By Meagan Campbell
With a pallet of rainbow paints and a Coke in hand, a girl with glowing cheeks strokes her canvas. She pays no attention to the other artists toiling on either side of her, nor to the clock that is ticking down. Her eyes stay fixed on her work.
Time runs out, they tally the votes, and the announcer calls out the name pinned to the top of her easel: “Elise Electra Picotic.”
Elise, an eighth grade student at Fairview Junior High School, beat 11 other painters in the latest round of Art Battle– a competition that gives artists 20 minutes to paint whatever they like and invites the audience to slip ballots into a Pringles box to vote for the winner.
“It was all adrenaline,” says Elise, who is the youngest person to compete in Art Battle in Halifax. Her hand continued to tremble as she weaved through the crowd of 150 crammed into the Bus Stop Theatre on Friday.
Although Elise paints daily in her garage at home and practiced on six canvases the day before the event, she was still shocked to hear her name announced as winner.
“I was thinking, if they’re messing with me, I’m going to kill them!” she laughs.
The event was the sixth round of Halifax Art Battle, which began in September. Elise and the winners from the past five rounds will compete in the provincial championships in June. From there, the best-voted painter will travel to the national finals in Toronto, where they will face Art Battle victors from the other six participating provinces (British Colombia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and P.E.I.).
Elise’s middle name, Electra, suits her well. Not only is she the youngest to participate in the event locally, she is nearly the youngest in Canada, second only to a 12-year-old in Edmonton. Having painted since she was seven-years-old but never having taken an art class outside of school, she submitted a canvas in January and has since been accepted to compete in two rounds of the battle.
“There’s no question she’s talented,” says Andre Samson, the organizer of the Halifax chapter. “I’m not really surprised she won.”
Fans and family
Though Elise’s parents, grandmother, six friends and even vice-principal came to support her, they were not the only ones who voted for her piece without question.
Alison DeLorey, one of the audience members, saw Elise’s painting as the perfect mix of surrealism and classic landscaping.
“I love her work,” says DeLorey. “And my son – he’s 11 – is totally inspired by her.”
The other artists included professional graphic designers and portrait drawers, multiple NSCAD students and seniors who paint as a hobby.
The audience bid on the completed paintings in a silent auction, offering as much as $300 to bring home a canvas of a herring perched among a twinkling ocean. Elise’s piece went for $75.
“I’m pumped about that,” she says as her mother squeezes her against her chest in a long hug. “Mom won’t have to buy my next set of brushes.”