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How to Draw a Leprechaun

A Fun St. Patrick’s Day Art Project

This easy to follow step by step tutorial is a fun art activity for St. Patrick’s Day for all ages! The printable tutorial is available in my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt.

**For more fun St. Patrick’s Day ideas read Teaching Children about Ireland.

how to draw a leprechaun printable tutorial


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Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!

Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. No more gathering with extended family. We’ll be home, just the five of us. Although we are limited, it is still important to celebrate and make it special. Two of my kids are coming home for college. Being together is always a reason to celebrate!

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year:

Baked Goods Drop Off

Even though we can’t be with our extended family – it would be really nice to bake things and drop them off on Thanksgiving morning. Show them we are thinking of them. This “Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread” recipe is my favorite. Pumpkin bread with a nice card would be so sweet! Baking and making cards would be great activities to get everyone in the spirit prior to Thanksgiving Day.

Watch the Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is always on in our house on Thanksgiving. Even though it won’t be a “parade” but prerecorded segments – I’ll gladly tune in as we prepare our Thanksgiving meal.

Set the Table

Even though our gatherings will be smaller, go all out – china, crystal. Whatever nice stuff you have – use it! Collect acorns and fall leaves to add to your table and make it more festive. Get the kids involved in creating handmade decorations! 

Don’t Skimp on the Sides

You might be tempted to go simpler with your menu – don’t! Make all the favorites. Get the kids involved! 

Gratitude Cards

We always go around the table on Thanksgiving and tell everyone what we are grateful for. 2020 has certainly reminded us what is important. Despite the circumstances we have a lot to be grateful for. These gratitude cards are available in my Etsy shop.

Table Activities

It’s nice to linger at the table on Thanksgiving, but sometimes that’s harder with little kids. Crayons and paper did the trick when our kids were small and we went out to eat. Here are a few Thanksgiving coloring pages available on Etsy to extend your table time.
Pilgrim coloring page fun Thanksgiving activity for kids

The Thanksgiving Walk

In my husband’s family it used to be a tradition to take a walk between the Thanksgiving meal and dessert. This year it would be especially nice, as we could walk with family that live nearby, while still keeping socially distanced.

Thanksgiving Slideshow/Video

After a walk and dessert, it would be awesome to take a “stroll down memory lane” and watch a slideshow or look through photos of previous Thanksgivings. The years go fast and the kids get so big!

Thanksgiving Art Project

How about an art project? This printable step by step tutorial for painting a turkey in watercolor is fun for all ages! Or create a realistic leaf with watercolor. Or create a fall paper quilt and see how different each family member’s quilt turns out! All projects are available in my Etsy shop.

Want to make it a full on paint night? Paint a Turkey on canvas with acrylics. Watch my process on YouTube:
 

Thanksgiving Family Movie

After eating a big meal, it’s nice to rest on the couch and watch a movie together. Just like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade ushers in the Christmas season with Santa, Thanksgiving night puts me in the mood for a Holiday classic like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Elf.” Or maybe we’ll watch a family classic like Indiana Jones or … hmmm. Time for us to each make a list of ideas!

Happy Thanksgiving!
~Eileen

Creative Ideas to make Thanksgiving more fun this year!

 

 

 

 


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Teaching Children about Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Your School and Classroom

There are so many fun ideas for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at school while teaching your students about Ireland. A visit to Ireland is a feast for all your senses and these ideas cover many of them.

The Sounds of Ireland – Bagpipes, a Brogue, and an Irish Poem

As the children approach school, or come into the classroom – play the sounds of the bagpipes. For our celebration we were lucky enough to have one of the school’s own alumni, a boy named Patrick, play the bagpipes. The Irish flag hung in the school’s foyer.

Start the day with a greeting in Gaelic and an Irish Brogue. Our morning announcements featured Irish poet Connie Roberts who read an Irish poem.

The Landscape of Ireland – Rugged Coasts, Green Fields, Castles

The landscape of Ireland is one of its greatest features. Consider setting up a “Walking Tour of Ireland” by filling your school or classroom with photos of the beautiful landscapes.

Our classes took turns taking a tour and looking at the photos and reading and learning about what was pictured. Other things that were visually represented included the painted doors of Dublin and different sports in Ireland (soccer, hurley, etc.).

Items from Ireland

Ask the children to bring in any items from Ireland they might have. Children can take turns telling the class about the items they brought in.

We had a cabinet filled with items – sweaters, tea pots, crystal vases and glasses, caps, shillelaghs, etc.

