Live painting is a thing in other parts of the world. In Malaysia, it’s just getting started, thanks to Ruby Subramaniam.

Ruby organizes Art Battle Malaysia, a “live competitive painting event.” The first event was held last October and the second one ended on March 25, 2017. Sponsors include INTI International University & Colleges (as main sponsor),, Gerakbudaya, art supplier Premier Art, crowdfunding site Umadx.

Artists compete for a cash prize. They get 30 minutes to fill a canvas. They have to bring their own painting supplies. Winner is decided based on an audience vote after the round is over. Ruby says, “Planning, practice and preparation are key for a successful battle.”

Art Battle Malaysia is under a year old, but the first Art Battle was held back in 2001 in New York City. It expanded across the US and to Canada and Brazil. Since its inception, Art Battle has hosted over 1200 competitions in over 50 cities worldwide.

Making the jump from the Americas to Malaysia is an unlikely one. Ruby had been backpacking in São Paulo when she saw a flyer for an upcoming Art Battle. She signed up to compete.

The thrill of live painting was unlike anything she had ever experienced. Art Battle Los Angeles Winner Vishva Karma describes it like this: “Artists spend a lot of time alone in their studios. To actually be in a place where people are screaming for you when you make a mark?”

Ruby had to bring it back to Malaysia.

Ruby is no stranger to organizing art events. She is a founding member of Doodle Malaysia, a Facebook group for artists and illustrators with over 10,000 members. When she was organizing Art Battle, she got support from this community.

“I run events because of the strong sense of community,” Ruby says. For her, Art Battle is a natural extension of Doodle Malaysia. “Art Battle is more diverse in terms of the kinds of styles that are being showcased, that’s why I collaborated with KL sketchnation and Garaj Komik as well this time.”

credit: Allie Hill

Critics of Art Battle say that the time limit forces artists to paint something easy or familiar. And the voting encourages artists to paint something aesthetically pleasing to the audience, as opposed to something more challenging.

But Ruby sees these drawbacks in another light. If the general public is to gain a deeper appreciation of art, then more conversations about art need to take place.

Art Battle is a conversation starter.

Follow Art Battle Malaysia on Facebook for info on upcoming events. Also, Ruby is a Thiscene contributor.