Eileen McKenna Art & Design

Watercolor Art | Creative Inspiration to help you be creative on a regular basis


Need Creative Inspiration?

Every two weeks I share in my newsletter all the things inspiring me – artists/makers, different mediums, tutorials, places, books, TV, and more. My hope is to inspire you!

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Read the latest issues here.

The latest issue featured collage envelopes by Lydia of Inkdrop43212. Read more here.
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration
My Creative Collection by Eileen McKenna - a newsletter filled with creative inspiration

Sign up for the newsletter here.


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

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Starting Can be the Hardest Part

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.


2016 – My creative year in review


As this year wraps up, what I’m most proud of is not a particular painting or illustration but that after some ups and downs, I’m finishing the year strong. I completed daily challenges in October (InkTober), November (World Watercolor Group’s food prompts), and December (my own Christmas countdown).

Oh and I’m also proud of my Nutcracker pin!

My plans for 2017

  • Beach book – more details on this later this week 😉
  • Another enamel pin – a leprechaun is in the works
  • A pattern a month. I designed a pattern a month in 2015 and it was a great motivator. I learned so much and want to continue to grow in the area of surface design. First up is to turn some of my Christmas countdown illustrations into new patterns.

What are your creative plans for 2017?

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I Recall Central Park in Fall


Flipping through a magazine looking for something to draw, I came across a couple strolling with their dog. I drew them, added a tree, and had to pull out my watercolors and add some leaves.

That illustration reminded me of walking with my husband through Central Park in New York City. Having just watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” the lyrics “I recall Central Park in Fall” were in my head while I searched for an image of a couple in Central Park. I found a Getty Images photo to use as reference. It’s the lamppost that makes it Central Park.


I’m always amazed how one idea or spark of inspiration can lead you down a path. Actually this was the topic of one of my early posts: The paths our art projects take us on:

“It’s funny, how a project can start us on a path. A path similar to the branches of a tree. The path may be fairly straight – projects similar to one another. Or the path may be twisty – each project taking a unique turn. The path can be long – each project sparking the idea for the next one. Or the path may be short – as we experiment with something that doesn’t work out or fails to inspire us any longer.
We follow a path until it ends. Until we have reached the end of that train of thought. At that point, we forge a new path, based on something different that inspires us. But each path we take, is related to the others, just like the branches of a tree.”


A new painting on an old watercolor wash

This morning I came across a couple of one color washes I painted a couple of years ago. The watercolor washes were backgrounds for a product photo shoot for a client’s Etsy page. I decided I would reuse the washes.

I thought it would be interesting to use one as the background of a painting. I selected the yellow one and pulled up a photo on my phone that I had taken several weeks ago. At the time, I was out for a run and I was passing an old house surrounded by hedges. I thought it would be a good reference photo if I decided to do any haunted house paintings this year.
yellow inkonyellow

I started by drawing in pen and ink on the yellow. Then I painted the hedges and the trees, and then some of the other areas. Lastly the details on the house. I decided not to turn the house into a haunted house because as it turns out, the house had a secret of it’s own. Not even a week after I took the photo, my husband said to me, “Did you hear about the house in town with the pigeons? They found 350 pigeons living inside the house. The house didn’t even have running water.” I knew right away it was the house I had taken the photo of.

I decided to paint the house the way I saw it. No extra spooky details. Just an old house hidden by overgrown hedges.


The change of seasons and inspiration

imageIt’s a funny time of year. School has started so summer feels over. When I look around the house for something to draw, I see the shells we’ve collected. Every year I say I’ll continue creating in the beach theme after summer ends, but it loses its appeal. I get inspired by the changing leaves, and then the winter sky against bare trees, followed by the beautiful flowers of spring. I guess I’m a seasonal girl. 😀


A Pop of Color

I love a pop of color. I have a turquoise table in my family room, a bright green handbag. I’m certainly not a pioneer in this. Walking around the mall recently, I noticed color everywhere! It is Spring after all.

The other day, my friend Lisa took me to Charming Charlie, a store I’d never been too. Lisa had a feeling I’d love it. The store is organized by color. I walked in and said, “Oh, it’s beautiful!” I wished I’d taken pictures to show you. This link will give you a small taste of what the store looks like.

On their website, you can shop by color. Not in the – click on a shirt, now sort by color – way. But in the – show me everything you have in turquoise (shirts, necklaces, bags, etc.) – way. This page on their site looks like a painters palette!

Who would have thought that shopping could be so creatively inspiring?! I couldn’t wait to get home and pull out the watercolors.


Time to Paint

It feels really good to have time to paint and draw after vacation (and the time before it – shopping, prepping, and packing). I spent time Sunday starting several paintings. For me, it’s the starting that’s hard, once I have a painting “in the works” it’s easy to pull it out and work on it (unless I let too much time pass).

The three paintings were very different. You’d never guess I started them all at the same time, but they did have something in common. Before I started painting I turned to my Camera Roll on my phone for inspiration. All three were inspired by recent photos I took, or in one case, a photo I spotted on Instagram (that I took a screen capture of).

The orange gerbera daisies (my favorite flowers) were outside of the supermarket. The rooster roams around outside of my son’s friend’s neighbor’s house. Who knew you could find a rooster this close to NYC? The vintage bicycle with the lilacs was posted on Instagram by Kathleen @fadedcharmliving.
gerbera roosterpic fadedcharm

I’m trying to paint more. I had gotten away from it a bit. Not that long ago, I painted in this square size so frequently I put all the painting together and took a photo. My goal is to create another grouping of square paintings. I have a ways to go!


Creative Recharge…Vacation


A walk, a visit to a museum, a trip to the beach, are all good ways to recharge your creative batteries. But nothing beats a vacation – a break from the daily grind. Last week, we took the kids to Universal in Orlando. I put my daily creative habits on hold and instead, soaked in the inspiration all around me. The creativity at these theme parks is mind blowing. The details put into every attraction is amazing. I was especially blown away by the Harry Potter worlds. You feel like you are in the story. They are well worth the trip! I was in awe of Platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express.

What really amazed me was the details within the details. The logos on the wand boxes. The packaging on the toys and candy. The crests on the suitcases.

I was even impressed by our hotel, which had a retro theme. The details were everywhere – the pattern on the tables, the rugs, iron wall art, the retro mural in the cafeteria hall, and the vintage commercials that played on loop in the cafeteria hall.
mural carpet