Skip to main content

'Why I want to do it all again' Former Union J singer, George Shelley, on taking part in Celebrity Painting Challenge

George Shelley
(Image credit: BBC)

Former Union J singer and presenter, George Shelley, reveals why taking part in the Celebrity Painting Challenge was one of the best things he's ever done...

Singer and presenter, George Shelley who shot to fame in 2012 on the X-Factor as part of boy band Union J, is among six celebrities putting their artistic skills to the test in a bid to be crowned champion of BBC1’s Celebrity Painting Challenge, which continues tonight.

With George on the show are Hollywood actress and former Bond Girl, Jane Seymour, cricketer and broadcaster Phil Tufnell, model and DJ Amber Le Bon, presenter Josie D’Arby and design guru and TV personality Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

Over the course of four episodes, the six celebs are put through their paces in a series of creative challenges covering everything from life drawing, landscapes (which they take on tonight) and self-portraits, under the watchful eye of the show’s presenter Mariella Frostrup, artist mentors Diana Ali and Pascal Anson and judges, Daphne Todd OBE and Lachlan Goudie.

It’s been a very tough couple of years for 25-year-old George who in May 2017, tragically lost his younger sister Harriet following a car accident. Having previously been runner up to Vicky Pattison in 2015’s I’m A Celebrity and enjoyed acting roles in Murder in Successville and ITV’s hit drama Benidorm, George documented his subsequent struggles with grief and depression in BBC3 documentary George Shelley: Learning To Grieve…

TV Times met him to hear what made him want to take part in the Painting Challenge, who he bonded with and how he’s coping two years on from his sister’s death….

Celebrity Painting Challenge

Amber Le Bon, Josie d'Arby, George Shelley, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Jane Seymour and Phil Tufnell - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy (Image credit: BBC)

TV Times speaks to George Shelley

TV Times: How arty are you and did study art at school?

George Shelley: "I did GCSE art at school and then graphic design at Uni. When I joined Union J that took me in a completely different direction but I kept the graphic design side of things going during the band. I used to design some of the logos and do a lot of the art work."

TVT: Have you always enjoyed painting?

GS: "I loved doing it at school. The reason I started recently again was as therapy, it allowed me to breath by myself, especially after the year I had a couple of years ago. I made the documentary about my sister’s death which was hard. Doing the Painting Challenge is the first thing I did since having a year off."

George Shelley

George Shelley sets to work on his canvas - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy (Image credit: BBC)

TVT: Tell us more about how art helps you

GS: "I still find my sister’s death difficult to confront. I found myself painting by myself, in the bedroom with the lights off, painting quite dark things, but it was like therapy. Having that creative outlet where you can channel stuff and focus on something is really helpful."

TVT: What was your first day doing the Painting Challenge like?

GS: "Amber (Le Bon) and I met up outside the studio on the very first day of filming and we felt a bit intimidated because we were sure everyone else had art degrees! We knew Lawrence had gone to art school and the two of us were there with our GCSEs. We were like, ‘What are we doing here?’"

TVT: How did you find your artistic handiwork being judged?

GS: "To go into a situation where you’re being watched by experts and judges and by other people, my peers….it was crazy. At first the process, the pressure and the challenge of it all felt like other competition shows but after the first day you settle into your surroundings, become comfortable and realise no-one is out to get you. It’s just for fun. The other people on the show have become like my best buddies now."

Amber Le Bon

Amber Le Bon and George hit it off straight away - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy (Image credit: BBC)

TVT: What fun moments stand out for you?

GS: "There were so many funny moments. I’ve got lots of photographs. There’s one photo were Amber looks so much like Harriet. She has identical eyes to Harriet and my brother Cameron. When I was going onto the show I was obviously nervous because I hadn’t left the flat for a long time after making the documentary and then coming into this it was so lovely, it had such a family vibe, everyone together and then seeing and meeting Amber I was like, ‘Woah, you’re in my life for the rest of my life’. It was meant to be."

TVT: What’s your painting style like?

GS: "Josie told me I had a bit of Van Gogh going on. I was so embarrassed by my self- portrait. I look like Stig Of The Dump or Quasimodo. Amber had a bit of a Dali style about her, her landscape scene where everything was dripping, the ice cream buildings!"

TVT: Who surprised you with their talent?

GS: "You’ll be surprised by Phil Tufnell. His style is so abstract."

Phil Tufnell

Phil Tufnell with presenter Mariella Frostrup and Jane Seymour: (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy (Image credit: BBC)

TVT: Which challenge did you find trickiest?

GS: "Our mentors Pascal and Diana were brilliant. We relied heavily on them to guide us and show us what to do. There was a movement challenge that got a bit out of control. Chickens were involved. We had to stop filming at one point because they were like, ‘This is too bad!’"

Diana Ali and Pascal Anston

Diana Ali and Pascal Anson - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy (Image credit: BBC)

TVT: Where are the paintings you did? Have you kept them?

GS: "Some are locked in a cupboard! At the end we all had a big auction and a lot of them were sold for charity. I accidentally bought one of Laurence Lewellyn-Bowen’s! I paid a lot of money for it and it’s in my hallway. It’s an 8- foot canvas in my little apartment towering over everything."

TVT: What have you taken from doing the show? It sounds like a very positive experience for you?

GS: "It felt like going back to school, being in that art studio set up, you had your new school friends and everyone was being asked to do the same thing. I moved schools quite a lot when I was young so I was always in that position as a kid, having to make friends and meet new people all the time. I loved this. It was genuinely one of best experiences I think I’ve had in my career. It was the most fun, the most positive and the most happy time. I loved it so much I want to do the whole thing again."

Celebrity Painting Challenge continues on BBC1.













Tess Lamacraft
Tess Lamacraft

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.