Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Best Podcasts

The last decade has witnessed a flowering of podcasts. Here are the best story-driven audio documentaries and long-form interviews, chosen with visual artists in mind.

99% Invisible
The pitch: A tiny radio show about design with Roman Mars
Sample episode: Johnnycab (Automation Paradox)

Note to Self (Formerly New Tech City)
The pitch: Host Manoush Zomorodi talks with everyone from big name techies to elementary school teachers about the effects of technology on our lives.
Sample episode: There's Just Something About Paper

Suggested Donation
The pitch: Artists Tony Curanaj and Edward Minoff talk art
Sample episode: Marc Dalessio

This American Life
The pitch: There's a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. It's mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always.
Sample episode: Batman--can a blind man see if he changes his thought process?

New York Public Library
The pitch: The New York Public Library Podcast features your favorite writers, artists, and thinkers in smart talks and provocative conversations.
Sample Episode: Werner Herzog on Greece and Wrestlemania

The pitch: Weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries.
Sample episode: Eye in the Sky

The pitch: Explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.
Sample episode: The Power of Categories

The Moth Radio
The pitch: True stories told live
Sample episode: Lewis Lapham, Rookie Reporter

The pitch: Comedian Marc Maron is tackling the most complex philosophical question of our day – WTF? He'll get to the bottom of it with help from comedian friends, celebrity guests and the voices in his own head.
Sample episode: Louis C.K.

The pitch: Criminal is a podcast about crime. Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.
Sample episode: Ex Libris

TED Talks 
The pitch: Ideas worth spreading
Sample episode: Why We Laugh

Snap Judgment
The pitch: Glynn Washington delivers a raw, musical brand of storytelling, daring listeners to see the world through the eyes of another.
Sample episode: Mystery Man

Savvy Painter
The pitch: The podcast for fine artists who mean business.
Sample episode: Errol Gerson--Sound business and marketing advice for the artist.

The pitch:  Comics, art, and pop culture
Sample episode: Brad Holland

FX Guide 
The pitch: A visual effects and post-production community website founded by three visual effects artists, Jeff Heusser, John Montgomery, and Mike Seymour
Sample episode: The Visual Effects of Mad Max: Fury Road

The Memory Palace
The pitch: Historical narratives
Sample episode: I'm Still Alive

Have I've missed your favorite podcast? Tell me the name of the show and a sample episode in the comments.


dglenncasey said...

I like a lot of podcasts, including Savvy Painter that you listed.

One other to look for is Artists Helping Artists

One of my favorite episodes in their interview with Robert Genn before he passed away.

Amanda said...

The Sculptor's Funeral podcast is good too. It's made by a sculptor about sculpture but the art history is relevant for painters and other art forms. I've learnt a lot from it. Very entertaining.

JamesL said...

Is "A Prairie Home Companion" to disruptive for painting to? Adds a little jingle of whimsy maybe?

Jared Cullum said...

I love this post! I listen to podcast often, especially hanging out with a newborn all day long.
Have you listened to 'Your Dreams, My Nightmares' It's a visual arts podcast where illustrators and artists are interviewed.
There's also 'Massive Attack', 'Creative Trek', 'Oatley Artcast' & 'Paper Wings' which are other great visual arts podcasts.

The National Gallery and other art museums also post lectures as podcasts which is fun, especially if you have time to pull up the painting being talked about and follow along.

I love Savvy Painter, especially the Nathan Fowkes and Duane Keiser episodes.
For history, if you have a loooooong road trip or painting session 'Hardcore History' is awesome.

Thanks for the list! It gives me some new podcasts to throw into the mix.

Lindsay Gravina said...

The Classic Tales Podcast.

Michael Pianta said...

I second Hardcore History - love that podcast! Each episode is quite long and meaty and he often does multi-part episodes. For example he just did six episodes about the first world war. Taken together they add up to what is essentially an audio book. And Dan Carlin (the host) is one of those people who can just make history so interesting, just from the way he talks about it. He just tells it to you like a really intricate, engrossing story.

Only the most recent episodes are free. But if anyone is willing to pay a bit to hear the older episodes, I would recommend the series on the decline of the Roman Republic. "Death Throes of the Republic" It's got six parts; I found it really fascinating personally.

Michael Pieczonka said...

You missed Hardcore History and Common Sense from Dan Carlin... both great podcasts. Joe Rogan is good sometimes too (when he has interesting guests).

charlie said...

The Collective Podcast is a visual arts interview with different professionals from all fields of creativity. Illustrators to directors, concept artists to authors. Ash Thorp hosts great talks covering anything and everything that has made each guest who they are and gotten them to where they are in their business and life. Free to listen on Soundcloud.

Zach said...

James, I just wanted to say thank you. I've been a fan of yours since I received Dinotopia as a gift in elementary school (and a long-time lurker on your blog). I greatly appreciate your diligent posting here and the relevant, incredibly useful information you find and share. This post exemplifies your blog- interesting and conducive growth both artistically and intellectually. Your experience is extremely valuable to artists today, and we're lucky to have you. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

They all sound very interesting :-) I'll definetely give them a listen and maybe follow some of them

Anonymous said...

Same here :-) only difference: I discovered dinotopia in the most awesome fantasy-section of my school library - somewhere around 1999

Debi Hammack said...

Great list! Always need more to listen to while drawing.

My main go-to's are the Nerdist and BBC Radio, both free.

Nerdist ( is a bunch of long-form interviews with all sorts of creative people (actors, writers, comic book artist, comedians, etc). They have a bunch of different podcasts shows all with slightly different focuses.

BBC Radio ( has a bit of everything. Current radio dramas and sitcoms, game shows, historical shows, interviews, nature, etc etc. A bit like radio used to be before television.

thirtyscale said...

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History is a definite add to this list!

Bronwen said...

A great list. I'm a bit of a podcast junkie and listen to them when I'm commuting. If you're into history then BBC's History Extra podcast is excellent. I'd also suggest their History of the World in 100 objects. One Fantastic Week is great for listening to artist interviews. Pencil Kings offers shorter, roughly 30 min interviews with artists and designers as well.

Matt Dicke said...

Fresh air - lot of great interviews. the recent now with pixar's inside out director was great. also Planet Money- cause we all need a bit of business sense.

Carolyn | Exploring, Creating said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amai said...

A friend got me started on on taking pictures recently. Fairly sizable archive, and usually really worth listening to aim. Aimed at photography, after the 1st 30 or so it broadens out. Sample episode: On Inspiration & Criticism

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Melvyn Bragg - In our Time

Every episode is him and three guest experts discussing one topic in detail. He does history, philosophy, science - though I find it's always the history ones that are best.

Recent topics I've enjoyed are Sappho, Prester John, and Memory Palaces.

It's really good stuff - in depth and not flashy.