Monday, May 07, 2018

Review: The FINAL of The Big Painting Challenge 2018

The Final of Series 3 of The Big Painting Challenge was both better and worse than I was expecting.

However, I did maintain my 100% record in predicting the winner - of Series 1 (2015), Series 2 (2017) and Series 3 (2018) so that was one plus point!

As I predicted yesterday - before the Final! - Oliver Freeston won the Final.

Oliver Freeston wins The Big Painting Challenge 2018

However, what was surprising was that he did even better than I thought he might and seemed to weather the nerves best of all four of the male finalists. I'm sure his previous training as a dancer/performer must have helped him.

There's a little bit of me wondering why people do get so worked up. What's the worst that can happen? They don't win - which is absolutely guaranteed for 3 of the 4 and therefore the most likely outcome. It's not as if they miss out on a big cash prize or some life-changing contract or whatever. It's just a title and an accolade. Making it to the Final is "the win" for most people.  I loved Chris's story about what it was like when he told his family he was in the Final!

The Location

The Final was set at the Historic Dockyard at Chatham - which my other half was pleased about as he's often thought we should have a day out there.

They weren't lost for some BIG shapes when it came to the final challenge. In the meantime, there was the task and the "Mentor's Masterclasses"

Some BIG Objects for the BIG Painting Challenge

The First Task

Anybody who has watched this series before will know that the Final is likely to involve a portrait. So no surprise there.

Well no surprise to SOME might be more accurate. Apparently Anil owes Chris a £1 - which I took to mean he guessed it and Anil didn't. Sometimes you can read faces too...

and your first task will be a self-portrait....
Chris goes "I told you so" and Anil looks more than a little gobsmacked

This time it was a self-portrait - which is how some of us had already guessed that Chris must make it to the Final because him moaning about having to look at himself for two hours was part of the opening trailer for the series - played at the beginning of every programme. (Why do these have to be so long? Does it save money?)

It was very interesting to see how each of the men in the all male Final tackled their self-portrait.

Chris seemed to demonstrate a lot more confidence in what he did even if he didn't always sound quite so confident while looking at his lines!  His approach was by far the most painterly. He also had an excellent likeness.


Oliver looked to me as if he knew portraiture was going to be involved somehow or other - and has been practising - using himself as a model. That's because he produced an excellent likeness and an interesting self-portrait.

Oliver - self-portrait

I don't think portraiture is Anil's favourite genre. While all of us who have ever attempted a self-portrait are very familiar with the tendency to oproduce portraits which make us look grumpy (it's the concentration!) - Anil did look rather more stressed out than the others. I liked Pascal's crit of the painting - I thought he was spot on.

Anil - self-portrait

Callum's self-portrait was better than I was expecting given some very odd proportions last time and it was a decent likeness. I agree however that he does need his black paint taken off him so he learns how to create coloured darks by mixing complementary colours.

Self-portrait by Callum

At the end of the two hours, the Mentors have their commentary on the self-portrait task which was pretty accurate in my opinion.

Feedback on the self-portraits
For me there was no question, the order of participants in terms of the success of their self-portrait was
  • Oliver
  • Chris
  • Callum
  • Anil
There was just one more thing about the self-portrait which I didn't notice last night - but jumped out at me this morning when I was watching the episode back again

...and it's this

Excellent portrait of dog - which Pascal said reminded him of Oliver
and excellent self-portrait - which reminded me of the portrait of the dog.

I think maybe Oliver has tried this pose out before.....

The Masterclasses

Interestingly the exercises this time were tailored to the individuals - and I thought all of them were excellent. 

Oliver had to become much more gestural and use his whole body more in the process of painting big marks - which he rather enjoyed. He had brushes tied on to his fingers and feet so there was no scope for trying to work in an overly detailed way

Oliver's big gestures using brushes tied to his feet and fingers

Callum had to paint a giant still life, while using big paint rollers on the end of very long poles - while standing on a platform - using just tonal paints in trays on the floor. However somebody forgot to work out how best to get a view of him doing this. There are no shots of the complete scene.