Sheep dotting Fields of Green

Ireland is said to have “40 Shades of Green.” Many of the fields of Green are sprinkled with sheep, uniquely painted to show ownership.

Prior to the day, students were given an outline of a sheep to cut out and decorate anyway they liked. The instructions with the sheep stated,

“Decorate a sheep for International Day – Ireland. Use any material (cotton balls, pipe cleaners, paint, etc.). Be creative! Farmers often mark their sheep with a colored dot, so they know which sheep is theirs. How will you mark your sheep? Fun Fact: There are approximately 8 million sheep in Ireland!” 

Children decorating sheep to learn about Ireland

Homemade Cardboard Blarney Castle

The tours culminated in visiting our Blarney Castle which we had built out of appliance boxes. The kids visited and learned about receiving the “gift of gab.”

homemade cardboard Blarney Castle | teaching children about Ireland

Irish Step Dancing

Children will enjoy watching traditional Irish Step Dancing. YouTube is filled with videos you can show. Children will especially enjoy seeing kids their age perform and seeing the elaborate costumes and wigs.

We were lucky enough (pre-pandemic of course) to enjoy a performance by Schade Academy of Irish Dance, a local Irish step dancing school. The dancers were fabulous, even the very, very youngest. Their traditional Irish step dancing outfits were beautiful!

Afternoon Tea – Serve a “cuppa”

“The Irish now drink more tea per capita than any other nation in the world – between six and seven cups a day.” Source: The Irish Times. Serve some tea with scones with jam or other baked goods.

We visited the classrooms and served tea. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to serve hot tea but the children got the idea.

Art Activities for St. Patrick’s Day

Printable Ireland St. Patrick's Day Coloring Pages make a Coloring Book Kids Class Activity Digital Download is a great way to teach kids about Ireland. Color and fold to create a book! Perfect for St. Patrick's Day. how to draw a leprechaun printable tutorial Fields of Green Ireland Painting Tutorial

St. Patrick’s Day coloring sheets and book

There are many creative projects for the kids to work on. Coloring pages are a great way to show children the symbols, landscape, and even mythical stories of Ireland. The kids can create their own books!

How to Draw a Leprechaun Tutorial

This step by step easy tutorial will have kids drawing their own leprechauns in no time!

Fields of Green Watercolor Painting Tutorial

For older kids I’ve created a painting tutorial that allows them to paint in many shades of green!

These printable art activities are available in my Etsy shop at: www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt

I’d love to hear the creative ways you celebrated St. Patrick’s day in school! 


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Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas

Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit,” and coming up with new ideas #creativity
I had the pleasure this week of hearing Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer, and author of the famous book, “The Creative Habit” speak at Hofstra University. Her book, which I already read, is on many “best books on creativity” lists. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear her speak. She was no nonsense and honest, especially in her advice to the young dancers in the audience.

She began the talk, after introducing herself, by going through the book briefly and summarizing each chapter. Then she asked for questions from the audience, and while some were specific to dance, some were great questions that led to interesting answers – like “How do you know the difference between brainstorming and over thinking things?”

Twyla talked about the time she left NYC and went to a farm, where she and other dancers “worked.” No thought of celebrity or success, or social media (which didn’t exist at the time), but just focusing on dance. I appreciated this reminder that creativity is about putting in the work.

She said, “It takes work to have new ideas.” They don’t just hit you out of nowhere. You have to get going first. You have to be in the habit of “going.” She talked about the “rituals of preparation” and how important they are – whatever they are for you – to get you going. Once you have an idea, you move on from the ritual.

As a painter this all makes sense to me. The importance of sitting down every day to paint. Starting with anything to warm up and get going. I sometimes find the sitting down part is the hardest. Life is always trying to get in the way, even guilt that I should be doing something else. But this thought replaces the guilt, “I am a painter. I paint.”

Learn more about “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp here.

This posts 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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Add a notebook to your painting setup

Eileen McKenna watercolor artist
I find it useful to have a small notebook opened next to my palette. This way if I have a thought for a blog post, want to remember which blue I’m using, or whatever, I can just scribble a note to myself. I also write down the date and time of the photo I’m painting from. This way it’s easier to find on my iPad when I sit down again to paint. This saves me a lot of time.

Curious what my favorite art supplies are? Read
 

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!


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Start with basic brushstrokes

Watercolor setup. Eileen McKenna. #artist #setup
It has been over a week since I last painted – gasp! Work has been busy and I could make other excuses. Things haven’t slowed down, BUT this morning instead of diving right in I thought, “Sometimes we have to make time for the things that are important to us.”

