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SXSW 2023 Film Review: ‘Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life’


At one point in this absorbing documentary, visual artist Geoff McFetridge laments: “The downside of design is that you’re anonymous.” That may be the case now, but it certainly won’t be once audiences get a look at Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life.

His name may not be familiar to some, but many more have seen his art. He’s done work for Nike, Van’s, Pepsi, and Apple. His art adorns album covers and even the opening credits for Spike Jonze films. He may be the most recognizably unrecognized talent out there.

Director Dan Covert provides an all-encompassing look into McFetridge’s life. Not only do we see his creative process, we also see a man who juggles the art with a family life. Originally from Calgary, Canada, he started sketching at a young age, and even his parents sensed there was something special happening.

He made his way to Los Angeles in the early 90s and enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts. After a short stint as art director of the now-defunct Beastie Boys magazine Grand Royale (where Jonze was an editor), he decided to break away from the day-to-day and focus on his vision as an independent designer and artist.

McFetridge creates in all sorts of media, even making a large outdoor art installation for the Muni train station in L.A. As he says, “I want my daughters to be able to bring their children to see it.”

And when he has moments of doubt, as all creative minds do, his wife Sarah Devincentis is there to give him counsel. When a particular canvas was causing him concern, he awoke one morning to find a post-it note from Sarah assuring him that it was awesome. Their relationship is mutually beneficial and key to what makes him tick.

Even after almost 30 years, his creative inspiration is unstoppable. It’s fascinating to see him make a piece of art and then consider its meaning. Is this the right color? Did I use the right medium? How will audiences interpret it? Even when he gets his first art show in New York, he looks like he’s having the time of his life, but we know that he’s still second-guessing himself.

The film includes commentary from McFetridge’s parents and his wife as well as Jonze and Sofia Coppola (with whom he worked on her Milkfed clothing line as well as opening credits for her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides). Also included are moments from various others in his orbit, including Andrew Paynter, Bill Powers, Liv Sidall and Andy Spade.

Drawing a Life goes beyond the creative process as well. McFetridge constantly wonders: “What makes a fulfilling life?” He’s got an adoring wife and two great children. A vigorous athlete, he bikes and does trail running and marathons. He questions what he’s managed to accomplish as he approaches 50, which is ironic, because this certainly looks like a fulfilled life indeed.

Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life made its world premiere at SXSW 2023. It won the Audience Award in the documentary feature competition.

Photos by Andrew Paynter.