OLDS ó A dozen local painters readied their palettes, wielded their brushes, and hit the stage to do battle in front of a 300-strong crowd at the Pomeroy March 25 for the fourth annual Art Battle.
The evening got underway as “official” Olds town crier Dennis Patry unrolled his scroll and proclaimed the participant list before starting a countdown to battle.
The painters, split by random draw into two heats, then had 20 minutes to transform their blank canvases into finished pieces, while audience members circled the stage in a slow-moving tornado, watching the creative process unfold.
At the buzzer, audience members cast ballots for their favourite painting, with two painters from each round moving forward to the final. In the spirit of the subjective nature of art, vote tallies aren’t announced, nor are finalists from each round ranked.
For Melany Sealy of Sundre, one of two veterans this year, this was her third Art Battle, but she said the rookies add an element of difficulty.
“Having new people come into the mix was really stressful,” she said, “because you don’t know what they are capable of.”
Sealy says she plans ahead, with several ideas of what she might paint, but she waits to size up the competition before deciding. She also chooses different themes and subjects every time she takes the stage.
“If people see you at a different Art Battle, they know what you’ve done,” she said. “So you want to mix it up, so that you kinda have an edge.”
Sealy made it to the final round for a second year in a row, but was outvoted by fans of this year’s winner, Carlie Marsh, a rookie competitor.
Marsh is a sculptor who studied fine arts at Red Deer College and the University of Lethbridge.
“The biggest reason I entered was to find a creative community and network with other artists and see what they are able to do.”
Unlike Sealy, her strategy was to let the atmosphere and the audience fuel her work, and to choose a subject she could “paint in five minutes but resolve in 20.”
“I had a few ideas as I was pouring paint on the palette,” she said of her first-round work. “I thought, that blue is nice, maybe it could be a sea, for a whale.”
Her winning piece was a nod to a discouraging art instructor who suggested she give up painting entirely.
“I kinda felt like, this is my last round,” she said, “I might as well have a kick at the (can) doing something somebody told me I couldn’t do.”
Marsh moves on to the provincial event, sometime this summer, with a chance to then qualify for the national competition.
Caroline Bodmer, secretary of the Olds Art Club, said that what makes the Art Battle interesting for her is appreciating what people are drawn to, and how it affects the competition.
“That’s part of the process here,” she said. “If you are a true competitor, you’re learning each year, how to refine your product so that it appeals to the crowd.”
After the winner was declared, and presented with a golden paintbrush, it was Debbie Ohlhausen, owner of Different Strokes gallery in Olds and the driving force behind the event, who took the stage to introduce the two charities benefiting from the evening.
The Olds and District Hospice Society, along with Hope 4 Mountain View County Kids will split the proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction of the paintings produced in the battle.
“It’s just a great evening,” she said afterward, “and I have worked really hard since I opened my gallery to get people to understand that galleries ñ and art ñ isn’t old and stodgy. It’s fun.”
“If people see you at a different Art Battle, they know what you’ve done. So you want to mix it up, so that you kinda have an edge.”MELANY SEALYSUNDRE ARTIST