How Beth McKenna Learned to Paint, Find Inspiration

The long-time Libertyville resident helped launch an art program at Copeland Manor School.

Beth McKenna, who , began working with acrylics, then tried oils. Her paintings range from abstracts, to landscapes, to seascapes, to still lifes. She has been taking painting classes in Highland Park and recently began learning the art of woodblock printmaking at a print studio in Evanston. It’s a technique she now knows she’ll continue using.

“I go do the woodblocks, then I go paint a traditional landscape, then I’ll paint a completely abstract piece. And so I’ve just got things going all the time,” McKenna explained. “I keep my hands in a lot of different things.”

Aside from her own endeavors, she also does commissions for individual art buyers or home designers.

“I’ll do a picture of somebody’s ranch in Texas and a picture of somebody else’s lake house in Wisconsin,” McKenna said. “Sometimes it’s just a commission saying, ‘I need a painting for my living room.’ So it’s very loose. It doesn’t bother me and I’ve never had that backfire on me.”

Inspiration All Around

McKenna says that so many things inspire her, and that she sometimes agonizes over capturing the color of something. Snow, she says, isn't really white. 

“Many things inspire me. It can just be color and light,” she said. “And then I’ll circle around and I’ll be doing these landscapes. And then I’ll be doing something totally abstract that’s inspired by music or a garden.

“I find myself doing a lot of landscapes and seascapes,” she said. “I love to be outdoors. I’m always hiking and taking thousands of pictures of things. So I think that inspires me more than anything else.”

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