Set yourself up for a creative 2021

The new year is thankfully here. Like many people, I’m trying to figure out how to be the best I can, in the new year. What systems help me and what bad habits hurt me when it comes to staying creative and working towards my goals?

Aiming for a daily illustration. This one is inspired by Flow Magazine’s book “Inspiring Women”

Daily dreaming and planning in my notebook. This helps me stay focused on what I want to work on. I dream, I plan, I look back and see what projects I may have forgotten about. I’ve been doing this almost every day since I started my blog 7 years ago, maybe longer.

Painting early in the day vs. attacking my to-do list. I’m more likely to paint if it’s one of the first things I do. If I start with work or other to-do list items I’m doomed for the day. I find it so hard to get back to a free creative mind after the other stuff.

A project. Whenever I have an ongoing project or theme that I’m working on, it is so much easier to motivate myself to sit and create. There is something driving me.

The weather. A bright sunny day and time spent outdoors help inspire me to create.

Regular creatively. Even if it’s just 10/15 minutes a day, regular creativity inspires more creativity. Although I made the resolution 7 years ago and started this blog to reinforces it, I still regularly have to recommit to creativity. It’s constant work – but so much reward!

 

Eileen McKenna watercolor artist

I’m Eileen, a watercolor artist. 13 years ago I didn’t draw or paint! A lack of confidence held me back for years. I now believe talent is just a starting point. Creativity is for everyone! It has brought so much joy and opportunity to my life. What are you waiting for? I’ve developed a process for you to follow! Get my book “Creative Exploration” and explore mediums and subjects to find your thing! Develop your own creative practice! Learn more here.

Creative exploration

A Creative New Year

Sketchbook

I’m always relieved when the busyness of the holidays is over. After Thanksgiving “the holidays” – a small thing on my to do list – grows with each passing day until it’s the main thing I’m working on. I become consumed with shopping, taking inventory of deliveries, decorating, wrapping, planning, baking, more shopping…

And then it’s over. The week that follows is usually a fairly quiet week of not much more that reading, tv watching, and eating leftover candy. I happily devour the creative magazines that filled my stocking. Magazines like flow and Mollie Makes. I read about other creatives and plan and dream about the New Year.

It was during this time, seven years ago, that I committed to regular creativity and started this blog – My Creative Resolution. Seven years ago! My kids don’t remember a time when a section of the table wasn’t filled with art supplies. They assume I’ve always drawn and painted. 

Starting a blog added a level of accountability that prevented me from putting my creative goals aside. Before the blog, there were several Christmases where I received a new sketchbook, vowed to work in it every day, but ultimately forgot about it. Creativity has brought so much joy to my life, and many unexpected opportunities! It is impossible to plan everything. You have to start your own journey to find out what twists and turns await you!

Not sure where to start?

I’ve created a process for you to follow, that walks you through trying things, while developing a regular practice of creativity. Fifteen minutes a day can be sufficient!

We start with the basics – no fancy supplies needed – and slowly work up to trying other mediums. Your interests are taken into account. After all, your exploratory journey should be based on you!

Ready to get started?
Download the “Creative Exploration” ebook or order a paperback copy on Amazon today. Click here for more information.

Your creative journey awaits!

Creative Exploration | How to be creative How to start an art practice

Start now by clicking here!

 

Creativity in Midlife

I’m on a podcast! “Women in the Middle” with Suzy Rosenstein, Episode #179 “Finding My Passion to Teach Creativity in Midlife with Eileen McKenna”

Our conversation covers:

  • Why it’s important to pay attention to your deepest desires.
  • How to look for clues about what you’ve always been passionate about.
  • Why exploration itself needs to become a skill you can get better at.
  • How paying attention to your inner voice can help you get unstuck and find your own voice in midlife.
  • How being uncomfortable can be a normal part of the process of your own personal development.

Inject calm into the holiday season with this 15 minute daily practice

Commit to creativity this December!

December can be a crazy month as we prepare for the holidays. I don’t even need to remind you that things are extra stressful this year. One of my favorite things to do in December is to create every single day.

Creativity is very important to me, but life always seems to want to pull me away from it. I should say I let life (and Netflix) pull me away. Because December is such a full month, I find it the most important time to recommit to creativity. I encourage you to the same. Just 15 minutes a day can be such a stress reliever!

For the last few years, I’ve created an illustration each day in December. This year I’m trying a new medium – block printing. I’ve gotten a head start – I organized my tools, watched a few YouTube videos, sketched a few ideas. I’ve even carved two small designs!

In the past my goal was to post a completed illustration each day. This year I simply want to work in the new medium for at least 15 minutes a day. I have to admit it’s hard to be a beginner! That first day carving my linoleum block felt so awkward. But I know from experience that a month of focusing on one thing can lead to real progress.

I hope you’ll join me in creating every day!

There are a lot of great kits to get you started with a new medium in this blog post.

Want weekly creative inspiration? -> Sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

 

Browse Ornaments & Cards in my Zazzle shop.

