By Melissa Heald
Feb. 12, 2014
The audience enters a large dimly lit room. In the middle is a brightly lit stage.
The crowd gathers around, not entirely sure what is about to take place. All they know is a battle is about to happen.
A battle where the two enemies are a blank canvas and time. A battle where the weapons of choice are brushes and paint.
For this is a battle with a twist. This is an art battle.
Held at the P.E.I. Brewing Company in Charlottetown on Fed. 8, 12 Island artists competed in the first ever Art Battle on the Island.
And what is an art battle?
Alex Douglas, director of branding and community engagement at the P.E.I. Brewing Company, said an art battle is where 12 artists, divided into two groups of six, compete in three separate rounds and must create from a blank canvas in 20 minutes a complete work of art. Two winners from each round would advance to the final and the winners are based on the audience votes.
Now in its fifth season, Art Battle started in Toronto in 2009 when founders
Simon Plashkes and Chris Pemberton were looking for a way to bring out the hidden competition that exists within the art world.
Both founders were attending the event to help the brewery launch their first battle.
Plashkes said the nature of art is very passive – aggressive.
People put up a painting and the painting sales or somebody gets a show and somebody else doesn’t get a show, said Plashkes.
“So the competition is there but it’s hidden. It’s subdued.”
Both founders thought it would be interesting to create a forum for people to learn about art, painters and painting and where the competition could be brought to the surface, said Plashkes.
“Hence Art Battle, where the audience votes for the winner.”
Plashkes said the audience should expect a view into the artist process.
“They should be able to see and learn how one artist standing next to the other differs in their approach to creating a beautiful work of art.”
The artists, on the other hand, should expect to be treated like rock stars because Art Battle is a far cry from working in a studio to having the lights on and having the audience cheer as you step to the easel, said Plashkes.
“That’s what we will deliver. An adrenaline rush and opportunity to share their prospective to the world and the audience.”
And that’s how Chelsea MacCormack described the experience.
The fundamental art student at Holland College competed in the first round, calling it an adrenaline pumper.
“I was just trying to put in as much as I could with the time I had.”
She heard of Art Battle before but never thought it would come to Charlottetown, said MacCormack.
“When a friend told me about it coming, I was very excited, and as soon as he told me, I immediately registered for it.”
To prepare, she thought a lot about the colours she was going to use and the design but even before the first round started it was all still up in the air, said MacCormack.
MacCormack didn’t advance to the final round but definitely wants to do it again.
“It was only my first time but with some practice it will just get funnier and funnier.”
Competing with MacCormack during her round was Jeff Kelly, who advanced to the final round and won the whole event.
Kelly said it was awesome to compete but coming out on top was extra awesome, especially since he didn’t think he would win.
“I just came in to have fun and try it out.”
To prepare, he practised by doing 20 minutes drawings and paintings because usually his paintings take 15 – to 20 – plus hours to complete, said Kelly.
“It changes you as an artist because your mind takes over while your painting 20 hours but when you have only 20 minutes you think of nothing.”
You just do the work and just go, said Kelly.
Kelly said he would recommend the experience for any artist to try but gave some sound advice for anyone thinking of competing.
“Know what you are going to do beforehand and come in with a game plan and practise.”
Douglas said the space at the brewery was built for such events in mind because both him and the brewery are huge supports of the art community.
“The brewery heard about Art Battle and thought it would be a great fit for the company.”
Douglas said the event would be held monthly until June when the finals will take place where one Island artist will win a spot at the national finals in Toronto.