SketchBattle #15 – Detroit
SketchBattle. It is what it sounds like – artists competing against each other bracket style, with a winner-takes-all format. If you closed your eyes and just listened, your experience would be much like a boxing ring… but without the smell of blood and body odor.
The atmosphere was a bizarre combination of women in cocktail dresses and men in anything from sport coats, to grunge wear, and the attendees varied as much. Satori Circus brought his dynamic flare to the event as the Master of Ceremonies, sporting white tails decorated with signatures and art ranging from the odd to the sexy. Our Head Peon, Jeni and I spent our time taking in the beauty of Saint Andrews hall near downtown Detroit, eating meat sticks, enjoying adult beverages (not her though… we were responsible!!!) and of course, people watching.
The judging was done by official judges, with an additional ‘People’s Choice’ award. The judges were esteemed members of the automotive community. Helen Emsley of GM was the Chief Judge, and was joined by Ryan Nagode of FCA, Jeff Hammoud of Rivian, and Adam Rabinowitz of Calty Toyota, along with guest judge Paul Czornij of BASF.
We were officially there to cheer on the one girl who was competing in the battle. Jess Petrach was there representing not only the female gender, but the ‘D’ as well, as a designer from CCS (Center for Creative Studies). Jess seemed genuine and appeared ready to take on the challenge. Satori was insistent that the crowd was to interact with the artists, to look over their shoulders, and cheer them on! Although we got close a few times, Jeni and I opted to take the high road. The high road being a second level that got away from the mass of people taking Satrori’s advice, making it damn near impossible to see anything without shoving folks out of the way. But, the vantage point of the top level was unbeatable! As an added bonus, the second story bar was already restored, providing a beautiful preview of what the restored building will look like!
The battles were set up for three rounds. First round was themed around tires, with extra emphasis on the off-road OR performance inspired by Falken Tires, which had partnered with Sketchbattle as a main sponsor. In this round, 8 out of the initial 16 artists would advance to the second round. The second round focused on lighting, as a nod to sponsor TA YIH Industrial. After the judging, four artists would advance to the finals. BASF was the king of the final round, creating a special color for this event to theme the artists around. The color was Aurora Gold, “Because the greatest sketchers deserve the best in color inspiration.”
But back to Jess. We were watching her sketch, and trash her original idea and start again… scrapping #2 for a final third entry. Her sketches were simple but well defined and she was super fun to watch. Jeni and I were ecstatic when her name was announced to advance to second round!
Between rounds we roamed and made friends with folks, including Satori Circus, because he seemed like fun! And he is! Side note, he is an artist in addition to an MC. Check out his website at http://satoricircus.com/. We also met and enjoyed chatting with Head Judge Helen Emsley. I was a little nervous approaching her, because you never know how one may be, especially when their resume is as impressive as the Executive Design Director of General Motors. But she was super nice, and actually huggable! In case you don’t know me, I am a hugger. As such I typically base first impressions of people on how they greet me after a few minutes chatting. If we end in a friendly hug, you must be a rad person!
And back to Jess. Jeni was actually doing her job and telling me that Jess was sketching again, and throwing away ideas. I actually was really enjoying her ideas as they were coming down! The end of her sketch was a slightly utilitarian box type vehicle with a kind of variable signage on the back, meant to show the folks to the rear what was relevant, like, turning left up ahead…. At least that is what I understood. I liked her idea because most of the other designs focused on things like head and tail lights. Although useful, these ideas are pretty ‘in the box’. But, the judges spoke. Jess did not make it to the final 4.
While we were waiting for more action, Jeni and I started people watching again. We realized the place was packed and we had to know people there! We reconnected with my friend from the old days working for The Horse, and Drew, who was there with his dad, who works for Axalta. Axalta is a company that I have a few connections with, including Uncle Dave, whom I have mentioned in the past. (He is the one responsible for the color of my ‘59 Chevy.) With the Axalta team was another old friend John Wray, whom I connect with often around the Dream Cruise. And one of my favorite reconnections was Ralph Gilles, Head of Design of FCA. My friend Arsey introduced us my first time as media at the NAIAS, but our connection never went anywhere. I sent Ralph an email, but never heard back… so I figured he didn’t like me. I reconnect with him the day before this event at the auto show again, and he not only remembered me, but asked why I never reached out! Turns out I should have kept trying. But this time, he wasn’t in a huge hurry so I got to chat with him for a moment. He is also a hugger! Score! Another nice person! That’s really what life is all about after all… making new friends! Next friendship to make is Ralph’s amazing racing wife Doris… but that will be another story!
As this theme has shown, we’re going back to Jess. You know that she didn’t win the SketchBattle big prize… but she was the People’s Choice winner! Through the night, people were invited to vote for their favorite design. The winner would get a Braze sports watch as the prize for this… and I think Jess was stoked to be recognized!
I assume you all want to know who won. Sung Kwan Go, from South Korea (also a student at CCS) was the overall winner. While his talent was obviously amazing, I was never tracking him. The other contestants were loud and made themselves get noticed. I actually only noticed him when he entered into the final 4. But although we would have loved to have a female winner, Sung shone through and we are very happy for him! Jeni and I had left by the final award, (racing an ice storm heading toward our homes) so we didn’t get a photo of Sung with the SketchBattle #15 belt… But I assume it was like any other battle. I picture him holding the belt high with a gigantic smile on his face. Looking forward to next year!