300 paintings in 365 days
June 22, 2010
For the past nine months, a typical day in the life of Susette Billedeaux Gertsch has involved leaving her home armed with a portable easel, paintbrushes and a gaggle of gear to combat the elements, and allowing intuition and spontaneity to determine her destination.
On occasion, that has meant braving below-freezing temperatures in a foam bodysuit and thawing paintbrushes in jugs of boiling water in the back of her Honda sedan.
Gertsch, a Midway-based artist and art instructor, recently became a member of the International Society of Limners. Last September, she created a "Limness contract" in which she pledged to complete 300 plein air paintings over the course of 365 days.
She is two-thirds of the way to reaching her goal and will display approximately 200 pieces at an exhibition at Midway Town Hall June 25-28.
Gertsch says she initially became fascinated by the limner lifestyle during a 2009 trip to Europe. There she met John Hall, an English artist who describes himself as a ‘limner’ in a nod to landscape and portrait painters who traveled from town to town in the North American colonies.
Hall had completed more than 500 paintings as part of a personal contract in 2004. He encouraged Gertsch to embark on her own painting odyssey and when she returned home to Utah, she did just that.
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Gertsch is the president and co-founder of the Midway Art Association, which produces exhibits and workshops and is the sponsor of the annual Wasatch Plein Air Paradise Competition. She has created and taught art for 30 years, but she says she didn’t realize her passion for painting until she immersed herself in her recent undertaking.
According to the International Society of Limners, "limning" is done by someone who paints 100 percent from life on location. A contract is a limner’s personal commitment to keep a log and to engage in painting a set number and size of works within a given period of time.
The society’s motto is to "Sketch often, sketch from life and share." Gertsch paints whenever and wherever possible, refusing to let uncontrollable circumstances interfere with her goal.
She has painted from locations around Heber Valley as well as from roadside stops during trips to Arizona and California. The location is not as important as the conditions, she says.
"The weather has been particularly difficult this year. Blowing wind and rain are just painful, but I’ve done all of it. It’s slowed me down but it hasn’t stopped me," she says.
Enduring harsh winter and slushy spring conditions has resulted in a series of revelations about herself. "I’ve learned that I’m a lot tougher than I thought I was," she says. "I’ve become much more tolerant of changing variables in nature."
She has also learned a great deal about her artistic skills and style. "It has been the greatest education in being an artist and in painting that I’ve ever had," she says of the project. "It’s trained my eye and my sensibilities about color it’s honed every skill about design and color and perception. It’s given me confidence as an artist.’
Gertsch shares her experiences as a limner on her blog, which helps meet the "sharing" portion of the limner manifesto. She posts photos of her paintings accompanied by journal entries on a regular basis.
"The blog is critical to what I’m doing. It’s a witness to my process and it has held me accountable," she explains. "In doing it every day, it has made me realize what I’m deeply and truly passionate about, which is being an artist."
In addition to blogging, Gertsch shares her project with others by inviting passers-by to stop and add a few strokes to the painting she’s working on. In limner language, those who witness and contribute to a work in progress are called "shiners."
"It’s allowed me to have some fun interaction with people," she says.
Gertsch’s paintings are primarily 16-by-24-inch landscapes using acrylics on boards and canvas. Some paintings are slightly smaller and some are created with oil paints or oils over acrylics.
"I love that juicy effect of the oils and there’s a softness to it that I really like. I’m evolving that technique," she says.
All of her paintings will be on sale at the Limness Project exhibition at Midway Town Hall. An artist’s reception will be held Friday, June 25, from 4 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Midway Town Hall is located at 124 West Main St.
Gertsch is also planning to participate in the Park City Kimball Arts Festival, which will be held Aug. 7-8.
For more information about her artwork, visit http://www.themidwayartist.com .