First there was the plunge to work for himself and then another to find subjects

Five years ago Carlos Hiller helped start a one-room art gallery with his paintings in Liberia. Now that gallery, Hidden Garden, is the largest private art gallery in the country.

The installment of more rooms (now 15 in total) and the influx of local painters and sculptors has allowed such an immediate growth. But it is through its resident artist, Hiller, that the space finds a consistent identity with brilliant marine life paintings.

An Argentinean by birth, he is a naturalized Costa Rican and has lived here for 22 years. He came to Costa Rica after weeks of traveling with a friend through the Amazon. During that excursion he crossed paths with local aborigines and flew a plane over part of the rainforest, moments that he said shaped his artistic vision.

“You always paint what you see,” Hiller said. “For me it was all related to my experiences in the jungle.”

While working for his own Costa Rican business that made road signs, Hiller said he became dissatisfied at work. In 2000 he made the jump full-time to living off his artwork. At this same time he started recreationally diving, an activity that has fueled and inspired his passion for painting.

His newest exhibition called “Sparkle: Vibrant Colors” is on display at Liberia’s Daniel Oduber airport, located just five kilometers from the gallery. The collection, which is up until April 23, features three unique pieces of brightly profiled game fish: the sailfish, roosterfish, and mahi-mahi. These large canvases represent these sought-after fish amid the beauty of their natural habitats.

Hiller works with Parque Nacional Isla del Coco, where he has gone diving off the rock island to swim with the diverse swarms of fish and fauna that make the island so well known. His paintings hang up inside park buildings, and he draws illustrations for children and science guides that detail endangered or rare marine species.

“Anything I can do for Isla del Coco, I don’t hesitate in doing it,” Hiller said.

As a resident artist at the Four Seasons in Liberia, he often draws paintings while accompanied by music. Hiller also draws beachside paintings, and even stenciled an outline for one of his lucid works underwater.

“I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the ability to make a living off of my painting,” he said.

The three pieces are hanging at the airport’s passenger screening room, which is available for entrance to all ticketed passengers.

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