1st P.E.I. Art Battle winner crowned

More than 200 people gathered at the P.E.I. Brewing Company in Charlottetown Saturday as six artists faced off in the city's first Art Battle.
Jeff Kelly works on the competition-winning painting at Saturday's Art Battle in Charlottetown. (Jocelyn Claybourne/CBC)

Art Battle is a live-competitive painting event. Artists take the stage with the challenge to create the best painting they can in only 20 minutes. Art Battle staged its first Canadian event five years ago, but this was the first on the Island.

Simon Plashkes, co-founder of Art Battle Canada, said he's thrilled to see his idea grow to new areas of the country.

"Chris (Pemberton) and myself started Art Battle thinking wouldn't this be fun to do one time," said Plashkes.

"People said, 'Hey, you should do it again.' And here we are. It is so fantastic."

Chelsea MacCormack competes in round one of the Art Battle. (Jocelyn Claybourne/CBC)

With the competition the public has the opportunity to look inside the artistic process, he said.

"For the painters, we give them the adrenaline ride of a lifetime by taking their, what is usually a very solitary process, out into rock-star-like status of people cheering them as they raise their brush and step to the canvas," said Plashkes.

Chelsea MacCormack, 20, is a Holland College fundamental arts student and took the plunge to participate. Before taking the stage she felt nervous and excited. For the last five minutes of the first round, she said, it was all an adrenaline rush.

"At that point I was just trying to put in as much as I could in the time I had," said MacCormack.

MacCormack said her grandmother was always motivating her to go with her gut when she painted.

"My grandmother's an artist herself. She does paintings of her own. Definitely a big support system," she said.

There were no restrictions on the artists for what they could paint. The images ranged from portraits of loved ones to objects and landscapes. After each round, the crowd would vote on the paintings to determine which artist moved further in the competition. In total, 16 pieces were created and auctioned off to the crowd.

After three rounds of painting, it was Jeff Kelly who was voted Charlottetown's first Art Battle winner.

"I was shocked, I was surprised. You don't come in here expecting to win," said Kelly.

"You've got to have confidence, but you just get up there and do your best and you hope for the best," he said.

He painted a colourful image of a female nude as his final piece.

Kelly prepared for the event by creating multiple paintings and drawings in under 20 minutes, but it was tough, he said.

"I almost quit the first few times I tried it, I thought it was impossible," he said.

Typically, Kelly spends 15 to 20 hours on one of his pieces, and he thinks carefully before laying brush to canvas, but Art Battle is a little different.

"When you have 20 minutes, you think of nothing, you just let your hand do the work," he said.

On top of winning a $250 prize, Kelly moves on to the next round where he'll compete in the Charlottetown City Championship this June. The winner from that event will be flown to Toronto to compete in the national championship.