Costa Rica- Gorgeous Art Created by Jill Crouch

I am always amazed at the beautiful art that is produced after participants come home from a tour with me to Costa Rica. The 10 day tour is a whirlwind experience with so much amazing wildlife encounters it is difficult to know where to focus one’s attention. Part of my focus on these tours is to help artists gather information through field sketching, color notes and specific methods of photography to help the artist create works when they get back to their studios. One participant who has done a fantastic job at recreating art and the excitement of this tour is artist Jill Crouch. Jill continually amazes me with the beautiful art she creates. Here is what she has to say about her experience and some of the wonderful paintings she has produced.

 

In 2013, I was a retired research scientist with a love for nature and a strong desire to develop the skills necessary for capturing its beauty in a photograph, drawing and/or ultimate painting. Not knowing how, when or where to start, I immersed myself with a small group of similarly minded people into the jungles of Costa Rica. By bus we traveled with Mindy Lighthipe, a professional natural and botanical artist. The 10 days was packed with the knowledge and tools necessary for absorbing the attributes of nature in all its colorful glory. For me, this was the journey of a lifetime and an opportunity to explore any “hidden talents” I had yet to discover in myself. Each day was filled with a nature walk, a visit to an animal reserve, at least one natural wonder, and a “Master’s Class” in drawing, painting and/or photography, with continuous “how to” instructions for almost every imaginable curiosity. There were new lessons around every corner, more miracles to see and more surprises to experience. 

2Toed -Sloth- Watercolor © Jill Crouch

Four years later, I still “draw” on that experience for inspiration with my extensive library of photographs, documented notes, and sketches and paintings from our trip. Today, I have grown as an artist, I continue to take classes and I am starting to feel confident as an animal portrait artist whose journey began lovingly in the jungles of Costa Rica. 

Spider Monkey- Watercolor ©Jill Crouch

“Room for Everybody!” Watercolor ©Jill Crouch

If you would like to join us in 2018 we would love to have you! For more information click here.

 

Shooting Botanicals with the iPhone 7 Plus

I am super excited with my new iPhone 7Plus! Having a camera with me at all times is essential. You never know when you are going  to come across something special that you want to take a quick picture of. Lugging around cameras especially DSLR’s that have interchangeable lens can get heavy and cumbersome. One of the great advantages to these types of cameras is the “depth of field feature”. The longer the lens, the longer the field of view. You can take pictures of things further away and by using a “zoom” feature it brings the subject closer to you in the view finder. Things that are in the background tend to be out of focus. These lens usually are big and can even require a tripod. This kind of photography could not be done using a simple smart phone camera until now!

The two pictures below where taken with my iPhone 7Plus. My aloe plant was blooming and I wanted to capture the flower stalk for details and maybe a future painting. The photograph on the left shows the camera setting as “normal”. I just pointed the camera at the flower stalk and took the picture. As you can see my garden is full of other plants and the background is complicated, making it difficult to see the basic structure of the plant. In the iPhone 7 Plus there is a setting called “Portrait” and by switching the setting to this I was able to take the same photograph while blurring out the background. The structure of the flower stalk “pops” forward. The image is not perfect….. I am still learning but I can see the overall structure better and having both images really helps to see more of what is going on. Making sketches and color notes helps too but I didn’t have the time.

In addition to these two photos I went back to the original setting of “normal” on the phone and got closer to the subject. It was able to get some of the small details that I was unable to get with the other 2 photos. I am experimenting with all kinds of photography in preparation for the upcoming Art & Photography Tour to Costa Rica. I will be exploring more ways to work with smart phones, point and shoot as well as DSLR’s. Interested in joining us? We would love to have you. Click here for more info.

Toucans, Owls and Sloths!

I have been traveling to Costa Rica for over 30 years. In my travels I search out places that are off the beaten path. I am not much for conventional tourism. It would be unusual for me to be drinking a pina colada on a white sandy beach. I prefer to find places where everyday people are doing extraordinary things. The Toucan Rescue Ranch is one of those places. It has been a place I have returned to every year. This colored pencil drawing was done to help promote The Toucan Rescue Ranch in the rehabilitation of injured and abandoned animals of Costa Rica. I am leading an Artistic Adventure Tour to Costa Rica for artists and photographers in 2018. We will be visiting the Toucan Rescue Ranch to support their efforts. You will be able to see owls, toucans, sloths and more up close and personal. Want to join us? Click here for more information about the tour. 50% of the sale of this painting will go to The Toucan Rescue Ranch…… You can OWN IT TODAY!

Protect Our Waters- Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants

I recently had the opportunity to create this painting for IFAS- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. The project was designed as a new product for educators and aquatic plant management enthusiasts. Many people are unaware of the damages invasive plants can do to the environment. Back in 2012 I took a  week of Plant Camp studies through IFAS. I was blown away by how many invasive species of plants and animals are wreaking havoc in the USA and Florida in particular. The climate in Florida is the only sub-tropical ecosystem in the USA. It harbors many species that can not survive in the colder climates. The 6 plants depicted in my painting are the top 6 invaders in Florida’s waterways. They are choking the lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Many invasive plants are available at garden centers and places like Lowe’s and HomeDepot because there is no regulation prohibiting their sale. Regardless of whether you live in Florida or any other part of the world…. when choosing plants for your landscape find out the latin name of the plants you are thinking of purchasing and research them before you purchase. It is well worth the small investment of the time it takes to research the plant than the time and energy you will spend trying to eradicate it from your garden. To find out more about invasive plants visit IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants Website.

