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Avoidance

Painting figures in watercolor
It’s ironic that the project that started with such excitement and enthusiasm, is the same project that had me avoiding my paints last week. Every time I walked by my painting table and saw the work in progress I thought, “ugh.” I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t being creative, when I realized this project was the issue.

Watercolor
It wasn’t going well and I wasn’t sure how to fix it. The sky wasn’t coming out the way I wanted and efforts to “fix” it made it worse. I’ve been playing with painting skin tones, and was struggling with adding shadows. What to do?

Practicing figures in watercolor
I made myself sit down and practice skin tones and shadows. I painted the same man from a reference photo over and over. The first versions were horrible, but I began making progress.

The next day, I put the project to the side and painted shells in my sketchbook. Something simple, no pressure, just to play. It felt good. I’m glad I recognized that this painting was holding me back. I like to push myself to practice new things, but learning new things takes time and can be frustrating. I try to finish any painting I start, but sometimes you need to take a break, and come back to it later, or not. For me the important thing is getting back to creating!

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  • Watercolor Quick Start Guide – everything you need to know to get started in watercolor
  • 50 ideas on what to draw or paint

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Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction


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Announcements

Creative Exploration book - step by step six week process for introducing regular creativity into your life
I have two new projects that I’m really excited to share with you!
After blogging about creativity for over five years, I’m putting the finishing touches on a book! The book – Creative Exploration – is a step by step six week process for introducing regular creativity into your life – exploring mediums, finding inspiration, and welcoming the joy the comes from creating. It’s due out September 2019. Learn more here.

and

Creative Coaching - "Helping you uncover a clearer path to creativity."
For those of you struggling with your own creativity, I’m offering Creative Coaching! This 45 minute video call will be catered to you and your creative needs and may cover what obstacles you face, and suggestions on overcoming them, your creative goals, and how to focus and work towards them. Learn more here.


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Creative Excitement

Creative excitement the start of a new watercolor painting | watercolor for beginners
This is the best feeling. It’s creative excitement. I’ve spent a little bit of time organizing my supplies, and now I’m sitting in front of a new creative project – a watercolor painting. I’ve done some prep work – I have my reference photo picked out, I’ve taped down my watercolor paper, I’ve measured and taped the horizon line, and I have a plan – I’m going to start with the figures.

There is so much hope and excitement at the beginning of a project. Sometimes a little nervousness too. I’m working larger than I normally do, and adding figures is fairly new too. I think it’s good to push ourselves, to expand our capabilities.

Later will come some struggle. It’s expected and if it was easy, it would be boring. I used to give up when a project got hard, but I’ve learned to push through – it’s extremely satisfying. I may not overcome the struggles perfectly but there’s always a lesson learned for next time.

New to watercolor? I have a pdf Quick Start Guide that will help get you started. Sign up for my newsletter and get the “What you need to know to get started with watercolor” pdf for FREE! Sign up here.
Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction

These fun and easy pdf tutorials, where you learn watercolor and create a beautiful painting at the same time are available for download in my Etsy shop.
Easy Starfish Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn Watercolor Techniques  Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips

 


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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

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!
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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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!
My Creative Collection


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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!