Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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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


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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

 


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Are you “creative” or “not creative”?

Are you creative or not creative?
Recently I went to a high school reunion. I went to an all girls high school – which is quite a bonding experience! The “reunion” was a party a bunch of us threw to celebrate our fiftieth birthdays. It was a lot of fun and great to see and spend time with this great group of “girls.”

A few friends commented that they love watching me paint on Instagram. One said that she didn’t remember me being creative in high school. While I loved art class in high school, I certainly didn’t spend my off hours creating. What I think is interesting is that when it comes to creativity most people have an us or them mentality. They assign themselves to one camp or the other – creative or not creative.

They assume you must have an innate talent to paint and probably have always done it. What I believe is that ANYONE can do it. You might deem yourself “terrible” at the start, but with time and effort it is almost impossible to NOT get better. But, it’s hard to convince some people of this. It’s almost like converting them to a new religion. They firmly believe they belong in the “not creative” camp and aren’t willing or don’t think it’s possible to venture out.

What camp are you in? Have you ventured out of your original camp? Or are you ready to?

Ready to explore creativity? Read my 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.

Creative Exploration book -


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It’s hard to commit to a daily painting challenge

Daily Painting Challenge | Regular Creativity Creative Practice
It’s hard to commit to a daily painting challenge but every time I do, and stick with it, I’m always happy with the results. The first few times I did my Christmas countdown (daily watercolor illustrations counting down to Christmas) I followed prompts. Last year and this year, I’ve allowed myself the freedom to paint whatever fits into the Christmas/winter/holiday theme. I love the flexibility to explore.

The first few days of a daily challenge can feel a little awkward, or stiff. But after that you open up to the inspiration around you. Flipping through a skiing catalog I saw a Telluride ad that I thought would be so cool to paint. It was totally outside of the normal thing I would do. I enjoyed the process and was pleased with the results. The thing I get most excited about are the ideas. Last year I painted a girl with a record player in front of a tinsel covered tree – me as a kid, playing a favorite gift.

Daily painting or drawing is hard, especially during the busy holiday season. But the break from the busyness and the interesting creative process of coming up with new ideas is so worth it!

Want to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -


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Gifts to Inspire Creativity

Christmas gifts to inspire creativity | unique holiday gifts for everyone creative artist
If you have creativity in your life – regular creativity – you already know what a gift it is. It’s a relaxing time, almost like meditation, and it can ease the anxiety associated with busy lives. What better gift this holiday season, than the gift of creativity? Here are a variety of gifts that will inspire creativity in your friends and family.

The items show below are all available on Amazon, just click the image to view the Amazon listing details. Read my disclaimer is below.

Art Set – Create a gift set with my “Creative Exploration Book,” favorite sketchpad, sketching pencils, kneaded eraser, and colored pencils. The recipient will be all ready to explore their creativity!

Painting Set – Watercolor is my favorite medium. I started with this Van Gogh watercolor tube set. Combine paints, brushes, a palette, and paper for a great gift!

Screen Printing Kit – I’ve wanted to try screen printing forever. I should add this to my list!


Block Printing Kit – Block printing is so fun and satisfying. This Speedball kit even includes ink!


Baking Set – Combine a baking book with pans or accessories. I love to bake and Williams-Sonoma products are some of my favorites!

Cooking Set – We just made a Gordon Ramsey recipe and it was the best Shrimp Scampi we ever had! And it didn’t take forever to prepare. Combine a recipe book with Gordon Ramsay knives or other cooking accessories for the perfect gift.

Gardening – How about a kit to grow a succulent garden?


Crochet – Combine a “How to Crochet” book with needles and yarn for a unique gift.

Embroidery – An embroidery kit is a great way to introduce someone to embroidery. Everything they need is included! Except maybe scissors.

This post 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! Please note: I have NOT used all the items in this post. Please refer to Amazon listings and reviews for specific product details. 


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How to Find your Creative Confidence – Studio 78 podcast episode

I’ve had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Nache’ Snow on the Studio 78 podcast!

How to find your Creative Confidence episode 98 of the Studio 78 podcast
Visit Studio 78 Episode 98. HOW TO FIND YOUR CREATIVE CONFIDENCE to find out where to listen.

Nache’ is a designer and maker and I’ve listened to her podcast – which highlights creative women and their side hustles – for years! Talking with her was so much fun! In Nache’s words,

“Eileen never gave up on her dream of being creative. In this episode, she explains how creating an art blog helped her gained the confidence to get back into painting and inspire others. She also walks us through how and why she built-out courses after a tutorial went viral on Pinterest, her process for developing a creativity book, and why she continues to create simple tutorials for those getting started.”

I hope you’ll listen! Studio 78 Episode 98. HOW TO FIND YOUR CREATIVE CONFIDENCE

Photo by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.

Want to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -

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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My Creative Year(s) in Review

Creative year in review | creative new year resolution
At the end of each year I try to reflect on my intentions for the year versus the reality. This exercise is important for me especially because I’m the type to reach a goal and then turn around and create new ones, without really recognizing my accomplishment. As I finish the sixth year of My Creative Resolution (the blog and the commitment to regular creativity), I decided to look back on my entire creative journey, by determining the words that defined each year:

  • 2014 – Finishing/following through, developing a creative practice
  • 2015 – Trying different things – watercolor was a constant
  • 2016 – Challenging myself and sticking with my creative journey through ups and downs
  • 2017 – Focusing to learn and improve my skills. Painting seascapes became a focus and remains one. I created my first “how to” post.
  • 2018 – Paint, teach, connect were my intentions for the year and they matched reality. I had my first in person teaching opportunity!
  • 2019 – Embrace uncomfortable opportunities and goals

I’m proud to say that I’ve become someone who embraces scary and uncomfortable opportunities and goals, which has led to experiencing amazing things. I now regularly teach a kid’s after school drawing and painting class. I initially terrified, but now I love it.

