Just call me #113. That’s the number Diane Leifheit assigned to me when I agreed to have my portrait painted recently. It’s only fair. I produced a story about Diane painting pastel portraits of Saranac Lake residents this year as part of her “Face to Face: Drawn to Saranac Lake” project.
Wait, I don’t live in Saranac Lake. But Diane assured me that in an early morning “ethereal” sense, I’m part of Saranac Lake. So, I qualified for the portrait sitting.
I’m a patient person, which is a good thing. Diane asks models to set aside two hours for the session. And, really, one just needs to sit. “What I ask people to do is sit down and don’t feel like you have to be frozen in time and try not to do a mug shot,” she says.
There’s lots of eye contact between artist and subject, and a little conversation. We both stand and stretch at the midpoint, but I’m not allowed to peek at the painting…yet.
I’ve watched Diane paint flower gardens and landscapes, and ask which she prefers – people or “plein air” scenes. “A landscape doesn’t talk back,” she replies with a smile. She’s actually enjoyed the portrait project as an excuse to get to know her Saranac Lake neighbors.
“I’m seeing friends that I haven’t seen in years and spending two hours with them and doing their face at the same time. And that interaction is pretty interesting and sort of shows up on the painting. But the other thing that happened to me is, as an artist when I’m working, I don’t talk, and now I am talking. It’s something I usually — my brain was keeping it separate — and now, I can talk and work at the same time. And I find that to be really wild for me to be able to do that. It’s very mind-opening and I’m not sure where that’s going to take me,” she says.
And then it’s time for the reveal. I step around to look at myself – bright orange NCPR ballcap, blue polo shirt and that great face for radio!
Diane Leifheit is hoping to complete about 170 paintings by mid-December, and you can follow her progress on her artist blog: http://dianeleifheit.blogspot.com. Listen to Diane’s conversation with me about the portrait project.