Things got hairy Saturday at the second annual Fr3shArt Portrait Battle at Redux, where members of the Holy City Beard and Mustache Society posed for four rounds of live portrait-making. The day began at 10 a.m. with 24 artists competing for the Champion’s Belt and a $500 cash prize. The artists were given two hours to paint, sketch, or draw their subjects, and three anonymous judges chose which artists would move on.
Rather than wait around all day, we arrived in time for the final round, which had whittled the pool down to three finalists. By the time the walls of the gallery were nearly filled with portraits of furry faces from previous rounds. In the back of the gallery, attendees sipped on keg beer as they watched Shelly Smith, Chris Dotson, and Spike Kittrell sketch and paint their final subject, Paul Roof. The HCBMS member was ready for his close-up; his beard was stiffly groomed to look like a giant mustache, and he had a blue mask the color of his shirt painted across his eyes.
The distinctive styles of the artists were evident within a first few moments of the round. Smith approached the challenge with care as she sketched an outline on paper before transferring it to her rectangular canvas. Dotson’s sketch was small and started out with humble line drawings, while Kittrell was quick to lay some colorful brush strokes on his large piece of brown paper. Guests speculated who would win as they bobbed their heads to the trance-like music of DJ Cassidy. Some mumbled amongst themselves about Smith’s sensibility and a few got up close to Dotson to observe his shading method. One onlooker in the back of the room could be heard describing Kittrell’s use of light and color, a technique she thought would make him the winner.
And she was right. Kittrell’s large, multicolored portrait transformed Roof’s rust-colored beard into a flowing mane of blues, pinks, and purples. Though all the contestants were noteworthy, Kittrell was named the winner and handed the coveted Champion’s Belt. After 10 hours of competition and ‘stache grooming, both the audience and the artists were content to call it a night.