Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Is painting set to become the new TV hot topic?

Down by the bridge capturing patterns and winter light, Paul Talbot-Greaves 2014

Are we poised on the edge of a painting revolution?

Here in the UK we are currently treated to an over saturated wealth of programmes based on house renovation, house hunting, house building, antiques hunting, antiques selling, antiques competitions, cooking, baking, dancing and even just voyeristic existence. There may be one subject though that is about to be added to the list. Painting.

Back in 1997 I was invited to take part in a brand new programme to be screened on channel 4, called watercolour challenge. For anyone who didn't see it, the programme consisted of three painting contestants battling it out with brushes and paints to be the overall winner of the 12 part series. The programme was a phenomenal success, with over 2 million daytime viewers tuning in to watch the first series. Businesses reported increased trade in art materials as viewers were inspired to kit themselves out and have a go themselves. The success of the programme seemed to be growing and in the second series a book was produced to compliment the competition. Then, without much warning the show was axed, never to return.

The fact is, as I travel around the country giving hundreds of presentations to art groups, people still talk about it as though it ended yesterday. Such a memorable show must have had the content just right, so what was the recipe for its success? In my opinion it is quite simple. The show comprised a number of elements in which viewers could find mental escapism - art, poetry and countryside. It was a gentle programme interspersed with fitting poetry, painting and great shots of the countryside surrounding the painting locations.

Since then only a handful of art programmes have been made but all have aired with huge success. I believe there is an undercurrent of interest boiling in art in Britain and it will only take a little persuasion from the right programme to encourage people to have a go themselves. Are we poised on the edge of a painting revolution?

Cue the BBC's latest attempt to get everyone painting in 'The Big Painting Challenge', Sundays at 18:00 on BBC1. The series is presented by Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon and takes ten amateur artists to stunning locations around the country. It sounds like it has borrowed the successful format of watercolour challenge from all those years ago, and done right, with the right backing and sustainability, it could catapult an interest in art right up there with house building and antique hunting. Well it is about time.

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