My Creative Resolution – Watercolor, Illustration, Print Pattern Design


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Valentine’s Day gifts from watercolor art

Valentine's Day gifts by Eileen McKenna on Zazzle #valentines #day #gifts
My first countdown to a holiday, with a daily painting/illustration, was back in 2015 when I counted down to Valentine’s Day. I really enjoyed the challenge because for the first day or two you explore the obvious stuff, but as the days go on you dive a little deeper into the theme and get more creative. After experimenting this year with uploading Christmas countdown art on Zazzle for cards and ornaments, I thought it would be fun to upload some of my favorite Valentine’s Day creations. I hope you like them! Click here to visit my Zazzle shop and see them all.

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Drawing “cute” illustrations

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A while back, I worked hard to learn about illustrating in a “children’s book style.” I really studied up on it. (See below for the links to the posts I wrote on my progress.) This week I wanted to do a cutesy illustration of a boy with a box of chocolates and a little girl. I first bought a box of chocolates – we all need a little chocolate, right? Then I had my ten year old, pose with the chocolates under his arm and then as the opposite figure. I didn’t want the illustration to be realistic, but I figured having some reference photos would be helpful.

I went straight to my watercolor paper (taped down on a board), and drew with pencil. I didn’t like it at all. My son looked more like a man than a boy, and there was nothing cutesy about the illustration.

sketch1cd

I remembered how drawing something over and over, can really help me arrive at the results I want. So, the next day I pulled out my sketch book and did several versions of the little couple. I remembered the things I learned from observing children’s book illustrators:

  • exaggerate features – like big eyes or wacky teeth
  • color palette – stick to 3 colors
  • kids – small bodies, big heads
  • outline

Following this advice, I made the heads bigger and rounder, and the bodies smaller. The illustrations definitely looked cuter.
cutedoodles

I went back to my watercolor paper, erased the original illustration, and started over, following the style from my sketchbook.
sketch2cd

I thought a heart behind them would really emphasize the theme, so I painted a pink heart and a red background. Then I used my pen to create the ink outlines, using the pencil lines as a guide. I waited a bit, so I was sure the ink was dry, and erased all the pencil. I thought about the color palette I wanted. Instead of using blue from the tube, I added pink to it, to mute it, and make it work better with the pinks and reds.

I’m happy with the results, especially compared to my original illustration.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Lots of love from New York! And if you are also in the Northeast – stay warm!
Eileen

Other posts I’ve written about children’s book illustration style:


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Try String Art! A heart shaped tutorial.

finalstringartheart
I’ve been wanting to try string art for months. When I saw my Valentine’s Day pattern printed – I knew it would make the perfect background. Have you been wanting to try string art? If so, gather these materials and read on.

  • 8″ x 10″ frame with the glass removed
  • 8″ x 10″ piece of cork board (or use an additional piece of corrugated cardboard)
  • 3 pieces of 8″ x 10″ corrugated cardboard
  • patterned paper cut to 8″ x 10″
  • red embossing thread
  • nails – I used wire nails (#18 x 3/4″), approx. 50 nails
  • hammer
  • scissors
  • spray mount or other adhesive
  1. Take the glass out of the frame and use the frame backing to cut the cork board, cardboard pieces, and patterned paper.
    cutpaper
  2. Apply adhesive to the patterned paper and secure to cork board
    spraysmooth
  3. Place paper and cork board (facedown) into the frame. Put one – three cardboard pieces behind it. If frame backing fits, use it. Otherwise use tape to secure cardboard to the back of the frame. Use enough cardboard for a tight fit. Flip frame over.
    cardboardtapepaper
  4. Cut out heart to use as template
    cuttemplate
  5. Place heart in the center of the frame and use a nail to poke holes (equally spaced) around the heart.
    poke
  6. Remove the heart and hammer nails into the holes.
    nail nails
  7. Knot one end of the embossing string to one nail. Trim loose string.
    tie
  8. Wrap string around a nail on the opposite side of the heart. I wrapped the string fully around the nail, before string the next nail.
    firstwrapstring1
  9. Continue stringing the heart by wrapping around nails on the opposite sides (randomly). String until the heart is filled in, and every nail is wrapped at least once.
    string2 string3
  10. Then, wrap around each nail in clockwise order, completing an outline of the heart.
    stringedge
  11. Display your beautiful creation!
    finalstringart

I want to see your creation! Post your work and tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna. Use #mcrstringheart. See more of my pattern designs here.


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A Valentine’s Day Card and a past career

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When my daughter was born fifteen years ago, I left my Art Director job to stay home. I did a little freelance work, but focused on starting a custom invitation and announcement business. Since I didn’t draw and paint the way I do now, the business was part work and part creative outlet. For a while I really enjoyed it, and created some beautiful things. I produced everything myself – trimming and folding, and often added hand details – bows, buttons, layered paper, etc.

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At this point in the industry there were some websites out there, but nothing like the explosion that was to come. I did this on the side, while taking care of my three little kids, from 2000-2007/8. Over time I realized I was spending a lot of time – because it was custom work – designing, finding paper, etc. And I didn’t necessarily get paid for all of it – there was only so much I could charge (that people were willing to spend). It no longer felt like a creative outlet. And by this point, I was taking drawing and painting classes.