Writing a book that turned my creative journey into a process for others to follow to introduce creativity into their own lives, was intimidating. Having the idea was easy, but following through and finalizing it was hard! That’s why I’m so proud that this year I self published Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.

Since writing my first “how to” step by step painting post, I’ve aspired to create video lessons. There were so many obstacles – I don’t want to be on camera, how to create it, I don’t want to record my voice, etc. It took a few years to figure out the format and the how to, and to get comfortable with putting myself (and my voice) out there. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is finalize a project like this. Now I have the Birch Forest Watercolor Online Video Painting Lesson template to follow for the next video lesson. Next up is “Painting a Seascape.”

The interesting thing about my creative journey is how much I’ve changed. From starting out as someone who aspired to be creative but didn’t know the how or the what, to six years later wanting to inspire creativity in others. Want to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -

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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Draw Paint Craft 15 Minutes a Day

The path to regular creativity is to simply draw, paint, craft, or whatever interests you, for 15 minutes almost every day. If you schedule the time, and plan for it – even if you are busy – you should be able to manage 15 minutes of creative time most days.

These brief creative periods reinforce your creative priorities, and allow you to get in the creative mindset – which will lead to more creativity, and longer creative session when time allows.

Carving out 15 minutes of creative time says, “This is important to me.” And it is calming and meditative. As you work creative ideas and plans may form – write down your ideas!

Regular creativity opens you up to inspiration, even during other parts of your day.

Want to explore creativity? My new ebook takes you step by step through the process for introducing regular creativity into your life, finding inspiration, and exploring mediums.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

Draw Paint Craft 15 Minutes a Day the path to regular creativity


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Your Creative History and a Free Worksheet from “Creative Exploration”

“What experiences in your life have shaped your attitude towards creativity and your own abilities?

What has held you back?

What is your biggest creative fear?

Many of us have had experiences where comments from others have affected our confidence and our feelings of worthiness regarding creativity. I was considered pretty creative in my younger years. I loved art class in elementary school. When Mrs. Kareska pushed the cart filled with art supplies into our room I would be bursting with excitement. I recall a project where we were given tissue paper to use to create Christmas cards. The tissue paper was to mimic stained glass. Immediately I had the idea of a wreath with berries on a door. I remember the thrill of realizing my vision.

In high school art class I became aware that other people were more “talented” than I was. One girl, Peggy, drew the most amazing pencil portraits. The shading was incredible. Thinking back on it now, I know that I couldn’t have created those with the skills I had at that time. But it has dawned on me that if I had practiced and learned shading and other techniques, I could have created my own version of portraits that would have made me proud. At the time, I just assumed Peggy could do amazing portraits and I couldn’t.”

Think about your Creative History –> Download a free worksheet about Creative History by clicking here. It’s a sneak peek inside the Creative Exploration ebook.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

how to be creative | creative exploration | regular creative practice | creative worksheet your creative history

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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How to Find a Hobby

There are transitions in our lives where we suddenly have more time for ourselves – the youngest starts kindergarten, the kids go off to college, or move out on their own, retirement. With many of these transitions there is a mix emotions, yearning for the time before, coupled with excitement for the possibilities of next phase.

People may advise – do something for you, get a hobby. But the question is often, but what? Here are steps to exploring and finding hobbies that you will enjoy.

1. Compile a list of everything that appeals you. Write a list of every hobby, activity, goal, project, that has peaked your interest over the years. Think both broadly and specific. For example, hiking (broad), refinishing the living room coffee table (specific).

2. Prioritize the items on your list. Use A, B, C, D to assign your level of interest. If there are several items with an A priority, number the As to prioritize them. Rewrite the As in order. You now have a list of what hobbies and projects to try. For more details on the prioritizing process click here.

3. Schedule the time. If you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen. Schedule time to research, learn, and engage in the hobby or project. I recommend at the least five short sessions, and one longer session each week. I try to paint for 15 minutes in the mornings, and once a week I schedule a longer painting session. Put it on your calendar!

4. Focus on one hobby or activity a week. Write a weekly to do list based on the hobby/activity you chose. For example, for hiking your list might include: researching hiking trails in your area, assessing your wardrobe for hiking gear, reaching out to friends to join you on a hike, looking online for hiking tips and info, planning a hike for the week, and ultimately going on a hike.

Tips: Start small. Don’t start out with a 5 hour hike or a large canvas. Try a shorter beginner trail or a small drawing on paper – something less intimidating. Don’t invest a lot. When possible use what you have at the start. If you determine you love a hobby and are going to continue with it, then spend money as needed.

5. Reflect on the week and the activity. Did you enjoy it? Do you want to continue with it? If so do it. If not, go to the next item on your list.

6. Repeat until you find something you want to continue with. Trying new things is fun, but at a certain point you may want to focus. Focusing allows you to improve in a specific area.

Through this process you may even uncover several hobbies you enjoy. You may also find something you like, focus on it for a few weeks or months, and then decide to move on to something else. At that point you can always refer back to your list – or create a new one – to find the next thing to try.

Interested in exploring your creativity? Creativity is for everyone! Talent is just a starting point.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

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!

How to Find a Hobby You'll Enjoy | Retirement ideas