Painting with Her Heart

Artist Kathleen Chisholm McInerney captures family lakeside memories in paintings, along with beautiful florals and landscapes
Artwork by Kathleen Chisholm McInerney
Credit: Kathleen Chisholm McInerney

It’s been said that artist Kathleen Chisholm McInerney not only paints with her heart, but looks into the hearts of those who commission her to create a painting. The Birmingham resident also has a way of reminding her customers of their blessings: A cross or an angel, for example, may be hidden in a background.

McInerney, who holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, uses mostly acrylic paint on canvas.

Says Birmingham’s Amy Gooch, whose husband and daughters recently commissioned a painting: “Kathleen captured the memories made and laughter shared at our summer cottage on Torch Lake in a painting. She put depth and detail in every stroke, and even included a special cross in the background reminding us of our many blessings. I smile every time I look at it.”

Amy Frasco, also of Birmingham, raves about a painting the artist created of a water/beach scene that includes Frasco’s family at her childhood vacation spot. “It portrays my idea of heaven,” she says, adding that she also has a wedding painting that features her husband and herself with a beautiful lake behind them. “It was a gift from my in-laws,” she explains. “We have a blended family and you can see our five kids in the painting. Kathleen really looks into her clients’ hearts.”

In a recent conversation with BLUE, McInerney, who also has written and illustrated a children’s book, spoke about everything from catching minnows and painting Petoskey stones with clear nail polish as a child to how she brings her clients’ memories to life.

Kathleen Chisholm McInerney
Credit: Kathleen Chisholm McInerney

BLUE: How do the Great Lakes affect you?

Kathleen Chisholm McInerney: When I look out at our blue lakes, I feel a great calm and peace. As an impressionist artist, I love to watch the sun bounce along the water as it shifts from deep blues to lighter, pale blues. I’m also mesmerized by reflections in still water.

BLUE: What are some of your favorite water-inspired memories?

KCM: I grew up going to Orchard Lake Country Club. In the summer, I used to catch minnows there in a Dixie cup, took sailing lessons, and I believed Chief Pontiac was still on the lake’s Apple Island! We also vacationed on Lake Charlevoix when my father was playing golf there in Michigan amateur tournaments. We’d stay in a frame cottage that was decorated floor-to-ceiling in orange — it even had an orange kitchen. We’d vacation in that area with other families, too. All of us kids would collect Petoskey stones and, later in the day, we’d paint clear nail polish on them to make them shine. Those summers seemed to last forever.

BLUE: How does Michigan affect your works?

KCM: This state inspires me to paint from a place of wonderment, wanting to catch a feeling, a moment in time, a breeze on a sailboat or on a dock with your family, or relaxing on a porch. Our sunsets, too, inspire, with purple blues, bright pinks, and oranges.

Artwork by Kathleen Chisholm McInerney
Credit: Kathleen Chisholm McInerney

BLUE: How would you describe your style?

KCM: I’m an impressionist artist. I love brilliant colors and capturing moments of light in time. And I always gravitate toward blue, I love blue! I’m known for a thick, loaded brushstroke. I strive to create a push-and-pull of color on canvas. I prefer to use acrylic paint compared to oil paints because of the easy water clean-up and less toxicity.

BLUE: You do a lot of commissions — some are cottage-themed, while others are stunning florals, captivating landscapes, and even angels and other spiritual subjects. Your clients have said your work tugs at their heart. How does your paintbrush evoke that tug?

KCM: I’m very open to painting what a client can envision. It’s important to me to capture a meaningful memory. I also often add a sacred touch into a painting, with a hidden word or family mantra worked into the background.

Artwork by Kathleen Chisholm McInerney
Credit: Kathleen Chisholm McInerney

BLUE: Tell us more about those shoreline cottage beauties.

KCM: A couple of my recent commissions came about because the clients both had been looking for a piece of art that had meaning, a sacredness. They both had a vision and needed me to bring their visions to reality.

One woman reached out to me to surprise her mom with a painting of their family home on Torch Lake for Christmas. She and her sister and dad all worked with me to create a painting of them all on the dock, with their beautiful home in the background. Now they have a family treasure that will be handed down one day.

Another couple had this vision of owning a painting that they’d hang in their Naples, Fla., home. They wanted the painting to show her favorite family vacation spot in Lost Lake Woods in northeast Michigan. It was really cool to work from a very old photo of the resort and photos of the family members.

I love to bring a moment back to life in my commissioned pieces.

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