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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Take control of where you are headed in the new year and reach your goals!

Take control of where you are headed in the new year and reach your goals!
Sometimes we coast through our days, time passes, and we find ourselves no closer to reaching our goals. This year be intentional, set a goal for the year, and focus on that one thing. Set yourself up for success by creating a plan.

Write it down! What is your goal for the year? Be specific!

What steps are necessary to achieve this goal? If needed, do research to help you answer this question.

Schedule time to work towards your goal. Even a small amount of time adds up. When will you work towards your goal?

Invest in your goal – buy running gear, art supplies, a camera, or whatever thing supports your goal. Making an investment will motivate you to stick with your plan. What item will spark excitement and help you reach your goal?

Check in with yourself regularly about your progress and what you are learning. I write daily in my notebook about my creative projects. This helps keep me focused and on track. When will you touch base with yourself on your progress?

Hold yourself accountable. Ideas include asking a friend to be your accountability partner, and posting about your goal and progress online. How will you hold yourself accountable?

Celebrate milestones. A goal can be a huge daunting thing. Breaking into down into manageable tasks makes it more approachable. Celebrating milestones in your journey to continue to propel yourself forward towards the bigger goal. “Celebrating” can be an actual activity, a purchase, or simply the act of recognizing the completion of a task. What milestones could you celebrate? How will you celebrate?

Challenge yourself. Over time the same thing can get boring. When you start feeling bored, challenge yourself with new things within your goal – a new type of exercise, a race, a class, a daily or weekly commitment like a drawing a day or making a new recipe each week. Keep things interesting!

Expect ups and downs but commit to sticking with your goal. It’s normal to be initially excited and motivated about your goal. But over time, the daily work towards a goal can be less exciting. Expect that you will lose enthusiasm at times. During these period keep the bigger goal in mind. Imagine how good it will feel to arrive at that place! Keep going, don’t give up! Forgive yourself when you have an “off” week and recommitment for the next week. Make a commitment to yourself!

I‘ve created a Goal Worksheet to help you create a successful plan! Download it in my Etsy shop here.

Need help gaining focus with your ideas? Try my Creative Ideas planning worksheet – Download it in my Etsy shop here.
Creative Ideas Planning Worksheet pdf for when you have too many creative project ideas

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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How to Find your Thing – Art Medium, Subject, Style

How to Find your Thing - Art Medium, Subject, Style | Creative Exploration | creative process discovery
A while back I read an article about an artist who used mannequin parts in her work. I was so inspired by the story! (Not to start creating with mannequin parts.) I was so intrigued that this artist had arrived at a place where this was her thing. How did she get there?

At the time, I had been dabbling in a few continuing ed art classes, but was ready for more. What would I work on if I was totally free to work on anything? If I was free from teachers and classmates, and even the confines of a classroom, what would I create?

It was with this curiosity and excitement that I made My Creative Resolution – the commitment and the blog – and began my creative journey. I was filled with so many ideas and possibilities. I began to create regularly and explore.

In the beginning I wished my work was more cohesive. I was all over the place. Now I know, that’s how you start – by trying everything that interests you – subjects and mediums alike.

Some things are passing fancies, others become common themes that connect your work. The more we persist with a medium, the more time we put in, the more our unique style and skills emerge.

Here is how to find your thing – medium, subject, style:

  • Commit your time to pursuing it.
  • Put in the work regularly.
  • Follow what interests you and try different things.
  • Focus on the mediums and subjects that appeal to you.
  • Continually put in the work.

Ready to find your thing? 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!


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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


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Designing and formatting my own book is surreal!

Creative Exploration
After 20+ years as a graphic designer, it’s surreal to be designing and formatting my own book. As I format the headings, subheadings, insert images, etc., I’m revisiting the copy and I’m so excited to share the content and message of the book. Creative Exploration – is a step by step six week process for introducing regular creativity into your life – exploring mediums, finding inspiration, focusing on projects, and welcoming the joy that comes from creating. I developed the process based on the creative journey I went through, and shared on this blog.

It all started with my first post back in December 2013, when I expressed my desire to be creative on a regular basis. Back then, I didn’t think that much about art mediums or subjects, I just wanted to be creative, and to explore what that would look like for me.

