Cars, Markers and Beers: The 2017 Middlecott Sketch Battle Experiment™ at SEMA

The yearly SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show is when custom builders, resto-mod officialdom, gear heads and car nuts of all kinds decent on Las Vegas in a rowdy clash of screeching tires and burning rubber—that isn’t a hyperbole. Out front of the show is a low G skid pad where professional drivers can take out cars to see how easily they do donuts, from the Ford Mustang to the latest Kia. Legendary builders like Rod Emory, Magnus Walker, Singer, and Icon show off their latest and most insane builds. Mainstream brands like Ford, Honda, and Chevy display their race vehicle R&D test beds and high performance models. And every possible part maker you can imagine is set up to show off how they can improve your ride from stiffer racing shocks to smartphone integration.

It is in that mix of motor oil, super high octane racing fuel, and car branded tattoos that the Middlecott Sketch Battle Experiment landed. The Middlecott Sketch Battle Experiment (or MSBE) ir organized by designer Brook Banham and Frank Schwartz, founder of Advanced Automotive Consulting Services. Their goal is to bring design out of the corporate offices and into the limelight. MSBE has been running at the Detroit Auto Show for the past 8 years, and this will be its second year at the LA Auto Show. The concept is simple: Gather all of the designers that are at these shows anyway, pick the best of the best of them, and have them square off in a live sketching competition. This year sponsor Axalta helped them one-up the experience by actually bringing the first few rounds of competitive heats directly to the show floor in their booth.

Contestants furiously sketching against the clock in the opening round.

The main competition was held at a rented out club in downtown Old Las Vegas. A welcome respite from The Strip, designers from all of the major brands checked in to have a few beers and cheer on their favorite competitors. Last year, I participated at the LA edition as a judge, this year for SEMA, I dropped in as a surprise competitor. Three thirty minute heats whittled the field down from 15 entrants do to a final 4, to a single winner who took home a giant WWF style championship belt. Other entrants included Daney Chhang previously at Faraday Future, Roberoto Martinez, Cesar Estrada of Airdesign, independent designer Chris Greazel, John Narciso of TSW, Justin Famularo owner of Joy Performance Wheels and designer at Rivian, Del Swanson, Kayvan Naderi, Matt Torres, Ryan Goimarac of FCA, and Art Center students Chris Lah, Henry Pu, Jose Omar Gonzalez Torres and Xinhan Wang. Competition was stiff but friendly, with entrants pushing and encouraging each other. If you think sketching live is stressful, try doing it in front of a room full of car designers in various states of inebriation. Judges included the legendary Camillo Pardo who designed the Mustang and Ford GT, Tim Anness Head of Jeep Exterior Design , Adam Genei of Mobsteel, legendary designer Camillo Pardo who worked on the design of the ford Mustang and Ford GT.

Each round had a theme. The first was restored-modded pick up trucks, round 2 was Lincoln low riders, and round 3 was open as long as it fit in with SEMA and Mobsteel. The event’s headline sponsor was Axalta MobSteel, a Detroit based builder and wheel maker. Daney Chhang walked away with the championship belt, and the crowd walked away energized and inspired.

So much of what we do is locked up behind closed doors for years, and sometimes forever. Getting a bunch of designers together and setting them loose is a good thing, even if only for a few hours. If you are in LA for the auto show at the end of the month, be sure to check out the next Middlecott Sketch Battle Experiment™.

The next Middlecott Sketch Battle experiment will be Nov 29th, from 7pm-11pm, at the LA Auto Show. Get your tickets HERE.