This Friday students representing post-secondary fine arts programs from across Vancouver Island will meet in Nanaimo to face off in a battle for artistic superiority and bragging rights.
Up to four students each from Camosun College, North Island College, Vancouver Island University and the University of Victoria will be at VIU’s Malaspina Theatre for Art Battle Nanaimo: University Edition.
Organizer Susanne Grundison said this is the first time a university edition of Art Battle – an international speed-painting competition – is being held in Western Canada. In the event, the artists compete in two 20-minute heats, with the top two artists from each round as determined by the audience advancing to the 20-minute final. The winner gets $250 and advances to the North Island finals in June with a chance at moving on to the national and international levels. The paintings are auctioned off at the end of each event and the artists earn half the proceeds.
Eddy Graham is one of the artists on Team VIU. The fourth-year art student describes his style as “abstract surrealism with nature combined with a little bit of a spiritual kick.” He has taken part in live painting contests in the past, including the last Art Battle Nanaimo event in January, where he made it to the final four.
“It’s funny because most artists are used to being in their studio alone,” Graham said. “And this is just like everybody’s around you and they’re talking to you and taking pictures of you, so it’s really exhilarating. Your heart’s beating really fast. It’s really outside of your comfort zone.”
Graham said he signed up for the competition because stepping out of his comfort zone means “stepping into growth.” As a returning Art Battler he said it’s important to breathe slowly, focus on the canvas and get the background down as quickly as possible and work on the details later. He said he should have worn headphones, but at the same time he likes to be present when he paints and moved by his environment.
“I basically go in there not knowing what I’m going to do because I feel like if I’m doing it in pure expression in the moment then it’s going to be better than anything else I’ve really planned,” he said.
As a Nanaimoite now in his fourth year at VIU, Graham said he’s known his professors and fellow students for a long time and it will be meaningful to compete alongside his peers at the event on home turf.
“I’ve known a lot of the professors since I was a young kid and I know they’re going to be there and I think it’s just that family aspect that you build up in university that’s going to be really crucial,” he said. “So I know that whether we win or don’t win, we’re in this together and it’s a really beautiful feeling that way. It’s community, so that’s what matters.”
WHAT’S ON … Art Battle Nanaimo: University Edition takes place in the Malaspina Theatre foyer on Friday, Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. General admission is $20, $15 for early bird, students and seniors. Available at www.artbattle.com. 19-plus event.