San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

The adventures of Ricardo “Chino” Morales continue

Displayed at the National Gallery in San José’s Children’s museum, “El final de una Aventura,” or, “the end of an adventure” features 21 oil paintings by artist Ricardo “Chino” Morales. Around the time he painted them, Morales – a renowned Tico painter of more than 50 years – wondered if he might be near the end of his own.

In a battle with cancer a few years back, Morales believed his painting days were done. But as he recovered, he decided to pick his brush back up, and he worked a little each day until he had placed the last splotch on the final work. Most paintings in the collection are studies of landscapes, because Morales finds them to be uplifting. Life, as he puts it, is “una aventura total” (a total adventure). The sceneries he paints convey his optimism for life.

Chino Morales

Oil painting “Ojo de agua.”

Rebecca Aguilar

Morales began painting when he was 17 years old at “Casa del Artista” (House of the Artist). He admired foreign painters he heard about on the news, but was most impressed by Max Jiménez, another Costa Rican artist.

He went to Mexico to continue his education, broadening his artistic talent. In addition to painting, he does lithography, graphic design, and engraving. Throughout Morales’ career, his work has been featured in expos around Central America, the United States and Spain.

In his career, Morales has learned valuable lessons. For one, he says, you cannot define paintings as pretty or ugly, better or worse. He has come to appreciate each piece and the dedication behind it. And though a white canvas can intimidate, Morales reminds himself to go one stroke at a time to begin “feeling the painting.”

Inspired by the local environment, Morales’ paintings usually feature a lot of green. His prefers to use oil paints and work during the dry season, when he can “sudar” (sweat) while he works, and Morales’ photographic memory allows him to deliver his images to the canvas in his studio in San José.

He doesn’t often paint portraits, but did recall a time when he was asked to paint a friend’s wife. Morales accepted and the friend brought a photo. Laughing, he explained, “era feísima” (she was very ugly), but his friend was in love. So Morales worked hard on it, and finally the day came to unveil the painting. Morales’ friend picked it up, studied it, and said, “Mi esposa es fea, pero la hiciste verse peor.” (My wife is ugly, but you made her look worse.) At the end of the story, Morales grinned; he was satisfied with his job.  

Now in remission, Morales sometimes visits the gallery with his wife, with whom he has three children and seven grandchildren. He has no plans to put down the brush just yet. He hopes to continue working and take this exhibit to the States and Italy in the coming months, though details are still being worked out. Meanwhile, you can see his work displayed at the National Gallery (free admission) through Sunday, Jan. 20. 

To purchase Morales’ paintings you can contact his workshop at 2285-1918 or e-mail him at

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