4 tips for professional looking invitations | Christmas holiday invites | Cookie Swap invitation

Exploring new creative things

I was sewing the other day. Trying to make a few new masks. Sewing is a new thing for me. I’ve tried it here and there over the years but waited so long in between that it always felt like starting over. Now that I’ve been doing it more regularly, I’m getting the hang of it. There isn’t as much of a struggle.

As I sewed I wondered what new things – art, craft, baking, etc. – I would carry on with after quarantine is over? Based on what I see online, lots of people are trying their hand at new things – baking bread, painting, etc. or getting back to things they used to enjoy – puzzles, game night, taking walks, etc. What will we take with us into the new normal of life?

The silver lining in self quarantine is that some of us have had this time to explore things we normally don’t have time to explore. A friend of my sister’s messaged me and said she hadn’t painted in decades, but wanted to try again and asked what paint and tutorials I recommended. Often it is hard to know where to start.

How do you know what medium to begin with? How do you find an art medium that speaks to you? I went through this myself when I started My Creative Resolution. Throughout the process of exploration painting in watercolor was what rose to the top. For you it may be something totally different. But how do you find your thing?

I’ve developed a process for you to follow, that walks you through trying things, while developing a regular practice of creativity. Fifteen minutes a day can be sufficient! We start with the basics, no fancy supplies needed, and slowly work up to trying other mediums. There is room for your interests here. After all, your exploratory journey should be based on you!

Ready to get started? Download the “Creative Exploration” ebook or order a paperback copy on Amazon today. Click here for more information. Your creative journey awaits!

Start now by clicking here!

Creative Exploration | How to be creative How to start an art practice

Want to be creative | How to be creative | How to develop an art practice

What is holding you back from creativity?

Often the hardest part of anything is starting. So many things can hold you back – fear, uncertainty, a lack of confidence. It’s important to take stock of those things so they don’t slow you down. So you can move forward.

Since I was young I loved art, but like many people, I got away from it. But the desire to be creative stuck with me, even if it was dormant for a long time. It wasn’t until I had a career and family before the desire became stronger than the things holding me back.

Before I started my creative exploration journey, I took stock of all the things holding me back. One worry I had was about other people judging me and anything I might create. I realized creating wasn’t about how others viewed my abilities and “talent.” Creating was about me, and how it made me feel. There would always be people who didn’t like what I made. This shift in thinking freed me up to move forward.

I’ve never looked back and never regretted committing time and energy to creativity. It fills me up and brings me so much joy!

Are you ready to get started? The first step in my book “Creative Exploration” is Creative Reflection. Uncover what I’d holding YOU back so you can start YOUR creative journey. Start now by clicking here!

Creative Exploration | How to be creative How to start an art practice
Start your creative journey today!

What is holding you back from creativity? Start an art practice Explore creativity

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.

A Project to Motivate and Inspire

Watercolor poppies

I need a project to motivate and inspire me. Something to break up the routine and dull-drums of the week. Without a project I’m bored.

For me, a project doesn’t need to come from someone else. I’m just as motivated by my own projects and challenges. A deadline certainly helps, even if it’s self imposed.

Right now I’m embracing the freedom to work on anything now that my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” project has wrapped up. But I also need something to get me excited to create and to hold me accountable.

I took a trip down memory lane to review some of my bigger projects:

  • This Blog – when I started it and it was new, it was so motivating! I finished so many projects just because I wanted to post the final product. “Finishing” was a skill I had to learn.
  • Designing one fabric a month. In the early days of the blog I was so intrigued by surface design! I now have a collection of fabric designs on Spoonflower.
  • Month Long Challenges – I participated in several, back to back challeges – InkTober, a month of World Watercolor Group’s prompts (food), and my own Countdown to Christmas. These focused months led to me dedicating myself to…
  • Painting Watercolor Seascapes – Originally a month long project it lasted well beyond that (a year?, 2 years?), and is still a focus of mine. I’ve just launched an watercolor seascape painting online lesson to share all I’ve learned.
  • Acrylic Seascapes – I dedicated a month to exploring seascapes in acrylics. I learned so much and progressed so much. I’m dying to get back to acrylics!
  • The 100 Day Challenge – I participated in the 100 Day Challenge and focused on illustrated map making, something I was curious about for years. The project was great, but map making was a side interest that took over and 100 days was way too long. I didn’t make it to the end.
  • Finalizing my book on creativity. Since the early days of the blog I had ideas for a book. Finally I committed to finishing it and hired an editor as the accountability I needed to finish -> Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.
  • “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” – After our trip to Paris, I was so excited to paint what inspired me. I decided to invite others along via a paid email series. The program included four weekly emails with watercolor tips, a Paris theme, specific prompts with details and links to learn more, reference photos, and videos of my process painting each prompts. Turning the idea to paint Paris into a shared experience pushed me and motivated me so much! I dove much deeper into the theme than I would have if I painted alone. But I almost bit off more than I could chew – painting and filming and editing five videos a week was a lot even without the technical issues I experienced. But, I learned so much.

A project is great because it gets you excited and forces you to focus, but it’s important to remember that saying yes to one thing is essentially saying no to other things. I want to be intentional about picking my next project. In the meantime, I’m painting poppies. 🙂

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

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