Events

Calling all painters: Art Battle is back

Local painters face off under the spotlight

Marian Chisholm, artist, takes her place at her easel.   Alexandra Biniarz

Six artists stand around spotlit easels, brushes in hand. Led by the announcer, the audience counts down from 10 and the games begin.

Art Battle made its way back to Halifax last Friday evening at the Dalhousie University Club. The live painting competition is an international organization that lets audience members observe artists in their creative process.

The medium used is acrylic paint and the only guideline is that artists must use tools and brushes provided by the competition. Artists can paint any image in any style, the only catch: they only have 20 minutes. At the end of the round, the audience votes for their favourite painting and the top two artists from each advance to the next round.

The event kick-started Art Battle’s fifth season in Halifax. Twelve artists competed in two rounds, all fighting to advance to the finals for a shot at a cash prize. The winner of Friday’s competition will get to compete in the provincials this spring for a chance to attend the Canadian championships in June.

Max Macaulay, an 18-year-old sketcher from Truro, was one of the youngest members participating on Friday. It was his first time competing. Although Macaulay doesn’t typically work with acrylic paints, he says the competition was a good opportunity to challenge himself — and hopefully make a few bucks in the process.

“It was fun,” said Macaulay after the first round. “I don’t expect to win the whole thing, but I’d really like to make it to the finals and get a chance to paint again.”

Some artists practice the same painting over and over again before the competition, while others simply grab the brush and wing it. Since it was his first competition, Macaulay had hoped to practice beforehand, but he ran out of time. So when the battle began, he improvised, painting a colourful version of a man’s profile.

The finished paintings were displayed under spotlights on one side of the room. A silent auction was set up, so the audience could bid on their favourites. If a painting was sold, the artist would receive half the profits.

The organization began seven years ago in Toronto and quickly made its way across the country. It has since become an international phenomenon; cities like New York, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro all host regular battles.

Andre Sampson, the coordinator for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick’s competitions, says it’s a unique event.

“It’s different than your average night out,” he said. “People will go see a music show or a play, but there isn’t an event that offers this experience.”

Hosting it every few months gives competitors multiple chances to earn recognition and get paid. It also encourages new participants to get involved without too much pressure.

Ken Ward has participated more times than he can count. He’s been painting for over 35 years and he likes that Art Battle gives the community a chance to witness artists in their creative process. Ward says his only issue is the “average person isn’t necessarily going to recognize which is the best painting,” so the competition isn’t the best judge of skill.

“I normally work with a bigger canvas and way more colours, but as an artist you have to keep challenging yourself,” said Ward. “It’s fun and this way a lot of people get to see my work.”

Elizabeth Cole, Sam Stein, KimmerT and Max Macaulay advanced to the final round, and an enthusiastic audience granted Elizabeth Cole the victory for her painting of a dark landscape. The painting sold to the highest bidder for $100.

The next Halifax Art Battle will be on March 3.