Jacob Cullum

(Rock Hill, S.C.) – Local artists and art enthusiasts visited Rock Hill’s Center for the Arts for a competitive portrait drawing contest that pitted the artists against one another in a one-on-one knockout style competition.

Similar to a sports tournament, there were 16 artists who competed in pairs by drawing a portrait of a model, who would then decide which sketch was the best.

The contest, which was hosted by the Arts Council of York County, continued until one artist remained to collect the $100 grand prize.

Bradley Sabelli, a retired college professor who is active in the Rock Hill arts community, served as one of the models.

“I thought it would behoove me to be a model. This is the third time for me now and as a university professor in this area, I get to make an academic choice, but also an aesthetic choice (by picking the winner),” Sabelli said.

“Truly this is what I would call an artistic-spectator sport, a gladiatorial contest between the artists and they’re in the pit, and all the Romans are around,” Sabelli joked.

The models were also offered the opportunity to buy the portrait of themselves from the artist after each round.

Rock Hill resident Brain Wilson said the contest is a unique event.

“I think it’s cool to see arts in a competitive style. I had never thought about art being able to become a timed competition sort of thing, so I came by to check it out. So far, it has been awesome to see,” Wilson said.

Nathan Andrews, sporting a giant mask with glasses and flowing hair, portrayed a character known as “the host,” who he said was intended to be “pretentious art critic who is a know-it-all” to bring some comic relief to the event.

“The arts council asked if I could host this event and I graciously accepted. They had me host this event two years ago and for some reason they thought it would be a wonderful idea to ask me to return,” said Andrews.

Lori Robishaw, who was recently hired as the executive director of Arts Council of York County, said she hopes the event will improve the future of Rock Hill’s art scene.

“I am very new to the Arts Council of York County. This is my fifth day on the job. I just moved here from Connecticut last week and I am very excited to be in this growing city and county,” Robishaw said.

“The arts and cultures have been strong. We need to make them stronger, so that we keep up with football and sports and all the other awesome things going on in this area. So, this is part of ‘Art Party Tonight’ and the Arts Council is pleased to be a part of it. We look forward to more good times,” she said.

Organizers said they plan to hold the competitive portrait drawing contest again in the near future.