Artist Pays Debts, Makes Murals

The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs tells the story of artist Douglas Rouse, who had racked up $80,000 in debt. Rouse says that when he did the Landmark Forum last year, he understood what integrity and accountability were for the first time, and he came up with a plan to pay back his debts, working to create murals in Colorado Springs. Along the way, Rouse also teamed up with an organization that empowers teens, and learned to communicate about art.

Artist Aims to Make his Mark Downtown

by Edward Paik

Douglas Rouse is trying to paint his way out of a corner.

The 42 year old artist has spent much of his life trying to avoid growing up and taking responsibility. He says he owes his father and friends $80,000, debt accrued from a divorce, roaming four continents and living higher on the hog than his meager earnings could sustain.

His pay-back plan: get local patrons to sponsor him to paint a dozen large-scale murals in downtown Colorado Springs.

“I’ve been making enough with my art to just pay my bills,” said Rouse, whose paintings have been featured at the Smokebrush Gallery, Rubbish, Modbo and The Warehouse. “But it wasn’t helping me out of debt. So I thought, why don’t I create what I want and get somebody to pay me for it, and, at the same time, contribute to the community.”

He’s already on his way to creating that ambitious project. For the past two months, Rouse has been painting an Impressionistic mural of a train station on a western wall of the Alpern Myers Stuart law firm They’re paying him $10,000.

He hopes to have the mural done by Thursday. He marked it on his calendar.

“I never wrote on a calender before,” Rouse said. “But I’ve have matured more in the past two years than I have in any part of my life.”

“Integrity and accountability,” Rouse said. “I didn’t know what those were before hand. I didn’t even know what they meant.”

Rouse credits this internal change with Landmark Forum, an awareness training program, which he took in July of ‘08.

“Things really shifted for me,” he says.

Another breakthrough, he says, came in a major collaboration with teen-agers.

Deborah Thornton, executive director for the Imagination Celebration, was looking for a local artist to work with both her organization and budding high school art students.

She was looking for somebody with a high level of talent, something she knew Rouse had after she spotted his murals and paintings at the offices of Keller Homes as well as Modbo. But she was also looking for an artist who wasn’t too wrapped up in his or her own ego.

In his artists’ statements, Rouse revealed something many other artists don’t.

“His writing revealed his willingness to be vulnerable and candid,” Thornton said. “The combination of artistic excellence and rigorous self-awareness made him a strong candidate for Imagination Celebration programs.”

The big program that was coming up was paining an 80-foot mural of the marine life around Antarctica in The Citadel mall. Thornton said she was was thrilled, not only with quality of the mural but with how much the students got out of it.

Rouse said he got a lot out of it, too.

“It gave me insight into what teaching is all about,” he said. “I’ve never really taught what I know, and most of what I know is self taught. So I didn’t really have the language to teach others. It was a struggle … not for the kids, who were great, but for me. I didn’t really know how to communicate well.”

His new dozen-mural project promises to be more of a solo endeavor.

But he hopes that by shifting styles dramatically with each work, he’ll create something of a teaching tool for the community.

“I want high school teachers to be able to make a field trip out of these murals,” Rouse said.

To see more of Rouse’s artwork visit

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1 comment

roane says:

I am touched moved and inspired-thank you for taking on your life and being a way where contribution and love is present! See, from there anything is possible~bravo!

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