59°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Secret Walls Las Vegas showcases talent in live-art battle

There are 90 minutes on the clock and Mike Biggs is outlining the frame of a face with his paintbrush in long, light gray slashes. A canvas away, Jeremiah Kaniaupio is starting small, with the structure of a nose in precise black lines in the middle of his canvas.

Also on the stage at Place on 7th in the Secret Walls Las Vegas competition are Zappos artist-in-residence Miguel Hernandez, digital artist Jeannette Hall, illustrator justanothrday and designer Sam Canales.

The event is an offshoot of the international Secret Walls organization, which orchestrates live-art battles around the world and describes itself as “the ‘Fight Club’ of the art scene.”

The Las Vegas iteration of the event began in February and will culminate with the championship in September, with a cash prize and gifts from sponsors to be determined. In each battle, six local artists are pitted against each other. The top three contestants progress onto the next round. To amp up the entertainment value, there are constraints: 90 minutes, black paint (the artists can mix it with water), no reference material.

As time slips away, images emerge across the six canvases: cartoonlike Avengers, an anthropomorphized paintbrush, a hand sprouting from a mound of grass.

“I actually wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me, so I was just working quick at first and then I started slowing down,” Biggs, a tattoo artist by day, says after he finishes. The crowd’s cheers, measured in decibels, crown him the winner of the night moments later.

Kaniaupio — painting under the name OrfinArt — took second at the Wednesday event, justanothrday third, rounding out the group that will progress to the quarterfinal of the Secret Walls Las Vegas event in July.

David Duran, owner of Civilian Clothing, founded the Secret Walls Las Vegas chapter earlier this year. He wants the Secret Walls tournament to serve as a launch pad for local artists, a task he says can be challenging given the lure of the glittering hotels and their productions.

“Our city is so talented, it’s kind of crazy to see people look past them and just go to the Strip for mainstream stuff,” Duran says.

Jef Logan, who competed in the first battle in February and will compete in the June quarterfinals, says the Las Vegas art scene is growing and “becoming a well-oiled machine and a unit of creativity” — it just needs to be incorporated into the city’s popular image.

“How Vegas is able to stand out is that it’s a tourist city, it’s a landmark on a map but we get to tell — Vegas artists — that it’s not just a city of that, it’s also a hub of the artist community,” Logan says. “It’s strong. It’s got a lot of substance.”

Wednesday’s event was mostly attended by friends and family of the competitors, as well as fellow artists such as Tony LaVorin, who came to support Hernandez.

“He’s a really good guy, I appreciate his humbleness,” LaVorin says.

As for Simon Fong, an artist as well, “I just came out for the art.”

Attendees who loved the pieces painted in front of them could bid on them throughout the night — Wednesday’s highest bid was $400 for OrfinArt’s painting.

LaVorin stood close by the stage, intently observing Hernandez shape a monochrome rose on his canvas. Secret Walls, at its heart, turns the artistic process into a spectator sport, an aspect LaVorin, as an artist himself, isn’t so sure about.

“You can’t really pick a winner, I mean come on,” LaVorin says. “That’s the only thing I don’t like.”

But like all truly pure things in the world, the final standings are secondary to the process played out onstage, at least for Logan.

“Just like any painting, I am faced with what decisions I’m going to make and what I’m going to do, how I’m going to just kill it, and then on to the next,” Logan says. “And if I don’t win the competition, so what? Next painting, what’s next?”

That’s not to say winning doesn’t feel good.

“But if I do win, that would be awesome bragging rights.”

Throughout the summer, and after the September championship, Duran plans to host more Secret Walls events and bring in street artists from outside Las Vegas to battle with the locals. He also hopes to have a Secret Walls battle at the Life is Beautiful festival in September.

Contact Sarah Corsa at scorsa@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0353. Find @sarahcorsa on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Celine Dion’s lounge gig a boon to Las Vegas act

Celine Dion performed “Because You Loved Me,” “Ashes,” Beauty and the Beast” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Her arrival drew a roar from the 300 VIPs in attendance, who were not informed of the night’s entertainment.