Bettey Naymark, right, poses with one of her portrait subjects. (Photo courtesy of Byron Park.)

To be a good portrait artist, one needs to have an uncompromising attention to detail. From the probing eyes of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to the haunting aura of Van Gogh’s last self portrait, the smallest of details can make a big difference.

Like the portraits she creates of other residents at Kisco Senior Living’s Byron Park in Walnut Creek, CA, Bettey Naymark’s journey as an artist is all about those details. 

“I love anatomy and bone structure and just people in general,” Naymark said. “When I came here, I didn’t think I was going to do [portraits] anymore, and I had given away most of my equipment. After a couple of years, I thought ‘Maybe I can try again.’ And it’s been a great joy to me.”

Naymark has been painting since she was 10 years old and continues to do so at age 99. She studied art at San Jose State University, where she met her husband. They subsequently started a family.

But the university was not the end of her formal art education. She went back to art school at age 50 and then worked as a professional painter and teacher for 30 years. 

Today, Naymark uses her talents to connect with other residents. To her, the craft is much more than recreating a person’s likeness. It’s all about the details that bring it to life. 

“Being able to work through portraiture has long been a medium that has given me a great deal of joy, knowing that I get to bring individuals to life in a very special way for their loved ones,” she said. “You’re capturing someone at a very specific moment in time, and there’s just something incredibly special about doing so that is different in portrait form as opposed to a photograph.”

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