Saturday, May 7, 2011


The small village of Gamboa was established by the United States in the early 2oth Century to house workers of the Panama Canal dredging division. Located 20 miles northwest of Panama City, it feels remote since it is surrounded by a tropical rainforest. In the morning Rainald took us to Pipeline Road which is supposed to be a fantastic bird watching area. Terry excitedly started a life list on her iPhone noting each new bird species she saw.We had to wait a while when we first arrived for the rain to slow to a drizzle. We then hiked up the muddy road. Terry spotted a Toucan. Luminescent giant blue moths fluttered across our path. Then Rainald stopped and said, "listen." In the distance we could hear the crashing of leaves. Something was moving out there. The sounds grew closer and we moved up and down the trail trying to see into the dense foliage. I asked Rainald if I should be looking at the ground or treetops. He said, "look up."

There was a sudden guttural piercing howl that made my blood run cold. It sounded like an immense mammal on the prowl. I moved my sketchbook over my soft intestines. Then I spotted movement in the treetops. A large group of Howler Monkeys climbed into the tree right next to the trail. They feasted on the leaves. A mother climbed with a baby clutching her belly. One monkey eyed me curiously then went about his browsing. Thank god they weren't as loud as they sounded.

After lunch at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Rainald drove us to the home he first bought when he moved to Panama. It is typical of most of the houses in the village with the first floor being wide open on silts. He has been renovating the home slowly over the years. Now the structure is wide open with the windows removed as he is reworking all the interior walls. Terry was insisting he find me a place to sketch and I just sat on a curb to get this sketch done.

He then drove us to the central town square. Terry wanted to rest so she lay down on a picnic table under a gazebo This fire station with it's gleaming engine proudly jutting from the garage caught my eye. Rainald disappeared while I sketched. I glanced back and noticed a local man decided to take a siesta on a bench near Terry. As I was finishing my sketch Rainald walked up and introduced me to a local artist and her boyfriend who did research on butterflies. I gave her a sketchbook to flip through and we had an animated conversation about art. She was a portrait painter and she had a show going up on May 6th. She realized immediately that I would probably like to sketch the butterfly research facility. She explained how artists stay connected in Panama via Facebook. For me this chat was a real highlight of the trip, making me realize the unlimited potential in exploring a new culture. It was great to meet an artist in such a remote place. Unfortunately we were on the move and there wasn't enough time to follow these new leads.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: