In late August 2017 Cary Lyon, Tom Hayden and myself began the construction and painting process for the Sweet Spot stage set for Grace Fellowship Church after consulting with Creative Director Shawn Slater about the design. It involved cutting and assembling quite a few frames of different dimensions and constructing light poles out of pvc. Everything was painted black before assembly and then arranged on stage by Shawn.
I've had the privilege of volunteering my time and talent towards creating beautiful stage sets for our church congregation side by side with some great people. First in the creative process is Shawn Slater, Creative Director, who relays the vision. Then Carpenters Cary Lyon and Tom Hayden get to work building the necessary components. Finally myself and a few volunteers, namely Zoe Kumpf and my son Jacob Seese paint, stain or otherwise finish the parts to make a final product! Then Shawn comes back in with some help from the Doug and the Media team for the installation. It's a beautiful thing!
This time I was asked to make these long boxes look like solid "Biblical" timber. I imagined they were cut from the Cedars of Lebanon spoke of in the BIble. Before staining with a Mahogany stain I beat them with a hammer, crow bar and even a chain to create a distressed, weathered look. It was very therapeutic.
It all starts with framed walls built by Cary Lyon and Tom Hayden, the church construction team essentially. Then myself and my high school volunteers Zoe Kumpf, Owen Goffigon and Jacob Seese descend on the frames with chicken wire, paper mache and primer adding some popcorn texture spray to simulate rock. This time we did not paint the rock but left it white to be lit on stage, partially due to time constraints, partially out of curiosity . Next time we would like to try carving the rock out of styrofoam blocks, applying a hardener to the surface and then painting them in a realistic fashion. All in all it was well received.
The best feature of this set had to be the roll away rock. During the service when the music neared a crescendo, light began pouring out from behind the circular block covering the doorway until the rock moved in unison with a loud scraping sound like brick against brick until the doorway was completely open. The congregation cheered for this at every one of the four services! Christ is ALIVE!!!
This was a rare opportunity to spend a week with the crew of Extreme Makeover Home Edition and the hundreds of local volunteers to transform a Baltimore house into the Boys Hope Girls Hope house of their dreams. The show was looking for muralists and faux finishers to help decorate the interior and I signed up! Among the projects I worked on was the pink geometric design motif in the common room, the faux aged plaster wall in the French Café bedroom and the ribbon candy chairs in the candy themed room. It was a special experience, even got to see Ty do his thing!
Another part of Evan's house worth mentioning is the faux rock chimney that was actually a series of fiberglass cast sheets installed by the plaster team and painted by a handful of artists including myself. Two LA painters led the effort. The LA scenic artists had worked for Universal Studios for decades and told us wonderful tales of painting for old TV shows like Fantasy Island and the Dukes of Hazard as well as more recent films such as Waterworld and Pirates of the Carribean. Its exciting to work with such experienced individuals.
I was part of a team of artisans responsible for dressing up the ark and making it look pretty for the camera. That meant hiding all evidence of how this enormous prop was assembled. We spent weeks treating the tiny screw holes first with wood filler, then wire brushing the wet filler to match the wood grain, then finally painting them to look like the cedar ark. It was painstaking, repetitive work, but enjoyable - good company.
There was also piles of foam wood that needed to be painted to match the existing wood. I remember working on those and turning around to see an animal trainer with three large Timber wolves getting ready for the next shot.
Most of the ark was kept in a warehouse in pieces until complete and ready for assembly on a large concrete pad outside. The warehouse fondly became known as "The Island of Misfit Toys" because of the harsh working conditions and its separation from the main sound stage.
This is Evan's house, the "hero" house. Which means the lead actor will use it and the set will generally get a lot of screen time. It's actually a shell of a house as the interior shots are filmed on a sound stage elsewhere. I personally painted the front porch, doorway and assisted painting the rest of the house. As an artist I have not had much experience house painting. On this movie I was fortunate to be working with some of the best, most seasoned painters around that taught me techniques, tips and tricks for this type of work.
Painting a helipad on a building rooftop using reflective paint for the helicopter escape scene in Invasion. I remember it being extremely windy up there but the view of Baltimore was incredible. I was joined by my friend and fellow scenic artists Pete Oktovec and a few others.
My first solo project on this movie, I was charged with painting four of these metal plates to look like concrete which would then hold street lamps for some of the scenes with Nicole Kidman's character. Throwing some dry leaves over the finished product help blend it in with the real concrete sidewalk.
In the story, this was the children's play area where they would learn "socialization" skills. It was filled with creepy stuffed animals turned inside out and stuffed back together and a mural meant to seem like you are actually outside on a baseball diamond. This was accomplished by mostly spray paint. I feel we pulled off the illusion, even installing a chain link fence jutting out of the wall to match the painted one disappearing into the distance and hauling in wheelbarrow loads of dirt for the pitchers mound. This was a crucial room because it showcased Frank Whaley's characters death scene.
Some faux metal on luan board for the cellar door scene. We also added a lock fixture that had to be painted to match the existing doors.
This communal bathing room was creepy enough before we got to it, but the director Jimmy Jones felt it needed an extra layer of filth. My contribution was all the rust stains, moss and mold you see on the walls and the tub.
Tracy Lords can be seen receiving some direction before the next take as I included some behind the scenes shots.
During the summer of 2005 I spent my days as Lead Scenic Artist for the indie horror film Crazy Eights in Crowsville, MD. Most of the shooting was on location at the abandoned Crownsville State Hospital where we also had our scenic shop and special effects studio set up. The special effects guy had an overflow of work and passed this project on to me, which I gladly accepted. He gave me the skeleton and I used latex rubber and paint to achieve the withered decayed flesh you want to see in a 30 year old corpse. If you follow the story, this is the remains of Karen, a former classmate/fellow inmate of the cast who was mysteriously killed and thrown into a wood chest never to be seen again until they stumble upon it revisiting the hospital while attending the funeral of another mutual friend. To be fair, Crazy Eights is your quintessential cheesy B movie with a few name actors, but Becky Schpak the Production Designer, and team, including me, did a fantastic job really putting our hearts and souls into creating the sets and dressing the locations for this piece of horror history.
The mummy sat in my basement only coming out for Halloween to scare the trick or treater's until I sold it at a yard sale for a chunk of change a few years ago.
Apology is an independant film shot on the campus of American University and Dupont Circle in Washington DC. I was the Lead Scenic Artist in charge of a variety of tasks including furniture distressing, set painting, murals, prop fabrication and some set dressing. It was fantastic to work with Production Designer Becky Schpak again.
These faux wood doors were one such project. Most of the film was shot on location save this empty office space in the old music building. The single door leads to the set of Dr. Slateman's office. We also built an efficiency apartment set in the basement of this same building.
I had two days to create this illusion and move on. The materials used were acrylic paint, wood stain and varnish. Quite a difference from the previous periwinkle color. It's amazing what a little paint can do!