The way to make money was to offer a few designs to pick from – and then just fill the orders. But as a designer, what was the fun in that? At the same time, that I was losing interest in the business, the economy shifted. People were not willing to spend money on invitations. Also, the internet was exploding with cute, affordable designs. I toyed with the idea of opening my own online shop. In the end I didn’t, because there was so much competition, and I was burned out.

I started working part-time in an office (email marketing). I found it a nice break from the three little kids at home, and it was much much easier to separate work and home. I spent several years working, outside the house, as a Graphic Designer, dabbling in freelance work from home, and the occasional invitation. I now work exclusively for myself, directly for clients, offering Graphic Design (print/web), and Marketing (social media/email).

What is so amazing, is all that has happened since 2007. Randomly, on Twitter I found Thortful. Thortful is an app, that allows you to upload a card design – make it available to others and/or print it for yourself. They are new, and are just cards. (They are based in the U.K., so I’m wondering what shipping to the U.S. will be.)

Of course there are so many other sites that allow you to upload your designs and purchase and/or sell them on stuff. The one I’ve know the longest is cafepress.com. In the last few years, I’ve learned of society6.com, zazzle.com, redbubble.com, spoonflower.com. Many of these sites have their own twist. I’d love to know, do you have a recommendation?

I’m not sure as a designer, which gives you the best chance of actually making money – again there seems to be a lot of competition. I wonder if there are people out there who make a chunk of their living off these type of sites. It is nice, that you don’t have to handle the production. That you can outsource it without producing large quantities (that you don’t need/might not sell.) You can focus on being a designer. What an amazing world we live in. And what’s coming next?! 


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14 Days of Valentine’s Day Art

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Last year I got into the spirit of Valentine’s Day and created art every day, for 14 days, within that theme. I posted my creations on Instagram. It was a great learning experience, as I learned to dig deeper into a theme – once the obvious ideas were out of the way. I really fell in love with Instagram and it’s power to motivate me.

My display of last year’s “Valentine’s Day” work:
valentinesdaymantle

Currently I’m working on a 100 day project. I’m painting the beach. So this year’s Valentine’s Day art looks like this:

Beach Heart painting

Learn more about my beach heart here.

19 Books for Creatives


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Learning the keys to successful surface design

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At the end of last year, I had just started ordering my pattern designs in wrapping paper and fabric. It’s totally different, to not only see the pattern printed, but then work with the gift wrap and fabric. As I wrapped presents in my designs and other designs, I became aware of things that I never noticed before. Most importantly that a lot of the designs have some elements that are upside down and some right side up. This way, there is no correct side.

Over the summer, when I ordered fabric in my sandcastles design, I experimented with making it into a pillow. I realized how important the size of the repeat is. If it is too big, and you try to make a small pillow (or wrap a small present), then most of the design gets cut off.

These are things you don’t notice when you are creating on the computer. As I continue to pursue surface design this year, my goal is to not only design patterns, but have them printed as gift wrap or fabric, and (most importantly) create something with them – to be the end user. I think it’s the best way for me to learn how to make successful designs.

Earlier this week I tweaked last year’s Valentine’s Day design and ordered a swatch (see above). Specifically, I changed how the pattern repeated. I’m am excitedly waiting it’s arrival! I am also working on a second Valentine’s Day themed pattern, that has more of a watercolor feel.

Original Repeat:
valentine'sdaypattern

To see the 12 patterns I designed in 2016, click here.


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Striking while the iron is hot.

cupid-1
It is an amazing feeling when you are “into” a project and the creative ideas are flowing and you’re excited and inspired and motivated. I’m always better off “striking while the iron is hot” and working on a project when the inspiration first hits me. If I wait, sometimes the spark is gone. The enthusiasm dies down and it’s hard to motivate myself to work on the project.

When I’m in the “creative mode” I can move from one project to another and get things done, while new ideas are popping up, and it’s great! I’m on fire! Other times, I spend days thinking, “I should sit down and paint something.” For some reason, it is hard to sit down and do it, and gets harder as the days go by. Once I do sit down, and start, it all seems to come flowing back.

I also feel this way about blogging. I’ll be on a roll with ideas and posting, and then a couple of days go by and I start to question myself – “What should I post? I can’t post that!” I get kind of shy and start thinking, “Maybe I shouldn’t share that mistake.” Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’ve made a commitment (to myself) to be honest about my successes and failures. The best medicine, again, is to sit down and share and get the ball rolling again.

Cupid was a Sharpie doodle in my sketchbook that I scanned and painted in Photoshop. Follow me on Instagram to see my other Valentine’s Day inspired posts!


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I don’t LOVE mistakes

lovemistake
Ironically the first thing I wrote in my last linocut post was “Mirror image. The design prints the reverse of what it is on the block. I keep forgetting this!” and I still forgot! And this time it was text – so you can’t ignore the mistake. Sometimes when I make a mistake this bad I learn my lesson. Let’s hope!

On a happier note…I’ve decided to challenge myself to post, on Instagram, my Valentine’s Day artwork and photos, every day from February 1st through the 14th. So please join me on Instagram (mycreativeresolution) to see what I’m working on! Let me know you found me originally on WordPress. I promise not to include anything you need to hold up to the mirror! 🙂