Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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10 “How to” Posts on Painting, Graphic Design, Creativity and more!

10 "How to" Posts on Painting, Graphic Design, Creativity and more! | acrylic painting watercolor tutorial diy round up post
It’s still amazing to me that I made a commitment to be creative, created this blog to hold myself accountable, have continued with it for over five years, and have published over 600 posts! This from someone who previously couldn’t finish a creative project. Here’s a round up of my best “How to” posts.

How to Design Invitations. I’ve been a Graphic Designer for over 20 years. I wrote this post to share the process of designing invitations. Designing invites has always been one of my favorite projects. Visit my Etsy shop for invitation borders, backgrounds, and clipart that make the invitation design process easier!

How to Design Invitations | DIY Invites | Invitation Tutorial | Easy Invites

How to Paint the Ocean. For the last few years I have dedicated myself to capturing the ocean in watercolor. This post shares my step by step process and my secret ingredient.
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips 

Transitioning from Watercolor to Acrylics was such a challenge and I’m still learning every time I pull out a canvas. In this post I share the top differences between the two, to help others make a more smooth transition.
Going from watercolor to acrylics, painting acrylic seascapes

Easy Forest Watercolor Project – is a great one for watercolor beginners. Create an interesting forest and learn and practice five watercolor techniques along the way. It’s actually one of my most popular posts and I’ve heard such nice things from the people who have tried it. There was even a group at a library that tried it.
Easy Forest Watercolor Painting for Beginners | Learn watercolor techniques! #winter #forest #watercolor #beginners

Creating Repeating Patterns. Early on in my blogging days I began noticing the art of Surface Design. This post explains how to turn your art into a repeating pattern.
How to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop. For fabric prints, gift wrap, wallpaper and more.

Creativity is for everyone. For me being creative is less about the final product and more about the joy I get from being creative. I wish I realized sooner that talent doesn’t mean much. It’s just a starting point. If you have the desire to be creative and work at it regularly, your skills will improve.
Want to be creative? Start here! creative inspiration | how to be creative

Winter Birch Tree Painting. I wanted to add wintery art to my living room so I created these birch tree paintings in acrylic and shared my process in this post.
Easy Acrylic Birch Tree Painting #beginner #painting

Developing your own Illustration Style. When my kids were small I desperately wanted to illustrate a children’s book. But, not only were my skills not there, but I didn’t have a style. I scoured the internet looking for ways to develop my own style. In this post I share what I learned.
6 Tips on Developing your own Illustration Style 

Ways to Find Inspiration. It’s very rare that I don’t have ideas. For me time is more of a struggle, as well as following through on ideas. This post shares ways to find inspiration.
10 Ways to come up with ideas for your creative projects

Logo Design Process. I shared a peek into my life as a graphic designer in this post about designing logo.
Logo Design Process

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter -“My Creative Collection.” A collection of all the things that inspire me, in the hopes of inspiring you! Sign up here!
My Creative Collection


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Assembly Line Painting {an experiment}

assembly
I recently had some success with a fairly quick beach landscape. The blooms that unintentionally formed and looked like crashing waves was a large part of the success. I was curious if I could recreate this and decided to set up several boards (watercolor paper taped to cardboard) to paint all at once. My plan was to paint specific sections in each painting, one right after the other, using a similar process.

The process:

  1. With blue watercolor pencil, draw horizon line
  2. Paint the sky
  3. With grey watercolor pencil define edge of the water and paint it
  4. Paint deep part of the ocean
  5. Add water at edge of the deep ocean to get sucked into deep part and create blooms (crashing waves)
  6. Add finishing touches

 

As you know, I’ve set up personal painting parties before, where I get started on several paintings at once. Usually the paintings share a common theme or inspiration. But this is the first time I’ve attempted several versions of the same painting at once. Immediately I noticed that I was learning nuances or experimenting a little on each painting in an attempt to make it better. I knew from the start that they would never be identical, which is something I didn’t want anyway.

This year I’ve seen, several times, that digging deeper in a theme can lead to better results. I think the same is true here. I’m learning by painting the same thing over and over.

At this point each painting needs some special attention and some finishing touches. I’m not sure I can do this step at the same time. We’ll see. 🙂

Hoping for some “bloom” waves:
bloomwaves


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Practicing on scrap paper before diving in

finalcone
After the debacle of the sunflower. I decided to practice on a scrap piece of paper before starting a painting of an Echinacea flower. This way I would have a plan on how to paint it.
scrap

The scrap paper coneflower came out pretty good, so I started my painting. I loved the start of this painting. But when I went back to add some details I felt like I messed it up. Why is it that working quick can look great, but sometimes when you work harder at something (more deliberately), you overwork it, and ruin it?
startofthecone

So here I am with a scrap of paper, that several people love, and an unfinished painting. And I am stuck.

