Oct 8th: A creative trip to Costa Rica

La Pura Vida – an invitation to hear from artist Margaret Ferraro about her creative trip to Costa Rica, on October 8th in Ottawa.

In 2008, I had a rare opportunity to take a group of artists painting in the south of France. Little did I know that this retreat would lead to years of taking groups to France and Italy to paint. Then in 2012, a chance to go to my dream spot — Costa Rica — came up.

margaretferraro_Costa Gourdeau 7[1]

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some amazing women in my career over the last few years, and Martine Racette of Rainforest Reef Escape is no exception. Hailing from Ottawa, Martine lives in Costa Rica, and has partnered with me the last few years in escaping from Ottawa winters. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for this magnificent country is infectious.

Martine is a self-taught naturalist and expert on all of Costa Rica — be it economics, politics, or culture. Although the country features eight beautiful and different ecosystems, the Osa Peninsula (the southern most peninsula on the Pacific side) is her real baby.

The last remaining track of lowland Pacific rainforest left in the western hemisphere, the Osa is home to the highest concentration of wildlife in all of the country. It is here, in the most lush and verdant part of Costa Rica, that we discovered four species of monkeys and over 350 species of birds (OK, we didn’t see all of them!). The Osa hosts the largest population of wildcats in all of the country, as well as many other exotic animals we in Canada have never heard of. It is the place to view wildlife, and what National Geographic magazine describes as “the most biologically intense place on earth”. It is a true mecca for the wildlife enthusiast.

My Costa Rican workshop started with an overview of plein air painting, and some demos. It didn’t take long to get into a pattern of painting in the morning, and either hiking or laying in a hammock in the afternoon (if you didn’t want to paint all day). Every evening, around 5PM, we’d gather our work together, have a group critique, and share our experiences of the day. Traveling with like-minded creative people has its advantages and adds much richness to the traveling and painting experience. It allows you to appreciate each other’s efforts, inspires you to try new techniques, and provides a supportive environment for honing your skills as an artist.

In wanting to showcase other aspects of what Costa Rica has to offer, last year we added in three days in the central mountains of Chirripo. Here, the weather is about 75°F every day, with fantastic scenery of mountains, fog, exotic flowers, waterfalls, charming adobe structures, interesting and different animals everywhere. Flowers, mountainous lookouts, cloud forests — subject matter was endless.

We made our way by coach through agricultural farmlands to the south, seeing coffee plantations, pineapple farms, and gorgeous vistas of land and ocean. Martine again was a veritable encyclopaedia of information for all of us. This trek took us through indigenous reservations and many small, off the beaten track towns that showed the true flavours of Costa Rican culture.

Then on down south to our next destination, where we entered the prolific rainforest of the Osa Peninsula and a completely different atmosphere pervaded. An enchanting world that presented us with the sound of the ocean, monkeys and many exotic birds, and surrounded us with the lushness of fauna and flora. We were truly in paradise here. We painted on site every day (no travel time to a painting destination — it’s all right there!), and could stop and take a break whenever we wanted to sit by the pool or ocean, go for a walk, or, our favourite pastime, watch the wildlife. Monkeys were our entertainment!

My favourite part of every day was when one of my students decided to make cocktails for everyone as we did our critique, while our chefs prepared our dinner in the open air kitchen, with much laughter and sharing. No trip is ever complete without talking about food. I have to say that we ate very healthfully to our hearts’ content, a culinary adventure that introduced us to many new delicious foods. I’m now partial to double fried plantain, black bean dip and guacamole.

Margaret Ferraro of Ferraro Art Workshops, and Martine Racette of Rainforest Reef Escape, invite you to a special presentation on Costa Rica, complete with pictures, videos, and lots of Margaret’s artwork created in Costa Rica. It’s at the Fox and Feather, 283 Elgin St., Ottawa, on Wed. Oct. 8 at 7PM. RSVP is required, to .

Article by Margaret Ferraro

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