The beauty and humour of travels on display
A fascination with the sites and people of Costa Rica has made regular visitors of Paulette and Peter Dennis.
Marveling in their daily encounters with locals, transplants and sloths, they have made a record of their travels in Adventures in Costa Rica, which is launching in Creemore August 6-7 with an art exhibit at the Log Cabin. The book contains 25 paintings and drawings by Paulette Dennis and 22 stories by Peter Dennis.
The Dennises first visited Costa Rica’s Pacific coast in the winter of 2002 and found it to be beautiful but very hot. They spent the next 13 years travelling to other tropical climates in the winter, in search of their paradise.
“None quite lived up to Costa Rica in calmness or welcoming warmth,” said Paulette.
In 2015, they decided to return to Costa Rica, opting for the Caribbean coast, hoping the heat wouldn’t be quite as oppressive.
That is when they visited Playa Chiquita, south of Puerto Viejo, close to the Panama border.
“It was rainier but much cooler and inhabited with the most ethnically diverse and friendly people we had ever found. The scenery was beautiful and more accessible and I began to paint pictures in gardens, on the beach; anywhere I could sit and work,” said Paulette. “The next year when we returned, Peter had set up a blog site and had begun to write stories. He illustrated them with some of the pictures I had made the previous year and we both continued to work together, but apart, and as his stories evolved so did my paintings. When we returned to Canada in the spring, many of our friends had been following the blog and encouraged us to turn it into a book.”
The stories are told with a subtle humour, giving the reader the impression that Paulette’s claims of their adventures trending toward the silly are entirely true. Whether threatened by killer snakes, coral or a make-believe dinosaur, Peter’s imagination is a principal character in the book, tethered only by Paulette’s sense of reason.
While abroad, Paulette spent time painting in watercolour and sketching, some of which would be inspiration for acrylic painting once back home in her studio. Peter would blog about his adventures. It was at the encouragement of friends and followers that the blog and artwork ended up in book form.
The book marks the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary, 25 years of which was spent living in Dunedin before moving to Collingwood. They met in 1962 at the Ontario College of Art and went on to have careers in the arts: Paulette as art editor, illustrator, graphic designer, and medical illustrator; Peter as industrial designer and sculptor, with both teaching at the college level.
The Dennises are planning their next trip to Costa Rica, returning to some of their favourite places, people and the untold stories there. Watch the blog (paintcostarica.com) for stories about the suicide shower, death by coconuts, a suspected draft dodger and many unforeseen tales from a place that is a refuge for the “wanted and the unwanted”, as the T-shirt says.
“We have so many adventures in these crazy places,” said Paulette.
Meet the author and the artist at the two-day book launch and art show: Adventures In Costa Rica at the Creemore Log Cabin on Sunday, August 6, from 1 to 4 p.m., with a reading at 2 p.m.; and Monday, August 7; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with readings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The book will be for sale for $25.