When, with trepidation, I walked into the Art Students League studio as a middle-aged man about six years ago to take a Painting From Life class led by Bob Cenedella, I didn't know what to expect-and today I'm still not always sure what to expect from Bob on any given evening. But I can say this: He has taught me to see better, draw better, and paint better (moreover, like Bob's fellow artist in the film who shocks him by asking where he gets his ideas, I'd like to believe Bob appreciates my offbeat painting ideas, which he often plays a subtle role in inspiring) ... and along the way, I have laughed with him, waxed political with him, and imbibed with him, several times all at once. So on one hand, I personally knew the subject going in to see Art Bastard, but Bob being Bob, the film was full of surprises and, like a Bob anecdote, well told and engaging. At 76, Bob has spanned more than half a century as an artist-and with those decades, art movements- so Art Bastard, by way of his work and passion, is also a wonderful glimpse at later 20th century history, especially with a focus on his (and my) beloved New York city. Always an opinionated critic, Bob in person and in the film has no qualms about railing against phoniness in the world of art, a world he has been both inside-albeit on the margins-and, mostly, outside. And yet, despite his not being as celebrated as he deserves, I have never sensed bitterness in the man-just lots of talent, integrity, wit, intelligence, and passion for the essence of expression, as well as a generosity of spirit and knowledge. While the film is imperfect-I would have enjoyed seeing more young(er) people, his myriad disciples at the League, for example, say their piece-Art Bastard left me knowing Bob better and liking him even more. Yet on the flip side, I walked way with a grim realization that real art for art's sake (versus art made with fame and riches in mind) has only grown more elusive and that, heartbreakingly, art as commodity, investment, and status symbol is here to stay. All this is conveyed in this fine film on his fascinating life-a life not without interior and exterior pain and struggle. On a side note, I saw Art Bastard the evening of June 3 and after midnight heard the news that Muhammad Ali, a childhood and adult hero of mine, had died. I don't have many such heroes, but as I approach 63, I count Bob Cenedella among them, and like Ali, I see the artist-I'm proud to call him my mentor-as a singular American original (yes, a "character") who has been courageous enough to stand his ground, Ali with his conscientious-objection to the war at the expense of his career, and Cenedella with his conscience regarding being true to his art at the cost of cashing in on trends and the whims of gallery and museum poobahs and well-heeled collectors. Like Ali, Cenedella not only talks the talks but also backs it up, with sublime skills, great humor, and unbridled honesty.