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Visual Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020 2 years ago

Local finalists prepare for Art Battle Florida

Each taking a different approach to the competition
by: Klint Lowry Arts + Entertainment Editor

The Selby Library rotunda will become a painterly thunderdome of music and spectators Saturday, March 14, when it hosts the Art Battle Florida State Championship.

The speed-painting competition, which holds about 250 tournaments a year around the world, challenges contestants to turn blank canvases into finished paintings in 20 minutes, which the audience votes on.

The Florida champion will compete in the Art Battle National Finals on April 18 in Wichita Falls, Texas, for a shot at a berth in the World Finals in Tokyo in October.

Saturday’s contestants all earned their places on the drop cloth of honor as champions in regional battles throughout the state. For Art Battle fans who plan to witness the spectacle, there are three hometown contestants to root for, each of whom comes into the competition with a different psychological edge.


Smooth Operator

Joan Schnuerch

Winner, Art Battle Venice, 2020


Schnuerch expects she’ll be the oldest competitor at the state final. “I feel pretty good about that, too.”

She knows now there are those who treat Art Battle like a sport. When she saw a flyer a few months ago, it was the first she had ever heard of Art Battle. It sounded like fun, something different, so she applied.

“So I sat down and said, ‘OK, what to I have to do?’” she recalls. “I never painted a painting in 20 minutes.

Joan Schnuerch signed up for Art Battle Venice mostly because she though it would be fun. She's taking the sam attitude into the state final.

“I found out right away I would need a different brush for every color because you don’t have time to wash them.”

She also quickly figured out that you have to have the image planned out. It needs to be something that doesn’t require layering or a lot of detail to look complete. And for her, the trick is to have a starting point from which to establish her perspective,“otherwise everything is out of focus,” she says.

Focus — that’s the key word. “When I paint, I’m very focused. I don’t hear what’s going on around me.”

That can come in handy when there’s music playing and 150 people circling around, eating, drinking, commenting.

“I can shut it off,” Schnuerch says. At least until the 20 minutes are up. Then she can join the party. After all, she got into Art Battle to have fun. So even if she doesn’t win, she can’t lose.


A need for speed

Victoria Mayol

Winner, Art Battle Sarasota 2020


When Mayol was a spectator at the 2019 Sarasota Art Battle, “I said, ‘This is totally for me.’”

When she attended art fairs back in Argentina, she says, she used to paint in her booth.“I love painting with people,” she says. The energy transfers to the canvas. She says fairgoers would buy the paintings she was working on before she even finished.

That’s just one aspect of Art Battle that would put off many painters that appeals to Mayol — including the 20-minute window.

Victoria Mayol shows on of the practice paintings she did in the days leading up to the state final. She's narrowing down the right composition for a 20-minute painting.

“I love the starting of a painting,” she says. “I love the moment when you have a white canvas, and you start putting everything there.” Once that initial rush ebbs, “Yes, the painting gets more realistic as you go, but not necessarily better.”

Some people don’t like to feel rushed, Mayol says, but she thrives when the crunch is on.

As for the competitive aspect of Art Battle, the only competition she feels is with herself.

“I’ve always been a perfectionist,” Mayol says. But although she’s practicing her technique, she doesn’t want to practice her paintings too many times. “If I don’t feel very excited about the subject I’m going to paint, if I’m already bored about it, then the soul is not there.”


In it to win it

Judy Robertson

Winner, Art Battle Sarasota 2019

Because of the timing of the inaugural Art Battle Sarasota, Robertson has had to wait a year to advance to the next level, but she has used the time to practice, strategize and scout.

Judy Robertson believes you have to play to the crowd, since they are the ones who decide the winner in Art Battle.

“It’s a competition,” she says. “I’ve looked at all the other artists I’m competing against. I also do live voting because I’m a past winner, so I can go online and vote for different [tournaments] around the world. I’m seeing what other people are doing and what resonates with audiences.”

The key, she believes, is to remember it’s a competition. “You’re not creating something that’s going to hang in a gallery,” she says. Part of this competition is playing to the audience.

“It’s a performance,” Robertson says. “I’m a bit of a ham. I’ve done a little bit of stand-up comedy, so to be in front of a crowd, it kind of energizes me.”

So does competition. “You have to have a little bit of cockiness, I think, a good attitude, to get in there and just start painting,” she says.

“It’s a long shot, but I’m checking it out, you know?” Robertson says. “Being competitive, it excites me. It pushes me to be better.”

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