In December, ESPN Films released the documentary The Marinovich Project, directed by Andrew Stephan and John Dorsey, which prominently featured Marinovich furiously painting what accidentally turned out to be the centerpiece of his gallery debut in Los Angeles the next day. Within a week of its airing, Marinovich, a Newport Beach resident who had been making ends meet by painting houses and cleaning boats in the harbor, had sold $20,000 in art.

His balding pate covered by a faded, navy-blue cap with dark sunglasses propped on top, Marinovich crosses his legs, inhales a Camel Wide cigarette, sips from a can of Dr. Pepper and scratches at the remaining red hair on the sides of his head. He points up at the painting that most recently changed his ever-evolving life.

“That whole story was rad,” he says. “Do you have time for it?”

The directors emailed Marinovich with an idea: walk toward the camera and paint whatever you want on a piece of Plexiglas in front of it, giving the effect you are painting on the camera lens. Marinovich had only the faint inspiration to create a football player holding a helmet and morphing into a kid. In his mind, it wasn’t materializing, and he grew increasingly frustrated.

But the filmmakers had another perspective. They told Marinovich the painting should be the feature piece in his gallery show in Los Angeles. He thought they “were bullshitting,” but when he walked to the other side of the room and saw how the light had fired through the Plexiglas, the acrylic painting took on a new life, with bold hues of orange and yellow exploding into life. Having worked for months on a feature piece, Marinovich scrapped that plan and worked 24 hours straight on the new one. He titled it The Alchemist.