Callum painting big tones from the start and layering rather than drawing and then colouring in
Chris had to try eating a cupcake and then paint it using much more fluid paint so that his paintings have much texture and look less like, as Pascal put it " a dried dog biscuit".

I said "lush" at the point when he was trying to find a word to describe what the painting should be like! Chris was ecstatic when he saw what gloopy paint does when mixed on the canvas!

Add caption
Anil had to paint blind. He had to work out how to paint the 'feel' of an object which he could not identify and was rather good at it.

Anil painting what a scrubbing brush feels like using a scraper

What I thought was really interesting was how much more engaged each artist seemed to be - and how much more they seemed to enjoy the task - because they were doing the task on their own, rather than being conscious of what the others were doing.

Pointer for the future I think!

The FINAL Final Challenge

The artists had their choice of what to paint at Chatham Dockyard.

Finally, in the very last challenge they get to engage in the really difficult bit of any painting - choosing what to paint!

There were enormous buildings, very old sailing ships and rather more modern ones and cranes.

Daphne when asked by Mariella to encourage instead pointed out the dangers - and suggested they think hard about foreground, middle ground and background. Lachlan encouraged them to paint something which spoke to them.

I'd just like to see them walking around with a crop square trying to work out what might 'fit' and work well within different formats!

There was a lot of stress and a bit of a meltdown and some performed better than others and listened better than others. Pascal gave out two very useful tips which both Oliver and Chris picked up on and used.

After they finished, family and fellow artists from the series showed up to see an exhibition of work that each artist had produced across the series

Note to producer - never ever film in a place where the architecture competes with your subjects
- and wins every time!
In terms of the paintings produced, my order was

FIRST PLACE: Chris / Oliver - for different reasons

  • Chris - almost produced a great painting. To my mind he almost won. Lachlan was spot on about him being a great colourist and Daphne was right about how much the painting needed the chains linking it to the dock. If he'd just had a bit more confidence and done a bit more I think he would have produced the best painting. Chris has a very good eye for what makes a good picture. I guess because he walks around seeing light and shade and no detail. The rest of us have to screw up our eyes and squint to see what he sees!
Chris - Final Challenge painting

Oliver - kept making me think he wasn't going to have a finished painting - until I saw him down on the ground with the old "very sharp card dipped in paint for sharp straight lines trick"! He zapped in that rigging really fast - and it made all the difference

Oliver - Final Challenge Painting

LAST PLACE: Anil / Callum for different reasons

Anil: perspective was all over the place, there was no reflection and Daphne was spot on about the background. Anil certainly didn't pick the right day to have a 'less than great' painting day.  He's been so confident all the way through, it was really odd to see him obviously experiencing stress and painting less well on the last day.

Callum: poor choice of subject / crop / painting. To my mind, it was a classic case of "performance nerves" (which happens to the best of people) - and he reverted right back to his safe place of what he knows best. All the learning went out the window.

Thus there was absolutely no question neither Anil not Callum could win this series.

The winner

I think the idea of treating this like a Talent Show and awarding the 'title' to the person who performed best in the final challenge stinks - and is utterly, utterly crass.

It totally disrespects art by demonstrating no understanding that an artist's career is built on development over time, on a track record and a body of work and NOT a single painting. 

It also does not allow for the fact that where competitions are based on single paintings then the artist has 
  • all the time in the world to choose his subject, 
  • total control over the approach 
  • total control over the number of hours used to produce the painting
So in that respect the competition was a complete joke.

However I rather suspect given the fact the paintings in the final challenge were less good than the self-portraits that they allowed themselves to take this into account in arriving at the final judgement.

I think I want to identify two winners.

On the basis of who performed best overall - across six episodes - then my very worthy winner would be Oliver. Mainly because 
  • he did try to learn 
  • he did improve and 
  • he consistently produced paintings that were not awful - and some of them were good!  
  • he did everything with good humour - apart from when Daphne made him cry.
  • Plus as I indicated yesterday, when I predicted pre-programme that he would win, he'd never ever been in the bottom three.  
He also smashed it out the park with his self-portrait!

Oliver wins - and gets a bit emotional!

However, if you look at it from the perspective of who learned the most - and applied himself the most - and tried his hardest to bring his mental game to the delivery of his paintings - then to my mind there's absolutely no question Chris should have won.

