My Creative Resolution – Watercolor, Illustration, Print Pattern Design


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My 11 month long project – Painting the Ocean

I paint the ocean in watercolor. Eileen McKenna

After participating in three separate month long challenges in 2016, I saw how focusing on a single theme or medium can lead to real progress in ideas or skills or both. So when I completed the last challenge I decided to focus January (2017) on figuring out how to paint the ocean. I often wondered, “How do you capture the ocean in paint?” I was determined to find out! January led to February and on and on, and I’m still painting the ocean! I’ve progressed in so many areas, but am finding new areas to strive for. The ocean is an amazing subject because it changes so much.

Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas which is 11″ x 14″, at shop.eileenmckenna.com. The perfect gift for the beach lover in your life!

I grew up just blocks from the beach and now live a 10 minute car ride away. It is truly my favorite place. When I began making real progress with my ocean paintings, I felt I had found my thing. As 2017 winds down, I don’t anticipate stopping. If anything I can’t wait to drive down to the beach and take some new reference photos!

Eileen McKenna

That’s me on the left, age 3 or 4, with my first best friend Nancy.

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Photo of me with the “mini” canvas by Dawn Herlihy Reilly.

 

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Stages of a watercolor wave painting

Stages of a watercolor wave painting By Eileen McKenna
It felt good the other morning to sit and paint. I didn’t have any ongoing paintings, so first I set up several boards – taping the watercolor paper down. For this painting I worked with the paper still stuck to the pad – not as effective as taping it down, but I ran out of boards.

I started 4 paintings in one sitting, using two reference photos. The goal of painting two from the same photo was to do one version that was a quicker less detailed version. Although I can’t say this will actually happen this time around.

It’s always easier for me to sit and paint when I have a painting in progress, especially if I don’t let too much time pass between working on it. And since you need to allow time for the layers to dry, I like having at least two paintings to work on at once.

When I came home later in the day, the paintings were on my mind, so I picked one to work on some more. I ended up focusing solely on this one and finished it by the end of the day.

Here are the stages:

First layer:
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Second layer. I needed to darken things up a bit.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Third layer. Still tweaking the color of the ocean. Started added the foam.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Fourth layer – more foam. After this I added more color to the sky.
Stages of a watercolor painting. Painting waves by Eileen McKenna

Prints of my watercolors are available at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Come visit!

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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Stop, don’t ruin it! There is always the next painting.

Watercolor painting by Eileen McKenna
Last week I was finishing up a painting and kept noticing what I’ll call weaknesses – areas I wanted to better capture. In an effort to improve the painting I kept tweaking it. In the end I overworked it and should have left it the way it was.

I’m learning that as you paint, especially the same subject, you find new areas that you want to improve on. At first, when I started focusing on painting the ocean, my goal was to capture the water – the waves, the shadows, the movement. As I got better at that, I focused on making the foam look more realistic. Then it was adding more interest to the sky. Not just painting a blue sky, but clouds, and light from one direction. I even did two paintings that the clouds are almost the focal point. Now my goal is to capture the way the light hits the water.

This sliding scale means that with each painting I may achieve a previous goal, but a new one is likely to reveal itself. With the last painting I should have quit while I was ahead. With this painting, I stopped myself. I did accomplish more than the last, and there is always the next painting.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.

I’ve added three new watercolor ocean paintings to my shop! Prints are available at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a look!


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Painting every morning – week 3

Painting every morning | Eileen McKenna watercolor artist
My back to school resolution of painting every morning during my “extra” hour is going great! I don’t always get to paint for the entire hour, as I sometimes have things to do before I leave the house, but I sit down Monday through Friday (and sometimes on the weekends too). I remember the advice Charlie O’Shields, Creator of doodlewash.com gave me when I interviewed him. “If you want to form a daily art habit you have to decide how much time you can devote to it and protect that time with your life.” And I’ve done that, turning down a walking date with a friend, and not using the time for my running.

Benefits to working every day at a set time:

  • No need for the internal struggle to motivate myself
  • More progress on my paintings
  • More progress on developing skills
  • I mentally stay “in” a painting and often work at other times too

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more about the newsletter here.

