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Art Books

Recommended creative reading - art books - women artists, urban painting watercolor
I bought myself 2 early birthday presents:

Danielle Krysa’s book “A Big Important Art Book: Now with Women!” Danielle is the author of the wildly popular blog The Jealous Curator, creator of, one of my favorite podcasts, Art for your Ear, and author of several other books including a favorite of mine “Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative.”

Shari Blaukopf’s “Working with Color: Techniques for Using Media on the Go.” I have followed Shari’s blog “The Sketchbook” and admired her watercolor work since I started blogging. Her ability to paint the colors and shades of snow has always amazed me.

I can’t wait to read them!

Read more of my reading recommendations here: “Books for Creatives.”
19 Books for Creatives

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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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10 “How to” Posts on Painting, Graphic Design, Creativity and more!

10 "How to" Posts on Painting, Graphic Design, Creativity and more! | acrylic painting watercolor tutorial diy round up post
It’s still amazing to me that I made a commitment to be creative, created this blog to hold myself accountable, have continued with it for over five years, and have published over 600 posts! This from someone who previously couldn’t finish a creative project. Here’s a round up of my best “How to” posts.

How to Design Invitations. I’ve been a Graphic Designer for over 20 years. I wrote this post to share the process of designing invitations. Designing invites has always been one of my favorite projects. Visit my Etsy shop for invitation borders, backgrounds, and clipart that make the invitation design process easier!

How to Design Invitations | DIY Invites | Invitation Tutorial | Easy Invites

How to Paint the Ocean. For the last few years I have dedicated myself to capturing the ocean in watercolor. This post shares my step by step process and my secret ingredient.
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips 

Transitioning from Watercolor to Acrylics was such a challenge and I’m still learning every time I pull out a canvas. In this post I share the top differences between the two, to help others make a more smooth transition.
Going from watercolor to acrylics, painting acrylic seascapes

Easy Forest Watercolor Project – is a great one for watercolor beginners. Create an interesting forest and learn and practice five watercolor techniques along the way. It’s actually one of my most popular posts and I’ve heard such nice things from the people who have tried it. There was even a group at a library that tried it.
Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners

Creating Repeating Patterns. Early on in my blogging days I began noticing the art of Surface Design. This post explains how to turn your art into a repeating pattern.
How to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop. For fabric prints, gift wrap, wallpaper and more.

Creativity is for everyone. For me being creative is less about the final product and more about the joy I get from being creative. I wish I realized sooner that talent doesn’t mean much. It’s just a starting point. If you have the desire to be creative and work at it regularly, your skills will improve.
Want to be creative? Start here! creative inspiration | how to be creative

Winter Birch Tree Painting. I wanted to add wintery art to my living room so I created these birch tree paintings in acrylic and shared my process in this post.
Easy Acrylic Birch Tree Painting #beginner #painting

Developing your own Illustration Style. When my kids were small I desperately wanted to illustrate a children’s book. But, not only were my skills not there, but I didn’t have a style. I scoured the internet looking for ways to develop my own style. In this post I share what I learned.
6 Tips on Developing your own Illustration Style 

Ways to Find Inspiration. It’s very rare that I don’t have ideas. For me time is more of a struggle, as well as following through on ideas. This post shares ways to find inspiration.
10 Ways to come up with ideas for your creative projects

Logo Design Process. I shared a peek into my life as a graphic designer in this post about designing logo.
Logo Design Process

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter -“My Creative Collection.” A collection of all the things that inspire me, in the hopes of inspiring you! Sign up 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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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!

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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Practice makes Progress

Acrylic seascape by Eileen McKenna | painting waves
Above my most recent acrylic seascape.

When I was younger and had less confidence in my artistic abilities I was hung up on talent. Nowadays I think of talent as just a starting point. It is almost irrelevant because if you work at drawing or painting, or whatever medium suits you, you will get better. I saw this in myself and in others (both online and in person). As I continue to paint my seascapes in acrylic paint (vs. my usual watercolor) I see how I have progressed. When I notice areas in a painting that need work, I try to improved them, or I think of ways to enhance these areas in the next painting. 

My first acrylic seascapes:
Transitioning from watercolor to acrylic
Click here to view my collection of watercolor and acrylic seascapes.


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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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Creativity and Procrastination

Creativity and Procrastination
I’ve been frustrated this summer about not finishing my creative projects. I have a bunch of ideas I want to pursue but can’t seem to get anywhere. I knew that one problem was the fact that I had so many things that I was dabbling in. You can’t move very far forward if you keep changing paths. Also, I couldn’t blame time, I had the time, but I lacked the motivation to get to work.

On a recommendation, I downloaded the book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” and it immediately resonated with me.
Eat the frog - procrastination
Not only does the book address the things holding me back, but the author presents clear strategies to overcome this. Just reading a few pages motivated me!

Number one: I needed to define my primary goal, which is to continue revamping my online art shop. Once I identified this as the primary goal, and other projects as less important, I was motivated to attack the list of to do items (I already had). And once I accomplished one thing on the list, I was motivated to attack several other items – just as the quote above states.

Ironically this feeling, of being pulled in several directions and not finishing anything, isn’t new for me. In fact, when I started this blog (My Creative Resolution) it was my #1 problem. Having the blog, held me accountable – I felt I had to finish a project (or at least move forward) so I had something to post. And I was motivated to spend the first month or so pulling out old projects and finishing them. It was very cathartic, very satisfying, and very motivating.

I feel that way now, I’ve accomplished a lot with my online shop and am just waiting for new prints to come in. While I wait my mind is clearer to move onto the next priority – finishing my latest acrylic seascape painting. Prioritizing has helped me focus tremendously.

Click her for more info on “Eat that Frog!”

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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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!