Lurie’s six-part doc series is nothing like Ross’ show—ostensibly meant to teach painting to curious newbies—but it is instructive in its circuitous life lessons and features a similar calming and hypnotic quality, albeit much deeper, more profound yet meandering, and funnier. ... John Lurie is back (hopefully to stay?) and has released the most profoundly captivating narrative of 2021, so far.
Painting With John is, like its predecessor, a true original. It’s about a man who has seen a lot of the world, made a good living off his art, and — with the help of producers Adam McKay and Todd Schulman — has hand-crafted yet another work for television.
A hypnotic, meandering, surreality-TV walk into the knotty jungle of Lurie’s mind that explores living as an art form in itself. ... Lurie isn’t teaching painting. But he’s teaching something. Patience, purpose, attentiveness to your inner voice. It may seem rambling or self-indulgent at times. But the digressions are the point. The show, which at six half-hour episodes does not overstay its welcome, is like an apprenticeship with a crotchety bohemian Yoda.
The mood is mostly meditative. Plants sway in the breeze, tree frogs sing, Lurie sits and stares. Much of it is devoted to watching paint move from brush to paper, very close up, and it is pretty and satisfying. ... There is a sort of arc to the series, in that Lurie’s circumstances come increasingly, if never completely, into focus; that what we’re watching is by the end framed in a slightly different way. ... That it also concludes with the title card, “The End,” suggests we have been told a story as much as having been shown a life.
The pacing, the insouciance, the music (Mr. Lurie’s) and the surprising vividness of the colors and the artwork make for a show that engages a viewer sincerely, even while being a semi-spoof. ... At one point he asks why’s he’s doing the show at all. “In fact, if you’re watching, turn it off.” I couldn’t oblige.
Lurie is a vibrant, if grouchy, painter and a charming, if grouchy, raconteur and when Painting With John simulates a therapeutic experience for him, it's a pleasure to watch, especially with episodes all running close to 20 minutes. What you notice he misses, especially if you watched Fishing With John, is a reliable foil to bounce ideas off of.