What's Up? Docs!

by Arnie Fenner

Dan's post a little while back about the Drew Struzan film reminded me of just how much I like documentaries about artists. Whether good or bad, documentaries are always done more for love than money (and, of course, very few ever turn a profit, much less reach a wide audience) so I've always found them interesting and worth hunting down.

One of the films I stumbled across quite by accident was The Art of Illustration from Off Book/PBS Digital Studios. It features Steven Guarnaccia, Yuko Shimisu, Sean Murphy, and Molly Crabapple and, by golly, you can watch the whole magilla right now.

Naturally there are plenty of others, some that are easy to find and some that surprisingly require a fair bit of searching.

Above and below: Paul Jilbert directed the films about James Bama and Robert McGinnis.
Both can be a little difficult to come by.

Above: Terry Zwigoff's documentary is about as good as they come. It's an honest and uncompromising (and occasionally uncomfortable) look at one of the original superstars of the underground comix movement.

Above: Former Comic Book Artist publisher Jon Cooke joined with his brother to produce a pretty thorough examination of the life and work of Will Eisner. If it softens the sweatshop nature of the Eisner/Iger Studio back in the day or glosses over the import of some of the "ghosts" on The Spirit strip (like Lou Fine), it is still a fine look at one of the comics field's major artists. 

Above: Blink and you'll miss Cathy and I in Lance Laspina's Frazetta documentary. It's a bit of a non-critical love-fest for Frank and helps perpetuate some of the myths that surround him (regardless of one of the claims made in the film, no book that Frazetta painted a cover for ever became a bestseller), but that's okay. A lot of artists did (and do) love Fritz, me included.

Above: Maria Cabardo's film, Better Things: The Life & Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones, is now available for purchase via download, while the DVD will go on sale 2/25. Maria says the Blu-ray is in the works and hopefully will be available later in the year; her plan is to include a lot of deleted scenes and additional interviews with Jeff and other artists.

Above: The Gahan Wilson doc has had some limited screening engagements. Visiting the website might shed some light on when it'll be available for home viewing.

Above: Anthony Moorman's Making It film is in the editing phase and follows Andrew Bawidamann, Brian Ewing, and MC's Eric Fortune through their daily struggles to forge an arts career. Fellow artist Woodrow J. Hinton III steers the conversations about art school, getting work, maintaining a personal life, and defining what it is to "make it" as a creative. I'm really looking forward to this one!