Eileen McKenna Art & Design

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


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Beach Heart

Beach Heart paintingPainting this beach heart was as peaceful and relaxing as sitting on the beach itself. Before I sat down to paint I was looking through my work for something to post on Valentine’s Day. I usually don’t post things from my archives – not that there is anything wrong with that. It just sometimes feels disjointed from what I’ve been working on.

With Valentine’s Day and hearts on my mind, I sat down to paint and thought of a beach scene in the shape of a heart. I think practicing, and working out a process for painting the beach, was a great help in painting the heart from start to finish in one sitting. Ah the sense of accomplishment!

Have a happy Valentine’s Day!

14 tips on painting waves in watercolor

 


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Drawing “cute” illustrations

happyvalentinesday
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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A home for my cupcake painting

 The one negative to painting and drawing a lot, is that those paintings and drawings pile up. I do hang some of them up, but most end up in a drawer. Good thing I don’t work on canvas that much. 

So when a friend said “I want it!” in response to my cupcake post on Instagram, I said, “It’s yours!” It’s nice that this painting has a home and isn’t stuck in a drawer.


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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

valentineEMcKennasmw
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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Valentine’s Day Patterns

squarewrap
Last February I designed my second pattern, ever, in the Valentine’s Day theme. As I continued throughout the year, designing more patterns, my style evolved and my techniques changed. I wanted to design another pattern, this year, in the same theme, to see how I would approach it differently. Even though last year’s design was created with hand drawn elements – it was painted digitally.

Last year’s pattern:
valentine2015sm
Learn more about that process here.

This year I painted, in watercolor, several squares in pinks and reds. I thought it would be interesting to arrange them as tiles. The squares would be uneven and irregular because they were hand painted. Then (separately) I painted several hearts and the word love. In Photoshop, I arranged the watercolor squares, and “knocked” the hearts and words out of the squares, and created a repeating pattern.

The original artwork:
heartssquares

This year’s Valentine’s Day Pattern:
redpinksquaresfinal

I got extremely enthusiastic about my design and, even though I haven’t purchased a single Valentine’s Day gift, I ordered a roll of gift wrap from Spoonflower.com. I either have to start shopping for things to wrap, or start crafting. Hmmm, I have some ideas!


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Learning the keys to successful surface design

valentine2015repeatsm
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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Valentine’s Day Mantle

valentinesdaymantle
I’ve been having fun the last couple of weeks creating art with Valentine’s Day in mind. I challenged myself to post my creations on Instagram for 14 days in a row. If you’ve been following, let me know which one you liked the best.

It’s been great, working within the same theme – coming up with different ideas and using different mediums. I’ve used watercolor, watercolor and ink, scanned doodles from my sketchbook and painted them in Photoshop, created a pattern, and a linocut. One more to go! Hmmmm.

My daughter’s art teacher gives them one word and they can execute it anyway they’d like. I love seeing her creations. It must be fun to be in the class and see how other people interpret the word. Their words have included – bounce, sticky, and bump. For “bump” my daughter drew a pregnant woman (focus on the bump) with a crib in the background. I thought it was very creative. Maybe I can sneak into the class!

I’m planning on another themed Instagram challenge – March 1 – 17th. The theme is St. Patrick’s Day (of course). Join me in the fun by including #mcrstpatricksday in your Instagram post. Join me for a day or all 17. It will be fun!

Have a happy Valentine’s Day!


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“Valentine’s Day Love” Pattern

valentine'sdaypattern
I’m in the heart/love frame of mind this week, as I am posting a new Valentine’s Day inspired photo to Instagram, every day from February 1st – the 14th! (@mycreativeresolution) So, it’s no surprise that my digital pattern of the month is also Valentine’s Day inspired.

I’m getting into creating art in Photoshop, especially with doodles that originate in my sketchbook. The process is a lot quicker than I thought it would be. And the amount of different textured brushes is awesome. Where have I been?!

I’m excited to continue trying new brushes – last month I used a watercolor brush for my January pattern. This month I used the Soft Oil Pastel brush. I wanted the background to have texture – but that can be an issue when you repeat the pattern because irregularities won’t line up. I used a fade so that it wouldn’t be an issue, but I’d like to learn more about the technicalities of creating repeating patterns.

It’s ironic that two of the things I’ve been working on so far this year, are so different! Linocut seems like an old craft, and digital illustration is on the other end of the spectrum! Time will tell how things shake out and in what form I continue to work.

It’s been so fun, I may have to do another pattern before February is over!

Here is the pattern without the repeat:
valpatternnorepeat