My Creative Resolution – Watercolor, Illustration, Print Pattern Design


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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!


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Does your astrological sign affect your creativity?


A few years ago I had a bit of an epiphany while painting. I noticed a pattern where on Day One of a project, I was excited and enthusiastic. But on Day Two I was reluctant to work on it, and a bit intimidated. I really had to push myself to continue. Once I got started again, I figured out what I needed to do to finish the painting. It was the lack of a plan – the not knowing where to pick the project up – that intimidated me. The diving in on Day One without a plan didn’t scare me at all. It was fun! Why was this?

On a whim I googled “astrological sign traits” for Aries. I’m not that into astrology, but I couldn’t believe how dead on the description of Aries (on Huffington Post) was.

“Aries motto is “Ready, fire, aim!” It may be backwards for others, but you’d rather figure out what to do while you are doing it. Impulsive actions, however, can bring you your share of trouble. While others are gathering information to make informed decisions, you are already on your way. As such, you could suffer from false starts. In fact, you Aries are so good at starting things that you can be off onto your next project before completing the previous one. As you Aries mature, you learn to slow down your reaction time in order to think about the consequences of your actions.”

Wow! That totally describes me! Whenever I am assembling something and hit a snag, my husband will say, “Did you read the directions?” Of course I didn’t read the directions! Who needs those? (Obviously me, that’s why I’ve hit a snag.)

At the time my solution was to figure out a plan before stepping away from a project. Three years and many paintings later, I still don’t do much planning. I’ve embraced the “figure it out as I go,” at least in regards to my painting and general creativity. I still experience that Day Two reluctance, especially when I’m working on a subject that I’m less confident in, like painting figures. But, I have learned to force myself back into a project. Once I start I’m back in the zone and finishing a painting is so sweet!

Check out your sign’s traits on Huffington Post. Select your sign, and scroll down to “about the sign.” Let me know if anything rings true for you and your creativity.

Sign up for my newsletter – My Creative Collection – a collection of all the things that inspire, in hopes of inspiring you!

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Read:
 19 Books for Creatives 11 Art Supplies I can't paint without


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The first newsletter issue is out!

My Creative Collection issue 1The first issue of my newsletter “My Creative Collection” went out today. Sign up here to get your copy! Above is a little peek at the intro. As you can see I have inspiring plans this month – that I’ll be sharing in a future issue.

😀 Eileen