Ink Wars: A Live Illustration Competition

Last week, I mentioned the culminating event at the Weapons of Mass Creation, Ink Wars. As a live illustration event, Ink Wars was an exciting want to cap off the weekend (although several bands were playing until late on Sunday evening) and to highlight local and national artists alike. Sponsored by Adobe, Ink Wars was an energetic event, and the originator, Mat Helme, is looking to bring the event to other design venues.

Jason Crane, third place winner's piece

Jason Crane, third place winner’s piece

For the WMC 2013 Ink Wars, 8 artists were chosen to compete against each other within a 60 minute time frame and in front of a live audience. According to Helme, he chose the contestants based upon their “raw sketch and illustration talent.”

The chosen ones were only given limited details prior to the event: They knew that Adobe would supply art materials, they would be expected to work on a 4 feet by 8 feet canvas and they would have a time limit. Nothing more. And they were competing for a title belt (1st place), a trophy (2nd place) or a tiny trophy (3rd), and the three winners each received a year’s subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite.

If you want even more illustration inspiration, pick up “Print Magazine’s Top Illustrations of 2013.

The artists were excited for the event, and a few were nervous to work on a larger canvas, as many primarily work on a smaller scale. The 8 competitors were: Lucy Williams, Jason Crane, Jessica Paoli, Sean Dockery, James Flames, Aaron Sechrist (AKA okPants), Steve Knerem and Derrick Castle.  Each artist energetically entered after their name was announced (think a toned-down WWE style – although the winner did pop his shirt off in victory). There was even some lighthearted smack talking that continued throughout the event, and one contestant spent the entire hour drawing an inside joke. (And please forgive the snapshots – no professional photos are available yet!)

Once everyone was in place, the theme was announced: “Apocalyptic Little Red Riding Hood.”  The clock began to tick.


Jason Crane, illustrator

Within 15 minutes, all of the artists had a concept. Most choose to sketch their ideas on   paper first, but 3 went right for the canvas, including James Flames. The judges (Jacqui Oakley, Bill Beachy and Brandon Rike) walked among the artists, watching their brush strokes and evaluating the work based on style & concept, proper design aesthetics, and which artist best executed the theme.


Aaron Sechrist, first place winner, sporting the champion belt.


Second place winner, James Flames in front of his piece.

In the end, the grand prize went to Cleveland native Aaron Sechrist, second to James Flames and third to Jason Crane. According to Mat Helme, he plans to hold another Ink Wars in Cleveland next year for Aaron to defend his title and hopes to hold many more Ink Wars throughout the country. While an hour may seem like a long time to watch artists draw, Ink Wars flew by.  It was great to feel so much energy in a room and to watch the 8 artists run wild with the theme. Want to try it out?


d30Do you need a boost? Try the new D30: Exercises for Designers book and try your hand at fun activities to get your creativity moving.