We Crown a New Champion – #MSBEXP 2016 Detroit

While there are numerous places to spend your evenings during the Detroit Auto Show Press Week, the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ is fast becoming a party you do not want to miss.  Hundreds of people from the Detroit Business, Arts and Design community came together with the international auto industry to socialize, celebrate auto design and raise over $3000 for Project Beautiful – Inside and Out.  And lest we forget, there is live sketching and the crowning of a Champion,  the 2016 Sketchmaster.

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Photo Credit: Sebastian Sullen

The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ is a Fight Club of Design where automotive designers come together to sketch live, in front of an audience, to compete over 3 rounds for the title of Sketchmaster.  Presented by Middlecott Design and AACS (Advanced Automotive Consulting Services), the 2016 event (our 7th) was also presented by BASF, whose anniversary colors were featured as the theme of the evening.  Before we let you know the winner, here is a small sampling of the fun you missed.


View from the VIP                                                                  Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg

A small crowd was already on hand before the doors opened at 7:00pm.  The 14 contestants (Meet all the competitors here arrived early with supplies in hand and made their way to the central table to find the luckiest seat possible.


The competitors get setup before the bell rings for Round 1    Photo Credit: Oliver Cole

Defending Sketchmaster Darby Barber  (Here is her profile) even brought special colored paper to the competition.  Her extra effort was admired by the judges Ralph Gilles from FCA, Bregt Ectors of GM, Kemal Curic of Ford and Paul Czornij of BASF (Meet all the judges here) .


LtoR Judge Paul Czornij/BASF, Judge Bregt Ectors/GM, Judge Kemal Curic/Ford, Doris Gilles/Project Beautiful, Chief Judge Ralph Gilles/FCA, Frank Schwartz/AACS and Brook Banham/Middlecott      Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg

The Lacks Trim System VIP room upstairs was a welcome respite for the judges and companies that support the event as it did not take long for the crowd to grow to the point where circulating with a drink in hand was attempted at your own risk.

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

The Volkswagen Canvas was donated by Curt Syder                               Photo Credit: Ed Ballots

If the first room was at capacity, there was always the second room to enjoy.  Munk’s Motors helped bring Curt Snyder’s vintage Volkswagen Bus as a blank canvas for the party guests to sketch on in exchange for a donation to charity.  I guess that watching the talented designers sketch inspired the crowd as hardly a single surface was left uncovered.  By the end of the evening there were people on step stools working on the roof.


Event the second room was full                              Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg


Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

Event the staff participated                                                 Photo Credit: Ed Ballots

Along with the VW,  the gang from Mobsteel was on hand with their diesel semi Gangstar.  The Gangstar is Mobsteel’s tow pig/ burnout machine. Powered by a pumped up 5.9 Cummins 12v. Equipped with air ride, triple stacks, and flame throwers just because it awesome.    Adam and Pam Genai circulated through the party along with their team, signing autographs when a fan requested.  It was nice to see that the success of the TV show hasn’t changed them.  They were approachable and open to chat with anyone, a fine example of the Detroit spirit and community that the national media chooses to ignore.  You can watch all the Season 1 episodes of Mobsteel on  NBCSports.com and see the Gangstar come to life.


The Mobsteel Gangstar                                                               Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg


LtoR The Mobsteel Team with MSBE: Steve “Steveo” Ryan, Doug “Wheatbread” Haynes, Frank Schwartz/AACS, Brook Banham/Middlecott, Pam and Adam Genai Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg

As the first round progressed, the audience watched over the contestants skills at translating BASF’s color Nightfall Blue.  Each round was a different color and the judges, led by Ralph Gilles, evaluated the sketches based on how the color was incorporated into the design and overall how it was used in the sketch.

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

Contestant Jacob Lovins gets started                                  Photo Credit: Ed Ballots

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

2015 Sketchmaster Darby Barber listens to tunes to help concentrate Photo Credit: Ed Ballots

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

Chief Judge Ralph Gilles evaluates the submissions                           Photo Credit: Ed Ballots

Between rounds you could find the Team from the Ford GT sketching for charity in the back room.  David McCall and Colin Bonathan, exterior and interior designers from the 2017 GT donated their time and talent to support Project Beautiful.  Party guests made donations and the two designers provided 3 minute sketches for everyone who made a donation.


Camilo sketches for Project Beautiful                         Photo Credit: Jon Adams

Later in the evening Camilo Pardo took over and between the three of them raised over $700.  A personal thanks to Camilo, whose first sketch was for a young aspiring artist, you may have encouraged an entire career path. In addition to Camilo, Alikhan Kuldjanov took a seemingly benign request from a Corvette fan and came back with this stunning piece.  You can find  more of Ali’s work here.


A guest made a donation = artist and designer Ali Kuldjanov produced this sensational piece. 


Round 1 and 2 sketches                                                Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg

Only 7 of the contestants made it to round two: Darby Barber, Ian Broekman, Omar Gonzalez, Randy Hjelm, Beomseok Kim, Josiah LaColla and Justin Sorum.  In Round 2 the sketchers had to imagine a car or truck inspired by BASF’s Fresh Mint as the party rocked on through another 30 minutes of sketching and tunes.


