Imagination watercolor painting by Denise McGuire-Eddy

GUEST ARTIST: “Watercolor Helped A Dream Come True” by Denise McGuire-Eddy

My name is Denise McGuire-Eddy. I live with my husband and 2 kids in Garden City, Missouri (about 45 minutes south of Kansas City, Missouri). I have always loved creating art in almost every media, especially 3-D, sculpture, utilitarian textiles, jewelry, etc. I never really liked painting, drawing, or any “flat” art, or so I thought.

watercolor paintings by Denise McGuire-Eddy

Then I found a set of watercolors and a pad of 4×6 watercolor paper at a garage sale; it was only a dollar and I had never tried real watercolor, so I decided to give it a go. I quickly went through the paper, and more paper. Then my husband took me to Blick Art Supply (he calls it my candy store:) where I found quality paints and paper.

In my 1st year, I did 185 paintings. None of them were great, most were “meh”, quite a few were horrible! But I did a lot of experimenting and I learned a lot by just playing with my supplies. I have now been painting for 2 ½ years and have completed 650 paintings. Most are pretty good, a few are great, some are “meh”, and I still have a few horrible ones!

watercolor paintings and illustrations by Denise McGuire-Eddy

Luckily, I found out very early in my watercolor practice that using great supplies causes less frustration! I kept reading about people scrubbing out sections and lifting pigments. How were they doing that? I was just ripping my paper and getting little fuzzy paper pills! I still remember when I switched to 100% cotton paper – so that was the difference! I will paint on any 100% cotton paper, but Arches is my favorite; maybe because it was my 1st REAL watercolor paper and it’s the most familiar?

I love brushes made from natural hair because they hold a lot of paint and they’re nice and springy. I have a few specialized brushes, but I very seldom use anything but a round brush; they’re so versatile. I probably have way too much paint. Is that possible? My favorite brand is Daniel Smith, the saturation is amazing. But I also have a couple Winsor & Newton (I prefer their Burnt Sienna and Payne’s Gray over DS) and a couple Da Vinci pigments, one of which is Charlie O’Blue (beautiful color)!

blobs to birds by Denise McGuire-Eddy

In March of 2022, I was doing an online workshop, “Blobs to Birds” during Sketchbook Revival (Karen Abend). That simple exercise was the jump off point for my children’s book Viridian’s Quest which I wrote, illustrated, and self-published.

There have been several times during my life when I’ve thought, “I would love to write and illustrate a book!” But I never did it. I have never enjoyed drawing, and it’s pretty hard to get proficient in an area you don’t spend time practicing. And it’s pretty hard to illustrate a book if you can’t draw the pictures!

Old Tom Dreams watercolor by Denise McGuire-Eddy

But watercolor changed that! All that time I spent just playing like a kid really sharpened my skills, far better than any formal instruction I ever had. Remember being a kid and just creating for the sake of creating; not caring what the final outcome of your work was going to be or if it would be a masterpiece? That’s what I had been doing for over a year and that’s what sharpened my skills. I was really drawn to one of my blobs to birds and she morphed into Giocosa, a character in my book; but the main character is a frog named Viridian.

I have loved and collected frogs since I was 10 years old, so I figured, write what you know! Viridian’s Quest is about a young frog that wakes up one morning to the sounds of an angry mob of frogs outside his house. He then learns that all the flies have disappeared. Viridian sets out on a quest to find the missing flies. The remainder of the story is about the interesting characters he meets along the way and the friendship they forge, despite their vast differences, and the perils they face.

hidey hole spread Viridian's Quest by Denise McGuire-Eddy

The rough draft manuscript with very rough ideas for illustrations just photocopied onto the pages was done in about 2 months and ready for my 9 beta readers. I sent it out to elementary teachers, English teachers, fellow artists, librarians, and a published short story author. I got great feedback, both positive and negative. I did some polishing here and there and added some passages; but the biggest change was of course, the illustrations. It takes a lot for us artists to say, “oh, yeah, that’s it!”

I wanted the illustrations to look like they were a part of the page, not just a picture stuck onto a page of text. I also wanted it to resemble a coloring book, so I used hotpress paper as it’s much easier to do line work with a marker when you don’t have to worry about coldpress bumps. First, I needed to figure out where the illustration on a particular page would go and its size so that all the text belonging to that particular illustration would fit onto that page.

Then I partially painted the illustration, then masked it off, applied a Viridian wash over the entire page, and then completed the illustration with detail work and marker lines. Even the text only pages got the Viridian wash for cohesiveness’s sake! It was a very tedious, time-consuming process with a lot of drying time between each step, but it was sooooo worth it! I am proud of every one of the 51 pages of my book!

Before submitting for my copyright and publishing, I had the wonderful opportunity of a meet and greet with a 3rd grade class of guinea pigs. Ms. Smith read Viridian’s Quest to her class over a couple of days and the feedback from my true critics was overwhelmingly positive!

Denise McGuire-Eddy and Viridian's Quest book

They loved the storyline, they loved the illustrations, they loved the characters, they wanted my autograph! It was a very heady experience! I thought I had a great story, but I was worried that maybe I thought so only because it was mine. We all think our children are the best looking, smartest, etc! But now I had validation from my target audience!

It is so satisfying to be proud of your work; it is something else entirely to know that you’ve inspired and excited children with your work! I have a fan base of 20 soon-to-be 4th graders that are clamoring for a sequel! I’m working on it guys!!

Denise McGuire-Eddy
Viridian’s Quest – Amazon (paperback)
Viridian’s Quest – Barnes & Noble (hardback)

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10 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Watercolor Helped A Dream Come True” by Denise McGuire-Eddy

    1. That’s pretty good advice! I think if you paint from a place of, “I’m just here to have fun” then most paintings turn out well because if nothing else, you learn something!

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was fun, and as with any child, at times, frustrating!:D But I’m excited to get right back to writing and illustrating the next one; just wrote page 15!:)

    1. Thanks so much, Ann! Soothing, I like that!:) I’ve never thought about it that way, but that’s a very interesting observation! I’m a pretty mellow person, so I guess that makes sense:D

      Sparkling Heart
      • artonthecreek

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