Pura Vida! Sketchcrawl in Costa Rica

by Shari Blaukopf in Quepos, Costa Rica

I just returned from an amazing two weeks sketching around Quepos and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. I left home with lots of paper and tubes of tropical coloured watercolours, knowing that while my family was swimming and surfing I would probably be sketching from a spot in the shade. A few days into the holiday, and after I had posted a few sketches on my blog, I received the following comment, “I can’t believe you are here in Costa Rica! Let me know if you are interested in a sketch crawl. I will see if I can organize one.” And so an impromptu Costa Rican  sketchcrawl happened!

Costa Rican sketchers Isabel, Julia and Eva made the long drive from San José to sketch with me for two half-day outings in Quepos. It was marvelous. We sketched the town, we sketched the marina, we made the customary stop for some Costa Rican coffee, and we even sat in the shade of a giant Christmas tree to sketch some storefronts. For me this experience was the true heart and soul of Urban Sketchers. We had never met before but for those few hours we connected and shared something we all love. And I know that if I return to Costa Rica, we will meet and sketch together again.

Apart from the sketchcrawl I spent most of my time drawing near the beach and Manuel Antoniao National Park. Sketching in the little touristy strip that leads to the park brought back many memories of the first Urban Sketchers Symposium I attended in Santo Domingo. I remember how nervous I was standing in the middle of a noisy street with honking cars and buses and taxis. It seemed unimaginable and thrilling and magical to me that I would be able to draw in that type of crowded place but I’ve lost those nervous jitters and now it’s second nature to draw in busy places. 

On Christmas Day we went down to Playa Beisanz. It’s one of those beaches that only the locals know, and to find it you walk through a cut in a barbed wire fence and down a path where you can see (and hear) the howler monkeys overhead and maybe a sloth if you are lucky. You know you are there when you smell the meat on the portable grills. After the feast everyone goes for a swim in the bay or else takes a nap under the trees. It looks like a scene from a Gauguin painting except there are more grandmas and babies. 

On the main beach there’s a giant rock that I painted several times. It’s so big that I had to put in some people to give it scale. At low tide kids are climbing all over it but when I sketched it the tide was coming in.

One of my first sketches was of the souvenir shop near the beach. The woman in the shop watched me sketch for about an hour before she came out, looked over my shoulder at my sketch, and then pointed up. Way up. All the way up to the coconuts above my head.

 One afternoon we had lunch about an hour south of Quepos at Playa Ballena. The sun sets quickly and early in Costa Rica but I tried to capture the sharp light on the distant trees.

I sketched at the pool a few times, thinking of David Hockney of course, and hoping I could capture some of the brightness of the tropical foliage and flowers, as well as the shadows cast by the walls by the palms. It’s the image of that glittering pool and its surroundings that will get me through the long Montreal winter. 


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