Remember when paper mache, PVA glue, and paint splats were all the rage in our art projects? Now you can revisit your youth online with episodes of Art Attack.
At some point in our formative childhoods, we were made to believe that we had the potential to be the next great artist of our times. While it may have been overly patronizing and too early to call, especially since we were barely familiarizing ourselves with the concept of primary and secondary colors, as well as dabbling in the fine art of finger painting, there was no shortage of encouragement from our well-meaning parents and teachers. Thoroughly convinced that the paint splats and splashes we did was an intervention of Jackson Pollock, those stick figures would one day progress into a movement of French impressionist art just like Edgar Degas and his fascination for dance, or a humble scribble of curves in brown and green would herald the second coming of Monet, there was no bigger source of encouragement than Neil Buchanan on the seminal classic that was Art Attack.
“This is the show that is going to give your eyeballs a very big shock,” he boldly declares in the first episode, which premiered on June 15, 1990. A lofty swing for what is typically a sedate fragment of life usually cordoned off for the high brow, Art Attack gave creativity and imagination a space to run free and think out-of-the-box—literally. With an irreverence coddled in the bookends of mainstream educational television, this arts and crafts show not only exposed a generation of children to the possibility of aesthetics, it also instilled a sense of joy in the virtue of creating.
Sorry, Not Banksy
“We are going to go wild with art,” says Neil Buchanan. “You don’t have to be a great artist, we’re jut going to have fun being creative.” Here lies its greatest promise, which has held the audience at the palm of its paint-stricken hands for years to come. Simple and straightforward, Art Attack was an exhilarating exercise of entertainment that encouraged the young (and young at heart) to find the beauty in the mundane. Crafting paper mache sculptures, detailing illustration to something we thought we could eventually master, and dreaming up of larger-than-life installations meant to be appreciated in the big picture point-of-view, Art Attack was certainly a playground of possibilities.
Nothing was more standard and searing into the memory than the friendly-faced Neil Buchanan in his iconic red sweatshirt running around in an artistic space of oversized art supplies. In fact, even after over 30 years, here we are, still talking about it. And it isn’t just us. Last year, a conspiracy theory emerged pointing him as the elusive trickster of modern-day art, Banksy.
While he dropped those rumors as mere hearsays and wishful thinking, much like a paint-filled balloon plopping to an explosion of vibrant colors on a surface, Neil Buchanan is quite proud of the work he did on the children’s show. “Art Attack was in the kids’ show slot but I never did a kids’ show,” he says in an interview with iNews. “What I was trying to do was inspire people.”
Sure, there were those who would go on to find their corner of the sky and carved out space on Earth in art through Art Attack, but for those who wouldn’t be traditionally creative, it still remained an outlet of happiness. Giving do-it-yourself art a more immersive and engaging spin, Art Attack was an artistic oasis where the only problem that would arise is “can I have more stuff to make a visual mess with?” or “we need more PVA glue.”
“I was trying to take audiences through the ‘I can’t do that’ barrier,” the host explains. “Every kid thinks they’re Picasso until they’re about six or seven. We all draw crap but we think it’s brilliant—and that’s the key. Unfortunately our parents, teachers and siblings say: ‘That’s not how you do it.’ Art Attack was undoing all that damage.”
This Is Art Attack
For many of us who grew out of the strictly artistic phase, there is now a chance to revisit our impressionable youth as a godsend on the internet has managed to upload most, if not all of the episodes of Art Attack on YouTube. Housed under the account, The Art Attack Restoration Project, this is the biggest collection of English Art Attack clips. Here, there is not only a chance to relive our childhood, but we get to introduce its wonders to a new generation who are starved for more visual possibilities to translate IRL or on their social media domains.
Now, the renaissance may not have been in the cards for some, nor will our amateur attempts at art make it into the guarded posterity of the Louvre. But for what its worth, our strokes of pastel colors on paper, dinosaur dioramas out of strewn laundry, and smears of oil-based paint on canvas were a manifestation that confidence is completely of our own doing, and that if we believe we could, then we very well could, because what? This is an art attack.