This series presented by Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon takes ten amateur artists to stunning locations across the country to battle it out in a tough series of painting and drawing challenges for the title of Britain's best amateur artist.
The competition starts in Alnwick Castle in Northumberland - known to many as Hogwarts - where expert judges Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd OBE set their first challenge to see each artist's unique painting style for the first time. Eyebrows are raised as one artist starts by painting her whole canvas bright red whilst another paints what looks like a lion straddling a cannon. As paint is put to canvas Una and Richard learn what drives each artist's passion for painting - and what it would mean for them to win. The second challenge each week is a quick-draw challenge. In this episode the artists must sketch, at speed, a delphinium flower. Expert judge Lachlan Goudie shows us his tips on how to capture the beauty and complexity of a flower. Their final challenge is to paint the formidable castle from across the banks of the River Aln. Getting a sense of depth into their paintings proves more difficult than many think. While some thrive painting outdoors, others who've only ever painted in the comfort of their spare bedrooms have to adapt quickly to the challenges of the changing light. Una travels to the V&A museum in London to view one of the most famous landscapes - John Constable's The Hay Wain - and artist Fraser Scarfe tries to convince her that there's more to it than its chocolate-box reputation. Back in the castle, the judges take on the role of executioner as they have the difficult job of deciding which amateur artist won't see it through to the next week.
Presenters Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon take the artists to London's South Bank. In a converted Victorian warehouse by the Thames, expert judges Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd OBE set the nine remaining artists one of the most notoriously tricky painting challenges - portraiture. For their opening task, the judges give the artists just four hours to paint an image they see every day in the bathroom mirror - their own self-portrait. But for many, success isn't staring them in the face as they struggle with proportion and scale. In the quick-draw challenge the artists have just 30 minutes to capture the likeness of a complete stranger. And in their last chance to impress before someone is sent home, the judges want to see how the artists cope with two very well-known faces - EastEnders stars Rudolph Walker OBE, who plays Patrick Trueman, and actress Pam St. Clement, famous for her role as the formidable Pat Butcher for more than 25 years. For some it goes wrong from the off, and they're left gambling with the decision of starting again from scratch. Also, Una chats with acclaimed royal portrait artist Nicky Phillips about what it's like to paint Her Majesty the Queen and to welcome both Prince William and Prince Harry into her home. And Lachlan gives his expert advice on how to sketch someone's likeness, where proportion and scale are everything.
Presenters Richard Bacon and Una Stubbs welcome the remaining eight amateur artists to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The artists start in the Orangery, arranging a collection of personal items from home in a still life - from an oversized yellow hat to a beetroot and a skull - which they must capture on canvas in four hours using just acrylics. Will we see the first ever great painting to feature toast? The quick draw challenge plays around with perspective and scale, and light and shadow, as the artists move outside to the lawn to sketch in chalks a giant chess board. But whilst the grounds for the judging are picturesque, expert judges Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd's comments are anything but pretty. And in an imposing final challenge, the artists have to paint the facade of Blenheim Palace, attempting to effectively capture the drama of its stunning architecture. Una meets Emma Soames, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, to talk about his lifelong love of Blenheim Palace and how it inspired some of his own amateur paintings. With the challenge proving to unnerve some artists more than others, there's a shock decision by the judges about who goes home.
Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon present from the prestigious Tate Britain gallery on the banks of the Thames in London, where the amateur artists face three challenges capturing the human form. Two semi-naked men greet the remaining artists, which leaves several hot under the collar as they struggle with the first challenge set by expert judges Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd OBE - to capture the anatomically correct body shape, proportions and flesh tones of two loincloth-draped Greek god life models. In a difficult quick-draw challenge, the amateur artists must use coloured pencils for the seemingly impossible task of capturing a rhythmic gymnast and her flickering ribbon. Lachlan gives his expert tips on how to suggest motion when sketching. Also, the artists take on their final challenge of the week - which proves emotional for some - painting a powerful and passionate flamenco dance in coloured chalk and pastel. And we learn which artist's painting is summed up with the phrase 'I did earlier snort with laughter looking at it'.
Richard Bacon and Una Stubbs are in Liverpool - as the remaining artists face three challenges that centre around this vibrant and diverse city. For their opening assignment the five remaining artists scour the city streets looking for inspiration from the historic docks to the music quarter as expert judges Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd OBE want them to paint their personal interpretation of the city in watercolours. Determined to impress the judges and get into the final, two artists make the bold decision to completely change their painting styles. For the quick draw, the artists climb onto the roof of Liverpool's Cunard Building to sketch in charcoal, pastel and pencil the commanding view of the neighbouring Royal Liver Building clock tower, which boasts the largest clock face in the UK. And despite having a clock in front of them, time gets the better of the artists as they try to capture its intricate architectural detail. Traditionally when artists painted cities they were attracted to grand imposing places such as London, Paris and Venice. So Una travels to Pendlebury in Manchester to discover what inspired LS Lowry, one of Britain's most recognised cityscape artists, to paint the textile mills and coal mines of the north of England. The closing task couples a busy cityscape with the challenge of painting moving water - as the artists paint the iconic Liverpool skyline from across the River Mersey. Clouds racing across the sky, reflections on the water and constantly changing sunlight test the artists' technical abilities to the limit as the judges eliminate one last artist before the final.
The grand final sees presenters Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon travel to Devon's picturesque south coast as the final four amateur artists battle it out to be crowned the winner. With just three challenges left to impress the judges, Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd OBE, the amateur artists get to grips with their first challenge - capturing a sense of Britain's seafaring heritage at Dartmouth's Royal Naval College. With the prize in sight, one artist goes all out to impress the judges, risking everything. The finalists have already sketched the human body in motion - but never on this scale. For their last quick-draw challenge they assemble on the parade ground to capture at speed a whole platoon of naval cadets marching in formation as they perform a sword drill. Ahead of the final ever challenge, Una travels to the Kent coast to learn what attracted JMW Turner to the seaside town of Margate and led to a lifelong fascination with the sea, while in his last how-to guide Lachlan gives tips on how to capture constantly moving crowds of people. With everything resting on the last challenge, the stakes are high and the sense of excitement even higher as the finalists create one last painting - capturing the light and atmosphere of an idyllic but visually complex scene - Dartmouth harbour. At the end of a gruelling and emotional six weeks, Daphne and Lachlan decide who should take the title and announce their first Big Painting Challenge winner.