Art is often defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.”

For many, art is something that creates an escape from the mundane world. Picasso once said “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” I have tremendous respect and gratitude for those who can express themselves in a creative way. Having my own creative side, I know how vital it is to express yourself.

Someone I admire locally in Atenas is artist, Jan Yatsko. I wanted to learn more about Jan’s creative side and how she has brought art to Atenas, so we met for a chat.

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Jan invited me to her home to talk about the arts in Atenas. Pulling up in front of her house, I realized instantly that an artist lives here. I am not sure if it was the twisted piece of bamboo light fixture hanging over the front door or the vivid, contrasting house colors of lime green and orange; but all of it made me smile and instantly put me in a good mood.

As I entered the front door I was warmly greeted by Jan and an amazing eclectic art collection that resulted from many years of “trades” from fellow artists and craftspeople.

I have known Jan for many years but I didn’t know anything about her background in art. I asked her when art became a part of her life. Jan said that “Art has always been part of my life. It was my easiest subject. When it came time to choose a career path, I chose Special Education because I felt that the art field was too competitive. I soon realized that I needed to follow my passion and I transferred to a university that specialized in Art Education.”

During our conversation, I asked Jan what type of artist she considers herself to be. “I consider myself to be a mixed media artist. I love opposing colors and textures. In my opinion it creates more interesting art work.”

Jan continued by saying, “I have always drawn and painted. I created baskets (her work was featured in the book “The Basketmaker’s Art: Contemporary Baskets and Their Makers”), designed travel clothing for women and for fifteen years, owned a custom flag and banner business.”

Looking over some of Jan’s work, it is obvious she is a multifaceted, multitalented lady.

Inspiration for an artist is like water for a fish. I asked Jan from where she draws her inspiration. Jan quickly answered by saying “Always from nature. An artist observes and sees things differently than the average person.

I normally find inspiration in ordinary things because I have trained my eyes to see the little jewels in ordinary objects. Whether it be the contrast of colors of the chocolate colored wet earth with rows of bright green plants or the way two rocking chairs are placed on a porch. It could also be the way weathered painted wood looks on an old house, the textures and color combinations that come from that. The secret is to see, not to look!”

Jan and I agree that everyone has a creative side. Jan added that “People tend to think that only artists are creative people. Being creative is different for each individual and I believe it exists in all of us. Someone can be creative when solving a science or math problem, working on a puzzle, cooking or when parents can creatively get their children to do something they don’t want to do!”

Five years ago, Jan’s time for creating art was put on hold to help her husband Tom develop a successful bakery business, “Buen Pan, Tomás!” Jan said that “after several absent years, I felt the need to find a way back to art”.

Over three years ago, she founded in Atenas the Plein Air art group. Jan explains that the term “plein air” is a French term for creating art outdoors and came about when artists no longer had to mix paints in their studios and were able to be more mobile.

The idea behind Jan’s Plein Air group was to gather people who had a variety of creative abilities and to provide activities for them to express themselves. The group meets once per month and depending on the time of year, the activity may be outdoors in a true plein air situation or they may visit Costa Rican artist’s studios, attend art workshops or go to a museum for a special exhibition.

One past activity was a poem reading by one of the members. While the poet read her poems to the group, the other members had to visually interpret the words into drawings and paintings. Another activity was a scavenger hunt in Atenas. Jan gave a series of clues to four groups that included the history and location of five historical Atenas sites and buildings.

Once the members of each group found the site, their assignment was to sketch the building. During that activity, the Atenas Plein Air group was joined by the Costa Rican Plein Air group.

Jan is passionate about another project, her “Discover Your Inner Diva” workshops. A few weeks ago Jan hosted the first of these empowering workshops for women. Jan says, “I take a group of ladies through a series of fun, self-awareness exercises that help to bring out things about themselves that they may have not realized before.

In the second half of the workshop, the women create their own divas based on what they discovered through the self-awareness exercises in the first half of the workshop.”

The idea behind the workshop is to create a visual affirmation of where the women are right now in their lives and where they want to go. Jan runs to her studio and brings out a series of self-portraits. “These were the inspiration for the Inner Diva workshops” says Jan.

She explains to me that one of her self-portraits was about manifesting something in her life and she realized how powerful it was to have a visual image to connect to the vibrational energy that empowers manifestation.

Jan would love to expand the Inner Diva workshops to include abused women. She says “It is a very empowering workshop for women. They learn to express themselves visually, without words through art and to manifest a different life. Your diva doesn’t care if you are not an artist.

This workshop could also be a great support activity, a way of finding inner strength for physically or verbally abused women.” Jan says as an artist she has come full circle. She began her career as an art educator, expressed her talents through her art work in various forms and now she is back to teaching through various workshops she offers in Atenas. Says Jan, “Teaching fits into my chopped up time schedule and I am always creating art to use as examples for my workshops.”

Over the years Jan has been very active in promoting the arts in Atenas. For eight years she led a 10 day Explore and Create in Costa Rica travel art journal tours, co-created Yoga and Creativity one day retreats with yoga instructor Leah MacLauchlan and has written a series of articles for Atenas Today on art and creativity. In 2008, Jan gathered together a group of local and foreign artists in Atenas to permanently display their art work inside the Atenas Health Clinic.

I asked Jan if there were future art projects in Atenas. She smiled saying “yes” that she had many goals and ideas for the future. One of Jan’s biggest desires was to continue on her path of “providing an opportunity for people to find and express their creativity.” Jan would also like to create more art related volunteer projects for her Plein Air group.

In addition she has been asked to fill the local “Clinica del Dolor” or pain clinic with donated art just as she has done with the Atenas Health Clinic. One very public and colorful art project Jan sees in the future is to mosaic the backs of the cement benches in the central park of Atenas.

On a personal note, it is a very inspiring to spend time with creative individuals. It opens your mind to “see” things in a different way, thereby enriching your life experience. Take the time to really SEE the beauty and nature that surrounds you in this beautiful country of Costa Rica and you are well on your way to creative inspiration. As Jan suggests, look to the ordinary to find inspiration.

If you hit a roadblock looking outside then try looking within to find your inner diva. It is the contrast and textures of our surroundings that make life interesting. It is my personal belief that in the contrast of life we find all the answers we seek.

Share your creativity with the world. We will all be better for it.

You can contact Jan by email here for more information about what is going on in the art scene or to participate in one of her workshops or visit her JanYatsko website here.

Jan Yatsko. A multi-talented artist living in Atenas, Costa Rica.

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