The Big Painting Letdown

Category : Blog
Date : 1st April 2015

Now it’s time for another one of my sporadic blog posts.

Recently, I’ve been watching The Big Painting Challenge (Sunday evenings on BBC One), and I must say, having now seen every episode, I felt it was more like The Big Painting Letdown. I’m also an avid viewer of the BBC’s other similar offerings (The Great British Sewing Bee, The Big Allotment Challenge and, of course, The Great British Bake Off), all of which I enjoy very much, but I found the Painting Challenge annoying more than anything else.

I think my annoyance stems from two factors. The first is that the format is subtely different to each of the other challenges. In each of the other ones I’ve listed above, there is usually at least one ranked challenge. This gives both the viewer, and presumably the contestants, an idea of how they’re doing in the competition. There is also a star prize (such as Star Baker, Best in Show or Garment of the Week), which gives the contestents something to aim for, rather than just doing enough to survive to the next round. It also adds a positive and uplifting bit to go with the negative segment when someone is sent home. I feel that Painting Challenge is crying out for something like this, if only to have a slightly more positive end of each episode, which brings me on to the other thing which annoys me about this show: the judges.

Throughout the show, the judges (Daphne Todd and Lachlan Goudie) annoyed me repeatedly, for many different reasons. Here are just a few examples:

  • Both judges being constantly rude about the paintings, especially if they are in a style which they themselves don’t work in (such as the more abstract, contemporary and photorealistic – and I feel that recent nominations for the John Moore’s Painting Prize proves that painting has moved on from Daphne and Lachlan’s styles).
  • Saying that certain techniques are bad, even though some of the greatest artists of all time did them (such as Picasso).
  • Daphne said she snorted with laughter when she saw one contestant’s work in progress.
  • Lachlan saying that he very much liked a picture during the judging process, but then later on in the programme, saying that the same piece of work was rubbish when deciding who was to go home.
  • Also Lachlan’s “tutorials”, where he shows how to do the quick draw challenge, which to me, often look worse than what the contestants produce.
  • The judges saying that a particular way of working shouldn’t be done to one person, but then saying the opposite to the next.

I feel that the programme in it’s current form just doesn’t work. Perhaps it’s because art is such a subjective thing (what one person likes, another may hate). You can tell how good a bake is by what it tastes like, or how good a garment is by how well it’s stitched and fits the model, or even tell how successful a carrot has been grown by comparing it with how a particular variety is meant to look. You can’t quite do that with art.

The message that I felt that this programme was trying to spread was that, yes, painting is a fantastic thing to do, but only if you do it in a certain (and some would say outdated) way, because if you don’t, you’re rubbish. Please, if you paint, or are an artist working in any medium, don’t let that be the message you take away.


I encourage you to go out to your local art supply shop, and give painting (or indeed any type of art) a go. And if you want to work in a certain style, just do it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the last few episodes are still available to watch on iPlayer.

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