In honor of Katy Blogs Things’ second anniversary, I’ve decided to put together a shortlist of some of my favorite documentaries about art! These are films that I’ve found inspiring to me as an artist in one way or another, but that can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates art, whether or not you yourself are creatively inclined.
Shining the spotlight on one of the oft-forgotten aspects of graphic design, Helvetica is a documentary about both the eponymous typeface’s inception and widespread use, and the effect typography has on our everyday lives. While typefaces are something most people take for granted, this documentary reminds us that fonts are more than just features in a word processing program: they’re art. A surprising and insightful look at the way we perceive text and language, Helvetica is sure to make you see everything from road signs to book covers in a new light.
Abstract: The Art of Design (2017)
An original docu-series by Netflix whose title is a bit misleading, Abstract profiles a roster of professional designers that includes illustrator Christoph Niemann, architect Bjarke Ingels, and graphic designer Paula Sher. While not really “abstract” in the artistic sense (you won’t see anyone channeling the likes of Pollock or Kandinsky here), each episode focuses on a different designer and their creative perspective, reminding the audience how truly broad the world of art and design really is. Whether it’s a building, an album cover, or a pair of shoes, Abstract is a reminder that every aspect of our lives was once a concept imagined by an artist.
Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes (2011)
While I’d guess that most people – myself included – have never worked with glass before, it would be hard not to appreciate the artistry of blown glass as highlighted in this documentary. Whether or not you’re interested in cannabis culture, the craft of glassblowing is mesmerizing to watch, and the history and evolution of pipe-making is fascinating in its own right. These fragile sculptures have long been the subject of controversy, which is a shame: most people see them only as “illicit” tools, rather than as works of art created by a unique subculture of artists who have been pioneering new techniques for decades… and pushing both creative and legal boundaries in the process. So, if you’ve got an open mind and have ever been curious about the story behind these taboo sculptures (or if you just like to watch people make art with fire!) this documentary is definitely worth adding to your watchlist.
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (2016)
Though far from being a household name, Floyd Norman is nonetheless a notable figure in film history. In 1956, he became the first African-American animator to work for Disney studios, and since then has played an instrumental part in bringing films such as Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, and Mulan to life. Every bit as magical as the movies Floyd himself worked on, this documentary takes viewers behind the scenes to explore not only the world of animation and cartooning at Disney, but also Floyd’s colorful life as an artist. Light-hearted, good-humored, and chock full of art and animated sequences, An Animated Life is sure to delight animation fans of all ages – especially those with a soft spot for Disney classics.
Have a comment or suggestion about this list? Feel like it’s missing something? Give voice to your thoughts in the comments below! I’d like to start writing more lists and recommending resources aimed at creative-minded people, so I’d love to get some feedback from my readers.