On October 2, I competed in my first art battle competition in Abbotsford, British Columbia. What a great experience! If you haven’t heard of art battle or watched one, how it works is that there are twelve artists, six competing in rounds 1 and 2. Two painters from each round go on to the third round. The winners are selected through audience votes, and the audience can also bid on your painting in a silent auction.
Each round is only 20 minutes long, and while you are painting, the crowd circulates and mingles while you work. (Unfortunately for me, this cast shadows across my canvas, which you can see, above, making it really hard to see what I was doing).
I learned so much through art battle, which pushed me in a lot of positive ways. This was the biggest “push” I’ve had creatively since I exhibited some paintings for the first time about four years ago. Other pushes in my artist’s life were: signing up for my first class at Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver in 2004 after reading “The Artist’s Way,” creating my own website (2005) and starting to sell my work (slowly!!), with the latest step in that direction being the new etsy shop.
The practice leading up to art battle was great and I focused on two main things that were way out of my comfort zone: painting FAST and painting in front of an audience. Knowing that I usually paint very very slowly and love to be alone, I practiced as much as I could to come up with an idea that I thought I could complete under pressure. This was a good idea, when faced with a few surprises like not having a surface to set down my supplies/paints as I expected, and having heavy shadows cast across my canvas. I still knew what I wanted to achieve and just did my best. I realized that I wanted to paint something that was characteristic of me and my passions, specifically the energy of the forest and the messy branches and plants found there, similar to BC painter Gordon Smith. I knew that representational pieces and portraits tend to win more votes, but these just aren’t my style. I had to translate my mixed media and collage techniques into pure acrylic, and this was a great challenge for stretching my techniques.
Practicing showed me that I can get art done in between all my chores and duties with a baby and two older kids and a husband. It showed me that it’s time to get some new paint! I used up lots of pitiful, dried up tubes of paint. What a treat to use fresh, endless paint during the competition.
The most surprising benefit of participating was that people voted for me and spoke to me about my work. People liked it; people could relate. I was very flattered by some of the comments I received. I fully expected only a few votes from my wonderful supportive husband, friends and relatives who came to the event. But I got quite a few more. And my painting sold – not for very much – but it sold.
I forgot to mention that during the week leading up to the event, I also read through The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This book encouraged me a lot to take a risk and put myself out there. I may not be the best artist, and my work may not be to everyone’s taste, but I felt like I am a “real artist.”
I also learned that doing something like this event is about entertaining people with my talents. I felt very much like a poor musician who would go to great lengths to perform a free or low-paid gig just for the excitement.
After the event I was exhausted and had to focus back on planet earth where the house needed cleaning and the 8-month-old needed the entire house baby-proofed as he’s learned to crawl and climb and cruise. But in the back of my head is a new long creative to-do list…after replacing burnt umber and some other paint supplies, I need to update my website–which I have abandoned–but realize it is sorely needed because I no longer have an online gallery. I also want to create some new listings on etsy with some affordable prints of my work. I’m also doing some little crafty baby things I want to sell, and of course I want to paint some new work!
All of this is difficult to accomplish with my busy little family and my return to full-time work lurking in the new year, but I love putting my creative life as close to the front burner as I can. One day I try to do that is through photography. It’s something instagram and my phone camera have enabled me to do that I couldn’t do just a couple of years ago.
So that is a fairly long report about my month, all to say that I had a great experience with Art Battle and would be willing to do it again sometime, but maybe when my baby gets over separation anxiety!