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Meet the 2018 contestants

In the 2018 series, ten passionate amateur artists undertook an intensive, six-week, artistic boot camp in a bid to perfect their skills and be crowned the overall champion. They were:


Graphic designer Anil from Leicester has been artistic since childhood – he can even recall drawing all over the walls of his family home as a child! A passionate athlete and football fan, he has previously won a competition with his favourite football club, Leicester City FC, to design a feature mural which is can be seen on the concourse at the club.

Anil enjoys changing the structure and texture of the physical canvas he is painting on and is keen to develop the use of these techniques during his time on The Big Painting Challenge.


Encouraged in her youth to follow an academic route, it was a creative corporate weekend a few years ago, where Bokani discovered the joys of painting. Back at home, Bokani experimented with acrylics and developed her own abstract style but lacking belief threw her art away.

It wasn’t until she visited someone in her apartment block that had found and hung one of her pieces in their flat explaining they’d discovered the pleasing piece abandoned in the corridor that she started to believe she might have some talent. Having never had art lessons, Bokani can’t wait to be tutored by her mentors and is desperate to break out of her comfort zone.


Bricklayer Callum is the youngest artist in the competition and having only taking up painting two years ago, is also the newest to the art world. While travelling around Australia after finishing school, he met an Aboriginal woman trying to sell him a painting. He was so moved by the picture he bought it, and on returning home to his native Wales took up the discipline.

Specialising in the pinpoint precision of photorealism, Callum gets up at four in the morning to paint before work. He dedicates hundreds of hours to completing a single painting, and having had no formal training is desperate to soak up advice from the mentors and judges.


Chris took up painting ten years ago while travelling. His preferred subject is landscapes and does his best to avoid painting portraits. Diagnosed with a rare eye condition, ocular albinism, which makes seeing fine detail difficult he describes his impairment to seeing the world through a cloudy plastic bag.

Working as a retail assistant, art is the thing that keeps Chris stimulated and admits to becoming restless if he is away from his paintbrushes for too long. Chris favours acrylics and loves playing with geometric form. For Chris, the Big Painting Challenge is an opportunity to cultivate his own style.


Jane has been painting and drawing since she was a child and once had ambitions to become an art teacher but fell in to IT. Having had a recent career change, setting up her own ice cream parlour, she has enjoyed designing and painting murals on the walls to bring her shop to life.

In her artwork, Jane loves using mixed mediums and her colour palette is very vibrant giving her art a fairytale feel. For Jane, The Big Painting Challenge is a chance to build some confidence in her work.


Oliver was first inspired to paint when an art teacher in school allowed him to spend lunch time in her art studio, to keep him out of the way of bullies. At college, where he studied to become a ballet dancer, he enrolled in an A Level art course, but with a teacher he struggled to learn from, dropped out before the end of the course, gaining just an AS Level.

As a working ballet dancer, Oliver realized his body wouldn’t allow him to dance forever, and encouraged by his husband and a friend from his A Level art class Oliver picked up his paintbrushes again to explore his creative side. He hasn’t looked back since and is eager to learn from his mentors and be critiqued by the judges.


At 90 years old, Ray might be the oldest artist in the competition, but that hasn’t curbed his enthusiasm to learn. For his 75th birthday Ray received a box of paints from his wife, but thinking it was a useless present, threw them in a drawer and forgot about them.

Years later, he found the paint box and tried his hand. Desperate to improve his skill he enrolled in community art classes, and found his niche in the medium of watercolour. His hope on The Big Painting Challenge is find and define his own style.


A pharmacy dispenser in Solihull, Surjit grew up in India and was drawn to the bright and vibrant colours that surrounded her, but in the local school she attended she had no access to art materials.

Surjit moved to the UK in 1979, but it was only fifteen years ago, when her children became a little older, that she put paintbrush to paper and joined a local watercolour class. Painting has become a true passion and Surjit’s excited about the prospect of being mentored. She’s particularly inspired by nature, but happy to paint using a mixture of mediums.


Hailing from Newry in Northern Ireland, Susan loved to paint while at school but abandoned art when life, work as a chiropodist, and family became her priority. Five years ago, Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer, and to keep her mind occupied, her now late husband booked her in to some watercolour classes.

Susan says painting helped her recovery enormously and was the only way she could convey her feelings while ill.
Now, she wants to cement herself as a more serious painter, rather than a retiree with a hobby. Her style is impressionistic and she’s keen to develop her figure drawing.


Retired interior designer, Tilly, enjoyed art in younger life, but was encouraged ‘to find a real job’ so after school went in to banking. It wasn’t until her late husband was diagnosed with dementia ten years ago that she became re-ignited with her early passion. As a full-time carer, a local charity offered Tilly five hours a week respite, and she opted to join a local art class with that time.

Art offered Tilly a freedom she had never experienced before and her subjects take inspiration from life, experiences, relationships and current affairs. An experimental artist she is keen to try and learn anything... although isn’t a fan of watercolour and isn’t sure she has the patience to master them!