Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Today is a special day

grilledcheese
Today is my birthday! My husband said this morning, “I’ve never meet anyone who loves their birthday as much as you.” It’s true. Even though I don’t necessarily want to get older, I feel like my birthday is a special day. Maybe growing up the youngest of four, I loved when the focus was all on me! Other special April birthdays include my mom – who always makes me feel special on my birthday (and every other day of the year). She is the best. Love you Mom!

You may be wondering, “Why the grilled cheese?” Today is also National Grilled Cheese Day. My friend Charlie at doodlewash, in honor of his April birthday, has invited everyone to “doodlewash” a national or international day. Charlie is a prolific artist and blogger. Not only does Charlie share his art and an interesting story every day, he also shares other artists with us. I always love reading Charlie’s posts. They usually remind me of some detail from my own childhood. And I love learning about the other artists around the world that he features on his blog. I even had the pleasure of being featured on doodlewash!

Enjoy this special day!


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Creativity breeds more creativity

tulips
I’m already noticing a difference in my level of creativity, just a week after restarting my creative habits. It’s amazing how sketching every morning – often for just 5 minutes – leads to more sketching and painting later in the day. As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

My creative habits were derailed a month or so ago, when I was busy with a work project. I forget how much I need my own creative projects. Working as a web and print designer, I have the pleasure of being creative with work. The downfall for me is relying on work as my creative outlet. Last month’s work project was very consuming and creatively fulfilling. I barely drew or painted during this time. Everything was great until the project wrapped up, and a new work project didn’t immediately replace it. I was out of the habit of working on my own stuff, so I was left feeling somewhat empty. As I wrote about in this post, I was having a really hard time motivating myself to work on my own projects.

Thankfully I was able to get back to it, although it’s not always easy to stick to it. I need to remember this lesson next time work gets very busy – to make time for my own creative projects, and to stick with my creative habits.

 


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This is what a good morning looks like.

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I’m back on track with my creative resolution. I decided on the habits that will keep me creative and successful, and I’m keeping to them, until they truly become habits and I do them without even thinking. I’m working in my sketchbook every morning. Once a week I’m starting the day by painting. It’s such a good feeling to start the day this way. My mind is less cluttered when this is the first thing I work on. It changes my outlook for the entire day.

I had no idea what I was going to work on, as I set up, and taped down my paper. My son’s lacrosse magazine happen to be lying around, and I thought it would be interesting to work with a dry brush – to just capture the shapes and movement. That one little spark of an idea and I was off. I was in the groove. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way. For the last month or so, when I did paint I was somewhat uninspired.

I really liked how it came out. It felt different for me.

lacrosse


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“Create to share” vs. “Share what you create”

crabs
After posting everyday from Feb. 1-14, in the Valentine’s Day theme, I was relieved when Valentine’s Day was over. Last year I found so much inspiration in the challenge to post everyday, to delve deeper into the theme. This year…not so much. Once it was over, I realized I wanted to work on whatever inspired me. I didn’t want to think about posting everyday. I didn’t want to create just to post something. I enjoy sharing what I’m working on, but it’s amazing how different it is to “Create to share” vs. “Share what you create.”

School’s on break this week. It’s snowing as I write this post. It feels like a nice break from our busy life. The break gives me a chance to step back and reflect, and look forward and plan. Or just relax.

I’m not saying I won’t be posting. I just posted a quick sketch on Instagram of the cardinals out in the snow. But now, I feel free to work on whatever strikes my fancy. And learning what those things are, is the interesting part.


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Bananas for Monkeys

monkeypatternrepeat
When I was little I wanted a pet monkey so badly. I told my mom, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep it in the closet when we go out.” As if that was the least of her worries. I doubt monkeys were on the approved pet list in my NYC suburb.

The latest Spoonflower design challenge is “Year of the Monkey.” A couple of weeks back, I played around in my sketchbook, but nothing great emerged. But, I couldn’t get the contest out of my mind. So, with just a couple of days left until the deadline, I started sketching again. See my sketches here and what I’m learning about surface design.

It feels great to follow through and enter the contest. Before I started “My Creative Resolution” in 2014, I was notorious for having an idea and not following through, especially if my first draft wasn’t successful.

If you’d like to check out the other “Year of the Monkey” submissions, or vote for someone you know’s design (wink wink) click here. 🙂


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New Year, New Banner

2016banner
I thought it would be appropriate to design a banner that better represented what I do. So, why not a sketch of my painting setup? I’ve kept my bear in there, on the can holding the brushes. If you are wondering what’s with the bear – read my about page.