I was hugely impressed by the fact that ANYBODY with a serious visual impairment would even think of going in to a televised talent show for painters.  I guess this was like the paralympics for painting from Chris's perspective!

I loved the way he had short sharp soundbites which he used to talk to himself into starting each painting with the right mind-set. I suspect that's a learned technique and one that others could learn from!

However most of all he demonstrated the biggest learning, biggest change and put himself out there - on the edge - again and again and again. I had been willing him to do well from Episode 2!

Overview of the Final

It was interesting to see

  • there was a lot of focus on 
    • the education content
    • the amount of learning that had taken place - although I could tell how much this was prompted as opposed to spontaneous. Personally I was disappointed that there had not been more.
  • at the same time, with the last challenge, the programme neatly demonstrated 
    • how much learning goes out the window when people are nervous and stressed out and how big a role nerves play and how important the ability to perform when required played in the final painting. I don't think it any coincidence that the person who was most used to performing also won the show!
  • how all the self-portraits produced were better than the paintings produced in the final challenge. While not perfect they did at least demonstrate better observation of their own faces.
  • it was much more interesting to see masterclass exercises tailored to the learning needs of individuals. I can imagine people watching saying "I must try that" in relation to at least one of the exercises. However I still don't get how something can be called a masterclass when there is no demonstration. The exercise then wholly depends on how articulate a mentor has.
  • Daphne has been spontaneously more negative in the last two episodes - although I am now beginning to wonder if this is editing. (I'm using my "negativeremarkometer" - as demonstrated by Mariella - in arriving at this conclusion). It's also clear that there are more lighter notes which the director does not choose to give too much attention to....
  • On the whole Judges conclusions were pretty much spot on - even if some of the artists thought them "brutal".
At the end of the day I think there was more of an educational focus - which was nice to see - and the outcome was fair. I'd have liked to see much more of a shout for what Chris achieved - and in the absence of one I'll do it instead (see above)

and finally - some Tweets

In response to Pascal asking people what they thought of the final there were 88 comments. Here's a few of them.

This one got the most endorsements
The contestants were not very strong at all. Casting needs to be more rigorous next year.
Lots of comments about the judges which were consistently uncomplimentary
I found some bits with the mentors hard to watch - I thought the judges were just awful all the way through! I found the way they kept forcing people to change their styles etc but then saying to bring themselves into the paintings really odd ??
Got to be honest, I was very disappointed by this series, which was a shame, I loved the last series. In my opinion, the Artists weren't able to shine at what they were individually good at, and the constant criticism/brutal comments left them deflated & made me uncomfortable. 
Some views about how the programme needs to develop in the future
Congratulations, Oliver! I’ve enjoyed it but not sure it needs the eliminations, it might be more engaging to see all contestants develop. I wish everyone could push themselves out of their comfort zone more. Perhaps they’d relax more, be braver without the threat of elimination.
I wish that the show runners would take some of yours and Diana’s wisdom on board and step out of THEIR comfort zone - away from the tried, tested, and tiresome knockout competition format. I’d have liked to have seen all of the artists develop, perhaps 1 ep. each
Pretty bad. Compared to Sky Arts Landscape and Portrait artists progs it’s very poor now. Contestants not up to scratch, no wonder judges were harsh. Its like what The Voice would be with people who couldn’t sing at all - dire. Populist TV by the BBC again
and a couple I loved 
I’ve got to be honest & say I was disappointed by the production of this series. It wasn’t what the initial ‘call for artists’ promo said and the review by @makingamark2 sums it up for me. I auditioned for this show but I wouldn’t audition again in its current format.
I agree with the thoughtful and constructive views of @makingamark2 …
I hope the BBC reads and follows her advice.


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REFERENCE: The BPC to date

This post follows on from my earlier posts

The story so far for Series 3 (2018)

Series 2 (2017)

Series 1 (2015)

1 comment:

  1. Great overview and agree with all your observations. Thank you for doing this it has been great to read and follow and I think through Pascals tweet this morning the BBC will get to read it all too. I hope they learn something valuable from it too. Bx


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