Artists have showdown on canvas

Artists have showdown on canvas
Jeremy Wright steps up for his turn at the canvas. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Spectators gathered around an 8-foot-by-8-foot canvas as Jeremy Wright and Nigel Grey of the Art Wars Club painted together and individually in response to improvisational alternative, post-rock music performed by The Tall Ships at Oceanside Museum of Art on March 8.“It’s cool to see the action and reaction effect,” Steve Kuhn, guitar player for The Tall Ships, said.The dueling painters were timed — 10 minutes each, and then 10 minutes together, followed by five minutes each and a final 20 minutes together to complete the mural. The final 10 seconds were counted down. At the end of the count, artists were told to put down their brushes.

Nigel Grey paints without a sketched plan to create an 8-foot mural. Photo by Promise Yee

“No matter who you are, your heart races,” Heather Leilani Green, Art Wars Club member, said.

The art performance is done without rehearsal. The artists meet briefly with the band beforehand to give band members an idea of the expected music tempo, and then the performance begins.

“The music is 90 percent improvisational,” Kuhn said. “We try to use enough restraint not to be distracting.”

In another twist, the large mural is made up of smaller 10-inch-by-10-inch canvases. Spectators can purchase a numbered canvas before the artists begin and take home a part of the mural.

Art Wars Club members participate by setting up the canvases, and artfully covering the floor around the project. The setup and take down of the canvases and painting area is considered part of the performance.

“It’s quite a production,” Mitzi Summers, Oceanside Museum of Art manager of programs and events, said. “They lay out paper, set paints. The performance is an hour of dueling artists.”

The club began painting murals six years ago. The first mural was painted as a temporary public art piece in a building that was soon to be demolished. Since then the club has painted about a dozen public murals.

The club also participates in other public art projects. The goal of the club is to promote art leadership through project organization, execution and art statement. Club members are a mix of San Dieguito High School Academy art students, former students, and colleagues and friends of Wright, who is the club organizer and art instructor at the academy.

“Part of Art Wars is pulling people together,” Wright said.

Wright said he considers spectators as much a part of the project as those creating the mural.

Oceanside Museum of Art hosted Art Wars as part of its monthly Artists@Work series that showcases local artists performing live art.

“The goal is to provide an atmosphere where guests can engage with artists up close and personal,” Summers said. “They can see the creative process from start to finish and ask questions.”

The family-friendly evening also includes light refreshments and a wine bar.

“It’s a laidback fun way to meet other art lovers,” Summers said. “We want to hold an evening event that provides something different than the typical gallery or museum setting.”

Artists@Work nights began in January and are scheduled through June. For more information on Artists@Work, visit



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