The Rev Richard Coles has that classic Anglican vicar look. A half-smile containing lots of teeth. Wise, but wise enough not to let it show. Wild hair.
A big belly. His kitchen is probably full of unopened jars of parishioners’ jam. He also co-hosts a television show about painting, which is par for the course nowadays. Soon there shall only be four Anglican vicars left, and they shall all be on BBC One.
The Big Painting Challenge fills the God slot on Sundays at 6pm, and it’s surprisingly enjoyable. The premise is spurious: two teams of painters have an afternoon to produce representations of animals, people, trees, etc – and are then judged by a dragon, an oddball and a man who seems to love everything. The loser of this gentle contest is asked to leave. There are no tears. It’s all so civilised.
In reality, any art that is created with a stopwatch ticking is going to be rubbish. And the idea that you’d dismiss an artist for getting one sketch wrong, as happens here, is an abomination. Trial and error are vital to creativity. This column will have been written several times, and still I struggle to get it right.
But how pleasant – how almost Anglican – it is to spend a Sunday early evening watching people paint the Hastings coast. Fascinating, too, to see that every artist has personality. They’re not the best, but they are distinctive. One girl insists on cutting off her hair and sticking it on every painting. It looks great on an elephant’s back but demented as waves at sea. I liked an older hippie lady who got thrown off for refusing to draw whatever she was told to.
In fact, I’m surprised no one’s gone full postmodernist yet. When asked to paint Angela Rippon, they should hand in a banana painted bright orange. There would be confusion but no anger. For Cole shepherds the programme with utter calm. Anglican spirituality, it increasingly seems, exists to seek God in everything but church. Who am I to judge? His most startling and sublime appearances have been in oil and water.
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