Sketching those who are drawn here

SARANAC LAKE – Some people spend their entire lives feeling drawn to this village, but it only takes two hours to get drawn here.

Artist Diane Leifheit began making portraits of people who visit or live in Saranac Lake last January, and so far she’s completed more than 50 of the pastel drawings for her project called “Face to Face, Drawn to Saranac Lake.”

Her goal is to include everyone who comes to the area for whatever reason, whether it’s to visit relatives, grab a bite to eat before a week-long wilderness excursion, or to buy a house and raise a family.

“Everyone comes here for a different reason, but so many people I’ve met say they feel drawn to the area,” Leifheit said. “I want to get the whole demographic, from people who were raised here to the accidental tourist.”

It’s a project of Adirondack proportions. Leifheit said she hopes it will yield about 160 portraits when she finishes on Dec. 15.

So far, the endeavor has been well received. Leifheit draws two faces a day, three days a week at Compass Printing Plus, on Main Street across from the Harrietstown Town Hall. The sessions are now booked into July, but she said she will leave a day reservation-free during the summer for walk-ins.

“There’s a lot of Adirondack painting, and this goes along with plein air, but we don’t have enough of the figure in there,” Leifheit said. “People are part of it. People are a part of nature, and they’re a part of the story.”

The process is simple and painless. The sitter makes an appointment, shows up and chats with Leifheit while she sketches him or her. Leifheit began doing figure drawing when she was 15.

“I want to do more than sketch people; I want to capture their essence,” Leifheit said. “That’s why having a conversation is a big part of this.”

The first phase of “Face to Face,” drawing people, is funded by a $2,000 New York State Council on the Arts grant.

Each participant will get a scanned copy of his or her portrait at a later date, and the originals will be framed and hung at a yet-to-be determined location in Saranac Lake. Leifheit said that’s the second phase of the project, and she hopes to get another grant to help cover that.

Pendragon Theatre is the fiscal sponsor for the first grant, and anyone who wants to donate money can do so through the theater.