There’s a new sport coming to UFV, and it’s called the Art Battle. Artists will go head-to-head in three heats, painting a spectacular piece, each in only 20 minutes. Only one victor will emerge, and the still-wet canvasses will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. This is a new kind of spectator sport with full audience participation.
The Art Battle idea originated in Toronto, but has quickly become a nation-wide phenomenon and has spawned hundreds of events. Zo? Howarth, who runs her own event planning company, facilitates the Art Battles in the Fraser Valley. This time she’s teamed up with Nancy Barker, associate professor of UFV’s hospitality and event planning program, to bring the Art Battle to UFV. The event will be a practical experience for students in the hospitality and events program, which Zo? herself graduated from, to show how versatile the program’s career paths can be. The proceeds of the night will be donated as a scholarship for a student in the hospitality and events program. The culinary department will be providing the appetizers, and UFV students get discounted admission.
Two of the artists competing were eager to talk about their skills and how they got involved in the Art Battle. Sultan Jum graduated from UFV in 2016 after studying graphic design and works at Jelly Marketing as a multimedia specialist. Courtney Powell graduated from the York University in Toronto, O.N. with her bachelor of fine arts and teaches art to both adults and children. Both were willing to open up about their journey as artists and why they are competing.
How did you hear about the Art Battle and why did you decide to compete?
Sultan: I don’t quite remember how I got into Art Battles, but I remember for sure that my first one was at the end of the semester at UFV. Everyone was busy studying, and I was just like, “Why not try something new?” I love challenges within my expertise.
Courtney: I participated in the Vancouver Art Attack in 2015, and loved making a painting with other artists within a specific time frame. I teach painting and try to paint a little bit every day. I researched art battles throughout Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, and the Art Battle really stood out to me. Make a painting in under 20 minutes? Heck yes! Sometimes the greatest creations are made with a very strict deadline. The adrenaline pumps throughout your body and you kind of just stop thinking. I love competing because it makes me feel present in the moment and very alive. This is my first time competing in the Art Battle.
How have you prepared for the Art Battle and do you have any expectations on what it will be like?
Sultan: I didn’t prepare for my first Art Battle as I was too busy with classes. I didn’t have much time, so I literally went out there and started painting. [During] my first Art Battle, I really wanted to go to the washroom so I drew a baby trying to poop. Maybe too expressive, but I love what I did and [the audience] had a good laugh. As long as it’s fun and the people around me support [the] artists, everything will be great!
Courtney: I teach painting for a living and so I practice perspective and placement almost every day. Before the battle, I will find a composition that I particularly like. I will rehearse it mentally and ideally, physically a few times onto the canvas. Some of the greatest art is completely spur of the moment though, so we will see. I am expecting it to be challenging, fun, and exciting. Meeting the other artists will be a great experience. It is always nice to meet people who enjoy doing what you do, and hearing their processes.
What kind of mediums do you work with and what genre would you describe your art as?
Sultan: I personally love using a simple mechanical pencil. You don’t have to sharpen it and you can dive into small details with it. Other than that, I love to use anything that transfers on my art piece. A piece of coal? Sure, let’s make some shadows. Lipstick? Haven’t tried yet, seems like an interesting idea. Second, I paint. Coloured pencils take a long time to transfer onto paper. You can call me impatient but it’s just that my eyes want to see the result. I love elegant styles with a lot of contrast, colour, surrealism, and anime. I tend to jump from one [style] to another, never set to one. Maybe I should make my own?
Courtney: My main material is acrylic paint. I love acrylic because you can water it down and use it like watercolour. Acrylic also dries fast, so you can add lots of layers and transparency. Often I will try to incorporate other materials, such as leaves, flowers, candle wax, and paper towel. My work is a bit surrealist mixed with abstract expressionism and then dipped in realism. I love playing with dreams and many of my paintings have a particular rhythm that flows throughout the piece. Raccoons captivate me because of their mischievous nature. I also love butterflies because they remind us to fly free.
Sultan and Courtney will be competing in the Art Battle along with 10 other artists. The battle will have something for everyone, from art enthusiasts to sports fans. The Art Battle begins in the UFV Trades and Technology Centre in Chilliwack at 6:30 p.m. on October 20. Tickets are $10 for students or $20 for non-students. You can also purchase wine or beer to enjoy while you cheer on local artists as they compete for glory in this creative colosseum.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.