Posted Tuesday 7 February 2017
A senior lecturer from Kingston University has stepped out of the classroom and on to the screen to lend his expertise to amateur artists on new BBC One show The Big Painting Challenge.
Pascal Anson, tutor on the graphic design, product and furniture design and art foundation courses, draws on his experience of teaching to help five contestants find their inner Da Vinci through weekly challenges set by the judges. "We're there to give them confidence, steer them in the right direction to and ask the right questions of their work," Anson explained.
During the audition process Anson impressed the show's producers with his ability to explain complex artistic ideas and practices, enhancing clarity without losing nuance in his conversations. "Mastering a technique like perspective is not about being good at drawing, it's about being good at understanding. I'm always looking for alternative ways to help people understand the world that's around them," he said.
Anson found that his experience of encouraging students to push creative boundaries helped in mentoring the contestants on the show. "While the subjects are quite traditional - landscapes, animals, perspective, I try to frame them in a slightly different way, without preconceptions or constraints. Assumptions go out of the window, which is something I talk a lot about with the students. If you have an alternative way of thinking, it frees you to express yourself," he said.
The artist and designer, who sports a distinctive red boiler suit on the show, was impressed with the standard of the contestants. However, he found that experimentation and free thinking didn't flow as easily as in the art studio. "I always advise students to take a lot of risks with their work, whereas on a TV show you have to be a bit gentler in the way you encourage that," he said. "They are a little reticent to be experimental because there is so much jeopardy. Nobody wants to go home because it's so much fun being on the show", he said.
Both of Anson's parents taught drawing and painting, with many original artworks finding their way onto the walls of the Anson household. "My mum and dad have been a real inspiration. During the filming I found myself returning to conversations we've had about aspects of painting over the years. They've spent their lives helping people understand how best to communicate through art." This background has instilled the belief that drawing is the foundation of all artistic endeavour. "Whether you're studying fashion, architecture, or furniture and product design, it's always at the basis of everything," he said.
Creating a series of YouTube videos also proved influential in giving Anson the perfect platform to develop his ideas to an audience. "What I really love about doing the videos is that you have to be very concise with the message, you can't waffle on too much because it gets boring," he explained. The videos were spotted by leading publisher Penguin and led to a book, Ordinary Made Extraordinary, charting his explorations and inventive creations.
Whether appearing on a BBC show or teaching in the studio, Anson believes communication is key in helping to mentor an artist and he said the experience on The Big Painting Challenge has made him a better educator. "It's definitely helped in how I approach things at Kingston University I'm always trying to make things clear - it's important that we have honest conversations," he explained. "You have an understanding first, then you can apply energy, ideas or attitude - that can all come afterwards, but a mutual understanding has to be the first starting point."