I wrote the above 4 weeks ago! Ironically yesterday’s post was “Forcing myself to finish.” This Echinacea flower project is a great example of me not finishing – I felt I had ruined it, didn’t know how to proceed, so I stopped. Two days ago, I pulled it out, added details in ink, and declared it finished.

No matter how a project comes out it feels great to finish!


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Forcing myself to finish.

nodiving
One thing I’ve learned about myself as an artist, is that I dive into a project with enthusiasm. I think it’s the Aries in me [read more about that here]. It’s great for starting a project, but for me, a couple of things can get in the way of finishing a project.

  1. I lose enthusiasm.
  2. A new project grabs my attention.
  3. I get worried about ruining a project.
  4. I’m not sure how to proceed because I haven’t planned things out.

When I started my creative resolution I forced myself to finish a bunch of forgotten projects. I also forced myself to finished most of the new projects I started. And I adapted to work within my personality. Most projects I work on, I finish within a few days – before the enthusiasm fades or I get sidetracked (or I get paralyzed worrying about ruining it or I start to overthink the next steps).

Recently I started this pool painting. I forced myself to paint, what I thought of as the hardest part of the painting – the lane lines – before I left for a short trip. I knew that if I could get that step out of the way and left only the pool water and a few minor details, I’d be much more likely to finish this painting when I got back.
nodiving1diving2

Some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned in the last year and half, have less to do with painting and technique, and more to do with how I work. And how to get things finished.


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Comparing last year’s work to this year

bloomwave
When I look back on what I was working on last year and compare it to this year – I’m amazed. I feel like I have developed and progressed so much as an artist.

Last year at this time – I was still not using watercolor paper! I just started adding details in ink last August. Now I add ink to many of my paintings. It seems like a lifetime ago.

Projects from last Summer
roseofsharongoggles

This Summer

pretzaldoodles cupcakedoodles shellspattern

As I looked back at old posts I realize something else. I was all over the place trying different things, which was great, but I’ve become much more focused. I still try new things but there seems to be more of an overall continuity. A stamp of “me” on my projects. I’m curious – do you see the difference too?

Putting in the time and work is really worth it. I may not realize it everyday, but when I look back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come.

 


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A pattern for July – Seashells

shellspattern
I really enjoyed creating this pattern. It brought me back to collecting shells as a kid and marveling at the patterns and colors. Oh wait, I still do that!

This pattern started with doodles in my sketchbook. I drew a lot of shells! I have jarfuls on hand for reference.
shells-2

Then on watercolor paper I painted shells using different colors. I took creative liberties with this step.
shellswatercolor-1

I scanned everything in, and layered the outlines and watercolors together in Photoshop. I also added a textured background. After I had my arrangement set, I repeated it to see how it worked. I had to shift things a bit when the shells overlapped.

I truly felt inspired creating this pattern. It felt very nostalgic for me. And I can’t wait to get back down to the beach to collect more shells.


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Shark Painting

sharkweek
I couldn’t help getting into the spirit of “Shark Week,” by painting this shark. The inspiration photo is an ad for a Discovery Channel show called “Ninja Sharks.”

When my oldest son was younger, he loved sharks. Years ago at his request I painted these two:
shark
acrylicshark


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Some paintings are easy…and then there is this one.

finalsunflower
When I say that some paintings are easy, I don’t mean that there aren’t layers and layers to add, and details to fill in. They just feel easy. Each layer and detail added makes the painting better and better. And you know it, as you’re working.
startofsunflower
But this sunflower felt like childbirth – ha ha. It was the petals! I needed to add something. I wanted the petals to pop – and I didn’t want to add ink details this time. I tried a few grey brushstrokes on each petal, but that didn’t do it. I took a huge risk and added a blue outline to the edges of the petals, all the while thinking, “I’m probably ruining it!”
blueoutline weirdblue stillneedssomething
I wouldn’t say the blue outline ruined it, but the petals still needed something! I added more yellow. I added more white. In the end I added ink lines to the petals. Oh well! 🙂


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A morning dedicated to painting outside :)

rainbowfeather
It’s officially Summer and the kids are home, which totally throws off my routine. As I struggle to get a new schedule together, a priority is having time to paint and draw. The other morning I dedicated to painting, and because it was so nice out, I set up on my back patio.
tableoutside

It felt great! Everyone was still asleep and the weather was beautiful. I had tons of inspiration photos from days prior – a trip to the beach, a stop at a little lake, and an amazing sunset. When I looked down at the blank piece of paper I felt totally at peace. There was no stress about what I would do, I would just let it happen. And I quickly got into a groove. I even turned a test scrap into a feather! (See first pic in the post.)

Sometimes we can be so productive, if we just give ourselves the opportunity to do so. 

blank

I’m hoping to have more mornings like this one! 🙂