Flipping through the BBC directory the other evening, I came across a new art show: The Big Painting Challenge. A bit like Masterchef, it features a dozen amateur artists who go through weeks of themed challenges, creating works under supervision of two professionals. Works are judged, someone goes home, the rest hug and advance.
I picked up at Week 2: Landscapes. Two painting challenges were held in one of my favorite seaside towns, Hastings: one to paint the pier from shore, the other to paint the shore from the pier. It was lovely to see the red shingle beach, to have walked the pier, to recognise the restaurants and fishing boats (and the jellied eel).
The challenges had possibility. It was raining as they tried to figure out perspective and detail on the pier, making a ghastly mess of colours running down the canvases. It was sunny-foggy-sunny on the pier, as the Coast often is changeable, and artists were encouraged to reduce things to five simple lines and a point of view across the seascape.
For me, things start going wrong with the resident artists, Pascal seems thoroughly unhelpful, his five-line sketch tracing the details of the rooflines rather than the sweep of the sea and sky. Diana is a bit better, but sympathetic rather than instructive.
But my biggest issue is with their technical approach to the task. Tools and methods matter, but it leads to photographic compositions with color added to simulate creativity.
Instead, look at the seascapes actually presented in front of the painters during the program.
How does the landscape make you feel, and what elements provoke that perception? Where is the light and dark; what are the strongest lines running through the scene? How best to convey that unique and essential sense of Place?
The results, however, feel soul-less, given what was on offer.
The winning painting had energy and movement, I agreed with the judges on it.
‘worth a watch, nonetheless, on BBC iPlayer all month.