Friday, 30 January 2015

Days are flying by, each day, new discoveries. Too many to tell at once! I’ll just have to keep writing about Costa Rica long after I return, like I did last year. 

Yesterday we hiked up to Cloudbridge. I had met Linda Moskalyk at several social events. She is an arborist and artist, and her husband Tom manages Cloudbridge. Together, they own a home and lovely art gallery up there too. She made us tea after the long steep climb up, and was patient as I plied her with questions about Cloudbridge, and culture in general within Costa Rica. 

Basically Cloudbridge is a reserve that used to be pasture land. A lot of work has gone into re-foresting the 700 acre reserve on Chirripo Mountain, the highest mountain in Costa Rica, and the 2nd highest Mountain in all of central America. 

For the reforestation, some of it has been planted, some is natural regeneration, and some is old growth forest.  There is a mix of pioneer (fast growing trees that die and act as mulch for longer lasting trees) and climax species (trees that take longer to grow and eventually become the canopy of the forest).  They plant both.  All trees are native and they are grown in a tree nursery from seeds they collect in the old growth forest.

Linda helps Tom with all of the projects, as her experience as an arborist back in Canada (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!) comes in handy, especially with the reforestation efforts.  They also use the studio as an information centre for the tourists.  That is why they opened it to the public.  It’s not often they see all of the people out hiking on our trails.  When they stop in at the studio they can give them information about the importance of forests, our conservation projects,and our education programs here.   Many talks are available about everything from wildlife to climate change.

Linda's art is also about conservation and when she has an exhibition she use the opportunity to establish ideals for a healthy environment through art.

To me, this piece of Linda's work really says it all about the whole region. Many trees and forest, but the tinted atmosphere due to clouds moving in at a distance is something we all observe every day and is very beautiful. Linda works in acrylic and uses collage and other manner of handprinted paper and other materials in her collage work. Her gallery is really lovely and worth the climb. Yes, it’s a climb!! 

Tom is the manager and administrator of the reserve.To learn more about Cloudbridge, you can visit their website, . There you can find out the extent of what they do, and if you're really interested, you can donate money, learn about how to volunteer, and there are a couple of good videos that give great background to what Cloudbridge is all about. Here’s the link: Watch ƬCloudbridgeĆ® by Garrett and Garrett Videography:

There are many hiking trails, a labyrinth, and many waterfalls right on the reserve that are really amazing too:

OK, OK, back to ART! Yes, I am painting. Many distractions here too. This painting is a flower that you see all over Costa Rica. A long and large Lily like structure, with either pink, yellow or white ends. The length of them is maybe, 12”? And who knows, maybe they come in other colours as well. I think their shape is elegant, and I like the tiny bit of pure colour showing through at the ends. These flowers were in my garden. It’s not done, but I just wanted to show you that I am working too! And there’s one last photo, and a very special experience I had yesterday,...

OK, here it is. The elusive Blue Morph butterfly. Martine Racette! You owe me a beer! For those of you who don’t know, Martine is my business partner, for all things Costa Rica. She has a running challenge to all, if you can photograph the Blue Morph, she’ll buy you a beer. They flutter very fast, and hardy ever stop and spread their wings, so Martine is pretty safe, as we have all been trying to get this one, every year I’ve been here. She’s a beauty!! Looking forward to my beer!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Busy 24 hours—Random Meanderings and no art

I decided to take it easy for a while, and got into all sorts of things yesterday and today. Last night, a bunch of us went to a community dinner of typical Costa Rican food, accompanied by some local talent, a 4-some of guitars. This is the happening centre of Mountain life here in San Gerardo. Kind of like the idea of these mountain men getting together to practise, probably ll their lives, and playing for weddings, and many community events. They all sang too. We has Plantain, ceviche, rice and beans of course, and two types of empinadas. All delicious. 

It was an easy walk from my house, and after dinner, some of the volunteers from Cloudbridge (I have mentioned Cloudbridge in an earlier post), found a transparent frog outside, so that’s my first photo. If you look at it from certain angles, you can see all it’s innards. It’s about one inch long, sweet! Just a little green, otherwise-it’s see-through! You can’t really tell in the photo but it was cool. Check it out:

This morning I was up early for a good long hike. It was awesome. Waterfalls, absolutely wonderful vistas of light coming over mountain tops, A lone WHITE horse, walking around on its own. What I love about exploring around here is the air quality. It’s just balmy all the time, not dry, not too wet (although Costa Rica does have a rainy season, it’s not now). Just pleasant and lovely most of the time. I try to get my walks down before the real heat happens. This old bod just can’t cope. Heat Rash! 
Back home, there’s coffee, rest, and putting my 5 day art challenge together on face book.

