Interview | Art Battle: Let’s Get Ready to Paint

Photo: Art Battle

Art Battle is the latest competitive sport centered around an activity that was once done for passion or simple recreation like video games and E-Sports.

Easel sports were created by Art Battle. Founded in New York City in 2001, the concept has evolved into an international brand with events held in over 50 cities including Amsterdam, Tokyo, Vancouver, and São Paulo.

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Art Battles begin with two preliminary rounds with eight artists (16 total). They have 20 minutes to paint anything they want in any style. The artists can’t really see what each other are painting because the set-up is configured in a 360 degree circle. Meanwhile, the audience sips drinks and dips to a live DJ, while observing the creative process, casting their vote for their favorites by putting tickets into an artist’s bucket. The top two artists from the first and second rounds then go up against each other in the final battle. Winners of these city competitions go onto compete in further rounds held around the globe. 

I chatted with Dustin Treinen, the producer of Art Battle Los Angeles, about the upcoming event at the Exchange LA, the lit L.A. art scene, and why Art Battle is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

Mandatory: When I first saw the Art Battle video clips, it immediately reminded me of rap battles. 

Dustin Treinen: I’ve never been to a rap battle or seen 8 Mile, but the big difference would seem that Art Battle is more measurable because the audience votes with tickets that can be calculated rather than by a single judge or audience cheers.

What does the Art Battle winner get? 

There is a cash prize and they go onto the city finals (the L.A. finals will be held this October and the national finals is in November).

Can people buy the art? 

Every piece of art that’s made that night is up for silent auction. The artist gets a percentage of the sale.

Los Angeles is at the center of the global art scene right now, especially street art. What’s the selection process like? 

We get a wide spectrum of artists. Everything from classic portrait painting to street style to abstract to muralists. The quality of the art is really high and diverse, too. I consciously try to showcase that diversity so I would try not to put two street artists in the same battle. There’s also a wild card selection at the event where we bring in an artist from the audience so even if you didn’t initially get picked you can still get in.

There were some wild artists I saw in the Art Battle videos like the woman who painted with her body’s “curves.” What’s the most unique artist you’ve seen?

There was a guy who put canvas on the ground and tap danced to the music being played with paint all over his shoes. 

There are so many art events in Los Angeles. What sets Art Battle apart? 

People often don’t get to experience art besides seeing it in its final form. They don’t really see the process of art being created. There’s a lot of adrenaline in the air because the artists are amped up. To see 20 paintings done in one night is pretty unreal. 

You can still purchase tickets for the Art Battle Los Angeles show on Wednesday, Sept. 12 (HERE).