MAC Artist of the Month: Nettye Lamkay

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Story and photo by William Peck.

“As a kid, I was always sketching,” remembers Nettye Lamkay, pastel artist.  She adds: “I actually can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to draw.”

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Growing up in New York City she was encouraged by a few teachers’ reactions to pencil sketches they found that she had hidden inside her desks.

She smiles as she recounts, as a 13-year-old, having entered, and won, a “box top” contest for free art lessons.

Unfortunately, since the contest had stipulated contestants be age 18 or older, when she, the winner, was found out, she was denied the prize. 

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“I still felt pretty good about it,” Nettye recalls. “I took one art class in college, but I never really had any formal training in art”. 

But informally, persistently, she continued to draw. 

She describes her notebooks filled with doodles and sketches. 

Following her schooling, she moved to Albany, NY, where for a time she was an English teacher. 

Then there was family and years devoted to her children and volunteer work.

Empty-nested and “retired” some 7 years ago Nettye was able to pursue her abiding interest in art. 

At artist workshops, she learned to work with oil paint and watercolors, but the “Oh, yes!” moment came when she was introduced to pastels. 

Now, although she occasionally works with paint, her primary medium is soft pastels. 

Working with pastels she says is more akin to drawing than painting.    

“Pastel art has a kind of sketchy quality, which I like.”

Nettye has participated in a number of artist shows in the Albany, NY area. 

A very special occasion occurred several years ago when she was honored with a one-person show of her work. 

She began to enjoy the sale of some of her work, at first to friends and relatives.

“It was very special when someone who didn’t even know me bought one of my works,” she said. “It was so validating.”

The beauty of the natural world  –  and people  – are what attracts her eye.

She describes herself as a very visual person who loves the outdoors, be it strolling along a city street or finding her way up into the pasture behind her house. 

While viewing her collection one finds several head and shoulders portraits, but landscapes and peopled scenes are noted more commonly. 

Fields and woodlands, lakes, streams and beaches, as well as town and city scapes, rendered in pastels, have a calming, soft-edged appeal.

In her studio one notes a nearly vertical easel (that allows excess chalk dust to fall away) and a large array of pencils and pastels. 

A jar of protective hand ointment is on the table. It turns out that pastel chalk can be a bit toxic.

Also noted is an electronic tablet set up close to the easel.

Nettye often renders her work from photographs she has made. 

Her works often begin with a pencil sketch over which the pastels are applied and blended.

Before completion, most of her images require hours of her time. Weeks, sometimes months can go by as she revisits her drawings for revisions and touch-ups.  

When asked how she knows that the pastel drawing is finally done she laughs.

“When it is framed behind glass.”

Nettye and her husband divide their time between a residence in Albany, NY, and a small home in Newport Center with a big view of an old barn and Lake Memphremagog. 

Looking to the future she hopes to spend more time here in Vermont.

She also intends to spend more time behind her easel to further advance her skills. 

She contemplates exploring a more impressionistic style while maintaining the sketchy and sparkly quality that she believes helps to make her work attractive and distinctive.

Nettye Lamkay’s art can be seen on Facebook at nettyelamkayfineart.  

Framed original pastels are available for your admiration and for sale at the MAC Gallery on Main Street in Newport.

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