Taking it in

SARANAC LAKE – It seems like it’s taken Mary Byrom her entire life to get to Saranac Lake, and now she doesn’t want to leave.

The North Berwick, Maine, resident came to the area with her husband, Marcus Gale, to participate in the sixth annual Adirondack Plein Air Festival.

“I’ve watched this place from Vermont for years,” Byrom said. “It’s such an interesting place. There are these little pockets of civilization, but it still just looks so wild. I know there are homes on some of these lakes, but when you’re out on the water it seems like it’s just the loons and you.”

Byrom spoke to the Enterprise from the shore of Lake Flower, where she worked on a painting of the lake and the mountains – Baker, McKenzie, Haystack and Colburn – that pierce the sky behind it.

The scene is more rugged than what Byrom is used to, and she likes it. The artist spends the majority of her time painting along the Maine coast. Sometimes Byrom also paints in the studio, anything from people to food, but she has to travel to New Hampshire find mountains for her canvas.

Last year, her friend and fellow plein air painter George Van Hook told her she had to go to Saranac Lake to paint, so she obliged. To people here, that name might sound familiar. Van Hook won the Best in Show Award at last year’s festival for his oil painting “Spirit of the River.” He wasn’t able to attend this year’s festival.

On the opposite side of Lake Flower, Jodie Maurer was busy painting the iconic view of Scarface Mountain that greets visitors as they pass through the village along Lake Flower Avenue.

Maurer moved from Missouri to Armonk, a town a little north of New York City, in November.

Maurer said plein air painting brought her to Saranac Lake last spring, and it brought her here this time, too. She has made a life out of painting outdoors, and has painted landscapes everywhere she’s been, including Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Ideally, Maurer hopes to get her paintings in galleries in Saranac Lake, which means she’ll have to come back. That, she said, won’t be an issue.

“I had no idea New York state is so beautiful,” Maurer said. “I’ve been up through the Hudson Valley, down to the coast in New Jersey and I’ve been to the Catskills. I just love the landscape here in the Adirondacks, though.”

Saranac Lake Artworks member Sandra Hildreth said about 80 people participated in this year’s Plein Air Festival. That’s about 20 more than last year.

On Thursday, Hildreth was in the Adirondack Artists Guild, which she is also a member of, greeting the artists and helping them display their finished pieces. She said painters from as far away as Indiana traveled to the area for the event.

If Hildreth has her way, the festival will continue to grow with each successive year.

“I just want people to come, enjoy themselves and paint,” Hildreth said.

Adirondack Plein Air Festival runs through Sunday and ends with a juried art show at the Harrietstown Town Hall at noon. Each artist will display three pieces and awards will be given out at 1 p.m. The artwork will also be sold in a silent auction, which ends at 3 p.m. Proceeds from the auction go toward scholarships and art supplies for the Saranac Lake School District.