Starting 12 February at 6pm on BBC One is the new series of The Big Painting Challenge, starring UAL’s very own Dr David Dibosa, Course Leader MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts.

Presented by Mariella Frostrup and The Reverend Richard Coles, BBC One challenges ten creative and inspired contestants to pick up their paintbrushes and dust off their palettes to join The Big Painting Challenge.

Ten passionate amateur artists undertake an intensive, six-week, artistic boot-camp, in a bid to perfect their skills and be crowned the overall champion. At the end of each episode, the contestants’ work will be exhibited to invited members of the local public, before judges Dr David Dibosa, Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd OBE critique the paintings and decide which contestant will be eliminated.

Mariella Frostrup says “The Big Painting Challenge is a wonderful showcase for those many gifted artists who aspire to making a career of their painting, often receiving little or no recognition for their efforts along the way. It’s a programme that demands confidence, talent and hard work from the contestants and I was delighted to join forces with The Reverend Richard Coles and watch this group of charismatic painters as they strove to fulfil their potential over the weeks.

The Reverend Richard Coles said “I am delighted to be presenting The Big Painting Challenge with Mariella, partly because I love watching talented people grow and develop, in the intense focus of TV cameras, as we put in front of them baby elephants, ballerinas, national treasures and historic monuments and partly in the hope it will encourage people at home to get painting.”

Behind the Scenes of the BBC Big Painting Challenge with Dr David Dibosa

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Dr David Dibosa – photograph by Gavin Freeborn (freeborn.co)

It must be quite different to lecturing at Chelsea College of Arts – what was it like being a judge on the show? 

It was very different. At UAL, we work closely with our students over a long period of time to develop their talents. This often takes years. In all that time they have access to all UAL workshops to try out different techniques – but the contestants had just three hours and we had just moments to judge. It’s a sprint rather than a marathon.

We were kept very separate to be as neutral as possible – very different to working closely with students. We were able to provide constructive advice and feedback about their approach and technical ability – no Alan Sugar Apprentice style moments! Although ultimately it is a competition and we have to make choices about who stays and who goes which can be pretty tough.

What surprised you most?

It’s amazing how fast time goes when filming. There are quite intense short sharp bursts when it comes to the actual filming and judging but conversely, the production, set-up and preparation takes a long time. You wait around for hours over a number of days and then when you are called to do your bit, with spotlights shining on you and the TV cameras in your face, it’s a matter of seconds and you have to perform. I learnt a lot from the whole filming process.

Was it tough being a judge?

It was more serious than I expected it to be. I thought it would be more light-hearted but the contestants were so passionate about their art that it varied from shock and surprise when they got through to distraught contestants in tears when they didn’t.

What did you enjoy most? 

Each episode the painters visit different locations to inspire their work including the National Portrait Gallery, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, and Queen’s House in Greenwich so we visited some great places to test the ability of the contestants – including some funny moments, such as painting in the rain and on a boat. Now that’s a real test and it was amazing to see how they all adapted when thrown in the deep end. Almost literally at some points!

What was the most difficult challenge?

Definitely painting on a bobbing boat in the rain attempting to do landscapes. It makes for good TV though!

Would you like to do more TV judging? 

Yes! It’s fascinating to see amateur artists progress at that speed. It would be a pleasure to do something similar. I also loved the glamour and being made a fuss of – it’s a luxury having someone always checking you’re looking your best!

Follow the #BigPaintingChallenge on social media for the latest news and updates on the show.