my creative resolution

Watercolor, Illustration, Surface Design


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Daily Creative Habits – Take 2

Daily creative habits, sketchbook work, Day 1
Day 1 again. With vacation and other busyness behind me, I’m trying to get back into the creative mode! Back to turning creativity into a habit (again). I played around on my iPad this morning. Later I pulled out my sketchbook.

Drawing on the iPad in Adobe Sketch

I wrote a new checklist to keep me on track.

Creative Checklist:

I know from experience that the daily work, propels me to keep up with the other stuff. How do you stay on track?

Did you see my new “Swimming Laps” pattern?
Swimming Laps fabric print. Swim team, swimmers https://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/6301733-swiming-laps-by-eileenmckenna

I am a huge fan of the Canson sketchbook, because of the bright white, thick pages that don’t buckle when I use watercolor.
Favorite sketchbook

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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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Starting Can be the Hardest Part

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I can write all about the benefits of creating every day, but there are some days where I’m busy, or sick, or just don’t feel like it.

So what to do then? If I really don’t have a second, or I am sick like last week, I put in extra time the next day. Usually I’ll squeeze in some time in the morning to “count” for the day before. When I just don’t feel like it, I try to push through and tell myself…

…just do a little. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. I don’t have to follow the same process like the previous days. Maybe instead of painting, I’ll just do a pencil sketch, or an ink sketch, or just add details to a painting I haven’t finish.

Anything is progress. Starting can be the hardest part and once I tackle that – my mindset often changes and I make a lot more progress than I thought I would.

Today was one of those days. When I finally had spare time to paint, I didn’t want to, but the last two days were busy and I hadn’t done much, so I forced myself to get to work. I looked through my reference photos and decided to sketch the lifeguard chair. I figured sketching it would be progress. I liked my sketch and decided to add watercolor. My attitude totally changed and I was so glad I pushed myself to start.


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Learning by painting every day

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I’m still amazed that painting every day is such a learning process. Some days of course aren’t great and/or they don’t yield great results, but other days I try things and learn so much, make so much progress – regardless of what the final result is. I guess when you create every day, you’re picking up where you left off, it’s a continuous thing. If I have a thought to try a different color for the skin or leave more white paper or whatever, I remember it the next day. When you paint only here and there – you’re practically starting over every time, instead of building on the previous day.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been very mindful of trying to capture highlights and shadows. And since I started working in the beach theme I’ve been thinking a lot about skin tones and the shadows on the skin. I was very happy with the results of the skin of the little girl. I mixed yellow ochre and permanent rose and then mixed in white gouache. The white gouache adds a creaminess that I like. For the shadows of the skin tone I mixed in a little franch ultramarine. When I can, I add the compliment of a color to achieve the shadow instead of black. I was happy with the results. 😀


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Creative Habits

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Early last year, I was struggling to get back into a creative routine. I spent a lot of time thinking I should draw or paint, but for some reason I couldn’t motivate myself to pull out my art supplies and get going. I knew starting was the hardest part, but still I couldn’t do it. By chance I started reading 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.” Within a few pages, I had the answer to my problem. I had fallen out of the habit of being creative. It was harder for me to do it, because I had to make the conscious decision to do it. It was an internal willpower battle every time and was no longer a habit – something I did without thinking.

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.”

This was an “aha” moment for me. I immediately took action, following Rubin’s advice to try to make creativity a habit again. I highly recommend you read this book!

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The power of creative prompts

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Happy New Year! I took the last few days “off” from my daily drawing and painting, but I’m gearing up to spend every day in January painting the beach.

I did spend a day or two getting a head start on this project. But there were more days where I thought about getting started but – without actually approaching the paints and paper – I didn’t know where to begin and quickly lost all motivation. Last month Marion who joined me in the Christmas countdown wrote – about following my prompts -that she liked not having to think about what to draw.

This really stuck with me and as I looked over the last two months, first following World Watercolor Group’s food prompts and then my own Christmas prompts, I realized how right Marion was. It makes it so much easier to not have to think about what to paint. Instead I would immediately jump to how I would interpret that prompt. Often I’d check the prompt the night before and have a plan when I started in the morning.

This week I struggled with motivating myself because even though I knew I wanted to paint the beach, I wasn’t sure how to get started. The “beach” is too broad. To overcome this stumbling block I wrote myself a prompt list for every day in January.

Focusing on painting the beach is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. For some reason I haven’t been able to do it beyond a painting here or there. When I saw how much I accomplished in November and December by following one theme each month I knew committing myself this month was part of the solution. That and telling YOU. Just like 3 years ago when I started this blog and told you I’m going to be creative on a regular basis. You hold me accountable and help me reach my goals. So thank you. 😊

What are your creative plans for the new year?


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Christmas Tree

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Day 1 of the countdown to Christmas. Here is the creative prompt list if you’d like to join in. All mediums are welcome! Use hashtag #adventmcr when posting. Marion of “by Marion” posted her day one drawing here. Thanks Marion!

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Creative prompts Advent Calendar

img_1014I’ve been on a roll the last 2 months creating everyday. In October I participated in InkTober, drawing in ink in my sketchbook. By the end of October I was adding watercolor to my sketches. This month I followed the World Watercolor Group’s November prompts which were all food. I was so happy to be back working in watercolor. Other than fruit, I don’t really paint food so it was out of my comfort zone. I appreciated the push because other than my pathetic brussel sprouts, I was really happy with many of my paintings.

For December, I’m getting into the spirit of Christmas! I created this prompt list for myself, but welcome anyone who wants to join in! All mediums are welcome! Let me know if you do and tag your work #adventmcr so I can see. I’m on Instagram too @eileenmckenna.

I’ve done holiday countdowns before – Valentine’s Day (twice) and St. Patrick’s Day. The challenge with those was always what to paint. This time I’ve created a prompt list to follow. I’m a little nervous about committing to creating everyday in the busiest month of the year, but I know overall I won’t regret it. In both October and November challenging myself has led to some pieces I’m really proud of.

My watercolor cherry pie

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A fall ink illustration

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