Welcome back to our Artist Spotlight series called “Making a Scene.” In every issue, we feature the selected works of a different artist, sharing personal insights into the inspiration and creative process behind each one.

Next up is Donaldo Voelker, who after 19 years living in Costa Rica, is fulfilling his life-long dream of being an artist.  

“Like the French artist Paul Gauguin, I interpret a tropical land and culture from my lens as a painter from the northern latitudes,” says Voelker. “I often tend to gravitate towards the ordinary that often gets overlooked, like the hanging Flor de Itabo, a Puntarenas ferry, or wooden worker houses of the old banana fincas.”  

Voelker’s training as a historian pushes him to render subjects characteristic of Costa Rica and Latin America, noting the place and date painted to provide historical documentation of bringing life to the canvas.


Garza del Sol, Cariari 

On the way to Tortuguero, I stopped for the night in Cariari, right near the bridge. I was outside of my cabin and flying directly overhead was the sunbittern bird (Garza del Sol) uttering a loud, primitive call that I had never heard before. The book “The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide” mentions the bird´s “spectacular sunburst pattern” and it “emits a far-carrying forlorn, rising whistle lasting about one second.” It gave me an otherworldly, supernatural sense.



El Mar de Playa Bejuco

Playa de Bejuco stands out as a place on the central Pacific coast where I can best view the ocean and the sky. I particularly like those big, vertical clouds that reach up from the ocean. The varied colors of the evening sky over the Pacific Ocean is a scene that I don’t get where I live in the mountains of Alajuela. It’s a challenge for a landscape artist to paint the clouds, and so I had to try.



El Muelle de Tambor de Paquera

I probably hoped to catch too much in this painting of the fishing dock in Tambor, as I´ve been counseled that too often, I try to paint too big of a scene. But I loved the geometry of the circling of these fishing boats while resting at anchor around the dock. It’s as if the dock manager wanted to arrange the boats in an artistic manner. I haven’t seen them all, but this is my favorite fishing dock in Costa Rica. It makes me feel like I am on an island when I come via ferry boat from Puntarenas to the lower Nicoya Peninsula.

Tom´s Brown Noddy at Cocos Island  

I came to Costa Rica from Michigan as a birder and hopeful artist in 2004. So, I can understand Costa Rica Birding Club leader Tom Schultz´s passion to photograph the brown noddy far-off at Isla de Cocos. The field guide says “unlike most other terns, it flies unswervingly and close to the ocean surface.” With the boat reeling among dangerous rocks and strong waves, it is no wonder that Tom could make such a nice photo, which is the source of my painting.


Passage to Paquera  

The Tambor II ferry boat goes a few times daily between Puntarenas and Paquera, on the Nicoya Peninsula. In the hour-long ride, the boat passes several small, abandoned islands and several seabirds can be seen, like the brown booby in the photo´s foreground. At this destination, I again feel like I am on an island.

“I often tend to gravitate towards the ordinary that often gets overlooked.”

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