There’s no doubt that artists inspire other artists. It’s a beautiful chain reaction that keeps the world spinning. So whenever I hit a creative block, I seek help from my fellow art makers. Below are seven art documentaries that may help kick your creative block. So get the popcorn and art supplies out and get ready to be inspired!
Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he transforms the lives of a group of pickers who collect recyclable materials in one of the world’s largest landfills outside Rio de Janeiro. He takes portraits of the workers, employs them to create massive works of art from the images using the very materials they gather, and auctions the prints to collectors for all the money to go back to the picker community. These people’s lust for life and positivity will set your heart on fire, and you’ll be moved to create something that will help others, too.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Directed by Tamra Davis, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is a collection of original footage and interviews with Jean-Michel himself and his surviving friends, as well as the history of the SoHo art scene. He was known for his seductive charm, incredible work ethic and focus, and clever artwork, which was a high-art mutation of his street art. Basquiat went from sleeping on friends’ couches to becoming one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. That could be you! This film is incredibly inspiring and worth a watch.
Beauty is Embarrassing
You may know Wayne White’s puppet and set design work through Pee-wee’s Playhouse, The Weird Al Show and Beakman’s World. Ever wondered what his life was like? In Beauty is Embarrassing, White narrates his own story as he shares his successes and struggles as a commercial artist. He is as dynamic, fun, wild and hilarious as his work. If you don’t feel compelled to create something after watching this, you were probably asleep.
Cutie and the Boxer
Cutie and the Boxer chronicles the 40-year marriage of painter and sculptor Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko, an illustrator, and their struggles with commercial success in the art world as well as their competitive relationship. It’s an intimate portrait of love, sacrifice and creative drive, and their complex connection is fascinating and profound. You may wince at the realism of a life dedicated to creating art (down to the persistent money troubles), but their work ethic and motivation are contagious.
Directed by Terry Zwigoff, Crumb is about the legendary underground cartoonist and musician Robert Crumb, whose controversial work pokes fun at contemporary American culture, revisits his painfully awkward boyhood experiences with girls, and demonstrates bizarre sexual situations. Crumb’s humor is honest and disturbingly morbid, and this film will give you that tingle in your chest telling you to face your demons and ride them to create something.
!Women Art Revolution
If Crumb’s depiction of women made you uncomfortable, !Women Art Revolution is the proper eye-bleach. Filmed over the course of 40 years, artist Lynn Hershman Leeson tells the history of women in art and the beginning of the feminist movement through interviews, photographs and footage of some of the most influential female artists of our time. Their hard work and political activism got us where we are today, not only in terms of the art world, but in terms of women’s liberation in general. A must-watch for any artist, male or female.
The Antics Roadshow
I’m going to assume you’ve already seen Exit through the Gift Shop and recommend Banksy’s other film with Jaimie D’Cruz, The Antics Roadshow. This doc is a look at the most noted pranks of the last few decades, from the silly to the profound. Statement or none, these elaborate orchestrations will spark something in you. What big message do you have to share, and how are you going to send it?
Have any thoughts on the above documentaries? What are your favorite art films? Share them in the comments below!