It might surprise you to know that presenter Neil Buchanan isn't a qualified artist - he's a musician!

"Before I appeared on television, I was in a rock band called Marseille. We made two albums and five or six singles, on vinyl, so you can tell how long ago it was!", he explains. "Mums and Dads might remember the band - or even have the songs somewhere!"

Neil grew up in Aintree, Liverpool. "I've enjoyed art since I was very young. One day I thought that I'd make quite a good artist, so I enrolled at Liverpool Art College. They told me that they thought I wasn't good enough, so I walked out and have never looked back", he remembers.



Bad hair day?
Judge for yourself!
Neil has presented Art Attack since it began on CiTV an amazing twelve years ago. "Those early programmes are still being shown in some countries, and it's rather embarrassing to look back at the haircut I had at the time. I was recently asked if I had been wearing a wig! But I don't think it looked that bad", he laughs!

Neil's television career began on a Saturday morning programme in the 1980s called Number 73. He has also presented other programmes on CiTV including Animal Crazy and It's A Mystery. But it's Art Attack for which he is most famous. The series began in 1989 and has been on CiTV ever since. Over 180 programmes have been made, and the series is now seen in 32 countries around the world, including six non-English speaking countries where there is a different presenter!

You might not know that Neil comes up with each and every idea for the programme. He explains: "I will come up with an idea and sketch it out or make it in rough. We have a fantastic team working on the programme and they develop my ideas, break everything into stages, test the early versions and make variations. I then go back a few weeks later to see how the idea has developed. The team have been with me for so long now, they know the sort of art madness that I like".

He has two children, a daughter called Molly (10) and a son called Freddie(7). "I use them as researchers to test my ideas", Neil says. "If they give anidea the thumbs up, it stays in the programme. If it gets a thumbs down, it comes out!"

"For the Big Art Attacks, I will come up with the ideas and scribble them down in rough in a sketch pad.

We'll then get together to discuss what non-art materials we should use, and go out to buy them.

Next we test whether the picture actually works, in a large warehouse on a remote farm in Kent. The warehouse is massive, and sometimes there can be 7 or 8 Big Art Attacks laid out at once, which looks pretty impressive."

"I do a trial run, and then we carefully store all the elements away until we're ready to record them for TV".

So what are Neil's favourites?

His favourite art materials are wax crayons! "When you draw a picture with wax crayon, it has a great texture and looks like it's been done on very expensive paper. I also adore ball-point pens, because I love doodling. I doodle all the time. I earned a living as a caricaturist for a while, so you'll often find me doing unkind pictures of people in the office", he laughs!

"My favourite Art Attack is Lolly Lettering. It's so simple and all you need is a piece of rubbish. All you need is a lolly stick, snapped in two. You just dip it into ink, and do joined up writing. It looks like very posh calligraphy. Oh, and you get to eat the lolly first, of course!"


If you fancy trying Lolly Lettering for yourself,
just click here
!



"Creating a portrait of the Queen with 250,000 in ten pound notes has to be my favourite Big Art Attack", Neil says.

"The Bank of England loaned us the money, but we had to record the creation of the picture overnight, in top secret conditions. The only people allowed in the studio were me, the director, a cameraman and two security guards", he reveals.

When we'd finished, all the money was poured into one end of a fantastic machine - even the crumpled notes - which counted, sorted and re-bundled it up".

"It was fantastic!"
But not everything is plain sailing. "Have you ever got caught up with sticky tape, where it sticks to itself, and you?", Neil asks. "I have! It's a nightmare to work with in the studio. Under the hot studio lights, the tape starts to behave in a strange way. It flaps about, it attracts static and gets stuck very easily. Watch carefully and you'll see that all my sticky tape is pre-cut! It's hidden behind my desk", he reveals.

"The heat of the lights also makes paper curl after a few minutes, so we have to be quick. Anything involving watercolours is tricky. I can never apply a wash because it dries out so quickly!".

Finally, two more things you probably didn't know. "Because our studio set is all white, I have to wear sunglasses during rehearsals - otherwise I get snow blindness, it's that bright!", Neil reveals.

"And did you know that my red sweater is specially made for the programme, from a special material? That's because on camera, the colour red behaves in a strange way. It makes the screen go all funny, unless you use a special material - which we do.

Each one costs around 700 to make, so I have to be very careful not to spill paint or glue on it!"



If you'd like a signed photograph of Neil to print, click here.