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About Me

 
I didn’t draw or do anything like that as a kid.  I fished, paddled and played sports.  I started guiding fly fishing in my late teens and bounced between Appalachia, South Florida, and the US West until I graduated from the University of Tennessee with a history major and anthropology minor.   

After college, I soon found myself way up a tributary of the Amazon River called the Rio Ucayali, carving out my own canoe and living with the family of one of the most respected healers in the region.  For much of the next two years, I drank lots of ayahuasca and learned from him.  I also fished and paddled and lived like a local.   

 In 2009, I started guiding whitewater and fly fishing part of the year in Colorado and the other part in Patagonia (both Chile and Argentina), while still in the Amazon a month or two a year.  Then I included northern Argentina for a big, toothy fish called a golden dorado.   

 I got into Amazonian conservation in 2016, and on one project volunteered with the Kayapo tribe on a project to prep warriors to guide fly fishing and also keep uninvited outsiders out of tribal territory.  On multiple occasions, Kayapo women painted me.  Their artistry enthralled me and awoke something in me.  This urge to create visual beauty became noticeable there, though I disregarded it.  


After a few years in the Amazon, I started guiding part of the year in Colorado and the other part in Patagonia (both Chile and Argentina), while still in the jungle drinking plants a month or two a year.  Then I included northern Argentina for a big, toothy fish called a golden dorado.    

In 2016 I got into Amazonian conservation. On one project, I volunteered with the Kayapo tribe to prep warriors to guide fly fishing and keep uninvited outsiders off tribal land.  On multiple occasions Kayapo women painted me.  Their artistry enthralled me and awoke something in me.  This urge to create visual beauty became noticeable there, though I disregarded it.     

After Brazil, an outfitter in northern India flew me in to run a guide course for a team of indigenous fishing and boating guides.  While there, I met a wild tiger face-to-face, and the dreams began.  As I slept most nights, I dreamed of tigers.  One tiger in particular asked me to paint.  

I  remained in India after the course and guided until the monsoon.  Then I returned to Colorado.

In Colorado, the dreams and the tiger requesting me to paint intensified, until one night I awoke in a sweat and decided.  The next day I got a pencil and some paper and started watching Youtube videos on how to draw.  I spent the rest of the summer, when not on the water, learning to draw.  At the end of the season, I picked up watercolors, but soon grew bored, and flew back down to the jungle and resumed my pre-art life.  

In August of 2018, I got sick.  I had to stop guiding, volunteering and adventuring as I had.  All the energy that before I had put into rivers, I put into painting.  I began with acrylics painting driftwood that looked like fish.  Then I started stretching my own canvasses.  I studied hundreds of artists, especially Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Sorolla, Turner and Derek DeYoung.   

 I achieved my initial goal of realism the first year or so of painting acrylics.  Then I turned to maintaining the structure of realism while also allowing explosions of color to flow through me.  A realistic sunset painting is beautiful, but an amped-up, super=saturated, sometimes even neon Zach Otte piece tells you what it feels like to be on that river or hooked up to that fish or bobbing across the great vastness with a rod in hand.  

During those first full-on painting years, I lived mostly in isolation, and Covid worsened it.  My health declined with the further isolation and depression.  Pain became a constant, except for when I was painting.  I often painted as though my life depended on it.  Through the immediacy of agony I discovered my style, which is as diverse as the cultures and places that have hosted me in throughout the years.  

Cultures from around the world play a major role in how I paint.  I deck out trout and sharks with indigenous Kayapo, Shipibo and Quechua designs.  I paint trout and tarpon the colors of my favorite women’s clothing combinations in India.  Ayahuasca visions inspire my rivers and oceans.  The Amazon sky touches just about every piece I paint.   

 Today I paint in acrylics, oils and gouache, and have returned to the ocean for half of the year.  May to October, I’m in Canon City, CO and Missoula, MT, and from October to May, the Lower Florida Keys and Key West.   

 I now offer classes, both in and out of boats, teaching folks to paint rivers and oceans.  I'm all about sunrises and sunsets.   If you'd like to paint with me in FL, MT or CO, drop me a line. 

I paddle most days and am constantly studying and experimenting. I paint a lot.  My health has improved greatly.     

 Enjoy the art, and I hope to meet you out on the water or at a show sometime.  


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