Creative Exploration includes many of creative tips I’ve learned over the last five years. One of the most important ones – creativity is for everyone.

Do you wish you could be creative? You can! Do you wish you could do it more often? You can! Do you wish you could find “your thing?” Creative Exploration is for you. 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!


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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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How to Design an Invitation

How to Design Invitations | DIY Invites | Invitation Tutorial | Easy Invites
Designing an invite – especially for your own event – is so fun! Here are some easy steps to guide you through it.

1. Determine the style and aesthetic of your event. Your invite should be a reflection of the actual event. You don’t want a formal, elegant invite for a backyard BBQ. Is your event:

  • Formal and elegant
  • Whimsical and fun
  • Geared to kids
  • Sporty
  • Feminine
  • Other

2. Select the form of your invite:

  • Single card
  • Folded
  • Layered paper
  • Unique shape
  • Other  

Invitation forms | How to Design an Invitation by Eileen McKenna

3. Select a type of invite:

  1. Border art with text in the middle
  2. Small icon with text below
  3. Large art or image with text below or to one side
  4. ”All Art” with text in open areas
  5. Image in background behind the text
  6. Text as the art

Types of Invitations | How to Design an Invite by Eileen McKenna

4. Select a size. Keep in mind standard envelope sizes and postage rates. I believe square envelopes are more expensive to mail. Standard sizes:

  • A7 – 5” x 7”
  • A6 – 4.5” x 6.25”
  • A2 – 4.25” x 5.5” (1/4 of letter size paper)
  • Other

5. Select artwork that suits your theme. Digital download invitation borders and clipart are available in my Etsy shop – Click here to visit. Or use a photo of the guest of honor. Or both.

6. Collect all the key information of the event – The who, what, where, when, why, RSVP, and anything else you need to convey. Write it on scrap paper or print it out for the next step.

7. Layout. On your scrap paper divide the information into different levels of info and label it. The most important info is what the event is – Level 1. Level 2 is the date and place and Level 3 are the time and address. Use the same style to format anything within the same level. The style of the text is made up of font, text size, and color. Select colors from your chosen artwork. Use no more than two fonts that complement each other. While professional layout programs are great, Word and some free or inexpensive programs can do the job too. 
Levels of information in an invitation | How to design invitations

8. Paper. Select a thicker card stock than basic computer paper. Select specialty paper(s) or colored paper if it suits your event’s style and works with your chosen invite form and type.

9. Optional – Add embellishments. Keep in mind some embellishments will increase the cost of postage.

  • Ribbon
  • Sequins or rhinestones
  • Other

Whether you print at home or send you file to be printed at a copy shop, following these steps will help you achieve the perfect invites for your event! Click here to visit my Etsy Shop for downloadable invitation borders and clipart for your invitation designs.
How to Design Invitations using downloadable art Eileen McKenna

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.
How to Design an Invitation | Create your own DIY Invites by Eileen McKenna


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How to Paint the Ocean with Watercolor and Gouache

The beach has been the backdrop of my life. It’s where I was born and raised, played, worked as a lifeguard…and now enjoy summer days with my family. I spend a lot of time learning and practicing capturing the ocean in watercolor.

Download the full  “Waterscape Seascape Painting Tutorial,” in my Etsy shop.
Watercolor Seascape Tutorial Download

How to Paint the Ocean with Watercolor and Gouache:

1. Use a reference photo.

2. Tape your paper to a board.

3. Tape your horizon line.

4. Mix your colors.

5. Paint the first layer. From the distant ocean to the dry sand.

6. Darken the first layer as needed.

7. Paint the sky.

8. Paint the foam with white gouache.

9+. Add details.

Call it done!

The full tutorial is a 2 page pdf, provides details of each step, and  includes a reference photo, and photos at each stage.

Download the full  “Waterscape Seascape Painting Tutorial,” in my Etsy shop now.
Watercolor Seascape Tutorial Download

Would you like to be creative on a regular basis? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more about the newsletter here.
creative newsletter featuring artists crafts tutorials books shows and more | creative inspiration Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction Easy Starfish Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn Watercolor Techniques

View my collection of seascapes here. Originals and prints are available!

How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips

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!