Top 10 Docs About Painting


One of the techniques of legendary coach Phil Jackson was to have his players imagine that they were playing a game, and making a shot. As you may have already noticed, painting is an addiction. Some people dabble for years before becoming fully imbibed in the medium, and others get hooked right away. No mistake about it though that painting can begin to seep into every are of your life. Since I’m far down the rabbit hole I’ve watched every documentary about painting that I can find. Some are on Youtube, while others are on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Regardless, you’ll be able to hunt these docs out online and watch them in your free time.

So without further ado here are my top 5 documentaries about painting.

10. Beauty is Embarrassing

Beauty is embarrassing is a film about Wayne White. Wayne was influential in creating the sets for some of the most iconic TV shows (Pee Wee’s Playhouse) and music videos (Smashing Pumpkins). His approach to art is one which involves a lot of making rather than talking. He scoffs at the pretension with which artists feel they need to speak about in order to convey the ideas about their work to an audience. He’s someone who isn’t afraid to play, and works with a variety of mediums. From sculptures made of cardboard, to revitalized thrift store paintings. Wayne White is a tremendous look at what artist/creative looks like today in the world.

9. Jodorowski’s Dune

Alejandro Jodorowski is one of the most visionary living film directors living today. This documentary looks at the creative process involved in the creation of his films. At first glance this may seem to be a documentary about making a movie, and it is, but it’s also about the vision of artists like H.R. Gieger and Moebius who were influential in crafting the look of the film. It’s a wonderful look at how creative individuals can work together and create a new vision which simply hadn’t existed before.

8. Art and Craft

Arts and Crafts follows the life of a forger. But not one who is interested in profits. Rather he is a character who gifts his forged paintings to museums, and he gets off on the fact that they actually show them, and his fakery goes unnoticed. It’s also a tale which gives an interesting insight into museums in the heartland of the US, which often may not be thought about too much, but still contain magnificent collections of paintings. The documentary is set up as a tale between a registrar, who is on the look out for the fakes, and the forger who is trying to go unnoticed.

7. Tim’s Vermeer

In Tim’s vermeer we follow the story of Tim ( a wealthy American inventor) who sets off to recreate a Vermeer painting. He takes the approach that the gadgetry involved in the painting, is what made it possible to create, and he sets off to paint his own copy of a Vermeer with no prior painting knowledge.

6. Cave of Forgotten Dreams

In this film we go back to the cave paintings and the people who control the access to them. A film by Werner Herzog, he follows around a strange cast of characters who are in charge of allowing people into ancient caves where drawings and paintings were done tens of thousands of years ago. The cinematography is amazing, and this film was actually made in 3d as well. So if you get a chance to see it in the theater , make sure you do!

5. Exit Through the Gift Shop

In this documentary we look at the life of one of the most famous, and unknown artists in the world. Banksy. Known for coming up making stencils and spray painting them near ATMs Banksy has become one of the most famous artists living today. This is a great doc mostly about a person, rather than techniques, however it’s an interesting look at how an artist creates a persona.

4. The Radiant Child

This is a doc about Jean Michel Basquiat, one of the most famous artists of the 1980s. Basquiat became well known for his sporadic and jittery paintings done on trash. He later collaborated with Andy Warhol and is now his paintings are some of the most valuable in the world. Basquiat died quite young, but this doc really digs into what an explosive and radiant life he led while he was alive.

3. Painters Painting

Here we’re given a glimpse of the New York art world in the middle of the 20th century. The full doc is currently available on Youtube, and it offers a great look into what the most important painters, in one of the most important painting cities (NYC) were doing and thinking. A must watch for anyone studying painting.

2. Gerhardt Richter Painting

Gerhardt Richter is one of the most famous painters living today. He started off doing photorealistic paintings of clouds and his daughter in the 70s, and slowly progressed to creating these gorgeous large scale works using a squeegee and heaps of oil paint. This doc gives a fantastic profile of the artist himself, his thoughts about his work, as well as a smorgasbord of lovely painting porn.

  1. The Mystery of Picasso

    Picasso painting, smoking, and painting some more. Much of this documentary is simply just Picasso painting, and what more do we really need? As a documentary it kind of breaks the mold in this way, but I’m guessing when you are tasked with documenting the work of arguably the most important artist of the 20th century are you going to add a bunch of your own creative license, or just let the artist be an artist. Give this one some time, and you’ll never see Picasso the same way after watching his own frustration with his work begin to come into focus.