Local Artist Spotlight: Bob Anderson

by Betty on April 24, 2014

As a third-year University of Virginia student I had the unique opportunity to design my own major surrounding my interests of sustainability and economics. In my major design I scheduled a semester-long study abroad program in Costa Rica. Now, as an intern with Better World Betty I was given the opportunity to interview Bob Anderson who shares my passion for Costa Rica and expresses it through building projects, art, and conservationist efforts.

Anderson started drawing at age four and says he owes at least some of his talent to a “hereditary component”. His upbringing was wrought with hardship but the Hawaiian rainforest he lived near and his natural talent for art became his escape. Some of his earliest memories are filled with a deep affinity for the rainforest but it was a realization at a Mayan ruin in Guatemala that sparked his interest towards conservation.

On top of the ancient structure Anderson noticed that the coastal plain was littered with tree stumps on one side, and a luscious, rich rainforest on the other. It dawned on him then that we are destroying the planet and from then on he has been very conscious of what we are doing to the environment. He says that it is “frustrating to see what humanity is doing”.

Based off pictures he took in West Africa, Anderson put together a coloring book of his own wildlife drawings. OSA Conservation collaborated with Anderson to put to together this book and add “more authenticity from a conservation point of view”.  Anderson has a great connection to his drawings and can provide an account for each subject and background, telling stories and the ecological significance of each one. With his second book featuring Costa Rican wildlife and landscapes, he hopes that “part of [his] passion for rainforest wildlife and conservation will be seen by the reader”. This second coloring book will feature drawings with and without color and include bilingual Spanish and English text. However, Anderson’s talents don’t stop at his drawings.

He is also an architect currently working on a project in Costa Rica. The land was previously a teak plantation but will soon become a multifaceted property with a tropical agriculturalists research and education center and an eco-lodge-like facility with individual cottages for environmental tourists. Three different research stations will be developed, each with a different area of specialization. Anderson plans to keep sustainability in mind when designing and constructing all of the land’s buildings, in order to keep their environmental impact low.

When asked what role he thinks artists play in the environmental problems we are currently facing, Anderson responded “a lot of artists do work as sort of a reaction to what’s going on. I see a lot of negative stuff…my approach is much more of a positive one.” He much prefers to encourage thoughts such as “this is beautiful, let’s keep it,” and spur a greater appreciation for the natural world within his audience.

Anderson refers to himself as an “amateur conservationist,” because of his interactions with expert biologists and professional scientists. But whether he knows it or not, he is aiding the conservation effort simply by merging his talent for art and his passion for the environment. Want to know how to be a conservationist yourself? Anderson encourages everyone to “go for a hike every weekend and don’t take a Walkman with you.”

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