Bay Area Painters Battle through art

Jeremy Julian

Music flowed through the dimly lit Great Northern Club in the Mission on Wednesday night as a large crowd watched 12 artists paint pieces within 20 minutes at Art Battle San Francisco.


This battle consisted of two rounds with six contestants each, with two finalists from each round moving on to the finals. Tracy Piper, the featured painter for the event, won some of these competitions before, including internationally. Each artist had their own distinct method and style of painting. 


“We’ve never really had a theme so we just let the artists do what they want,” said Keri Kekkonen, an SF State alum who runs the San Francisco battle. Kekkonen and her partner Ellis Briery took over the battle in 2019. 


Abstract design, portraits and elements of nature and fantasy were all on display for the crowd to see. The show did not have a theme, which gave more creative freedom to the artists and made for a more interesting event.


The winner of each 20-minute round was voted for by the crowd. The voting took place via text message and the top two from each round found themselves in the four-person finale. 


The announcer introduced each competitor one-by-one as they walked out, a similar entrance style to a boxing match or UFC fight. All of the artists painted in the middle of the floor on a raised platform while spectators walked around the circle during bout to get a look at what each artist was working on. 


“See what you like, that’s what art is,” said Aaron Louyeh, a frequent spectator of these art battles. 


The crowd was struck with intrigue and tension as each artist tried to create the best possible painting in a short time window. The margin for error was quite small and the artists seemed to make little to no mistakes after they got started on the paintings. 


Most of the artists were experienced in this event; it was not their first time competing.


The competition had a sport-like feel; many spectators who stayed involved and excited about the art. There were also some individuals who were clear crowd favorites among their rounds. 


One of the more popular artists was Tyler Williams, a resident of Oakland who drew a painting of the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Tyler said he was a part of four Art Battles in the city so he had some experience with the time constraints and setting. 


Some upcoming art battles take place in cities such as Oakland, Barcelona and Toronto according to