Today we checked out the Trout farm next door to me. This would never exist in Canada, but how sweet! They syphoned off water from my river/waterfall, into a canal/pond system, one bleeding into another. In these ponds are fish, and you can either fish yourself, or have them catch something for you. Cooked right there. It’s quite charming and beautiful, little hand made bridges where you can travel from one pond to the other. Check out my photos:

Miss you Canada! (I can’t believe I’m saying that!) Only 5 more days here, and I’ll be teaching my class. Still many exciting things left to do. Hi Everyone!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Every morning I get up and see a family of birds playing with each other, swooping and sailing around. I’d never seen this bird before and it’s intense colours made it a favourite. It’s taken me 2 weeks to finally get a picture of it, and I gather, this is quite a coo. I 

showed this photo to a local, and she says that although it’s a very rare bird in these parts, the area is part of it’s migratory path. If anyone out there knows more, please share, and I will edit this blog post. 

Apparently this is a baby, as the adult version has a fairly long tail feather. But the head is as intense a red as you can find anywhere, and love the limey green too. This bird comes and sits on my window sill and pecks away at himself, in the reflection-- like he is a wood pecker! Tanya thinks it might be called an Immigrant Bird. That’s it’s name!

Every day I get up early for a walk in the cool morning air. Once the sun comes over the ridge- 8 am., it’s hot. So I am up early, discovering side roads, secret vistas, and one sweet waterfall after another. 

Don’t fool yourselves- these rocks are gigantic! Is this going to become like cathedrals in Europe,….yawning and tired after seeing one more? Not yet,….

sweet side road that could well turn into a painting. Many vistas, many paths,….it’s all in your decisions, as the artist asks the most quintessential question there is,……Who am I?

I’ve had to put the oils painting supplies away and hope that the paintings will all be dry before I have to leave my mountain home. Just can’t travel with wet or even sticky oil paintings. It’s become part of my routine, to lay all the oil paintings out in the sun around 8 am. or 9 am., and let them sun for the day, praying for them to dry. They are getting there! This painting was done in front of a flowering bush, not an uncommon sight around here, in the nearby town of Canaan. Canaan boasts an Avocado farm, a cheese farm, a chocolate place ( where you can take a workshop and make chocolate from cocoa beans!) and of course, a bar.  It’s summer here now, and everything is in bloom. But then, when is it not? Especially flowers. Going for the colour as usual. One more layer and it’ll be done. Check back with me another time. Now it’s time to go back to pastel.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Entry #7 

On a Roll

I forgot how much I like working in oil. Yes, it’s the intensity of colours and smooth blendability. But what I really enjoy, (and oil lends itself to this naturally) is working many pieces at once. Maybe it’s because I have taught for so long. I am used to problem solving at each painting, and enjoy that process. So now each one of my oil paintings is a student of mine. I meet each one, wherever it is, and problem solve from there. Now that I have many on the go, and all at different stages, it’s very fun to review and work a bit on one, leaving it to dry while I go and problem solve somewhere else. It’s a bit frustrating, because pastel is so immediate, but if I keep my patience level in check, in a few days, I should be overflowing in finished paintings.
   Today is my still life day. I’m working 4 paintings, and doing a few tweaks here and there on others. I find the last few layers in oil quite satisfying, and really give work a more polished and finished look. So the patience thing, letting things dry to a certain extent, is really important.  Another skill, requiring that patience again, but also awareness, is knowing when you need to take a break. Making poor decisions from fatigue is a common problem. Keeping your energy at an even keel, allows one to continue being effective, efficient, and allow your motivation to endure til the end. For me, that’s getting these 21 paintings all down by end of work Wednesday. I will keep you informed.  
    So far, I do have some landscape, but a lot of flowers, some with mountains in the background. Three waterfalls, so far. I want the work to reflect the country, Costa Rica. I’ve also just worked out these stills, and I can see this may be a project to work out over many years. Each year, learning more about this wonderful country. 

