What’s on Wayne: Back to the drawing board for The Big Painting Challenge

The Big Painting Challenge contestants Claire Parker, Anne Blankson-Hemans, Melvyn Flint, Alison Sta

The Big Painting Challenge contestants Claire Parker, Anne Blankson-Hemans, Melvyn Flint, Alison Stafford, Richard Salter, Paul Bell, Amy Goldring, Anthea Lay, Heather Harding and Jan Szymczuk with Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon. Photos: BBC / Dan Prince - Credit: BBC/Dan Prince

Whoever came up with The Big Painting Challenge needs to go back to the drawing board. Clearly trying to cash in on the success of Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year, this was the sort of cheap knock-off Lovejoy’s Charlie Gimbert may’ve had laying around.

Judges Daphne Todd OBE and Lachlan Goudie watch artist Anthea Lay in The Big Painting Challenge. Ph

Judges Daphne Todd OBE and Lachlan Goudie watch artist Anthea Lay in The Big Painting Challenge. Photos: BBC / Dan Prince - Credit: BBC/Dan Prince

Hosted by avid art collector and presenter Richard Bacon and keen amateur artist actress Una Stubbs - whose work has been displayed at the Royal Academy - 10 amateurs compete to showcase their work at Tate Britain.

Putting them through their paces each week are award-winning portrait artist Daphne Todd OBE and internationally renowned figurative painter Lachlan Goudie.

Todd painted herself as the Simon Cowell of the series, not afraid to tell the hopefuls what she thought, but failed to deliver. Goudie sounded like he’d swallowed a thesaurus most of the time. No wonder the competitors, a rather pretentious lot on the whole, look confused.

The opening episode’s challenges were a mixed bunch. The first was to paint whatever inspired them at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, resulting in confident ex Wren Anthea painting a lion from a coat of arms saucily straddling a cannon. A moment worthy of this series’ secondary inspiration, The Great British Bake-off.

Ex-police sketch artist geordie Jan, clearly the missing third Hairy Biker, must’ve got excited when one artist said she’d found a candlestick in the library next to... sadly, as it turned out, not a body.

Bacon thought Jan could handle the contest’s pressures, with convictions having depended on his sketches. You can imagine the scene back at the nick...

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“What d’ya mean he got off?”

“Sorry guv, we had forensics, witness statements, empty cash bags in his lock-up but the judge said the artist hadn’t caught the defendant’s inner luminosity.”

The end results weren’t great. Basic principles, like perspective and light, were ignored; resulting in flat, tired, cartoony pieces. If the series had been on ITV it could’ve been sponsored by Specsavers.

Some of you will be saying “if you think you can do better, show us”. No, I can’t do better; which is why I didn’t apply to go on the show.

In fairness to the contestants, they were painted into a corner by the ridiculously rigid challenges. Art is about connecting with a subject and expression, not who can draw the best purple delphinium in half-an-hour. One looked like Mr Messy.

Contestants are expected to turn their hands to all sorts of disciplines instead of being allowed to concentrate on one or two really well.

I wouldn’t be surprised if challenge one next week was glossing skirting boards.

(All three actually centre on portraiture, including sittings with EastEnders’ stars Rudolph Walker and Pam St Clement).

The haphazard tasks are probably why the finished pieces looked like the kind of thing you only hang up when the relatives who bought it for you come round.

The BBC has to learn you can’t apply the Great British Bake-off formula to everything.

The Big Painting Challenge lacks the charm and accessibility Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year has; where you don’t need to know anything about art to enjoy watching somebody create something beautiful.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I’ll be giving episode two, Sunday, 6pm, the brush-off.

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