Students raced to paint canvasses during board-wide Live Art Battle

FERGUS – About 200 artists and art enthusiasts flocked to Centre Wellington District High School (CWDHS) on the evening of May 8 for an art show and board-wide Live Art Battle.  

Competitors took their places in a circle of easels in the middle of the school’s gymnasium, and were given 20-minutes to paint whatever they wanted – without using a reference photo, or going a second overtime.

Attendees voted for their two favourites of the 24 paintings created by the students from CWDHS, John F. Ross Collegiate Vocational Institute, College Heights Secondary School and Westside Secondary School.

Each of the paintings created during the battle was available for auction, and 26 were sold, raising a total of $532.  Half was donated to the Centre Wellington Foodbank, and the other half went to battle winner and CWDHS student Bella Freil. 

Six other artists made it to the final round: Kate Adema, Maddison Muir, Anna Main and Ava Noorlander from CWDHS; and Paige Bannon and Jasper Sampson from John F. Ross. 

The Centre Wellington students are no strangers to speed painting – there’s a club at the school called Battle of the Brushes that meets weekly to practice creating 20-minute paintings.   

College Heights

Carissa Deering is part of the art club at College Heights – that’s where she found out about the Live Art Battle.

“Speed painting isn’t my thing,” they said, but they wanted to give it a chance to push their limits, and would likely participate again.

Deering does lots of painting and sketching in her free time, she said.

But when it came time to start painting during the competition, their mind went blank.

So she improvised on the spot and painted something she knew she’d be able to finish quickly – an image of a young woman with a dramatic dark slash of paint across her eyes.

John F. Ross

John F. Ross student Jasper Sampson heard about the Live Art Battle from his friend at CWDHS, Kate Adema, as well as his art teacher. 

He decided to sign up “to have some fun,” check out the competition’s “vibe,” and see what the other artists created. 

He described his peers’ work as “super epic,” and was impressed by their level of talent.

He was particularly impressed by the students who used acrylic paints during the competition, noting he chose water colour because it’s the fastest medium. 

For Sampson, competing in the Live Art Battle was “stressful but fun” and he would definitely sign up to do it again.  


Nakhai Letts is a Grade 11 student at Westside Secondary School in Orangeville. 

Letts said before the competition he hadn’t painted for a long time, but he signed up because he thought it would be fun.

When Letts paints, he paints his emotions, and during the battle he was feeling nervous but enjoying the process, he told the Advertiser. 

The outside of his painting depicts his nervousness, while the blue on the inside reflects his enjoyment. 

Letts said he would have preferred painting with spray paint, but that wasn’t on the list of approved materials. 

Letts’ little brother and mom came to Fergus with him for the battle. 

Centre Wellington

The battle winner Bella Friel from CWDHS also had her three-year old brother with her at the Live Art Battle. 

During the first round she painted a snowy owl – which she chose because she loves all animals, especially birds of prey, she told the Advertiser. 

She said she’s painted owls before, so she felt comfortable doing so without a reference. 

In the second round Friel painted a side-profile of a face with long wavy black hair.

Friel said she’s enthusiastic about art and has drawn for her entire life.

She hopes to spend her life persuing her artistic passions, and will be studying design at Conestoga College next year. 

And at CWDHS, Live Art Battle organizers and art teachers Bobbi Bentham Reynolds and Jen Main have hopes the battle will become an annual event.