    Did you know Costa Rica rates first of all countries in the world on the happiness index? The happiness index uses three criteria to judge by: life expectancy, experienced well-being, and ecological footprint. Here in the mountains, watching the local people go about their daily lives, you see people who exist in nature, tightly tied to community, it’s no wonder they are happy. This has nothing to do with how much money they have, or their ability to be independent. Perhaps it’s no surprise that different cultures may have different ideas about what happiness is. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Rio Chirropa

While walking on the road, I met Frank, owner of Rio Chirrup, a lovely resort up here in the Chirropa mountains. I had a look around, and saw wonderful gardens, pool, and cabins by the water. Really lovely. Frank invited me to paint any time, and I found myself there right away. The Casa Grande at Rio Chirropa is really lovely, and the warm adobe style structure lent a great contrast to the green everywhere. In my first piece, I decided to lick up where I left off last year.For those of you following, here is my latest instalment of seating areas in Costa Rica. I am guessing this is #6. I liked the large window out onto he mountains and the green. Steven, the manager played awesome music while I enjoyed painting this.  

The next painting was as simple as turning my chair 90 degrees. I enjoy he multitude of possibilities without going too far. In this case, I was taken by the change in light affect from one room to another. Also liked the designs painted on the walls, and the warmth of tiles, and coloured chairs. People in central America really have fun with bright sure colour, and I relate. 

After painting for several hours, I was ready for a distraction and a break. Two young ladies showed up that I had met a few days ago, Katie and Christie. They are here at Rio for 3 months of volunteer gardening in exchange for a place to stay. What’s really impressive is their commitment to health, fitness and eating well. Soon, they will give a retreat on raw foods diet. But of now, almost every day, they are training themselves to be acrobats! Lots of you know my obsession with the figure, and my plan in the near future to paint acrobatic figures. There’s an absolutely awesome yoga studio here with high ceiling and wonderful views. Just a feel good place.  I wasted no time is asking if we could do a photo session, and I was rewarded. I’m not working on it at the moment, but you can expect some acro figure work from me in the near future. More impressiveness: these girls are teaching themselves to do this!!  Thank you Katie for you generosity!  Here’s a sample of some of the fun we had.

Entry #4

Chirripo. When I woke up though, my body had other ideas. So I had a lazy start,…to sore to walk all the way. I decided to paint something much closer, so I wouldn’t have to walk so far. I’d already done the scouting out, and remembered a beautiful low tree very close by, filled to the brim with gorgeous pink flowers. This is not an uncommon sight in Costa Rica, but it was so pretty, and backlit, something I always look for. The best thing, was that I could sit on a nearby rock in the shade.

It is sitting on the side of the road painting that draws people in. It’s impossible not to meet people this way. So, this is how I met James and Hanna this morning. James is a retired Canadian living here fairly permanently. Hanna is an amazing dynamic and friendly person who is volunteering to teach people how to speak English for the next 4 months. This young lady has quite a future ahead of her. Check out her blog at

Through meeting Hanna I have met several other people, ex-pats and locals. It’s all very rich and insightful. Tonight we got invited into the most charming modest house,by the nicest people. They shared in a friendly manner, what they had to offer. These people had a waterfall, 2 feet from their house that flood under the house, and out the other side. The house is filled with character, plants and flowers, delicious looking food, and warmth and happiness. It’s not all about the $$$$$$. Living your life in the mountains here in this tight little community could be a prosperous life in many ways.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Day 4 Sunday January 11

Yesterday I gave myself a day of wander, to find things to paint, get my bearings. I harvested bananas right off my own property, and find oranges are growing everywhere. Very juicy oranges, that must be gotten whilst still  at least partially green, and not inhabited by miniature home dwellers.  
Today I started my first paintings. It’s always a bit of a struggle. But I have been at it long enough to know my patterns. After of few days of practice, things will get flowing, and my execution will be,..acceptable? Flowing. Also after a few days, I’ll have harvested so many ideas I won’t know where to go first. The key is to not get too excited, and just go for whatever is most motivating. Staying rallied and focussed, so I don’t lose my patience for what I love. One of the best ways of not losing patience is to let go of all expectations. And just wake up every day, get out there, work, and don’t judge what you are doing. Just do your best every time, and be kind to yourself. If things don’t work out, things don’t work out. It happens to everyone.  And so, I make a start. 

