Runtime: 80 minutes
Director: Dan Covert
Writers: Amy Dempsey, Dan Covert, Erik Auli, Tara Rose Stromberg
By Joan Amenn
Nominated for a Grand Jury Award at this year’s SXSW, “Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life” is an intriguing look at an artist who has managed to create ubiquitous images and yet, remain relatively unknown. Geoff McFetridge’s work can be seen everywhere from movie titles to Apple watches but he has quietly chosen to remain in his studio focused on his work and family. As this film indicates, he is an anomaly among artists in that he has no vices or dark period in his life to lend overt drama to his story. While refreshing, this can also make the narrative of “Drawing a Life” seem as flat as the graphic colors in McFetridge’s work.
The artist himself appears to be somewhat emotionally removed from the world, as he is often seen running or working alone. Even when he is interviewed on camera, he lets his wife speak for him or provide insight into his life. This air of mystery is countered with friends such as Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola, both of whom he has collaborated with, who insist on reinforcing his “normalcy” as an artist. While it must be nice to have famous friends, we don’t get much into how he supported himself and his family when he wasn’t working in the film industry. His wife stresses that she always encouraged him to put his art first, but we see that he did have short gigs as an art editor and a commercial director. How did his decision to step away from those to pursue his art impact his family, financially and emotionally? We don’t find out and it seems like there is a deliberate wall set up so that viewers only see the positive in his life.
Indeed, toward the end of the film it is a bit of a shock to see McFetridge in tears recalling the loss of one of his children’s beloved teachers to Covid-19. He gives the sense of being so tightly in control of himself, his emotions and his work, that this breakdown hits like a runaway freight train. That same control hinders this documentary from giving us any real insight into his work; why he chooses the images and colors that have become his signature and where his influences come from. It is just a surface overview, as slick as the high gloss finish on the skateboards he used to design. “Drawing from Life” leaves us wanting more and hopefully, someday McFetridge will feel comfortable enough to continue the line he started drawing with this film.