Stephen Mangan explains why knowing nothing about art landed him a job

Virgin Radio

27 Oct 2020, 15:56

The seventh series of Portrait Artist Of The Year continues tomorrow on Sky Arts, and host Stephen Mangan joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show With Sky to tell Sam Pinkham about why, ironically, art isn't his forte. 

He laughed: "Art can be intimidating can't it, I am hopeless, I really can't draw a straight line with a ruler!"

"There's lots of perceived snobbery around art, you know, people think you need to know what you're talking about, you need to know the history of art and you need to know the jargon, and you don't of course." he explains.

Despite his lack of art skill, Stephen has a lot of curiosity about artists and how they work. "As someone who is rubbish at it, and I know from talking to people who are good at it as well, we've all seen thousands of portraits and landscapes and pictures. We see them every day, but how do they get from the blank piece of paper to that finished thing?"

He continues: "What decisions are they making? You know, where do you begin? I mean, when I draw a portrait, I've got two big eyes, a nose, and a mouth, put some hair on it, that's why it's so bad!"

We can't all be world-famous artists though. 

Sam asked how he came to be on the show. Stephen exclaims: "I think it's partly because I don't know much about it, is the reason they asked me to do it! We have three really smart judges who really know their stuff. Thank God they're the ones who decide who wins and who doesn't, and why."

"It's my job to be the conduit between them and the audience and go "Why is that portrait, in your eyes, better than this one?"  Because that one doesn't look as much to me as the other one, you know" he explains.

"It's my job to ask all those questions that you might ask." It's his job to bring them down a peg or two as well. "If they start getting too carried away with jargon, or, you know, highfalutin art talk, I go, "sorry, I just don't know what you're talking about" It's a dream job to me, because I didn't have to know anything. The job description is to know nothing!"

It's worked out well so far!