Creative Resolution

It’s hard to believe, it’s been eight years since I made a resolution that changed my life. On New Year’s Eve in 2013, I made a creative resolution to make creativity a part of my daily life. Prior to that I dabbled in a few drawing and painting classes, but I wanted more.

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Back then I didn’t know what mediums I would work in – I thought I might refinish furniture. I just knew I wanted to explore all possibilities and that was the exciting part! I learned a lot about myself, especially in the beginning. Prior to my creative resolution, I was a serial quitter. I quit projects when they got challenging. By pushing through, I learned that all projects have a tough part. Once I began finishing projects, I was motivated to finish new ones. Finishing became addicting!

My resolution had an immediate effect on me. Simply put, regular creativity made me happier. Over time, new opportunities presented themselves. Three and a half years ago I began teaching at a kids’ art studio. I also now teach adult workshops at my local library. I’ve illustrated a few children’s books. This September I left graphic design behind and became a museum educator. None of these things were on my radar or would have been possible had I not made my creative resolution.

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The main thing I learned is that “talent is just a starting point.” Don’t let a self perceived lack of “talent” hold you back from creating!

Need guidance on starting your own creative routine and exploring subjects and mediums? Check out my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.

It’s the perfect time of year for a creative resolution of your own!

Looking to explore your creativity…

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A few of my favorite things…

This year we are doing something new. Usually, we each pick a name out of a hat and buy a gift for that person. This year, my sister-in-law suggested we buy a “few of our favorite things.”

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

– from the Sound of Music

What a fun idea! Maybe the gifts we will become our new favorite things.

My favorite thing?

Painting in watercolor of course! I bought a starter watercolor tube set, watercolor paper, painter’s tape, white gouache and to offer some instruction my book: Beginner Watercolor Exploration. 

I can’t wait to see all the gifts and I hope the person who picks mine is excited to try watercolor!

What are your favorite things?

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Learn the fundamentals while painting!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide
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Look a little longer

I’ve been working at a museum since September. Last week, I learned that on average people view a work of art for only FIVE seconds! Can you believe that? Actually, who am I kidding? I’ve certainly zipped through a museum focused on what was for lunch.

In my role at the museum, I work with kids and we ask them to focus on the details, to look for a longer amount of time and to share what they see. It is really fun and fulfilling!

The other day, I glanced out the window at one of our Crepe Myrtles. The tree glows when the sunlight hits it. I thought about the five second statistic and how it’s not just about artwork, but things that inspire us. How long do we sit and observe something that strikes us? I know myself, I’m pretty impatient. If something inspires me, I’ll take a photo or rush to pull out my sketchbook. While drawing is a way to help you observe, I thought, “What if I just look at the tree for a few minutes?” What else will I notice?

As I sat there I was amazed at all the colors in one tree – green, orange, gold, red, purple. The leaves, hit by the sun, glowed – like they are on fire. When the sun went behind a cloud, the colors dimmed. As I looked at the closely entwined branches rising upward from the soil, I could imagine them taking on the shape of a woman. 

Next time something inspires me, instead of snapping a quick photo and walking away, I’m going to spend a few minutes really looking and noticing all the details.

How about you?

Looking to explore your creativity…

Explore your creativity at https://eileenmckenna.com/shop/

“LOOK! UP IN THE SKY!”

I love the ocean, but I’m also fascinated with the sky. The colors at sunrise and sunset are unbelievable. Every morning when I enter the high school parking lot I’m greeted by a wide open view of the sun rising over the trees. It’s a great way to start the day.

When I look up at the sky, or down from an airplane window, I’m amazed at how the clouds remind me of the ocean. Sometimes there is so much movement and power, other times it’s calm. 

If you are struggle with the question of what to paint – just look up!

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Finding creative inspiration during self quarantine

Finding creative inspiration during self quarantine

These days I can’t blame lack of time for a lack of painting. Being stuck at home, I’ve got nothing but time. What I am struggling with is what to paint. Sometimes it seems easier to go on my iPad than to figure out an idea.

Coincidentally my son asked me the other day, “Do you always know what you’re going to paint?” As I indicated, the answer is no, and it can be a real roadblock. When you are out and about, experiencing life, you are soaking up inspiration. Nowadays, not so much.

Here are some ways to find creative inspiration during self quarantine:

Go outside (in whatever way is safe for your situation). Walk around your neighborhood, or your yard, or sit by a window. The birds, trees, flowers, clouds, all provide inspiration. Absorb it, and take photos.

Look through your phone. What inspiration did you capture on your phone that you never drew or painted? Now you have time. I’ve made albums on my phone to separate inspiration photos.

Look online. If you have a subject in mind of course there are tons of photos online to choose from. There are also sites dedicated to providing reference photos for art. This post links to several sites with reference photos for drawing figures.

Technique. Perhaps there is a technique you admire others doing. Try it! Find reference photo appropriate to that technique and practice. I admire paintings with sun dappled water, so I found a photo and tried it.

Catalogs. I keep catalogs to use as reference. Athletic attire ones have great figures to practice from, and sometimes great scenery. Recently I painted a skier and mountains from an ad in a magazine. I also painted a woman doing a headstand. I love the Burpee plant and seed catalog, such beautiful flowers and vegetables to paint!

Look around your home. Walk slowly around your home and see if there are any interesting subjects or arrangements to paint. Try to look at your space with fresh eyes. Or paint or draw an ordinary scene like the couch with a lamp, but add interesting wallpaper to it. Reimagine your space.

Set up a still life. Create an interesting composition with things in your home. The refrigerator is a great source of interesting looking things. Cut some fruit in half.

Portraits. In self quarantine with loved ones? Make them the subject of your next project.

Color. Try a project where it’s less about what you are painting and more about the color palette you are using. You could even recreate a painting you’ve done before but with a different color palette. In my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program we explore painting using Monet’s winter palette. It is such an interesting exercise!

I’d love to hear how you’re staying inspired!

“Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” is a 4 week online program aimed at inspiring regular watercolor painting and learning through virtual immersion into the city of Paris! Learn more here.
Quarantine inspiration painting Monet’s winter palette in watercolor
Painting with Monet’s winter palette in the
“Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” 4 week online program. Learn more here.
Watercolor painting flowers self quarantine inspiration
Painting Marie Antoinette’s embroidered flowers in the “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” 4 week online program. The program is aimed at inspiring regular watercolor painting and learning through virtual immersion into the city of Paris! Learn more here.

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.

2016 – My creative year in review

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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?