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  • Words and Photos by The Echo Parker

Head to Head: Tooth and Nail Art Battle

“Tooth and Nail”, an all-woman 90 minute mural art battle, took place the 1st Saturday night of February in Long Beach, CA. Sponsored by the City of Long Beach, hosted by Hello, Welcome and organized by one of the competitors: Allison Bamcat.

The battle featured Allison Bamcat, Michelle Guerrero AKA Mr B Baby, Alepsis Hernandez and Crisselle Mendiola. Each artist painted an 8 square foot mural restricted to a 3 color pallet, and voted winner by the loudest cheers from the crowd.

Allison greeted all the volunteers with open arms, and went out of her way to make the artists feel at ease. But once the competition began, the crowd of hundreds formed quickly around each artist leaving limited space and endless distractions – live dj, screaming fans, flash photography, gimbal videoing and endless cheers. In the end, the crowd was the most enthusiast for Alepsis Hernandez, and she was crowned the winner.

Sold Magazine Contributor, The Echo Parker interviewed the competitors in the same way they competed: "Head-to-Head", and here is what they had to say:


Alepsis Hernandez of Long Beach, CA

Mural: "The True Meaning of a Man"

How would you describe your mural?

AH: The mural is an achromatic piece is of my muse with animals interacting with him.

AB: I’d describe my mural as a dynamic, colorful, trippy portrait of a mystical chimera flapping its multi-color wings.

CM: My mural is focused on a funky little kind of character that I enjoy drawing often. I really like giving my characters attitude and sass.

MG: My mural is my depiction of the Pink Panther. My work is often recognized for a character I often paint named “Chucho”. I combined both The Pink Panther and Chucho. 

When did you decide on your design?

AH: I decided to paint this a week before the show. I was under the impression that we would have to freehand this without an opportunity to have a reference or sketch out.

AB: I decided on my design in the days leading up to the event. There were several designs I conjured up and tossed out in favor of this one, including a cat in a flower and a spooky ghost.

CM: As soon as I found out that I was a competitor. I thought of possible designs and the next day I drew it out.

MG: I decided on my design a few minutes before the competition! I had some ideas in mind, but this one came to me right before I started so I went with it. Based on the limited color palette we had, I thought it was a good choice. 

Allison Bamcat of Los Angeles, CA

Mural: “Flamingo Cerberus Unicorn”

Did you consider the 90 min restriction for the design?

AH: I wasn't sure how much detail I could put in in ninety minutes. This was my first time doing an art battle. This is why I chose to paint a man that resembles my boyfriend; considering I see him so much it is what came easily to paint.

AB: While I considered the time restriction, I knew I would need to paint FAST to even get enough paint on the wall to cover it. But I really wanted to push myself and see where my limits truly are. I’m known to work pretty quickly!

CM: Yes, absolutely! I had to think of a design that was cool enough yet something I was able to finish. I also had to consider a design that I could easily add color to since they didn’t tell us what colors they were going to give us.

MG: Yes! I would have liked to get more detailed but considering the size of the space and time restriction I knew I was limited. 

What were the challenges of painting an 8x8 foot mural?

AH: The only challenge I faced is having to work with mistakes that happened. There was really no time to consider adjustments or painting over but just to roll with it.

AB: The challenge initially was just deciding how much paint I could get on to the wall to cover it. Another challenge was that the wall was large enough to warrant needing a ladder, and I even missed a step on the way down once, landing on my butt! It didn’t hurt, so I laughed and got up to get back to work.

CM: I think the biggest challenge for me as far as the wall size was moving the ladder around. It was absolutely needed for me to use the ladder! But it was heavier than I thought and my design is pretty busy all around, so I got exhausted towards the end of the 90 minute mark. 

MG: As a muralist, who often uses aerosol, an 8x8 space is not challenging to do. However, we were limited to brush- which to me is more of an intimate process. I do a lot of brush work at home but never this scale with the limited time. I would have felt a lot less stressed has we used aerosol, as it covers rather quickly. 

Crisselle Mendiola of Santa Ana, CA

Mural: "Lil Diva Lady"

How did the crowd encroachment affect you during the competition?

AH: I definitely was nervous about painting publicly and with so much noise. This is why i purposely brought noise cancelling headphones. I promised i wouldn't look back at the crowd. I didn't want that distraction taking away my art funk.

AB: In general, I can tune out background noise while I work. After participating in illustration battles such as Secret Walls and from creating public-facing murals around Los Angeles, I’m used to interacting with crowds. I wanted to be able to hear the announcers, as well. But I will admit that the amount of flashes going off was a bit disorienting. Being mindful of someone in your space is difficult when you’re working so quickly!

CM: I thought the crowd would be a distraction for me, but I put on some headphones and it was actually easy to tune out and zone into the mural. 

MG: I honestly zoned everybody out! I kept my headphones on and never looked back to see who was watching. I’m surprisingly an introverted, shy person so I’ve never been a fan of crowds but after becoming a muralist I’ve learned how to stay focused and zone everything out but my painting because a crowd is generally part of it. 

How will being a participant in Tooth and Nails affect your art career?

AH: This opportunity will bring me closer to my goal of being a Pow Wow Long Beach selected artist.

AB: Already I’m amazed by how much interaction and engagement I’ve received since the event. It’s awesome to see how many people came out to support women in art and continue to support them after. I’ve made some new friends and some new fans, which is awesome.

CM: Tooth and Nail got me pretty noticed! I was able to meet so many kind people who love my work and so many kind artists who are amazing at what they do.

MG: It was excellent to have more people discover my work. A lot of people took pictures and reposted, so it was a great way to spread the message about my work. It was also an amazing networking opportunity, getting to know all the artists involved in the painting and preparation of this event was probably my favorite part. 

Michelle Guerrero of San Diego and LA

Mural: “Chucho Imitating the Pink Panther”

What was your first emotion when time was called?

AH: When time was called I felt confident to say that I put in my all.

AB: My first reaction when the clock counted down to one was relief. After making so many decisions in such a short amount of time, I was ready for some fun! I definitely felt proud and a sense of accomplishment, too. And I was so excited to see what Crisselle, Alepsis & Michelle created!

CM: I felt really exhausted but so glad I got it finished.

MG: Relief! I was happy I blocked in all the color, and was satisfied with the amount I got done. Of course I wanted to revisit it but I was definitely satisfied! 

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