BBC ONE’S The Big Painting Challenge

The show starts today at 6pm on BBC1 with ten amateur artists completing a series of challenges, under the watchful eye of their mentors, that test their skills, increase their confidence and help them to become better painters. A rare foray into family viewing for me, it’s a programme that my kids can watch and hopefully enjoy.

For my co-presenter Reverend Richard Coles and I, it was a fascinating experience to watch this group of talented amateurs of all ages and experience grow in ambition and paint some really fantastic pictures.

We tend to think that artistic talent is something you’re simply born with whether its writing, painting, singing, acting or any of those gifts that look so easy when someone has mastered their craft. There are plenty of famous painters but there are many millions more who never achieve an exhibition, or a sale in their lifetimes but carry on regardless, spending their spare cash on canvas and paints and devoting long hours to capturing what they see out in the world and in deep in their subconscious.

It seems to me that truly great artists in every genre are those prepared to wrestle and hone the gift they are born with to rise to theirown expectations. You never stop learning and the minute you do it’s probably time to give up! My mum was a painter and I know from watching her struggles over the years that it’s a tough job and talent only takes you so far. You need to be pretty resilient to keep believing in yourself when the rest of the world takes no notice.

Personally I love the sense of adventure you feel trawling a big car boot sale, or a tiny little gallery in a country village, where the possibility of finding an artistic treasure that speaks to you, is a tantalizing goal. It’s those amateur artists we’re celebrating, while giving them an intense six week mentoring programme to make them the very best they can be.

It’s been described as a new Bake Off but the only cakes on our set were the ones Richard and I scoffed to fill time while the artists worked their brushes in frenzy!  We do lose some of our artists along the way but in a pretty grim world I hope the Big Painting Challenge is a spirit lifting opportunity to celebrate those who struggle away without recognition simply for the love of their art.