Last night I had the privilege to partake in a 6 person battle royale alongside Eric Vozzola, M!scre8, Manny Fernandez, Skewl94 and Acebooncoonart. The battle which is part of Secret Walls, a world-wide organization, was held at Gold Spike and was a 90 minute, black and white illustration comp in which no one is allowed to use references, tools or any color but black paint; to say it’s intimidating is an understatement. However, I had no idea just how hard this was going to be or the pressure that the event would bring.
In the days leading up to Secret Walls I was focusing on painting jackets and watercoloring to get my chops up. I had spent a few days in San Diego with my family where my sister was looking at colleges and enjoying the beach. Sabriel and I came home on Sunday and I started the week trying to mentally prepare for the busy week of work ahead. Tuesday morning I got a call from my sister that my family had been in an accident and I immediately rushed to California. Without getting into too much detail, this was the worst few days I’ve experienced; not knowing what’s going on with your family is an insanely surreal experience I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone.
Wednesday at 4pm, we left California to try and make it home in time for Secret Walls. The entire drive home I was trying not to freak out and just focus on getting in the zone. We pulled up to Vegas at 8pm and had 30 minutes to get ready for the event. As it started, I stood there staring at the canvas as I heard “We all know it’s going to be Yerman” from the crowd. I chuckled a bit and tried getting started. Every line didn’t feel right, every brush stroke felt off; it was 90 minutes of feeling uncomfortable as the crowd was yelling and I could feel my skin start to itch.
I reached down for more paint and ended up spilling it all over the ground, the crowd immediately yelled “OHHHHHH!” I started to sweat and shake and tried to play it off. As I started mixing new paint with water to thin it out, I dropped my headphones and cell phone into the paint. “Great now I don’t have music,” I thought to myself. Anyone that knows me knows that I depend on music to get in the zone and now I felt really uncomfortable. Eric looked over and noticed I was having a hard time and offered up his paint, bless his heart man, he’s one of the kindest people I know.
I eventually got my shit together and stopped thinking about how I should have been in California with my family and started to get in the rhythm. The 90 minutes went by fast and when it was all said and done I was ok with what was on the canvas. It wasn’t my favorite thing I’ve ever painted but it’s pretty hard to get perfect brush strokes under those conditions regardless.
The crowd was littered with friends and Yerman shirts and the crowd was the judge. I was so thankful to have such an amazing support system around me screaming for me when they called my name. I didn’t think I’d win, but I was hoping to advance to the next round. Turns out, I won first place and I couldn’t believe it. In a daze, I started cleaning up my paint and not knowing what was happening; it felt fuzzy. In the midst of screams and smiles, I felt shaky and dizzy. This was the most intense event I’ve ever been apart of, I felt like I survived. Thank you to everyone that was there whether you were there to see Yerman or one of the other amazingly talented artists. Furthermore, I can’t thank the friends in Yerman shirts enough; it brought me down from a very high bridge when I was having a panic attach in front of 50 people.
That win was for my family who are the strongest group of people I know. That win was for the family that has united around Yerman and made me feel like part of something bigger than myself. This is Team Yerman, we are all Depressed Monsters in it together and I’m so thankful to be a part of this journey with you all.
Photos by Dalton Campbell and Hew Burney