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.

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

Surfer Dad and Son

Surfer dad and son watercolor and ink sketch by Eileen McKenna | #inktober

I really got into my InkTober sketch today. First I drew in pencil the father and son – from a photo I took last month.

Then I went over the pencil in ink and erased the pencil.

I added watercolor in the background.

Then I added the foam in the water using white gouache. I added some ink details to the water.

I added the shadows to the figures and then added the lighter areas. I’m really happy with it. I probably would never have tackled this photo especially in ink without the motivation of InkTober. I wish I knew who they were so I could send them a copy.

Inktober Day 18

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

Christmas Ornament


Day 4 in my creative countdown to Christmas. Last month when I was painting in watercolor everyday, following the World Watercolor Group’s November prompts, I focused on adding shadows. I tried to not always use black. Instead I mixed the compliment of the color with the color of the object. As the month went along the “darks” were always on my mind while painting.

One of the things I admire about Charlie of doodlewash and founder of World Watercolor Group, are his highlights. So many of his objects look so shiny. I asked him for advice on achieving this. He said,

it’s all about pushing the contrast. I sketch every little shape I see in the reflections and then paint them, pushing the darks as much as possible to make the whites seem whiter. Any chance to put nearly black next to white also increases the contrast. With glass you have to be a little subtler or it will start to look like metal, but if you’re painting metal…just go for it! The more contrast the better! And many of the shapes are not intuitive…draw exactly what you see, not what you’d expect it to be.”

I think it is really good advice, but putting into practice with my ornament was easier said than done! The ornament was reflecting everything in the room. But I’ll be thinking about the darks and the lights as I work this month.

Jill wrote a poem about how special ornaments are. I totally agree. As I unwrap each ornament I remember who it is from or what special interest or time in our lives for me, my husband, or one of the kids it represents, or a family trip we took.

Marion’s scandinavian felted ornaments are so precious. The stitching is drawn so well, the ornaments look real!

On Instagram moxiefitblues posted a beautiful box of ornaments. See them here.

Here’s my prompt list is you’d like to draw/paint along. Tag your posts  #adventmcr.



30 Days of Food In Watercolor


Pomegranates – Day 30. Thank you to Charlie of World Watercolor Group for the food November prompts. I didn’t think about it when I started, but painting food everyday is out of my comfort zone. I would never have painted a turkey or a plate of mushrooms or leeks! But I was often happy with my results. It’s good to have a push in a different direction sometimes.

Here are my favorites from the month:

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I’m excited to really get into the spirit of Christmas and created my own prompt list to follow in December. Everyone and all mediums are welcome to join in. Use the hashtag #adventmcr when posting.


Of course Charlie is inspiring everyone with a December list of prompts. Click here to see it. I’ll definitely be painting a Christmas sweater from his list!

BTW if you haven’t read it, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie, founder of the World Watercolor Group. You can read the interview here.

Creative prompts Advent Calendar

I’ve been on a roll the last 2 months creating everyday. In October I participated in InkTober, drawing in ink in my sketchbook. By the end of October I was adding watercolor to my sketches. This month I followed the World Watercolor Group’s November prompts which were all food. I was so happy to be back working in watercolor. Other than fruit, I don’t really paint food so it was out of my comfort zone. I appreciated the push because other than my pathetic brussel sprouts, I was really happy with many of my paintings.

For December, I’m getting into the spirit of Christmas! I created this prompt list for myself, but welcome anyone who wants to join in! All mediums are welcome! Let me know if you do and tag your work #adventmcr so I can see. I’m on Instagram too @eileenmckenna.

I’ve done holiday countdowns before – Valentine’s Day (twice) and St. Patrick’s Day. The challenge with those was always what to paint. This time I’ve created a prompt list to follow. I’m a little nervous about committing to creating everyday in the busiest month of the year, but I know overall I won’t regret it. In both October and November challenging myself has led to some pieces I’m really proud of.

My watercolor cherry pie


A fall ink illustration


Happy Thanksgiving!


I don’t think I’ve ever painting so much food, as this month. Following along with the World Watercolor Group’s prompts, I’ve painting a 3 course meal, plus dessert!


Except for fruit and some sweets, food is not something I normally draw and paint. It wouldn’t occur to me to paint a turkey! I’m only painting one this year. I’m not the one responsible for cooking the turkey. I’m making the sweet potatoes and baking pumpkin bread and a dessert.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Success and failure

img_0712You win some you lose some. I guess that’s just how it goes. When you are painting everyday, you’ll love some of the results and some not so much. And when you are painting and posting everyday, you end up sharing both the successes and the failures.


If I was the Ref I’d call my bundt cake a win and my Coke can a loss. I usually try not to share too much about what I think about my final results. Early on in my blog, I got a comment that said stop whining and putting yourself down. I was initially very hurt by the comment. But I tried to see the message behind it. I was being very hard on myself and was often presenting my work with my own negative commentary.

I’m often hardest on a project right when I finish it. After a little time passes I see it differently. To post a project and list all the things wrong with it, was selling myself short. After that infamous comment I stopped doing that. It was an internal shift for me as well because I started focusing more on my achievements, instead of apologizing for my shortcomings. The Coke can isn’t my best but it is the 19th painting on the heels of 31 days of ink drawings, so I’m patting myself on the back for that and getting to work on today’s painting. 😀

To add ink or not to add ink? That is the question.


I have to admit, I sometimes don’t know the right answer to this question. Most often my style is to work in watercolor and add details in ink. But sometimes I hesitate to add the ink details.

When I think about, the occasions where I question adding ink, are when I’ve added a lot of details in watercolor – a lot of layers. Sometimes the decision is easy. The painting looks finished, like these donuts. Other times I’m not sure – like the cupcake above.


Adding the ink is definitely a different look. Just watercolor is softer and sometimes more realistic looking. Adding ink looks more illustrated, more whimsical. Like this cup of cappuccino and this ice cream sundae.


One thing is for sure – once a line of ink is added, there’s no turning back. I often think of scanning and printing a painting and adding ink details to the printout. This way I can make sure I like it before touching the original painting.