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Art Masters a success in the hot August heat

Imagine you are a painter, full of creativity and jumping at the chance to paint for an audience. Now imagine you have no brushes, a mystery box of supplies and only an hour to finish your masterpiece. And on top of all this, there’s also seven other artists painting alongside you in an open forum competition.

Welcome to Art Masters.

An artist works intensely on a coulourful piece of art, which sits on an easel among a sunny plaza.
Lanni Weingarten working on her Art Masters masterpiece.

Vancouver Visual Art Foundation (VVAF) put on its successful Art Masters competition on August 13 at Jack Poole Plaza as part of Art Downtown. In front of a live and engaging audience, artists created works on the theme of Coming out of the Darkness after so many months of pandemic-related distancing and isolation.

Taisha Teal, director of operations for VVAF, summarized Art Masters as a one-of-a-kind art event.

“It’s a painting competition between eight artists. No paint brushes. We make it challenging and give them a mystery box of surprise supplies. And the artists have to get really creative with limited colours, not knowing the theme. And the excitement is there. You have one hour to paint, and then the audience chooses … the winner,” Taisha said.

She said audience involvement is essential and without it, shows like this would be missing an important element.

“Our mission for VVAF and Art Vancouver is ‘Uniting Nations through Art.’ We want to have an art community. And even if you’re not an artist or painter, we have art classes. [...] You can start to learn. You can play around with it. You can have fun.”

The winner of this year’s Art Masters, Kevin “Freakshow” O’Quinn, said it is a completely different event than others he has participated in.

A man stands in front of a colourful painting that reads "Love is Universal".
The winner of this year’s Art Masters, Kevin “Freakshow” O’Quinn

“I’ve never done this before,” Kevin said. “I’d never speed-painted. I’ve never even painted in front of people before, ever. Ever. So, did I think I was going to win? No. Did I hope I wouldn’t embarrass myself? Yes. And that’s all I was concerned about.”

He said he was surprised with the win and credited the audience with feeding his energy.

“I’m still in shock. The other artists there, you just look at their stuff, and it’s just amazing. But I worked the crowd a little bit. I worked with the kids, had fun with it, and it panned out. I never expected it. And when they were calling out the names, I was like, ‘Oh, thank goodness they’re not going from eighth to first. So, if I’m the worst, they’re not going to call me out!’”

A group of people stand on steps in the Jack Poole Plaza. 3 people hold their certificates with 1st, 2nd, 3rd place written on them. The rest smile holding their gift card prizes. The hazy city-scape glows in the afternoon sun behind them.
The Art Masters Competitors posing with their prizes.

Lanni Weingarten, another participating artist, concurred with Kevin about the pressure of time being a unique factor and one she had not had to deal with for a long time.

“I think there’s something really good to limiting your time though because it just comes out rather than … thinking too much about it,” Lanni said.

Interestingly, she said the limitations of time and tools helped, allowing her focus quickly on where the theme could take her.

She said their mystery box of tools contained “a plastic palette knife, a plastic fork—which don’t work as well as metal ones—a pair of wooden chopsticks and a sponge. And a golf ball.”

And while she may not have won this iteration of Art Masters, she said that was not the point. It was to be creative, have fun and enjoy a communal spirit of art.

“It was so fun, super, super fun,” she said. “I’d love to do it again.”

By Nathan Durec


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