Ginger Jarvis’ name is floating in one of the 36 coloured balloons clustered above the crowd at The Great Hall at Queen Street West and Dovercourt Road. The 24-year-old graphic artist is hoping she will be one of 12 people chosen to paint at tonight’s Art Battle — a live, competitive painting event that started a year ago.
Conceived as a sideshow to an artist speaker’s salon, the timed competition was an immediate hit. Over the past year, two Toronto artists have organized eight battles and the audience is growing.
Participants get a canvas, a palette of colours, a jug of water and some brushes. They can also bring up to five of their own brushes or tools. Four competitors per match are given 20 minutes to fill their canvases before the spectators vote for their favourite painting.
Wearing a red dress matching her short, dyed red hair, Jarvis shows me the brushes and spatula she brought with her — the spatula is great for creating texture and revealing the background without adding paint, she explains. She’s eager.
“I haven’t painted since May,” she says. In a competition, that is. She tells me how painting is normally a personal thing for her. She doesn’t like to be watched, but when Art Battle started up, she decided to try.
“Within five minutes of putting my name in, I got called,” she says.
She’s painted three times and won once.
One of the organizers holds a bamboo pole with a needle on the end. He starts popping balloons and reading out the names for the first round of painters. Half the names were pre-selected from artists like Jarvis, who have competed in the past. The other half were first come, first served. But now, they’ll be selected at random. A volunteer told Jarvis her name was in a green balloon. Orange, pink, blue, another orange. But no Jarvis.
The countdown, and the artists, are off. Outlines of a woman looking forward, a woman’s body from behind, a group of birds. And a splash of yellow paint. Jarvis admires the birds. It’s more traditional, but it shows skill.
“It looks like something you’d see in a doctor’s office,” says her partner.
“I have paintings in my doctor’s office,” she retorts.
The birds won the first round. All paintings are put to a silent auction with a minimum bid of $45 — 75 per cent goes to the painter. If no one bids on a painting, it will be destroyed via chainsaw or with wall paint.
More balloons are popped and only one green one. Not Jarvis’. After the show, one of the organizers approaches and she tells him he should have picked more green balloons. He pops one just to see and, sure enough, it had her name in it.
– Read more of Carolyn Morris’ columns at www.metronews.ca/carolynmorris