Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Big Painting Challenge

A new series started on BBC1 this evening, 'The Big Painting Challenge' hosted by Una Stubbs (who is lovely) and Richard Bacon (who I've never heard of). In a trusty format, 10 amateur artists compete against each other by doing three paintings at Alnwick Castle, and , at the end, the experts let one go so nine go through to the next episode. There are also short masterclass sessions with experts to pass on some hints and tips.

The first challenge was to take a photo of a room or object in the Castle and paint that. The second was to paint flowers in the Castle gardens. The third was outside the Castle and across the River Aln to do a landscape with the castle as the focus. Who will win? Will any of them get thoroughly positive feedback after each painting? Will any crack under the pressure of competitive painting in a given timescale?

It was actually thrilling in a very calm and measured way, very gentle and perfect for the Sunday tea-time slot on the Beeb. I loved it. Consider it a success, O Beeb!

I thought Una was perfectly cast as the host of this series as an amateur artist herself. Her approach was to support as well as challenge the contestants a bit and she's obviously the 'goodie' here. Soft spoken and elfin, she has a lovely presence. Una's been around forever of course, starring in films in the early '60s to playing Alf Garnet's daughter in the late 60s and she's still on the go as Mrs Hudson in 'Sherlock Holmes' and I've seen her on stage in the West End. This new series will, I hope, lead on to other things for her.

Of course, I couldn't help but be reminded of 'Watercolour Challenge' hosted by Hannah Gordon on Channel 4 back in 2000. I remember it well because I watched it on weekday afternoons while I was recuperating from an operation on a slipped disc. I recall boredom hanging heavy and daytime telly being awful until I found this series by accidentally flicking through the channels (and there were only 5 channels back then).

One episode was all it took to draw me in and pay attention to the amateur artists in the competition and Hannah's gentle and soft spoken hosting of the show. It was just what I needed at the time, especially since I didn't have a laptop or access to the Internet back then (isn't it odd that something so ubiquitous today wasn't in my life 15 years ago?). I loved that programme!

The new Challenge seems to be part of the BBC's new 'get creative' theme for the year so there's a parallel competition called The Little Painting Challenge for the audience to send in their own paintings or drawings on a postcard. I might give it a go!

Anyway, that's my Sunday early evenings sorted for the next six weeks! And here are our contestants that we'll get to know better - and they all seem terribly nice so far - on the rolling hills outside Alnwick Castle with Una and Richard. And yes, Alnwick featured as Hogwarts in the 'Harry Potter' films (or, at least, bits of it did).

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