Art Battle – How to enjoy it, from a self-professed Art Battle addict

Art Battle is live competitive painting. The audience watches, cheers, votes, and bids in support of the artists and their paintings.  Rounds are 20 minutes in length. 2 winners from each round will advance to the final and compete for a cash prize and the title of AB19 Champion.

So, you’ve never been before?  Cool, no worries. Here are a few suggestions:

See it all – Arriving fashionably late is sexy for other types of exhibits, where the art is static, but Art Battle is an experience you’ll appreciate more if you see it from start to finish. Doors open at 730, and it gets going at 8pm. Getting to see the canvases transform from stark white rectangles into incredible works of art in 20 minutes is something you don’t get to see very often, and won’t want to miss.

Get up close – Art Battle is set up so you can see the paintings from numerous angles.    The painters aren’t paying any attention to you, so don’t be afraid to stand right beside them or behind them.  Remember that the painters, who have spent 20 intimate minutes with the painting you’re admiring from afar, are paying attention to lots of little details, try to see them too.

Take pictures – With your film camera,  your dslr, your lomograph, your cell phone, whatever… but don’t forget to put down the screen and see what your documenting through your actual eyes too.

Social media – Some people like to post pictures to Facebook or live Tweet the event, and if you do, use the hashtag #AB19 and/or #artbattle, or mention the @artbattleto but similarly to the pictures, don’t forget to put it down some of the time.  Remember that you’re there, surrounded by beautiful people, and they probably think you’re prettier without that blue glow on your face.

Separate – It’s great that you’re arriving with friends, but give yourself the space to experience each of the paintings through your own eyes.  Split up and get some of you to go clockwise and some to go counterclockwise, and meet up again to talk about what you saw in the last couple minutes.

Talk to people – See someone gazing at the same painting you really like? Ask them what they like about it.  Make bets with strangers about who’s going to win each round. Find out why people are there, how they heard about it, what they are liking the best, are most surprised by, most excited about.

Vote for your favourite – This can mean a multitude of things, from the one that surprised you the most in its transformation, the most intricate, the most beautiful, the most striking, etc.  I always seem to struggle between the one I find most creative, and the one I’d most want hanging on my walls. Whatever you choose, make sure you choose for your self – Art Battle  is a democratic process.

Talk to the artists – One of the coolest things I’ve experienced over the course of my Art Battle obsession, is getting to know some of the most talented painters in Toronto.  One of my favourite experiences was talking to one painter, who was admiring another painter, and finding out about how they went to art school together.  I learned about how far the talent had progressed in mere months. Tell them how much you appreciate it. Ask them about their work. But if they don’t seem to want to talk, leave them alone :)

Buy the art – There are going to be painters there who sell their art for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, and they’re going to be there, performing for you for the 1 in 17 chance of winning  $300 dollars.  But each of the paintings that are created on Tuesday are also for sale in a silent auction.  The artists take home 50% of the highest bid (and if they don’t make the minimum bid, they get destroyed).   People spend soooo much money on prints and canvases of the same size at un-named Swedish superstore, and millions of other people will have the same pieces on their own walls. If you buy from Art Battle, you’ll be taking home (or giving as a gift! It’s holiday season) an incredibly unique piece of art. I’ve bought 4, including paintings from 2 Art Battle champions.  They have been worth every penny.

Ignore everything I’ve written above –  “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time” (Thomas Merton), so whatever makes you happy (or pensive, or engaged, or inspired, or however it is that you want to feel or be while you’re there).  I’ll just be glad you’re there with me.  Art battle is an addiction I have zero desire to beat, and vices are more fun with friends.


A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.
Hedy Lamarr 


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