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How to Paint a Fall Leaf in Watercolor

This week, find a leaf that inspires you and paint it. I’ve uploaded a video of my process for painting a leaf:

  • With pencil I outline the basic shape.
  • I use just three colors – cadmium yellow, cadmium red, and ultramarine blue and mix colors as I go. From those three colors I create all the fall colors I need – purples, maroons, browns.
  • I work wet encouraging the colors to bleed into one another.

It’s fun and relaxing. Check out the video below and watch my painting process. Then find your leaf and start painting. I’d love to see – tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna.

Please like the video and subscribe!

Want a comprehensive guide to getting started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.” Learn the fundamentals. Practice with exercises and projects. Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor


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Painting Leaves in Watercolor

Fall Leaves in Watercolor by Eileen McKenna

Recently I painted a pile of leaves in watercolor. It was an easy relaxing process:

  • Collect a few leaves
  • Trace the leaves
  • Mix fall colors from yellow, red and blue
  • Work wet and encourage the colors to bleed and blend.

Believe it or not, I’m often more interested in how it feels to sit and paint than what the final results are. Sure, there is satisfaction in how a painting comes out and sometimes frustration when I can’t achieve my vision. But the process of sitting and painting is…the best.

I shared a video on how I created the watercolor pile of leaves painting. Grab your paints and give it a try!

Please like the video and subscribe!

Want a comprehensive guide to getting started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.” Learn the fundamentals. Practice with exercises and projects. Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor


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Painting Fall

Fun step by step watercolor painting project for fall

Since the start of my blog “My Creative Resolution” and my regular creative practice, I’ve been hugely inspired by the seasons. Creativity literally opened my eyes to the changing landscape. That first fall, I was in awe of the fall foliage. It was like I’d never seen it before! 

With fall in mind, I just developed a new step by step painting project – Watercolor Fall Farm. Watercolor colors blend and bleed into one another making it the perfect medium to capture the changing leaves.

This fun project includes:

  • masking with tape
  • painting fades
  • creating clouds simply
  • wet on wet painting
  • dry on dry
  • mixing all your colors from just three!

Add in pumpkins, a barn, a farmhouse, and oh my!
Download the tutorial pdf in my Etsy shop and start painting fall!

paint fall in Watercolor Tutorial downloadable pdf paint fall in Watercolor Tutorial downloadable pdf

Want a comprehensive guide to getting started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.” Learn the fundamentals. Practice with exercises and projects. Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

Fall Painting Idea Watercolor Fall Farm with Pumpkins Tutorial


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Watercolor Basics ~ other important things you need!

Watercolor basics - other important things you need

In my previous Watercolor Basics posts I covered paper, brushes and paint but there are a few other items that are also important to have on hand.

Water – With watercolor paint, you need water to dilute your paint and to clean your brushes. I like to have two containers of water on hand so I have a backup when the first container gets dirty. Jars, cups, mugs, all work well. I prefer the container be white or clear so I know what color the water is.

Paper towel – the simplest ingredient but so important. I constantly dab my brushes on my paper towel to absorb excess water.

Scrap of paper for testing what’s on your brush before you touch your paper.

Tape, cardboard, ruler and pencil – Before I start painting I always tape my paper (with painter’s tape) to a larger piece of cardboard (the back of an old pad). This prevents the paper from buckling when it gets wet. Another thing I often do is tape the horizon line. I measure and mark both sides of the paper and then apply tape from one side to the other.

Egg cartons – I have paints in my palette. I have a mixing tray that contains commonly mixed colors and then I have tons of egg cartons! I use the top of the plastic egg carton as another mixing tray.

Mug – to hold all my brushes, pencils, etc.

Ipad – for viewing reference photos.

Phone and earbuds – for taking photos and listening to my favorite podcasts while I paint.

Did you read these Watercolor Basics posts?

Watercolor Basics – Paint
Watercolor Basics – Brushes
Watercolor Basics – Paper

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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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Watercolor Basics ~ Paint – What type of paint should you use?

There are several types of watercolor color paint including – pans (or cakes), tubes, and liquid. Many paints are available in student and artists grades. Student grades are a more affordable option, but usually have less pigment.

Pans (or cakes) – When I was starting out I associated watercolor pan sets with the paints I used as a child. I have since learned that the pans available today contain rich, saturated colors and are widely used by many watercolor artists. Just like my Sakura Koi travel palette!

