WE have long equated “like watching paint dry” with extreme boredom but, more recently, we’ve probably had to re-think that phrase thanks to two TV series.

Sky Arts’ Landscape Artist of the Year and Portrait Artist of the Year have been entrancing audiences since 2013, proving unlikely telly hits.

They both involve a series of competitions showcasing the skills of a mix of amateur and professional artists.

The landscape series takes them out to some beautiful or interesting spots around the country. They set up in unusual little open “pods” to protect them from the weather and have three hours to create a picture.

The portrait series is an inside job with three famous sitters managing to remain still for the same period, with breaks, and the artists divided up accordingly.

Both series are fascinating. The different artistic styles, the way we get to know the artists – and often more about the sitters – and the clever way each picture is observed being created simply capture the imagination.

The artists work in a variety of different media, including pencil, pen and collage, although most are painting. And the way they perceive the subject and build this into their pictures is somehow both riveting and relaxing, the levels of talent really impressive.

The most surprising element, perhaps, is that this makes such good TV.

Because the programme fast-forwards some of the slower parts it means that the pictures grow, at first gradually and then surprisingly quickly, into pleasing portraits and landscapes.

We can observe the individual styles of the artists and who they are. These both vary dramatically, revealing the artistic talents that lie within so many of us ordinary people.

In the case of the portraits, the artists show just how difficult it can be to capture a true likeness of an individual. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t seem to matter as the spirit is often there and the picture itself so captivating.

What is clearly on view is the importance of art to the individuals. They just have to create, it’s part of them, giving them as much pleasure as for the viewers.

Apologies if any of this sounds patronising.

I’m not an artist or even know much about art although, like most people, I know what I don’t like. Or thought I did.

This series shows you the possibilities and differences in styles that severely open the eyes to what art can be about. The expert judges can talk about technique, interesting in itself, and the use of light but the actual creative skills remain a fascination.

The two series also show how important art is in our lives, both the interpretation of it and the results. While we may have pictures that appeal to us hanging in our homes, how much real thought do we give to art itself?

These series reveal not only that anyone can have an artistic side — it’s just a matter of finding it —but that art really does matter to us all.