Live painting is a type of visual performance art. It isn’t new, but it has definitely seen a resurgence over the past 10-20 years. A lot of great artists painted with an audience or took their painting outside of the studio and to the streets or the countryside. Street and graffiti artists are known for live painting. It’s become quite common for artists to offer their services at special events like weddings, birthday parties and corporate events. It brings a unique feeling to the event.
Art battles or live painting competitions are a way to show the public the creative process, give artists an audience and a chance to sell their art. Art Battle was started by Chris Pemberton and Simon Plashkes in Toronto in 2009. It has since evolved into a monthly event in Toronto and there are also events held in major cities across Canada. At the end of the events, the completed art is auctioned off to the audience. The artist with the most votes in the final round is the winner. In the early years, any painting that did not reach the minimum bid was destroyed with a chainsaw (ouch). It appears that things have toned down and the chainsaw isn’t used anymore.
On January 23, 2016, I attended my local live painting competition, The Brush Off. It’s billed as a friendly live painting competition, as opposed to a battle. 1 night, 21 artists, 4 rounds, 36 original works. It was the 5th annual event and The MUSEUM was packed. I was rubbing shoulders with hundreds of other people. It was my second time going to this popular, sell-out event. I did overhear some guests lamenting the crowd size and reminiscing about previous years when it was “less busy” and “less popular”. The size of the crowd did make it hard to navigate, but I think it’s a good sign that more people are engaging with art and supporting artists.
It was easy to gauge the popularity of the participants by the audience cheers when they were introduced. Some of the artists had participated before and seemed to have an established fan base. I enjoyed getting an up-close look at the work when it went up on the auction wall. It was comical to see some of the paintings almost displayed the wrong way. Thankfully, eagle-eyed guests helpfully pointed out the right direction to the staff.
I was amazed at what was created in 30 minutes. Besides the pressure of the time limit and a large audience, there was also loud music playing.
The winners of the 2016 edition of The Brush Off were:
1. Ethel Augusto
2. Ralf Wall
3. Meredith Blackmore
It was an entertaining evening. There was a lot of talent in the room. I’m looking forward to next year’s event. I wonder if any of the artists will be back for 2017.
Have you ever been to a live painting competition, either as a guest or participant? What was your experience?
Story and photos by Glodeane Brown