Tubes – I started with tubes and have stuck with them. I was originally gifted a set of Van Gogh tubes. The set includes a variety of colors. It’s a great set to start out with. As I used up my Van Gogh tubes, I began replacing them with Winsor & Newton tubes. I also began adding other colors (like pink and purple) with Winsor & Newton tubes, sometimes with their student grade brand Cotman.

My Palette – I squeezed small amounts of most of my colors into my palette. I reactivate dried paint by mixing it with water. Sometimes I work directly from the tube and use a mixing tray or the top of a plastic egg carton to add water or mix colors. You don’t actually need tons of colors – I often create paintings from primarily just three colors – Ultramarine, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow.

Liquid – Watercolor paint also comes in liquid form. Some liquid watercolors – like the ones below – have an eye dropper top. This seems like a great way to guarantee that you mix the same colors every time – just keep track of how many drops you use. My friend uses liquid watercolors and her colors are rich and vibrant.

Which type of paint you use is a personal preference. I don’t think there is a wrong answer. Pick one to try and see how you like it!

Tip – always keep a scrap piece of paper nearby to test the saturation of a color and/or your color mix before touching your painting!

Did you read these Watercolor Basic posts?
Watercolor Basics – Brushes
Watercolor Basics – Paper 5 Tips.

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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!
Watercolor Basics ~ Paint - What type of paint should you use?

 

 

 


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Watercolor Basics ~ Brushes: What types of brushes should you use

If you have ever stood in an art store paintbrush aisle, you know how overwhelming selecting brushes can be. There are brushes for every medium, synthetic and natural brushes, and brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes. I have a variety of brushes but in truth I only use a few.

Here are some tips for selecting brushes:

  • Round brushes are the most commonly used brushes for painting in watercolor
  • Thick and thin. If you could only buy two brushes I would recommend a medium sized round brush for larger areas (like a 6 or an 8) and a thinner round brush (like a 1 or 2)
  • Natural vs. synthetic. Synthetic brushes tend to be more affordable and are a good option (especially when you are just starting out.)

Over time I’ve learned:

  • Flat brushes are great for horizontal lines. I use flat brushes for certain details when painting seascapes.
  • Very thin brushes (less than 1s) are great for fine lines and detail.

I rarely use bigger brushes (10+). I may use them to wet a background or to paint a gradient in the sky but I primarily use size 8 and smaller. It’s a personal preference that may have to do with the size of the paintings I most commonly create (8”x10”). My choices may also have to do with style I paint in. Some artists paint in a looser style perhaps using larger brushes, and some in a much tighter more realistic style, perhaps using thinner brushes.

There are also specialty brushes for creating certain types of lines like a fan brush. More often than not, I stick with the brush in my hand instead of switching brushes.

Caring for your brushes:

  • Wash your brushes and lay them flat to dry on a paper towel.
  • Don’t leave your brushes sitting in water. It will cause the paint on the brush to chip off.
  • Use an old brush to reactivate dried out paint. I’ve squeezed my paint into a palette. When I want to use a color, I mix it with water. To protect my newer brushes I use an old brush to stir the water into the dried out paint.

The more you paint, the more your own personal preferences and brush needs will emerge. Start with a few round brushes and add from there.

If you missed the last Watercolor Basics post you can read it here –> Watercolor Basics – Paper 5 Tips.

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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!
Watercolor Basics - What types of brushes to use

 

 

 


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Painting on the road – travel watercolor set

Painting on the road - travel watercolor set
Whenever I travel I bring my watercolors with me. I have a compact travel set that is the perfect amount of colors. Painting while on vacation is a great way to experience a place. I take photos while I’m out with my family and paint during downtime at the hotel. You notice so much more when you are painting something. I’ve painted in NY, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and even France.

I work in a small Canson sketchbook with nice thick watercolor paper and paint small scenes and illustrations. This time I brought a few brushes – older ones because sometimes they get bent in my bag. I’d like to get a brush holder like this one.

Another fun thing to do is visit the local art store. I’m eyeing one up around the corner from where we are staying.

Painting during vacation reaffirms my regular creative practice. It’s common before vacation to be busy and not have time. Painting during a trip gets me back in the groove.

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.” 

