The Chinese general Sun Tzu earned his legendary reputation writing about the art of war. But for the next few months in downtown Massillon, new legends will be forged in a war of art. The Massillon Art Battles, judged in part by Buzzbin Magazine, pit two local artists against one another in a live art-making showdown, with the winner advancing to semifinal and final rounds. The first battle took place January 26 at Bender’s in downtown Massillon, when local talents Bili Kribbs and Scott Alan Evans threw down their berets before a packed house and matched brushes for an hour. The artistic theme — “Kittens on Fire” — elicited a close fight, but Kribbs came out on top and will be advancing to the semifinal round later this spring. Both entries can be viewed at Bender’s until the end of the show, when they, along with the rest of the art, will be auctioned off for charity. The event was organized by Ryan Lynn, also an artist and the cartoonist behind Buzzbin’s “A Wing and a Prayer” comic series. “I like supporting the arts and I’m generally pretty poor, so instead of buying my art, I figure I can pool my resources and just have all the people I know in the art scene make it for me,” he joked. “And if I can put on a good show in the meantime, that’s cool.” The idea for the event initially arose from an interest in creating a social event out of the creative process — if possible, with a few chemical enhancements. “At first, I wanted to just start a local sketch club. But then I thought, I wanted this to be something that people who aren’t artists can come and enjoy,” he said. “The second idea was a local chapter of a drink-and-draw group. And then that kind of evolved, because a drink-and-draw is all about drawing games.” The Art Battles are loosely modeled on Super Art Fight, a Los Angeles-based event that organizes inter-artist brawls using a spinning wheel to randomly generate topics. Lynn’s background in improvisational events — he’s a member of the Canton-based improv comedy group Scared Scriptless — means that Massillon’s battles are also dictated by arbitrary topics. “The two artists are introduced and given a topic totally at random, using audience selection,” he said. “Basically, whoever yells the loudest. The artists will then be given an hour’s time to create their piece using any media they deem fit.” Working on a time crunch, the only other limit is the confines of their 24” x 36” canvases. Weapons — crayons, paint, ink, pencil — are the artists’ choice: If they can bring it to the competition, they can use it. (In January, both competitors opted to use paint; Kribbs also packed heat in the form of a hairdryer.) At the end of the hour, the art is subjected to three judges. Two are Buzzbin editors: One is editor in chief Mike Nasvadi, the other yours truly. The third is a rotating celebrity judge from the local art community. January’s guest judge was Bill Lynn — no relation to Ryan, but known as Dr. Sketchy of the Akron branch of Anti-Art School. This month’s battle is scheduled for Wednesday, February 23 at 8 p.m., and pits David McDowell against Scott Warfield. The March event matches Jason Sigala with Jim Whitecap on the 30th, and the final battle is Dan Watkins versus Michael Skaggs on April 27. Dates for semifinals and finals are forthcoming, and all spectators can watch for free. All preliminary matches will take place at Bender’s in Massillon (50 Lincoln Way E).