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Movie Work

Filmed in 2006 in Virginia, Universal Picture's "Evan Almighty" (Starring Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman) offered a unique opportunity to create a painting in very unusual circumstances. The comedy concerns a local congressman, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) who is instructed by God, (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark. The set was gigantic. Fully half the length of the ark was built on site. In the movie, as the ark is built, crowds gather and a carnival atmosphere surrounds the construction. I was hired to act as just a background element, an artist who had set up his easel to paint this monstrous ship.

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When I showed up on the set with my easel, paints and blank 2' X 3' canvas, there was no time for any sketching, planning or compositional forethought. Within twenty minutes, I had to come up with a painting that would be developed enough to show on camera. I was placed on the set and asked to get started. In the alloted time, I was surprised to have the ark, sky, background and foreground all blocked in to the assistant director's satisfaction.
Painting on Set
It was a strange experience painting by the seat of my pants (Speaking of pants, that's my "flood wardrobe" I'm wearing) and working in front of an audience of over a thousand crew, actors and extras, but exhilarating for me as well, since they all had nice things to say as they saw the painting develop during the shoot. In the distance, you can see the huge water sprayers called "rain crosses" hoisted up over a hundred feet in the air by cranes. In this photo I've been freshly soaked along with hundreds of extras so that we looked convincingly inundated by a cloudburst.
Water and Color
Over the next few days, amid the windstorms, dust storms, mud, rain (both real and artificially created for the deluge scene) and my constantly shifting vantage point due to camera repositioning, I managed to actually produce a painting I was pleased with. Since it might have been in the final cut, the painting was not done from the standpoint of an artist painting the movie set, but from the mindset of a person who might have viewed the scene within the context of the movie.
Painting on Location
Here's the finished ark painting. The elephants, alpacas, burros, baboons and giraffes were actually on site, and were wonderful to see almost every day. I was advised by the director, Tom Shadyac, that digital imagery would add hundreds of other animals. Steve Carell was at the prow of the ark filming a scene when I painted his teeny figure complaining "Where's the flood!!"
The Ark Painting
This was the most fun scene in the movie to film. With 350 other extras, I (white arrow) stampeded up the ramp to take refuge inside the immense ark as Steve Carrell in white beard and robe stood at the top right to encourage us onward. The ground had been soaked with simulated rain so all 350 of us slipped and slogged as fast as we could through the boggy ground and up the ramp. One of the coolest things was that we were directed in this scene by second unit director Mickey Gilbert who was a stuntman in Ben Hur and The Wild Bunch.
Muddy Ramp Run
After the painting was finished, I stayed on as an extra for several crowd scenes including this one as we cheered on Steve Carrell as Evan Baxter running for congress. Only with the aid of a pause button could I find myself amongst the other extras in my blue "Baxter for Congress" T-shirt. After this scene was shot, I presented Director Tom Shadyac and Steve Carell each with a print of my painting.
Cheering Section