The picture is the view I wake up to every day in the Chirripo mountains, in San Gerardo das rivas.
Day 3  Saturday January 10nth      

I am a waterfall

Off the plane, and into the never-ending soft balmy breeze of San Jose. Another day of travel, and I am with
friends. Meeting in San Isidro, in Angus’s pick-up for the ride up into the Chirripo mountains. I am ensconced,
into my private little hide away, with a little waterfall on one side, and a large waterfall, providing me with nonstop
24 hour a day water-falling acoustic effect.
I can see blue-gray hazed mountains in the distance, and many bamboo and palm trees, bushes, and
flowers. I’m on one of my decks, feeling the cool lovely breeze, and thinking of how I will use this precious
time in the mountains.
time in the mountains.
Out of the fray of every day life, here with the intention of sinking into painting, I am collecting good quality
ideas. Being a morning person, and loving the crisp cool air here before the sun comes over the edge of the
mountain. I’ll be up early, walking,hiking, discovering places to paint. I need to be finished with all that by 10
am., so I can be in the shade somewhere, either painting or some other worth while activity.
In the afternoons, when it’s really hot out, I’ll be here at my house for a snooze (realllllly good use of my time),
writing, or just slowing down. Slowing down is the key. I want to see what it’s like. I know I can be good at it.
And then see, if this plugs me into some sort of new creative plateau unaccessible in the hustle of modern
day life. Maybe it takes travelling very far away to get away from the temptations.

Only time will tell.
Day 1, Thursday Jan. 8th          

Plane time, Flying High

On my exit from Canada, I was well prepared for journey time. When travelling I always have pencils, and paper to draw.  Waiting in an airport or on board is always a great time to draw for me. I have to be there anyways, so making good use.
I’ve often wondered why I draw well in these situations, much more than when I am demonstrating for an art group. I think it’s the lack of pressure, though people always watch. I find it hard t stop explaining what I am doing when I am demo-ing, but in this case, I am very introspective. It’s a good way to start this new segment of time to myself to draw and paint. 
Doing this portrait on the plane garnered all sorts of interest, and I am always well prepared, with business cards and my shpeel. 
After all, most people on this flight are tourists, they are in tourist mode, and find the fact that I teach people to paint while travelling,…well, it’s different, it’s a dreamy idea, isn’t it?
Most of all, it’s a load of fun. But I rarely get time to really sink into some painting on my own. So I am in Costa Rica early, to do just that, and to be warmed up for my group when they arrive on January 31st.
Welcome! This year we have students from Maine, NYC, Toronto, Almonte, Ottawa, and other scattered areas in Ontario.

I love to sink into a portrait. Right now, what I am experimenting with in portrait is drawing well, getting a likeness, but keeping it very loose, and wanting original marks to express themselves, have a life of their own. It takes time to relax, get into an intuitive state where experimentation is only fun and play.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

2015 Here we come,.............................

Check Team Solange off the list

Solange and her Mom

Solange and I would like to extend so much thanks to those who came and supported our special cause this Christmas. It was a great deal of fun that I did not anticipate, seeing lots of old friends, taking all my old "stuff" from Ferraro fine Crafts out and dusting it off. Thanks to YOU, Solange will be out shopping for that special lens that will give her work in Toronto. Solange is my beautiful talented daughter, studying film at Ryerson, in downtown Toronto. We did a bit of fund-raising just before Christmas for her film equipment. What a success. It has me thinking of all the new and out of the box ways people are raising money for creative enterprises. Thinking,...thinking,....dreaming,...
We'll keep you posted if anything amazing happens!

In just a few days I will disappear from the cold and snow and land here-in Costa Rica. I've got my oils and pastels packed and ready to go. I've got a new computer and hope I can blog and paint as I go, keep you all included. I'll be visiting Tanya and Angus of Chirriposa retreats, can't wait to spend some quality time with you two! Stay tuned for some very exciting news for this fall. It's somewhere temperate and,...cultural,...historical....paintable. With a dome that took 800 years to build. . And tall thin pointy black trees. 

Upon my return, there'll  be a late winter open studio starting on Thursday, Feb. 19nth, 9-12 noon, running for 6 weeks. Please e-mail me at if you would like to participate. The cost is $135.60.

I've had a fair amount of complaining directed towards  the lack of life drawing workshops happening at Ferraro. So if you're interested, I may assemble a 3 day workshop for late Feb./early March. If you are one of the complainers, or just plain interested, please contact me at . It's been quite a while since I have instructed in drawing and I miss it! It would be my pleasure. 
Enjoy the wintery weather while you make it through January. I think I will enjoy a little bit of winter, upon my return, with not so cold temps! See you when it starts to melt, and the sun is shining a bit more often. Margaret