Ready. Set. Paint!

Sixteen artists. 24 easels. 20 minutes on the clock. Talented artists race against each other and the clock to earn the right to become the next Art Battle champion

The lights are low and The Great Hall in downtown Toronto is buzzing with excitement as artists take their places near their canvases in the centre of the room.

Each competitor has their own unique set of tools; brushes, palette knives, sponges and even paint rollers. Their palettes are covered in globs of paint in rainbow colours and then some.

The crowd is quiet, phones and cameras in hand as they wait for the first splash on paint to hit the canvas.

The announcer starts the countdown.

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five…

Ready. Set. Paint!

This is an art battle. Talented artists are racing against each other and the clock to paint the most popular piece and be crowned the next champion.

The event is organized by Art Battle International, competitive art organization that hosts monthly events for art lovers and creators alike in Toronto and other cities throughout the world. Duo Simon Plashkes and Chris Pemberton have been bringing the “competitive nature of the art world” to light for the past decade.

Listen to Simon Plashkes describe the philospophy of Art Battle International:

Art Battle International has expanded globally since its launch in 2008. Competitions are held in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and beyond.

Each competition has two rounds. Sixteen artists have 20 minutes to create their best work. Each round, the audience votes two winners to advance to the final. After the battle, the pieces are auctioned through silent bidding.

Paintings by the four finalists

Two of the paintings produced by Art Battle Finalist on Sept. 17, 2018.  (TijuANA Turner/Toronto Observer)


To win a competition like this, artists must work fast and smart, which can be intimidating for many first-timers.

Women painting.

Finalist Nassim Azadi putting the finishing touches on her painting. (Tijuana Turner/Toronto Observer)

But art battle virgin Navneet Nishant said they should overcome their fear.

“Don’t hesitate. Just go with it,” he said. “It’s not a marathon, we’re all here to have fun.”

Nishant, who works as a transformation consultant at CIBC, says he got into painting after moving to Toronto in 2015 to complete his MBA at Schulich School of Business.

Abstract painting

Navneet Nishant’s painting from round one “Zen”. Nishant heavily identifies with the symbolic nature of the Buddha head representing peace. Under the time constraint, he want to “paint my comfort symbol of tranquility.” (Tijuana Turner/Toronto Observer)

“I just walked in the store and bought some materials,” Nishant said. “And I never looked back.”

Unfortunately, despite his best efforts at the art battle, he didn’t make it to the finals on his first try.

Not many people do.

Competitor Montina Hussey knows that all too well.

Painting of a mother holding her baby.

Montina Hussey’s painting from round one “A Mother’s Love.” Hussey’s painting was inspired by her love for her son and wanted to create a piece that would symbolize that feeling.  (Tijuana Turner/Toronto Observer)

The Sept. 17 battle marked her third time competing. Her first was in January, when she found out when she was pregnant. She competed again in April.

Despite not making it to the final round, she remained in high spirits and showed off her baby bump.

Watch Hussey’s canvas go from blank to beautiful:

Hussey has been creating art since she was a girl and began freelancing in her early twenties. She got involved with the competition after attending once to support a friend.

Her top tip for newbies?

“Practice,” she said.

“It’s not something I do personally, but I noticed that people who do, do very well.”

Final Round Paintings

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Art Battle winner Bek Murrell agrees.

“Keep trying. I draw every day and I follow artists who inspire me,” she said.

Painter standing next to her painting.

Art Battle winner Bek Murrell poses next to her winning painting. Murrel says she focused on using the same skills and attention to detail that she uses as a tattoo artist to bring her painting to life. (Tijuana Turner/Toronto Observer)

She described winning as “unexpected but a lot of fun.” Murrell attributed her win to practicing through her new job as a tattoo artist and intensive studying of concepts, along with her friends’ support.

Murrell won $200 and a spot in the 2019 Art Battle Canada Nationals in Toronto as well as one of 14 spots to  compete in the 2019 Art Battle U.S. National Championships in Los Angeles.

See all the paintings from the event:




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Posted: Sep 22 2018 9:45 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Features