Monday, January 17, 2022

What's different about Watercolour Challenge - on Channel 5?

I've just watched the first episode of the new Watercolour Challenge (Season 1 on Channel 5) and I'm going to note below what I noticed was different about this version.

Plus a "booboo" which they need to fix to avoid running foul of the competition regulators.

This is the link to the catch up of yesterday's programme on My5 (on demand) - it looks like it's Scarborough but it's actually Plymouth - see below!

DEVON WEEK: The artists in Episode 1

What I noticed

  • The location was NOT as advised. 
    • so it was NOT on the front at Scarborough - during YORKSHIRE week - as advertised. Unfortunately the official link to the programme on the Channel 5 website still shows some nice chap in Yorkshire with his painting of Scarborough!
    • Instead the programme started with DEVON week and we were at The Royal William Yard in Plymouth - which I'd never heard of before. I kept thinking "that doesn't look like Scarborough!"
    • Even Lisa Takahashi, the professional artist mentor/judge in the programme thought the Devon week was next week!
  • However, as always with this programme, there was a decent profile of the place itself and its history and what's interesting about it. In this case it is an award-winning Grade I listed ex-naval victualling yard which provides the greatest amount of Grade 1 listed military buildings in Europe.
The Royal William Yard - with one of the watercolour painters bottom left
  • The artists are
    • 50% retired and 50% employed 
    • 75% of the four artists are 55+ - which is not dissimilar to many watercolour societies / groups and those who regularly watch this programme - and those participating in the previous programme on Channel 4
  • The artists' standard / experience is 
    • what I'd call "decent amateur standard" i.e. reasonably competent without any being professional - although one is a part-time illustrator/part-time Mum. 
    • not all the artists are people who regularly paint landscapes - or even plein air. It's a common feature which occurs elsewhere e.g. Landscape Artist of the Year. It does make me wonder how plain it was made to the artists that ALL painting would be landscapes and all set-ups would be taking place outside, whatever the weather. However they all arrived with decent anoraks so I guess they knew!
  • The artists are NOT identified by their full names. What's the problem Channel 5? If others can do this so can you!
  • Fern Britton makes a very good replacement for Hannah Gordon
It's definitely a competition which decent amateur artists should apply for if there's going to be another series.


What's different in this series of Watercolour Challenge?


Fern Britton and Lisa Takahashi
  • The whole process (minus the bit where say who's won) reminded me a LOT of the what it's like when you're on a week's painting holiday with a decent art teacher
    • The mentor artist/judge seems to be much more involved in providing guidelines at the beginning and assessments during the process - both in terms of dialogue with the contestant artists and the commentary with Fern Britton
    • Lisa is very articulate, very smily, identifies aspects people do well - but does not shy away from the issues they are not tackling.
  • There are useful and educational tips throughout - in terms of:
    • aids which help composition e.g. Ken brought his viewfinder and Lisa provided some guidelines
    • drawing versus painting - and the challenge of having enough time
    • monochrome versus colour for capturing the nature of a place
    • things to think about the beginning
    • challenges which this particular place throws up and how they might be overcome
  • The dialogue between mentor artist and participating artists was respectful but constructive - with Lisa adopting very much the Socratic approach to highlighting potential issues (i.e. asking a question about "how" rather than highlighting a problem)
  • Lisa provided an excellent and articulate critique of the strengths of each artist and painting and ways a painting could be improved.
  • It was really, really nice to see the artists using LARGE brushes - and not assuming they can get everything done using a size 6!
  • It's the same artists all week - which makes for an added dimension which was missing from the Channel 4 show. 
    • The winner of the first episode was Ken 
    • It'll be very interesting to see how the artists compare notes on what Ken did and what they did - and how they up their game tomorrow!
Ken learning he has won.
  • In addition, there was a profile of an artist associated with the place - which was interesting as the artist was Joshua Reynolds and I certainly learned some facts I didn't;t know before. However it might have been better if the artist had been a watercolour artist - rather than one renowned for painting in oils. So far as I''m aware he only used watercolour for sketches.  His career was also very much founded on his talents as a portrait painter and he didn't paint many landscapes. So interesting diversion - but it would be great to see a programme about watercolour painting which also  highlighted watercolour masters from the past or present?
I'm going to be tuning in again to more episodes - but won't be reviewing them all. Maybe a review at the end of each week?

Do let me know what you think about the programme - and whether it's matching the standard of the previous programme - or maybe improving on it.

The Two Three Booboos 


This is Booboo #1 - which could get somebody into trouble if they don't fix it PDQ.

There's an advertised prize - for people who write in.

This week was supposed to be Yorkshire week. The small print under the "how to contact us" instructions makes it very clear that 

  • the entries for this prize of a stay at a nice hotel in York (i.e. nothing whatsoever to do with Devon) 
  • and a painting lesson with a local art instructor 
  • PLUS the entries from the drawer will be made "will be pooled from the entries during the Yorkshire and Wales weeks".

Except this is the Devon week - which for some reason is taking place this week, rather than the Yorkshire week as planned.

I know a few things about competitions and draws and one of them is that you need to be very accurate and transparent with people re how draws take place. So people watching this week and entering the competition will NOT be eligible - because they are NOT entries drawn from the Yorkshire and Wales week "as advertised" (but only in writing - NOBODY SAID THIS OUT LOUD WHICH IS A BIG MISTAKE IMO).

If I was the programme commissioner / maker I'd make sure that this problem is fixed before the broadcast tomorrow i.e. before it becomes "an issue"for a Regulator. 

Booboo #2: Channel 5 might also like to have a word with the announcer before the programme - who seems to think watercolour artists are "committed to canvas".  

The mantra for not looking silly is Don't make it up if you don't know anything about the topic you're talking about!

Booboo #3: [THE NEXT DAY] I checked this morning and, as indicated above the link to the programme on My5 shows the wrong week (i.e. it's featuring five episodes from Yorkshire) and the episode broadcast yesterday was from Devon. 

Mind you I'm definitely going to be sitting down at 4pm this afternoon to find out where they are on Tuesday! :)

I'm wondering how they sort this one - given BooBoo #1 above?

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