Imagine it’s late Tuesday night in Toronto. You enter a small performance hall, and right in the centre of the floor is a smaller stage. The multiple spotlights’ white beams all focus on the circle of empty canvases. The slightly used brushes were only meant for the artists to touch and soon use to paint the winning masterpiece of the night.
As they stand in front of their empty canvas, some artists’ eyes are filled with determination, some with nerves, and some with ease. But soon, all of the painters lose themselves with the high of the crowd watching every brushstroke they make — the same crowd that will later judge them.
This is Art Battle Toronto.
And all are welcome to a night of watching artists compete with one another.
The colourful history of Art Battle
Art Battle started in 2001 in New York City, according to their official website, and the Canadian version was founded in 2009 by best friends Chris Pemberton and Simon Plashkes. Their aim is to celebrate art’s creation and have artists step up to the easel.
There are 12 artists in each competition. Two are “wildcards” artists who sign up to join the competition at the door and are randomly selected at the start of each round. There are three rounds in total, and each round lasts for 20 minutes.
There are six artists in rounds 1 and 2 before the final Round 3, where four finalists from rounds 1 and 2 compete. The last winner standing competes at the regionals that will happen later this year.
It is a standing event, where audience members can walk around on the ground level or second level. The audience can rotate around the platform where they’re free to take pictures of the artists and their work, record videos, and appreciate the process.
How the winner is elected
Audience members are encouraged to let the artist focus on their work, and they’re able to speak with them after their time is up. The full event is also viewable via streaming on their website.
After each round, audience members can vote on their phones with a link provided to them when they give their phone number to a worker at the door. If one is interested in one of the art pieces, they can also bid on it in an auction and take it home with them, or have it shipped to a provided address.
Julie Amlin Mastranto, an abstract impressionist artist and a mother of two, was one of the competing artists Tuesday night. She describes her artwork as “full with energy and movement” and “infused with fun.” Mastranto brought an upbeat attitude and performance and competed with a smile on her face. Although she admitted she went onto the platform without a formal plan, she said she lost herself in her palette’s colours.
Mastranto is a mural artist before the competition and said that interacting with the audience was similar at Art Battle. “I loved the interaction between them and the questions they would ask and it really like I fed off of it so much that I think art battle was a similar experience.”
“You’d circle the room and look at their canvas, and it was such a mystery because you couldn’t always tell what they were creating.” Mastranto said, “By the time you’d circle back to them, it’s like a new painting.”
Clyde Laudato, a tattoo artist from the Philippines, specializing in figurative abstract art, who started his creative journey in 2011, was one of the finalists in the third round. He describes his art style as, “It’s like studying the colour without making it muddy. But, at the same time, making it experimental.”
Laudato said what makes Art Battle different from previous competitions is the power of the audience. “It’s not about the depth or your knowledge in colour composition. They decide by instinct, you know.”
Mastranto said she’ll compete again, as it’s her “duty to share abstract art.” Laudato said he might compete again, but for now, he enjoys painting in his own free time and his tattoo work.
By the night’s end, artist Enrique Bravo was dubbed the latest Art Battle showdown winner and will compete at Regionals later in the year.
Art Battle is a chance for people to spend a night in the city and take in the Toronto art scene.
Serena, a first-time attendee of the event, said she had never seen anything like Art Battle.
“You wouldn’t expect an event like this in Toronto,” she said.
The next Art Battle Toronto event will be held at The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. West on March 29, 2022. Ticket prices range from $15-$30. Students can get a 10 per cent discount if they present a student ID.