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Westside artist Douglas Rouse has fun with his 3-D creation on the first level of the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. If you look closely, you can see that about half of the painting is on the floor, which meets up with a vertical surface for the other half.
Westside Pioneer photos

Trompe-l'oeil dinosaur popular among new Visitor Center GoG murals

One of the popular exhibits added to the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center last year was this floor-to-ceiling display, with glass cases of individual animals. Douglas Rouse painted the backdrop before the exhibits went in, using markings to know where they would go. Note how black-and-white is used for the backdrop directly behind each case.
Westside Pioneer photo
Eleven years ago, when the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center's managers were looking to liven up the building interior, they decided to let Westside-based muralist Douglas Rouse give it a try.
       They were so impressed with his first effort - enhancing older artwork along the walkway into what was then the theater location - that they expanded the scope to seven murals in all.
       So it was hardly surprising when, in conjunction with last year's major renovation of the center, Rouse was signed on once more.
       His new work includes a view of brachiosaurs in the cupola in the second-floor ceiling (which visitors see as they walk up the stairs from the lower level) as well as a Garden of the Gods scene behind life-like animal showcases (separately provided by the Paul Bernhard Exhibit Design company) that take up an entire wall in the exhibit area.
       A subtle touch is the deliberate use of grayscale for the scene behind each glass case. The idea was to keep the background from competing with the animals in terms of focus, Rouse explained. So when he did his part, with the cases not yet installed but their locations marked on the wall, “I knew what not to paint,” he said.
       Also new at the center is a backdrop Rouse painted behind a pair of bronze buffalo statues - previously acquired by the center - which makes them appear to be grazing in a vast field of high grass, with mountains and a blue sky beyond.
       And, he repainted - in similar fashion - the images that help define the men's and women's restrooms. Zebulon Pike is on the male side, Katharine Lee Bates the female. His originals from 2005 were destroyed out in the renovation, he explained.
       But the Rouse creation that's become the current rage at the Visitor Center - combining his talents for size and anamorphic art (also known as trompe l'oeil, or
Douglas Rouse poses on the stairs to the second floor of the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. Above and behind him is the mural he painted in the cupola of the second-floor ceiling.
Westside Pioneer photo
“trick of the eye”) - is the large dinosaur mural on the first floor that makes use of the wall and floor.
       It's about 10 feet high by 12 feet wide, with a similar space on the floor. If you stand in a particular spot in front of it (marked by an arrow), the allosaurus in the foreground seems to be rampaging right into the room, and woe be unto the diplocodus, stegosaurus and fruitaden species that are also in the scene.
       Dinosaurs have become a signature image for the Visitor Center since paleontologists eight years ago determined that a genus/species from the Cretaceous period - Theiophytalia kerri - was unique to the area now known as the Garden of the Gods.
       During a recent interview at the center, Rouse stood to one side, watching with quiet delight as children from one family after another were drawn to the life-like trick-of-the-eye scene for photos in various poses. “They'll do anything,” he chuckled.
       He pointed out that multiple layers of protective clear coat have been put over the floor portion. But even then, with the interest it's attracting, it may require sprucing up at least annually.
       Dolores Davis, the center's spokesperson, said the animal exhibit was previously the “most photographed” of anything in the center… until Rouse came up with the anomorphic allosaurus.
       Creating the effect “was kind of an afterthought,” Rouse recalled. Given a space at the base of the stairs, with the floor in front of it, he decided to try a technique he had previously employed at a museum with a western theme in Scottsdale, Ariz. The style, which he dates back to Leonardo da Vinci, uses a selective elongation of certain graphic aspects to create the interesting 3-D effect.
       Rouse is not new to the style, having use it in chalk-art shows and competitions for several years (not to mention a special Territory Days-related depiction for the Westside Pioneer in 2010. See this link).
       As a side note, the “wall” part of the allosaurus scene is actually moveable. It's on wheels and attached with hinges. This allows staff to access, as needed, a storage-room door behind it.
       “Space is tight here,” Davis pointed out.
       Like 11 years ago, most of Rouse's contributions at the Visitor Center took shape at night, working alone after the center had closed. “Those are grueling hours,” he recalled. “I find it hard to sleep during the day. I never know how I'm going to feel when I get here at 5 p.m.”
       But he counteracts such fatigue in a similar way as then - with the recorded music he puts on while he works. “Definitely music,” said Rouse, who opened his home/studio on West Colorado Avenue nearly 15 years ago. “You've got to have that beat.”
       The nonprofit Garden of the Gods Foundation owns and operates the center, located at 1805 N. 30th St., in cooperation with the city and numerous volunteers. A percentage of its proceeds are donated to the upkeep of the park.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/4/16; Outdoors: Garden of the Gods)

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