Brushstrokes

I set up all my stuff – which had been put away to use the dining room table. I turned to a blank page in my sketchbook and grabbed a tray of extra blue paint and started making strokes. I had no thoughts about what I would paint. Then I grabbed a fan brush and started playing with that. The strokes reminded me of beach grass.

Beach walkway sketch

Next thing I’m doing a watercolor sketch of the path down to the beach. The jump from no idea to an inspired idea was so quick. So don’t wait for an idea to strike! Sit down, set up, start with some basic lines or brushstrokes. Who knows where it will lead!

I’m so proud that after a year of painting the ocean, there are 21 paintings in my shop,  available as prints on watercolor paper or canvas. Browse them all at shop.eileenmckenna.com.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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Just 5 minutes of sketching

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I’ve been sketching everyday. To accomplish this I’ve committed to “just 5 minutes.” Even on the busiest days, I figure I can spare 5 minutes. My old schedule was of a couple of hours of creating, one day a week, with shorter periods added here and there. But by the time another creative day came along, I sometimes couldn’t remember what I had been working on. These short sketching sessions keep me in the creative mode. They have been great. A great way to practice, come up with ideas, or just relax. And sometimes it goes beyond 5 minutes. 🙂

Hope your having a creative New Year!


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Just get started…and the ideas will come.

settingup
I try to paint or draw everyday. The first step for me is to pull everything out of the closet and set it up on the kitchen table. This seems like an obvious step, but my point is I don’t wait for that bolt of inspiration to strike.

Occasionally, I know what I’m going to paint as I head for my supplies. More often, as I pull out my sketchbook and paints, I think, “I have no idea what I’m going to create,” followed by, “oh! I can paint [blank].”

I know if I don’t pull out the paints, nothing will get done. It’s rare that I’m about to put pencil or brush to the page, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do. The process of pulling everything out and setting up, usually allows an idea to form. I think this is only possible, because I stay open to inspiration. When I see something that strikes me, I take a picture – even at the supermarket! These inspirational moments are in the back of my mind. I guess you’d say I’ve done my homework.

Gerber Daisies at the supermarket:
supermarketpic

startofgerbergerbersupermarket

I’ve written several posts that relate to this topic of “What to paint?”

I remember very clearly the moments before I started working on two of my favorite pieces from last year. I sat down to draw and had no ideas. In both cases I stepped outside to the backyard and looked around. In one case I took a photo of the Montauk Daisies and went back inside to paint them. The other time, I collected a couple of leaves and other things and brought them inside and started to paint. You really don’t need much to get you going.

With watercolor, the painting often needs to dry between layers. So I leave everything setup all day, and from time to time, sit down to add details. It works better for me to finish in one day. If too much time goes by, my interest wanes, and the chances of finishing decreases.

My Process:

  • Setup
  • Decision on what to paint*
  • Start
  • Get in the “zone”
  • Add finishing touches throughout the day

*Sometimes my first idea isn’t the painting I continue with that day. It’s more of a warm up. But more often than not, I stick with that first idea.

How do you decide “What to Paint?” I’d love to hear! 🙂

I took this picture while I was out running. Maybe it’s my next painting…
futureflower

 


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What to paint?

cherryblossom
I wanted to paint, wanted to get “into” a project, but I had no ideas or inspiration. I couldn’t go outside and take pictures of the garden. It’s covered in snow. Not a pretty snow, a solid, icy, block of snow. As I was trying to come up with an idea, I grab two magazines and remembered the post I wrote about coming up with ideas. Looking through magazines was on my list.

Both magazines had pictures of cherry blossoms in it. This was ironic, because just that morning I booked a Spring trip to Washington, DC, which is famous for it’s cherry blossoms. I was really inspired by a picture in Martha Stewart Living with the cherry blossoms on a dark slate background. I love the look of a dark background. One of my goals for 2015 is to paint on dark paper.

My steps:
cherryblossom1  cherryblossom3 cherryblossom2

cherryblossom4

It felt good to get into my project. My goal was to stay loose and not paint each flower – which is why I started the flowers and buds by splashing the pink on my paper. I wanted the background to be dark. To achieve this, I had to apply a couple of layers to the background. I think buying gouache paint is in my future!

For me this painting is not so much about the final product, but about getting started, and getting ideas flowing again.

I can’t wait for Spring and for the Cherry Blossoms!