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'It's okay to paint your own way... you are not a Da Vinci!'

They're stars of stage, catwalk and cricket pitch, but now it's time to shine in the art studio. Gemma Dunn on Celebrity Painting Challenge


Josie D’arby at the easel

Josie D’arby at the easel

Josie D’arby at the easel

Whether it's baking, diving, or even singing, it seems viewers can't get enough of celebrities taking on new tasks. And the latest TV outing to see them flexing their skills is BBC One's Celebrity Painting Challenge.

Presented by Mariella Frostrup, the four-part series will see six famous faces step out of their comfort zones, as they put their artistic flair - and subsequent time-management - to the test.

Hoping to impress acclaimed judges Daphne Todd OBE and Lachlan Goudie with their painting prowess are actor Jane Seymour, musician and presenter George Shelley, cricketer and broadcaster Phil Tufnell, model and DJ Amber Le Bon, presenter Josie D'Arby and TV design guru Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

So, how did they get on?

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (54)

Was it hard to take the judge's critique on board?

"There were moments when I could just hear exactly the same things being said as 40 years ago, which was quite scary. But I was a lot more open to hear what people said about my work, this time around, than when I was at college. I did a couple of paintings that I am much, much prouder of than anything I've done before."

Did the process prove to be cathartic?

"It's definitely polished up my act. It was like a boot camp for my creativity and everything I've done since, I feel, has been a lot more evolved. I want to do a lot of landscape painting, which is something that I've never got excited about before."

Josie D'arby (46)

How artistic were you to start with?

"I did A-level art, because it looked easy - I didn't take it seriously. But I started painting again in 2014, because I was trying to illustrate a book that I was thinking about writing. I found it difficult, but I did discover I liked drawing faces, then I did watercolours and then acrylics. So, that was me at home - until this came around. People said I knew about art, because I presented kids' programmes, but not once in this competition was there any sticky-back plastic."

Has the show reignited your passion?

"I took January and February off to paint and I've just completed my first body of work, so I'm hoping to share it with people. I've got Daphne's voice in my head saying, 'Think about your mark making'. It's okay to paint how you paint - you're not Rembrandt, or Da Vinci."

George Shelley (25)

How did you handle the competition?

"On the first day, I got there, sat down, and realised I was back at work after having a year off in my bedroom in the darkness, literally. I was like, 'I can't do this, I can't take the competitive atmosphere, it's not what painting is for me'. It's taken something that I do for therapy and that I enjoy and put pressure on it. But now I'm so glad that I did it, because when we started filming, I wasn't in a good place - if I hadn't have done it, I could possibly still be there. But I'm not, I'm here."

And putting your artwork up to be critiqued?

"When you're painting in this environment, you've got so many people looking and judging and to be doing it in this concentrated format, it makes you realise how much judging we do, as humans. And how we shouldn't judge ourselves and let it affect who we are."

Amber Le Bon (29)

What has the process done for your confidence as an artist?

"It's taken away my fear of trying something and not being good at it. I wanted to scare myself and do something out of my comfort zone and I wanted to know that it's okay to not be good at something. I used to love it, but I hadn't painted for a long time."

Has it reignited your love for it?

"I've been painting afterwards and I don't mind if they're bad paintings now, if I don't like them. That was the biggest way I grew. You can get upset by it. I had never shown people my work, or had it critiqued. It was good to scare ourselves."

Phil Tufnell (52)

What kind of artist are you?

"I just go with the flow of it, really. I've done a little bit of painting before, so I went along to pick up some tips. I just fancied doing a bit of art; I've always enjoyed it - and I went there to enjoy myself as well. I didn't particularly go to win."

How did you fare with the judges?

"It was a bit awkward to start with, to do a painting and then have it critiqued. But then by the end you're going, 'Oh sod them, who gives a monkey's? Just enjoy what you're doing'. I'm just a normal person who enjoys art."

Celebrity Painting Challenge, BBC One, Thursday, 8pm

Belfast Telegraph