Getting The Brush Off is just what Meaghan Mechler was hoping for. And that’s what the artist got, emerging victorious at the seventh annual competition at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener.
During the one-night fundraising event January 27, 21 artists compete in a live competition for an audience of 500. During the four rounds in the evening, artists have 30 minutes to create a painting. The first two rounds narrow it down into the top ten, from there the next is to the top five and the final round showcases three artists paint off against each other.
After painting in The Brush Off two times prior, Alma’s Mechler was crowned the winner in this go-round.
“It is held every year as a community event, trying to engage artists with the local community. It’s a really fun night where artists get to engage with an audience, and that audience as well gets to have a fun night of it,” said Mechler. “My first time doing this I made it to the top ten. My second time I made it to the top five, and then this time ended up winning, so there’s the slow progression and movement up.”
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Each artist produces three paintings throughout the evening. A challenge in itself, toss in the time limit and live audience and you have the makings of an exciting competition.“It is a difficult balance of painting something that you know you can pump out in a half hour, but also giving a performance and a bit of a show,” she said, noting the audience actually casts votes throughout the show during that half hour. “So the storytelling element of it is, I think, really important as well. That is something that I really focused on this time versus the other two times.”
“You really want to bring people on a journey and have it as an experience for them, adding surprises and twists to how you paint,” she said.
Her strategy? Equate her painting to that of a mystery novel, hooking the audience and giving them that ‘gotcha’ moment similar to a story.
“I wanted to make it like a good mystery novel. You know, where people can make their own guesses as to what it’s going to be – give them enough clues where they make those predictions. You know how if you solve something before Sherlock does, you just feel so good about yourself after the reveal? Balancing that with twists where they would perhaps expect me to do one thing with an element and the do it in a little bit more unconventional way,” she said of her approach.
The pieces that won her the coveted title were a black and white stoic portrait of a lion, a dynamic dancer and a majestic owl, with some real-life inspiration.
“I had been thinking about what I wanted to paint, and I was pretty sure it was an owl, but then I actually saw an owl,” she said. “So that was kind of how I landed on the last painting. I started it as a black and white, so people like that was part of the storytelling is that people were expecting one thing and then at the last second, I added just a punch of colour.”
And the sign from nature paid off, figuratively and literally. For her, the win itself just plays into the combination of a fun evening out while also helping out local organizations, with The Brush Off being a fundraiser for THEMUSEUM, a non-profit organization. Proceeds from a silent auction art sale of the art created during the competition as well as ticket and drink sales went towards the museum’s operating costs, supporting its ability to offer the community exhibitions, programming and events.
When her art isn’t displayed at competitions such as these, Mechler’s pieces are showcased through www.ravenandcherith.com as well as an Instagram account dedicated to her drawings.
Having finished an undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo in biology with a joint honour in environment and resource studies, she is currently studying soils as a masters student while actively running her 250-acre family farm, a place she says has helped to curate her passion for art.
“The dream is to continue in academia for now, but I also want to apply my studies to just the family farm, as well –just be a better steward of the land,” she explained. “And that also ties in with my own art, as most of my art does revolve around nature itself. The two have been married together in that way.”
For now, Mechler is approaching graduating from her masters and is looking forward to having a year off to be more involved in her family farm, as well as “spend a bit more time with the art that I love.”