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Being “In” a Painting

Painting waves in watercolor | creative habitsPainting for an entire hour proved impossible this morning, as I had things to do. But a half hour is better than nothing. As I worked, I thought about how daily work keeps you “in” a painting. You’re engaged in the project, even thinking about it when you are away from it. Being “in” a painting helps bring you back to your creativity. It’s easier to get to work – you know what to work on, perhaps you’ve even thought out how to tackle an area of the painting. But when a few days pass without revisiting your painting or project, that thread is broken. It’s harder to motivate to sit down and create, because you might not remember where you left off or possibly even what you were working on.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more about the newsletter here.

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Pick a picture, pick a subject…

Sketchbook painting
…and start drawing and painting. Sitting with my coffee this morning, I was beating myself up for not painting this week. But when I looked back on the week and all I did – work, back to school stuff including orientations, meetings, haircuts, doctors’ appointments, and birthday preparations – it makes sense. Okay I forgive myself. Now what? Pick a picture.

So I did. I didn’t overthink it, I picked one and started painting in my sketchbook. I didn’t select good watercolor paper and tape it to a board – to prepare for a “frame-able” piece. I selected a page with writing on the back. No pressure, just pick a picture and get back to work.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more about the newsletter here.

Prints of my watercolor beach paintings are now for sale at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


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Jetty

Jetty by Eileen McKenna, beach watercolor painting available as giclee art prints.
The focus of this painting is the rocks – the jetty. I had fun creating the different shapes and shadows of the rocks. I’m especially proud of the wet look of the sand where the water has just receded. And of course this painting needed a seagull.

The beaches in my hometown are delineated by the jetties. They are an unmistakable characteristic of our beaches. So it seemed appropriate to have them be the star of a painting.

“Jetty” is part of “the Blue Collection” and is available as a Limited Edition Giclee Art Print in my online shop!


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Side Surfer

Side Surfer by Eileen McKenna. Watercolor painting available as limited edition giclee art prints | beach | surfing | surfer | waves
I primarily paint from my own photos. It’s nice to incorporate that into the process of a painting – capturing a moment that strikes me and later painting it. This painting is from a photo I took at my hometown beach of Long Beach, NY.

It’s taken from the angle of one set of jetties, looking towards the next set – the “side.” What I love about this painting is how much it reminds me of Long Beach – the jetty, the color of the water, the surfer, the waves, even the familiar angle – as you cross over the rocks and step onto the next beach.

“Side Surfer” is part of “the Blue Collection” and is available as a Limited Edition Giclee Art Print in my online shop!


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Blue Wave #11

"Blue Wave #11" by Eileen McKenna. Watercolor ocean paintings available as art giclee prints. Beach | ocean | art | surf | waves
This painting was a break through for me. It was the first painting where I used white gouache – more opaque than watercolor paint – to paint the foam and spray. Before this I relied on the white of the paper for those areas. Using gouache allowed me to create more depth in the foam and waves.

When I polled family and friends on which of my paintings I should make available as prints, everyone had #11 on their list. (#11 was the number I’d assigned to it.) It was written so often, it became #11 in my mind, so it seemed fitting to call it Blue Wave #11.

When I posted Blue Wave #11, I got such a great response! Comments included, “I can smell the salty air of the ocean” and “Soothing, as if I can almost hear the wave breaking.” It’s gratifying to feel you’ve made a breakthrough and then also have people respond to positively.

“Blue Wave #11” is part of “the Blue Collection” and is available as a Limited Edition Giclee Art Print in my online shop!


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Waiting

Waiting by Eileen McKenna. Beach watercolor painting. Ocean landscape. The Blue Collection
This watercolor was painted at the beginning of my “painting the beach” project, in early January. The painting is based on a photo I took on New Year’s Day. You can tell it’s a cold day because the surfer – who is just noticeable – is all in black, in a wetsuit and cap. He has let a wave pass him by while he waits for a better one, hence the name of the painting “Waiting.”

“Waiting” is part of “the Blue Collection” and is available as a Limited Edition Giclee Art Print in my online shop!