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

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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Watercolor Basics ~ Paper (5 Tips)

It’s Back to School time, so I thought it would be a great time to go back to basics, Watercolor Basics. Let’s talk about paper. When I first started out in watercolor I was using the wrong paper. Watercolor paper is specially designed for watercolor paint – it has texture, absorbs the paint, and can withstand a good amount of “working” at your painting before the paper starts to break down.

I resisted at first because I wanted a very white paper. I was using a paper that had a coating on it and the coating was preventing the paper from absorbing the paint. Eventually I found watercolor papers that were the cool white I wanted. Once I made the switch I realized what a difference the paper actually makes. 

I now use cold pressed paper. What does that mean? According to watercoloraffair.com,

“In a nutshell, the terms “hot press” and “cold press” refer to the paper’s surface finish or texture. Cold pressed paper has a slightly bumpy, textured surface. But hot pressed paper has a smooth surface finish. You will also hear artists talking about the tooth of the paper.”

The paper I use most often is Fluid Easy Block Fluid Watercolor Blocks, most often the 9″ x 12″ size.

Watercolor Paper Tips:

  • Always use watercolor paper or a multimedia paper – this is the multimedia sketchbook I use.
  • Before I paint, I trim my paper to 9″ x 11″. This creates a painting that fits nicely in mats and frames for 8″ x 10″ artwork. Before I started trimming the paper my paintings were too long for the mats and too much wasn’t visible in a standard mat. I use this mat set for 8″ x 10″ artwork. It includes the mat, backing board, and a clear bag to protect your matted artwork.
  • Always tape down your paper to a board using painter’s tape. I use the cardboard back of old art pads. The cardboard needs to be larger than your paper.I use a painter’s tape like this one. I prefer tape that is less than an inch wide. The reason for taping down your paper is that water and paint causes paper to buckle. Taping your paper to a board helps keep the paper flat.

  • It is important to use the correct side of the paper. The side facing up when you take a sheet off the pad. If you have trouble keeping track – make a small pencil x mark on the back side of the paper.
  • Even though the paper is made for watercolor — Don’t rub your brush too hard or the paper will start to come apart. This can also happen when you overwork a section of your painting.

Other Watercolor Basics posts: 
Brushes: What types of brushes should you use?
Paint: What type of paint should you use?

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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!
Watercolor Basics ~ Paper | What type of paper should you use and other tips for painting with watercolor


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For the Love of Watercolor

For the love of watercolor   | watercolor for beginners how to guide

Over a decade ago as a young mom, I took a drawing class followed by a watercolor class. A few years later, I got serious about creating everyday and started my blog. I set out to explore every medium in search of my thing. The early days of my blog involved pencil sketches and working with acrylics. Then one day I decided to add color to my sketchbook and pulled out my watercolors. BAM! It hit me – I loved watercolor! I never put them away again.

Over the last few years I have developed watercolor painting projects and other learning resources in PDF and video form. Today I’m super excited to announce my new guide called “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

What’s in the downloadable pdf guide: 5 chapters, 5 painting projects, 50 pages.

The exercises and painting projects walk you through and build upon the fundamentals of watercolor. 

The 5 painting projects include:

  1. Starfish Painting
  2. Birch Tree Forest Painting
  3. Ice Cream Cones Painting
  4. Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake Illustration
  5. Seascape Painting

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.


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Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor!

lets paint Paris in Watercolor an email series | Learn Watercolor
Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor!

Join me in February for The “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” Email Series – an inspirational program for February 2020 (4 weeks) aimed at inspiring regular watercolor painting through virtual immersion into the city of Paris – the food, the architecture (no straight lines required), the Masters and more! At the start of each week, you’ll receive an email outlining the theme for the week. Week 1 is food. Think colorful macarons! The email will include daily optional prompts with stories about each prompt, links to reference photos and videos AND a link to an instructional video. Learn/practice watercolor as you go!

Together We Will

Paint Daily – just 10 minutes a day is enough! Themes and prompts provided, as well as the stories behind them.
Learn/Practice Watercolor – I’ll share my tips and tricks on my favorite medium. Video of my process included each week!
Immerse ourselves into Paris – a virtual trip – the food, the architecture (no straight lines required), the Masters, and more!

Sign Up Now

to get the early bird rate of just $12.99*
for the February 2020 email series.

Learn More Here

Early bird rate expires 1/17/2020. Regular price $24.99.

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What are your creative plans for 2020? Hoping for a creative year but don’t know where to start? Try my 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.

Creative Exploration book -