, podcasts, interesting articles, and more. You can view past newsletter issues here.

Thanks for signing up!
😀 Eileen

My Creative Collection


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Back to Daily Creative Habits

Back to daily creative habits. Shells in the sketchbook.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve done minimal drawing and painting. Periods like this seem to be a pattern for me. I think about doing creative work all the time, but I put everything before it – even binge watching shows on Netflix. It’s not creative block. I have tons of ideas. I just can’t seem to make myself pick up the sketchbook or sit down with my paints. And as the days go by it gets harder, and harder.

Experience has shown me that these periods can be avoided if I maintain the habit of drawing daily in my sketchbook. So today as I finally grabbed my sketchbook – I made the commitment to draw in it everyday. Other than making the time, I don’t put pressure on myself to make the results great. I know if I do the work, and play around, good things will come. I already feel happier after drawing these shells that I collected recently.

I first learned about the power of habits when I read Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.” Back then I had also fallen out of the habit of being creative. I learned from the book that it was harder for me to be creative because I had to make the conscious decision to do it. It was an internal willpower battle every time and was no longer something I did without thinking.

Creative Habits and Gretchen Rubin's book "Better than Before"

Rubin perfectly states it here,
“When we change our habits, we change our lives. We can use decision making to choose the habits we want to form, we can use willpower to get the habit started; then – and this is the best part – we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. We take our hands off the wheel of decision, our foot off the gas of willpower, and rely on the cruise control of habits.”

Read Better than Before.

This post contains affiliate links to products 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!