Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Big Painting Challenge starts 22nd February on BBC1

The Big Painting Challenge starts on Sunday at 6pm on BBC1. It's part of the BBC's new initiative to get creative. You will also be able to view it via iPlayer.

What's The Big Painting Challenge?

Ostensibly it's about a nationwide search for the best amateur artist. I wrote about the initial search for participants a year ago in February 2014 - The Great British Paint-Off: BBC1 searches for best amateur artists

It seemed to me at the time that essentially this was going to be
a competitive art series on BBC1 which I guess will be the art equivalent of the The Great British Bake-Off and The Great British Sewing Bee!
In other words, three challenges per programme and somebody voted off each week by the two judges who are experts in their field.

It would appear I guessed about right!

Interestingly the search for people threw up a definition of an amateur artist in the terms and conditions
The competition is not open to anyone who is currently a professional artist, or artists who have already won professionally recognised prizes or awards for their work.4. To qualify as an amateur, individuals should not earn more than 50% of their annual income from their artworks, or be represented by an established gallery. 
The Amateur Artists and Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon (the Mel and Sue of Painting!)
at Alnwick castle

In general, this type of programme seems to be a tad confused as to whether it's a competition to find the best amateur whatever or whether its aims is to make "good television" because it has people with interesting back stories with the programmes then going on to show "the journey" for the individuals. Are they expert amateurs or are we going to see them develop their skills as the series progresses? I'm all for it being a journey so long as nobody actually goes around saying the winner is the best amateur painter in the UK!

After all, not everybody wants to appear on television!

The Episodes

There are six episodes and the first two episodes have been announced. The first - at 6pm on BBC1 on Sunday night - is about Landscape
    The competition starts in Alnwick Castle in Northumberland - known to many as Hogwarts - where expert judges Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd OBE set their first challenge to see each artist's unique painting style for the first time......The second challenge each week is a quick-draw challenge. In this episode the artists must sketch, at speed, a delphinium flower. Expert judge Lachlan Goudie shows us his tips on how to capture the beauty and complexity of a flower. Their final challenge is to paint the formidable castle from across the banks of the River Aln. Getting a sense of depth into their paintings proves more difficult than many think. While some thrive painting outdoors, others who've only ever painted in the comfort of their spare bedrooms have to adapt quickly to the challenges of the changing light.
The second episode is about Portraiture
For their opening task, the judges give the artists just four hours to paint an image they see every day in the bathroom mirror - their own self-portrait. But for many, success isn't staring them in the face as they struggle with proportion and scale.
In the quick-draw challenge the artists have just 30 minutes to capture the likeness of a complete stranger. And in their last chance to impress before someone is sent home, the judges want to see how the artists cope with two very well-known faces
I'm already speculating as to what the next four episodes are about - and apart from being fairly certain one is about "Still Life" I've no idea what they are about.

Looking at the book, I'm thinking Seascapes, Cityscapes and People in movement are a good bet. I'm also guessing at least one challenge one might well involve taking people out of their comfort zone and getting them to use art materials they're not used to.

Clips from the show

You can see some clips from the first two episodes on the website here

Who's taking part?

The artists were picked from some 6,000 entrants! On the website you can view:
  • the artists and their profiles - it's interesting to see there's rather a lot of middle aged artists participating. I know one of them - Anne Blankson-Hemans ( - and her work and I think she could well be in with a chance.  She featured in a programme a number of us remember well - Show me the Monet. I wrote about that one in this 2012 blog post - Show Me the Monet - X factor for Artists?
  • the presenters including the judges Daphne Todd OBE PPRP and Lachlan Goudie ROI. 
    • Daphne Todd is best known for her portrait work but is also an excellent landscape painter. She and was the first female President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and has also won the BP Portrait Award (see Daphne Todd wins BP Portrait Award 2010). Four of her portraits hang in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery (Sir Christopher Ondaatje, Spike Milligan, Lord Sainsbury and Dame Janet Baker). She's well know for piecing panels together as a painting grows while she is painting it.
    • Lachlan Goudie is a member of the Royal Institute of Oil painters. He paints landscapes and portraits but I know him best for his very distinctive paintings of still life.
Daphne Todd commented
“I was delighted to learn of this new series celebrating the amateur painter, because it will help spread the word that painting from observation is such an enthralling, totally absorbing and ultimately, life-enhancing activity. Some of our greatest minds have been amateur painters: Churchill painted for pleasure; Prince Charles consistently makes time in an unbelievably hectic schedule to dash off a landscape. If THEY can, WE can! I shall be looking for a sense of personal development in the finalists, a sense that they will pursue and defend their own vision, whether they are attracted by detail or the broad sweep, by the story element or by abstract qualities. Above all the challenges will be great fun!
For those who can get to London you may be interested to know that both of the Judges have got exhibitions coming up.
  • Daphne Todd will have an exhibition of recent works at Messum's, now at 28 Cork Street, London, W1S 3NG between 1st April and 17th April.
  • Lachlan Goudie is having a joint show of New Painting: Lachlan Goudie and Tim Benson with Tim Benson at the Mall Galleries between 23-28th March 2015

