Damien Hirst credits Blue Peter with idea for his controversial spin paintings

Artist says 'patent picture painter' demonstrated by John Noakes on the show in 1975 inspired him as a child

In a Leeds sitting room in 1975 a nine-year-old boy called Damien watched transfixed as John Noakes demonstrated a motorised cardboard spinning machine for those children "who like to paint, but are one of those people who never really knows what to draw".

What luck. The boy, better known as the artist Damien Hirst, has revealed that the Blue Peter episode must have been the inspiration for one of his best known and most lucrative techniques. He tells the programme in an item to be broadcast on Thursday: "I grew up with Blue Peter. I got my idea for the spin paintings from an episode in the 1970s."

Hirst adds: "I never thought it was real art. I remember thinking: 'That's fun, whereas art is something more serious.' And then as I got older, I started thinking about Van Gogh and all those painters, and cutting your ear off when you're painting, and at that point I just thought: 'Why does it have to be like that?' I thought: 'No, actually, the better art is the art made with the spin machine.'"

It is certainly lucrative art, with Hirst's spin paintings often making more than £1m at auction, although they are not to all tastes.

The late Robert Hughes wrote witheringly in the Guardian before Hirst's £111m 2008 auction of his works at Sotheby's: "What is there to those empty spin paintings, enlarged versions of the pseudo-art made in funfairs?"

Noakes's "patent picture painter" was a little more challenging than many things Blue Peter has encouraged children to make down the decades.

If you are making one at home, you will need a rubber band, two nails banged into a wooden baton, an electric motor and a battery. When it is connected up put a rectangular piece of cardboard on top and, on a white piece of paper, blob your paint. Start it up, and you end up with, in his words, "a Noakes masterpiece! Look at that! Eeh that's rather nice, that's super!"

Hirst will be on Thursday's programme to receive a gold Blue Peter badge. He joins only about 1,000 people to get the badge, an elite but disparate group that includes the Queen, Gary Barlow and Valerie Singleton.

The Blue Peter editor Tim Levell said: "Blue Peter is famous for encouraging children to get up and do something creative. It's great to see that come full circle, and for us to present Damien with a gold Blue Peter badge for all he's done for British art."


Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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