Recently, we were fortunate enough to get to visit the Gaia Nature Reserve. It’s the hotel's very own reserve and one they use for the protection of many species. Not least, the Scarlet Macaw.
This is a bird that I’ve wanted to see since we arrived in Costa Rica. Up until yesterday, we’d caught 2 or 3 glimpses of them, which entailed a few seconds of brilliant scarlet before they disappeared! We heard from a local bar that Gaia Hotel was the place to go to see macaws, although we weren’t really sure why, our Spanish is really, really poor! A bit of research told us that the hotel runs a reintroduction program for these incredible birds.
Upon visiting the hotel, we also discovered they don’t usually (at least not at this time of year) allow non-guests to visit. What a shame, so near, yet so far! However, after explaining that I was an artist, who really wanted to paint Scarlet Macaws, they very kindly allowed us to enter, and I’m so pleased they did. The hotel runs a breeding and rehabilitation program and they have, so far, released 40 birds into the wild.
It doesn’t stop there though, the reason for the birds decline is far more complicated than a simple matter of numbers. They are also working to reintroduce the right plants and trees, to create the right habitat, supplying the birds with both nesting sites and food.
Once we entered the reserve, we were shown to a viewing platform, where about 10 scarlet macaws were putting on a show for us. They clearly have a huge amount of character, you could tell from the interactions they were having with each other and from their interest in us. Although naturally curious birds, they’re discouraged from interacting with people too much for their future safety.
All you have to do is look in their eyes to see the intelligence there.
There is one possible issue, if you happen to have a group living close to you. They make an incredible noise! I’ve always pitied people who live close to a group of rooks in the UK, but they have nothing on these macaws!!
I can’t speak highly enough of Gaia Hotel, or it’s program: They don’t earn a penny from the birds, the tours are free and they don’t sell any discarded feathers, for fear of encouraging exploitation. When you add onto all of that, a wonderful 5 star hotel experience (we stopped off for a cocktail and bite to eat whilst watching the sunset, see image above!) then you have a truly unique experience, that I very strongly recommend.
In order to try and convey what it’s like staying where we are in Manuel Antonio, I thought it would be nice to share (via a photo gallery) some photographs of the visitors we’ve had.
All the photos are taken from the house itself, of wildlife that just happened to be passing through. I’m sure a few will become paintings, but many are just extraordinary for what they are. If you have the patience to scroll right to the end, I’m very impressed!
Painting outdoors (or plein air if you want to be all posh about it) is something I've always wanted to do properly. I've dabbled a few times and have really enjoyed it. However, I was normally doing it either in the very cold or wet English winter. I think my choice of when to do it tells you something about my intelligence! Regardless, those experiences did not prepare me for doing it in Costa Rica.
As you can see from the picture above, this is a pretty unique place, in which to be painting outside, at least for me! I have to admit, I don't think it really matters whether you are painting exactly what is in front of you. In the photo, I'm starting a Humming Bird painting. Animals are extremely unlikely to sit still for you to paint them, but you've got absolutely no chance with Humming Birds, I'm not sure I've seen anything move so quickly! It's being surrounded by the smells, sounds, heat and wildlife, featuring in the art, that makes the experience so wonderful. Mind you, it can be more than a little distracting with monkeys, toucans, lizards and all sorts of incredible birds (including Humming Birds) passing a few feet away from you!
I don't want to be disingenuous here. I have absolutely no idea whether or not this will improve my paintings, but it certainly makes it all more enjoyable.
Maybe the answer to that is pretty simple: Not if you’re doing it right.
However, like everything, it’s bound to be more complicated than that! There are 2 aspects of art, at least as I see it: It’s creation (inspiration, preparation and execution) and then what people see (hear or read in the case of other art forms) at the end of the process.
The hope, of course, is that the latter is certainly not dull, I’d have to give up if that were the case, although I have no doubt many people do find my art dull. Mind you, the diversity of taste is a whole other topic!
I guess, my main thought here is that, in order for the output to be good and interesting, does the creative process also have to be? My instinct says no, is Hamlet any worse off for Shakespeare never going to Denmark? However, I find that my art comes from my experiences, that’s why most of my paintings show the British countryside, mostly seen on walks. If I haven’t seen it, I don’t paint it!
This picture, is of me gathering reference for new paintings here in Costa Rica, as we’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity for an extended stay in this incredible country. This will give me experiences that are totally different to those I would have back in the UK. To see a new culture
and a new side of nature, we’ve never seen before.
The hope is that all these new experiences will feed into the art I’m going to create whilst out here, and boy do I intend to paint!
The great thing is that, as we’re staying here for a while, I’m going to be able to paint here. So, rather than take loads of photos and create the art back home in the studio, I get to paint surrounded by the culture and nature I’m trying to capture.
Only time will tell if this creates art any better, or worthier, than what I’ve done before! Watch this space…