The Events and Activities

The website includes a page devoted to events around the country

There's also A Live Lesson for children. This is an interactive Live Lesson focusing on illustration and drawing people. It will be streamed to classrooms across the UK for 45 minutes from 11am onWednesday 25th February 2015. This one is aimed at kids as the person giving the lesson is the illustrator of Tracy Beaker. Click the link to find out more.

A Little Painting Challenge

As well as The Big Painting Challenge there's also The Little Painting Challenge - which has already started!

In summary:
  • the aim is for people to have a go at art – by drawing or painting a picture on a postcard in whatever medium they like. 
  • winners will be selected from three different categories: 
    • over 16 beginners, 
    • over 16 experienced and 
    • 7 to 15 year olds. 
  • Entries must be received by 5pm on Thursday 2nd April 2015
  • These are the full terms and conditions
You can get a postcard free from
  • the Radio Times 
  • libraries across the UK from 17th February 2015
  • or use a standard A6 postcard  (105 x 148 mm/4.1”x 5.8”) and download the entry form and stick it to the reverse of the artwork.
The winners will receive prizes including art equipment to the value of £500 (for 16 + categories) and £250 (for 7 – 15 years old) and 1000 of the artists will have their entries displayed at the Whitworth.

Then there's a book.....

I bought the book - The Big Painting Challenge - today at half-price in WH Smith. (I note it's the same price on Amazon so do ignore the fact it's priced at £20 and aim for a £10 deal!).

The author is Rosa Roberts

Its aim is to be a practical guide to painting and drawing.

I found it really interesting to look at a book which in many ways seems to have had a not dissimilar brief to the one I had - notwithstanding mine was about drawing and sketching only and this is about painting and drawing. It's fascinating to see how the author has translated that into topics within the book. They got 250+ pages to deliver the end product in as opposed to my 160 and by and large that translates into much bigger images and much more emphasis on step by step projects.  Which makes it not dissimilar at first look to a number of other books about painting and drawing.

I do like the emphasis that is given to exercises for newbies and ones for people who are more experienced.

I've by no means gone through it all as yet, however for those in the UK who are familiar with the art magazine market, initial impressions suggest it's leaning rather more towards 'Leisure Artist' (ie older person who enjoys painting as a hobby) rather than 'The Artist' ( younger audience including some who aspire to become semi-professional or professional painters).  By which I mean the artwork in the book is the sort more likely to be seen at the annual exhibition of a local art society.

Having not seen the series yet it's difficult to see how close the tie-in is between episodes and series. Having studied the descriptions of the first two episodes and the related content in the book there appears to be some that is related and other content which is more general relevance.

I'm guessing (given how long my book took to produce and write) that the book was in all probability produced in advance of the filming - on the basis of an intended script - with images from the filming slotted in towards the end - hence the discrepancies.

Books are very much associated with these BBC programmes. I know I went out and bought a slew of Mary Berry books after the Great British Bake-Off. On balance I think I'd have rather seen a book by Daphne Todd who brings a wealth of experience to her judging role. She's not yet produced a book of instruction. If the series takes off, maybe this will be the trigger for one to be produced in future? I know I'd buy it if she did.