The New Year, has given me a recharge. I’m more committed to being creative than I was at the start (of 2014). I’m excited to pursue all the different things I’m interested in (painting, illustration, surface design, animation). I’m trying to doodle in my sketchbook every day. I ask myself for only 5 minutes. Even on the busiest days, I can spare that right? It’s relaxing, and it allows me time to come up with ideas. I usually do it early in the morning, while I wait for the kids to get ready. It puts me in a creative mindset for the day. And because of that, I usually end up creating later in the day.

Hope your New Year is off to a creative start too!

 


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Starting the year off right with a painting.

penguins
It felt so good, to set up yesterday – take my paints out, tape down the paper, fill the water – just go through the process. I’ve missed it. I’ve painted only sporadically during the holiday season. Setting up is kind of a calming.

I had no idea what I wanted to paint, I just knew I wanted to get back into it. Penguins popped into my head, and orange sunset skies. I looked online for some reference photos and found a great one tagged #penguinlove. I wish I could find the photographer of the inspiration photo. It’s so awesome, I can’t really take credit for the painting. I usually try to take my own reference photos, but there aren’t any penguins here in NY!
penguin

How’s your year starting out? Have you starting on your resolution? 🙂


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Exploring Animation

This year, I’ve started to explore animation. My interest was peaked by some really talented people, especially Rachel Ryle. Definitely check her out (all links below).

I first started playing with hyperlapse video and stop motion video and created videos that were a painting in progress. But keeping the camera steady while working was a challenge. And stopping periodically to film wasn’t any easier.


Next I played with adding motion to my illustrations by creating animated gifs. (Like the tire swing above and my skeleton below.) I was inspired by Illustrator Nancy Liang. (Check out her work in the link below.) I used Photoshop to create the “scenes” (saved as separate gifs) and then would put all the gifs together in imovie. This is a bit tedious because each and every step of a movement has to be a different scene.

I knew their was a better way! I found a talented animator, Emanuele Columbo, on Instagram and asked him what he used to create his animations (link below). How nice of him to share that he used After Effects. And I own After Effects! (It came with a bundle of other Graphic Design software.)

A twenty minute tutorial on youtube by Kriscoart Productions has given me the basics and I’m ready to try After Effects and create a new animation!

But first, as with any animation, you need the artwork to animate. I love the idea of animating my watercolor and ink drawings. My goal is to have an animated turkey by Thanksgiving. Since I’m not cooking this year, I should be able to pull it off!

Below are links to the Animators/Illustrators that have inspired me. What I love about these three is that they all have their own (very different) styles. I’m hoping my animations will be a reflection of me. Animation is definitely going to be a focus of mine in 2016!

Inspiration:
Rachel Ryle
Nancy Liang
Emanuele Columbo

After Effects tutorial by Kriscoart Productions


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What’s next?

 
The day after Halloween, I felt like a kid whose birthday had just passed. I was so disappointed it was over! I really got into it this year, posting over 20 illustrations, on Instagram, within the Halloween theme. And there were more in my sketchbook! “What now?” I wondered. Thanksgiving didn’t seem especially inspiring, although I love Thanksgiving. But then it hit me! Christmas! And I was off and running (for my sketchbook). 🎅🏼


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Focusing and following through

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My last post was about “Coming up with Ideas.” A few of you commented that you have no shortage of ideas. This makes sense as Maya Angelou famously said,

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

The “ideas” post was from the early days of my creative resolution. While reading through my old posts, I realized that focusing and finishing were recurring themes. Previously I wasn’t successful with my creative projects because I was always starting and stopping, and never finishing. Which left me feeling discouraged.

I started this creative journey in 2014, by finishing several old projects and doing several projects that I had always wanted to try. Accomplishing these things made me feel good, and so I kept going, with new projects.

I’ve come a long way since then. I try to draw or paint every day. I always shy away from the word “daily” because I’m more likely to paint and draw a lot for a day or two. Do nothing for a day or two, and then get back to it again.

I keep a notebook of “to do” lists and project ideas. I check off things as I go, and look back to see if I forgot anything. I’ll keep an old idea on the list for a while. Of course, I don’t get to everything, but it feels amazing to accomplish something that’s been on my list for months. The percentage of unfinished projects is much, much lower than it was before MCR.

Recently I wanted to be creative, but didn’t know where to start. I literally felt anxious. I sat down and wrote out all the ideas buzzing in my head. When I was done, I felt like I could breath again. Just writing the ideas down, cleared my head, and helped me prioritize. And then I started to create. 🙂