Over the last year one of things that has happened is that a lot of people have turned to the arts as a way of coping with isolation. Grayson Perry, with his art club has encapsulated this need and inspired people to send in their work to be shown on his programme. The first series, which was broadcast last year, was so popular that a second series has just started, and the exhibition of the work chosen will be shown at Manchester Art Gallery when restrictions are lifted, I am sure that it will be well visited.
The works sent in are from artists of all abilities and shows the wealth of talent around the country. The work done by a young disabled girl using her eyes to move the cursor on her tablet was particularly impressive and moving.
Along with that, different celebrities, who paint or have an interest in the creative arts, discuss their work each week and will also exhibit their work. This mix of Grayson and Phillipa showing their working methods, as well as interviews, has become a must-see programme and has been an uplifting experience. Just seeing the struggles some people have overcome to create artwork is especially moving.
The latest programme, showing daily on Channel 4 at 5.30pm is 'Drawers Off'. I was interviewed for this a while ago and although interested, I decided that I wasn't happy with what was expected of the artists.
At the early planning stage, it seemed to be an actual life class, where each artist would be expected to pose naked for the other artists to paint. However, having watched the first two weeks of the programme, they seem to have changed the format with it almost becoming a figure study session where the model is partially clothed.
It's difficult to criticise the work produced as some of the contestants are new to figure painting, although I’m sure if I was new to a style of painting, and had to do it, I would at least practice first!
Another change added to the format was a competition element. There are five artists every week and each artist poses on one of the days. They are given 1 hour to complete a piece of work and one drawing is chosen after each session to go forward to the end of the week, where one is chosen as the overall winner and receives £1000!
When watching, I like to choose my favourite and wait to see if that is the one chosen as the daily winner. Sometimes, I'm correct but on other occasions the model's personal choice is different from mine.
On the first episode, I chose the tattoo artist as my favourite to win at the end of the week as he had a good understanding of form, but as is often the case as the week progressed another artist developed their style and surprisingly won. It was interesting to see how on different days the artist’s confidence grew, or how things went wrong with their work.
The second week was similar with a set of artists of different levels of experience producing a range of work. At times, they were influenced by suggestions from Comedian Jenny Eclair or mentor Diana Ali, although some chose to ignore the advice offered and went off at a tangent, which produced some unusual results.
Again, some improved as the week progressed or others experimented with new materials. Surprisingly, one artist who said that he only did abstract work produced a good line drawing on the last day. In this, the third week, we now see artists who are more experienced at life painting and it should be interesting to compare their efforts.
One thing I did wonder about however, was the fact that they refer to the programme being recorded over five days. If that is the case, then the contestants only have one set of clothes, as we see them in the same attire every day! I should think because of the pandemic restrictions it is all filmed on one day and if so, they could have fooled us by bringing a change of clothes for each session.
I have found this to be another art-based TV programme to enjoy and which will appeal to everyone.
Landscape artist of the year has been going for several years now and it is fascinating to see what the contestants produce in the four hours. It's not fair for me to criticise the artists as they have had the courage to apply and be scrutinised.
But again I must wonder, why contestants send in a painting that took more than the required 4 hours to paint then try to do the same style in this shorter time frame. It also amazes me that some of them also change the materials that they used in their submissions. I have also been disappointed in the choice of locations and views that the artists were given this year but in fairness this may have been due to covid restrictions. However, this year I was particularly impressed with the quality of the work shown by the wild cards, who are invited on the day.
As in all years the three finalists are a personal choice. The three finalists this year could all have done a superb job of the final commission, and although you can criticise the judges at times, they do choose the one, I believe, who is best suited for the final painting.
The programme has become so popular that 'Canadian Landscape Artist of the Year' will be on shortly.
It can only be a good thing that television companies are starting to realise the appeal of art programmes to the public and are even showing the old Bob Ross tutorials which are proving to still be popular.