The Artist’s Journey: Great Art Documentary Films

Documentaries are a wonderful opportunity to get inside the heads of people: their journeys, their trials and their tribulations. We’ve gathered a selection of documentaries that have grabbed our attention: some we’ve seen, some we’re looking to check out. Each one takes us on exciting and unusual journey through the artistic process of their stars.

Indie Game: The Movie

The subject might seem a little left-field, but the story is one many of us can sympathise with. Indie Game: The Movie tells the story of three video game developers working to bring their projects- Braid, Fez and Super Meat Boy to life. We haven’t had a chance to see it, but it looks to be an honest and intriguing piece of filmmaking…and one well received if its 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed. It was also a massive crowd funding success story, raising over $90,000 through Kickstarter.


When Mark Hogancamp is beaten into a coma by five men outside a bar, he awakes to a startling discovery: his memory prior to the attack has vanished. In reaction to this incident, Mark creates Marwencol: a model town evocative of his past life, set during the Second World War… and situated in his backyard.

A fascinating piece of film-making, Marwencol is a touching and unusual look at one man and the world he has created for himself. It also throws up uncomfortable ideas surrounding the ownership of the art that we create: is something we create art if we don’t treat it as such? Do we have the right to (forcibly) take art from its creators, even if said artwork is brilliant? Regardless, we heartily recommend it.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

The creator of works such as Sunflower Seeds gets his chance to shine in this documentary. Never Sorry examines the work of one of China’s most well-known artists… and the backlash his work invariably sparked. A tireless artist and social activist, Ai Weiwei’s work has earned him both acclaim and the attention of the Chinese government… who have arrested and imprisoned him in the course of his work.

Gerhard Richter Painting 

This unusual documentary focuses less on the artist and more on the art: specifically, how they put their work together. Gerhard Richter Painting is a documentary focussed on the creative process of Gerhard Richter, a prolific painter who’s created a wide variety of works in his long and storied career. Mixing meditations on painting with blunt footage of him just painting (or squeegeeing, as the case might be) it’s an interesting take on a documentary, and gives us a rare view of the creative process.

Beauty is Embarrassing 

Artist Wayne White might not have the same prestige here as he does across the pond. But as one of the minds behind cult US TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse he’s demonstrated his creative chops…and documentary Beauty is Embarrassing examines his mission to bring humour to fine art. Seeing him get hands-on in the trailer is very gratifying, and the immediate impression is that of a true creative spirit. We suspect some of its impact might be robbed from us having not grown up with the material that he’s best known for. Regardless, his passion shines through in the trailer and we look forward to seeing it given the chance.

For us, these films are united by a common theme even if the art on show in each one is very different. They’re intensely personal journeys, showing both the effort that goes into them and (in some cases) the obstacles that the artists encounter along the way. In this respect, these films are quite similiar… and have a pleasing overlap with what we’re trying to achieve. We’re focussed on providing you, our audience, with a valuable insight into a fascinating man and his body of work: we want to show you how he creates his work, what drives him… and the obstacles he faces along the way. In that light, they’re hugely inspiring, and we’re working hard to ensure we create a film just as well received as these ones.

Let us know if you think there are any other documentary films that warrant our attention! You can find us here on Twitter and Facebook.

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Tom GibsonThe Artist’s Journey: Great Art Documentary Films

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