Meet Luis Sibaja...
Costa Rican Artist

I'd often pass Costa Rican artist Luis Sibaja, while walking along the beach, on the way to catch a few waves...

He'd be working away, carefully carving intricate designs into two soon-to-be totem poles... his latest project, one eventually to go on display at the ocean-front Ylang Ylang resort.

And yes - carving wood is his specialty...

Costa Rican Artist Shark
Artist, Luis Sibajo and His Guanacaste White Shark

Twenty-two years a painter, and another eight working with wood - Luis has resided on the Rich Coast his entire life.

And today was quite special actually...

Costa Rican Artist Cabo Blanco
The Rich Canopy of Cabo Blanco

I met up with Luis, his wife Marie Claire - also a very talented artist! - and their son Saulo.

Over a very nice lunch, we talked about art, life in Costa Rica, and also...

...the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve, first-ever national park on the Rich Coast. Luis and Marie Claire worked as park rangers for the Nicolas Wessberg Reserve - part of Cabo Blanco - for almost six years.

Continuing then, please click on a link below -- you'll be taken further down the page to learn more...

The Work of a Costa Rican Artist

A short stroll through the popular beach towns of Montezuma and Santa Teresa, and it'd be tough not to come across Luis' work. His carved signs and paintings, welcome visitors to restaurants, shops, and other local businesses.

Costa Rican Artist Luis and Jeff
Working with a Grid

First arriving at his home, Luis was busy working on his latest project... a carved wooden sign for a local business.

His original sketch foreshadowed a mix of tropical birds and plants...

A talented drawer as well - you could tell just how amazing it would eventually turn out.

And this is how it begins...

Starting with a rough sketch Luis keeps things aligned using a grid. This helps to maintain both scale and proportion, as later (as seen in the photo)... he BLOWS the drawing up to a more suitable size to work from.

To give you an idea of how the finished product will look, take a look at some of his other works by this Costa Rican artist.

For example - a couple Montezuma restaurant signs he created...

Costa Rican Artist Signs
Signs for Popular Spots in Montezuma

Pretty nice work!

And here's another example -- this time a sign as seen before and after it was painted...

Costa Rican Artist Before and After
From Start to Finish - Another Beautiful Sign Complete!

Gives you a different perspective on just how much work is involved.

Here's one more - this time... for a bakery in Santa Teresa...

Costa Rican Artist Bakery in Santa Teresa
The Bakery Pastry Bistro in Santa Teresa

Gives you a different perspective on just how much work is involved...

Costa Rican Artist Monkey
In the Making...

...especially in the photo to the left.

Here you can appreciate the raw craftsmanship that goes into it.

It takes hours, chipping away - gradually revealing the desired form.

Something else I should mention...

Perhaps - the most important part of the process - is scouring the beaches for that perfect piece of driftwood, from which to base a carving around.

Talking about his favorite work to date - the white shark as pictured in the photo up top - Luis went into detail about choosing and carving wood...

Carving from Guanacaste

When asked about his favorite thing to create - and also... his favorite work created to date - his answer was a quick one...

Costa Rican Artist Signature
The Finishing Touch...

To create?

Animals for sure!

Favorite work?

Easily the shark.

I quite agreed... his great white shark carved from guanacaste wood, is my favorite as well.

It was amazing... seeing it slowly come to life. I'd see him the odd day, carrying the shark around... each time - a bit more complete than the last.

Luis was saying, he went at it for about three hours a day.

Really interestingly - and back to the subject of searching for and selecting the right wood - the piece he used to create this shark, was - in his own words... perfect.

Costa Rican Artist Crocodile
Next Up? Crocodile!

Washed along the beach of Playa Grande, just north of Montezuma - he put the piece of guanacaste wood at about thirty years - tumbling around at sea.

Over time, it cures - petrifies... and as a result - becomes the ideal medium from which to carve - solid through and through.

Another plus - once cured, there's no way bugs can get inside and ruin it.

But guanacaste isn't the only wood he uses...

A couple others are pachote - also known as spiny cedar... and cenizaro - nice, but often a bit too hard to carve easily with.

What an interesting craft though.

This was such a neat experience - and especially, being an artist myself - it was fascinating to see Luis at work, in a medium totally foreign to me.

Thank you Luis, Marie Claire and Saulo for a very pleasant visit! :-)

Eventually - our discussion centered around artwork, took an interesting turn...

Costa Rican Artist Osa
An Osa at Cabo Blanco

As mentioned earlier, Luis and Marie Claire were park rangers for some time - at the Nicolas Wessberg Reserve, part of Costa Rica's first-ever national park - the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve.

Very knowledgeable about Cabo Blanco - its history, and the diverse array of flora and fauna that live there... I was especially excited when they offered to take me on a personal tour of the park!

Of course - this will have to wait for another day --- it will definitely be a great addition to the site.

And so... will see you again real soon for yet another Costa Rican adventure!