‘Paint’ Ending, Explained: What Did Carl Paint In The End? Did He Survive The Fire?


Directed by Brit McAdams, “Paint” revolves around the life of a live television artist named Carl Nargle. While his perms, soft-spoken nature, and, of course, his landscapes are inspired by the real-life celebrated television host Bob Ross, McAdams chooses not to mention him throughout the film. The stark similarity is hard to ignore, and it is quite intentional. There are too many ideas that the film tries to explore: Carl’s failing career, the new generation taking over his fanbase, his unfulfilled dream, the mistakes he made at a time when his career was booming, and eventually finding a way to be remembered. The film also tries to comment on how men such as Carl Nargle were rightfully forgotten, but the thought did not bloom to its full potential. In this article, we take a closer look at Carl Nargle’s life and explore the ending of “Paint.”

 Spoilers Alert

Who Was The New Television Show Host?

Carl Nargle had the power to transport his audience to another reality through words and paint. His audience ranged from the elderly to enthusiastic amateur artists and the regulars at bars. When Carl spoke, the world listened, and he was aware of the power he had over the people around him. Women working at the station swarmed him the moment he completed recording. PBS Burlington offered Carl to host two back-to-back shows to increase their revenue, given his popularity, but Carl was afraid that he would lose his spark if he painted that frequently. Since his work was televised, Carl feared that he would not be taken seriously by art curators. He wanted to be a “real artist,” and painting frequently could hamper his dream.

Carl was surprised to see how quickly the broadcasting network found an alternate solution. They hired Ambrosia, a young artist who had grown up watching Carl. She had big shoes to fill, and even though the audience was not too keen on watching a new artist, they eventually fell in love with Ambrosia. She was offering a new perspective and a chance to paint more than just Mount Mansfield. Carl was threatened by the impact Ambrosia had on the people at the station. They were amused by her talent and were glued to the television, watching her paint one canvas after another for an hour’s time. Jenna was Carl’s only loyal fan, and she followed him even when the rest decided to support the next television sensation. Jenna was the only woman at the station who had yet to discover the back of Carl’s van and get one of his paintings. While Jenna was ready to gulp down meat even as a vegan for Carl, he was still interested in keeping track of his first love, Katherine. To his surprise, Katherine also started to develop a romantic interest in Ambrosia. Carl could sense that he was losing all that he loved about his life. Most of his fans lost interest in him; the women at the station no longer cared to cater to all his whims and demands, and he had lost Katherine’s admiration as well.

What Led To Carl And Katherine’s Separation? What Was Carl’s Dream? 

Carl and Katherine fell in love when they were in college. She was his biggest source of inspiration, and she was proud of the artist he became. Their relationship started to lose its spark once Carl became popular. Katherine always waited on the sidelines while Carl was surrounded by his fans. She did not complete her college education under his influence, but she ended up regretting her decision. Katherine cheated on Carl with the delivery man. While it did not last long, she felt a sudden sense of independence. She realized that her world did not have to revolve around Carl. She later confessed the truth to Carl, and she was disheartened to find out how fast he replaced her with Wendy. She continued to work at the station, but she looked forward to starting over in a new city. 

All his life, Carl had painted thousands of canvases depicting Mount Mansfield, hoping that one day he would be approached by Dr. Bradford Lenihan from the Burlington Museum of Art. Nineteen years ago, Brandford expressed how he was in search of an admirable painting of Mount Mansfield, and Carl was determined to paint the perfect landscape for the museum. Every day he painted on television, hoping that the man would take note of him one day. Carl never approached Brandford, fearing rejection. After learning the reason behind painting the same subject, Jenna stated that if he were a real artist, he would have followed his heart. She realized that the reason Carl was holding on to her was because she was the only person left by his side. While Jenna left, Carl decided to follow his heart and approach Brandford. Even though there was an empty wall at the museum, Brandford was not too keen to exhibit any of Carl’s works. He instead advised Carl to paint an image that made him emotional on any given day. After spending nineteen years of his life perfecting his depiction of Mount Mansfield, Carl was devastated to find out that his painting had no value. Even when he tried to destroy his collection with paint, he ended up painting an image of the mountain. 

‘Paint’ Ending Explained: What Did Carl Paint? Did He Survive The Fire?

After pondering on Brandford’s advice, Carl realized that he owed an apology to Katherine. The memories he had with her at the back of his van made him emotional even after all these years. While trying to apologize to Katherine for his absence, Ambrosia informed him that the reason behind her unsuccessful relationship with Katherine was Carl. She could not stop loving Carl. Carl barged into the PBS station and requested a slot. He believed that painting was his only way to apologize, and even though it was Katherine who got his show canceled in the end, he was ready to give them a second chance. After going live, Carl admitted that he had always asked his audience to paint from the heart, but he never truly followed his own advice. He started painting his canvas with tangerine orange, a color that reminded him of the good old days spent in his van. Carl’s new approach garnered the attention of the audience once again. The show was a lot more personal than ever before, and the station received positive feedback from its audience. Carl’s new painting was a tribute to the woman he barely knew but fell instantly in love with. Instead of watching Carl paint, Katherine ran back to her desk, hoping to find a way to continue Ambrosia’s show and bring things back to order before leaving. She received an unexpected call from her new office, asking her about her college degree. She had been fearing this all along, and the opportunity that she was looking forward to was taken away from her.

Carl had rediscovered himself and decided to get a new haircut. He carried the trimmed hair back home, smoked marijuana, and munched on gummy bears to relax. Flakes of smoke fell into his trimmed hair, and eventually, his house caught fire. Meanwhile, Katherine watched the recorded episode that she had missed. She came running to meet him, only to realize that Carl was unaware that his barn was on fire. She rescued him and asked him about the painting he made during the show. She managed to get hold of the painting from his van, and we ultimately got a good look at it. He had painted Katherine lying on a convertible sofa at the back of his van. A memory that was so deeply etched in his mind that he felt his emotions running wild every time he thought about it.

The next morning, when Katherine switched on the news, she and Carl realized that the whole world assumed that he was dead. His hair was found at the scene, and it was considered enough proof to believe that he had lost his life in the accident. The accidental fire gave Carl a chance to be reborn. His fans lined up at the Burlington Museum of Arts, and the painting that was considered garbage became invaluable. One of his Mount Mansfield paintings finally made it up to the museum wall. The ending of “Paint” indicates that his death resulted in the fulfillment of his dream. Carl died in peace, and he was reborn as Blanksy. After selling one of his paintings to the museum, PBS turned profitable. They decided to air Carl Nargle’s previous shows by graphically eliminating his smoke pipe. Meanwhile, Katherine decided to complete her college education. She and Carl moved to the mountains and lived happily away from the attention of the world.

In the post-credit scene of “Paint,” we discover that Carl has developed a new style that is completely different from his usual landscapes. It was more graffiti art, and he decided to rename himself “Blanksy.” He was not interested in becoming famous anymore and only wanted to make art for the love of it. Carl and Katherine wanted to spend the rest of their lives away from fame, and even if Blanksy became a familiar street name, there was no way to find his address. “Paint” is essentially the journey of an artist, and just like many popular prominent figures, his dream of being celebrated is only fulfilled once he (falsely) dies.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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