Possibly because he comes from Portland, Ore., where the winters are rainy, Darrel Austin paints an imaginary world of endless oozy swamps and puddles, peopled with perky-looking animals and wraithlike beings half submerged in pools of water. His colors, laid on the canvas with a palette knife instead of a brush, are notable for their limpid transparency and eerie phosphorescence.

Square-shouldered Painter Austin, 34, has earned his living as an advertising-layout man and a professional sparring partner, has exhibited his paintings in public only since 1938. Since then every one of his exhibitions has been a virtual sellout, and seven leading U.S....

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