Emcee Satori Circus keep the crowd and contestants on time   Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg


The DJs Steve Ra and Peter Croce kept the party groovin’   Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg

In addition to the art available from the charity sketchers, Fiat Chrysler donated several prints of the original artwork for the Hellcat and Play Station Tomahawk to those who made the largest donations (you know who you are Scott, Rick, Justin, Tony, Michael, Steven, Jonathan and Courtney).  And Ford  donated prints of the original artwork for the GT which was used as a random drawing door prize and won by Rex Miller and Aaron Stachewicz. (Read about the artists and art here)


After two rounds of sketching we were down to the four finalists for the $1,000 Top Prize.  Darby Barber, Ian Broekman, Omar Gonzalez and Justin Sorum spent their last 30 minutes sketching in Arjean, a special silver/blue metallic developed by BASF.

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

Tony Eckrich of Kart2Kart caputes the results      Photo Credit: Ed Ballots

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

Between rounds contestant Darby Barber relaxes with party guests   Photo Credit: Ed Ballots


Project beautiful founder Doris Gilles poses with guests     Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg

And while the evening was disguised as a party, at its core it was really a benefit for charity.  In the end the event raised over $3,000 for Project Beautiful,  the brainchild of Doris Gilles.  The funds generated will be used for the Day of Beauty Program where shelter residents are provided with a special afternoon of pampering and fun with the goal to improve the self-esteem and confidence of the shelter residents.

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

Photo Credit: Ed Ballots


Judges Ralph Gilles and Bregt Ectors seem to be enjoying themselves Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg


Another group of smiling faces: Mike Smith and Kyle Evans   Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg

Before we finish with the announcement of the winner, we would be remiss if Brook and I didn’t send a shout out to our fantastic partners who were not mentioned above, without whom an event of this magnitude would not be possible.  (Read about the event partners here.)  Alison  for managing the logistics and staff (Michael, Andrea, Fashon, Linda, Syd, Destiny, and Aaron thanks to you too).  Joe at the Tangent Gallery for having the best industrial location for events in the whole state of Michigan.  Melissa and Kristen for getting the word out.  Mary and Yolanda and the entire team from BASF for supporting our vision – the event is 100% better than last year thanks to you.  Jordan and David from ShannonLoren who along with our awesome friend Brad made the place look great under Judith’s watchfull and talented Graphic Design eye (how could I leave you out Judith – my apologies). Mark and the team from Lacks Trim Systems for being our longest supporting partner – it means a lot to us that you keep coming back.  Michael and the team from Linkage Design and James from Autodesk – we love having you here.   First time partners Colin and the team from ABC Group – we hope this is the beginning of an awesome marriage.  Ali and Taylor from AllTheSketches who helped us find the best most talented contestants and Ali filled our VIP room with art.   And lest we forget, John Sauve, another unsung hero that is always championing our endeavors and making things happen.

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

The judges ponder                                                      Photo Credit: Ed Ballots


Even Daniel Simon stopped by                           Photo Credit: Jon Adams

And so, without further ado, the winner of the 2016 Detroit Middlecott Sketcbattle Experiment is, all the way from California, Omar Gonzalez.

Omar Gonzolez - Arjean Silver - Round3

The winning sketch from Omar Gonzalez

Middlecott Sketchbattle Esperiment 2016

The judges with winner Omar Gonzalez                  Photo Credit: Ed Ballots


Omar poses with Frank and Brook                          Photo Credit: Jon Adams



Photo Credits: Ingo Rautenberg

About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of CarFriend.me and Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, partner in The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment and serial entrepeneur. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank started reading car magazines at the age of 8 and has spent 30+ years working inside the automotive industry. In his spare time Frank races with the Sports Car Club of America, spends time working on his numerous project cars and supports many local charities.
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2 Responses to We Crown a New Champion – #MSBEXP 2016 Detroit

  1. John Sanderson says:

    It would have been nice to show & mention here, all 14 of the contestants that flogged in the first round. It would have been nice to introduce them before the start. Also, showing all of the sketches here, would be a big plus & nice recognition. All of the contestants did a good job under the incredibly noisy conditions and it was nice to see all of the diverse creativity. Despite the requirement for color, most sketches were black & white with just a dash of color. This is partly due to the time constraints, as rendering in color take bit more time.
    Not sure why having the Circus guy yelling in the contestants ears, or the headache-inducing “music” was making the event somehow more exciting, is really necessary for the crowd. It certainly wasn’t a help for the contestants, as design is a cerebral process, not helped by major distractions… “Reality” shows aren’t, & something as cerebral as design, has nothing to do with a mad max-fight club competition!
    Great job raising some dough for a good cause, & certainly a nice slice of design fun!

    • Thanks for your comments John. To try and address your points (all well taken) 1) We did actually profile all the contestants before the event – the hyperlink is listed above or you can search past posts. 2) As soon as all the sketches are scanned, they will all be posted here. 3) I have no real response to your Satori Circus comment – at the end of the day it is a party for charity and we are all trying to have fun. First negative comment I have heard in the years we have been using him. Some say its just like working in a studio with a deadline looming. I guess on this one we can just agree to disagree.

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