Click here for to read the full article written and published by Aquaphytes pages 7 & 8.

INVASIVE plants 

1. Alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) is an emersed plant native to South  America.

2. Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is a free-floating plant; nativity disputed.

3. Torpedograss (Panicum repens) a wetland grass native to Africa, Asia and Europe.

4. Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a free-floating plant native to Brazil.

5. Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) is a floating plant native to South America.

6. Hydrilla  (Hydrilla verticillata)  is a submersed plant native to Africa, Asia, and Europe

For more information on the above species, visit the University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants website: plants.ifas.ufl.edu

NATIVE animals

7.  Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

8. Yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)

Insects

9. Alligatorweed flea beetle (Agasicles hygrophila) is used as a biological control agent introduced to control alligatorweed.

10. Dragonfly is a beneficial native insect that eats mosquitos.

11. Dragonfly nymph is a casing left behind after the adult emergence.

12. The mosquito is an insect pest that can harm humans and animals; it breeds beneath dense aquatic weed infestations.

Florida Society of Botanical Artists Exhibition

In December of 2016 I had the wonderful opportunity to teach a group of artists at the Florida Society of Botanical Artists in Sarasota Florida. The society is a local chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists. This was the third time they invited me to teach the group. This particular workshop was about drawing birds. I teach a variety of subjects and incorporate some ornithology anatomy in my Intro to Scientific Illustration class at the University of Florida. I wondered why this group wanted to work with birds instead of botanical subjects…….. The answer is they were preparing for an exhibition at the Sarasota Audubon Society which is located at The Celery Fields.

The exhibition is titled “Backyard Beauties” and will show case beautiful paintings of native plants and birds found in the unique ecosystem of The Celery Fields. Native plants are very important to the survival of many local and migrating species.

The Celery Fields is a 360+ acre site which consists of open marshlands, deep ponds, shallow pools, and canals. It is edged with oaks, willows, and pines. In early 2001, Sarasota Audubon began conducting bird surveys at the Fields. To date, 217 species have been recorded. Wintertime offers particularly good birding, hosting sparrows, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, and several species of rails, including Sora and Virginia. The Fields also host breeding birds, including Black-necked Stilts, King Rail, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, Eastern Towhee, Barn Owl and Eastern Meadowlark. Least Terns breed on nearby buildings and use the ponds as a primary food source. Rarities show up from time to time, including Upland and White-rumped Sandpipers, Short-eared Owl and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Sarasota County, recognizing the importance of the Celery Fields as a food and habitat source to a wide variety of birds and other wildlife, worked with Sarasota Audubon to restore 100+ acres in the Southern Cells into a more traditional wetland.

If you are in the area please visit The Celery Fields, do some nature hiking and see some of the wonderful art by the Florida Society of Botanical Artists. Details about the exhibit are located on the flyer.

Distance Learning with Mindy Lighthipe

I am really excited with the wonderful responses I have been getting about my online classes. I started 2 years ago ad to date have had the privilege of teaching over 400 artists worldwide. I have students from England, Germany, Tasmania, Turkey, Australia, Japan, Russia, Spain, Canada, Italy and of course the USA. The internet has allowed me to work with so many interesting people and it really is inspiring to see them posting their assignments on Facebook and sharing their knowledge. I wasn’t sure I would like this style of teaching because I am used to teaching people fact to face. The more I do it, the more I enjoy…….The internet has allowed the world to be a classroom! I am continuing to offer 3 classes starting  March 22, 2017. CLICK HERE for a listing of the classes and information about what you can expect if you decide to join us….. We would love to have you!

Tortoise Beetles and Solar Etchings

tortoisebeetlesInsects have always been peaked my curiosity. I collected bugs as a kid. I never really had the science brain to become an entomologist. I wanted to know about their lifecycle but most of all I wanted to draw and paint them. I think it is the diversity of color, texture and pattern that really intrigues me. Of all the insects, I love beetles the most! There are between 250,000 and 350,000 different species of beetles on planet earth. I know I will never get to draw all of them but I have started with a group of beetles called Tortoise Beetles and a new process called Solar Etching.

While I was in college I took several printmaking classes and enjoyed them. I recently learned a new technique of solar printing that allows me to do my drawings on paper, create a negative scan of the drawing and then burn the images onto a plate that is exposed to light. The result is similar to traditional intaglio printing but I don’t have to work in reverse or worry about making a mistake on the copper plate. Once the plate is exposed to light, the image is burned into the plate. I then ink the plate, wipe it clean and the ink that remains is left in the “burned” recessed areas of the plate. The plate is hand pulled through a traditional press. I haven’t pulled an edition of the images yet as I am still learning.

A month ago there was a Call for Entries for a show entitled “Meet the Beetles” at the Art Science Gallery in  Austin, Texas and I knew I had to enter! My 2 Tortoise Beetles got into the show and you can see them in person if you are in the Austin Texas area until October 22, 2016.

They are also available for purchase in my online art store. You can click here to see a section of prints for sale.

 

Drawing Butterflies

Charaxes lucretius © Tammy Mcentee colored pencil 4.5″ x 6″ Contact Tammy at: tsm3252@aol.com

I recently had the opportunity to go back to the New York Botanical Gardens to teach a 3 day workshop on drawing butterflies. I taught at NYBG for almost 20 years after completing the Botanical Illustration Certification Program. It takes 2 years to complete this disciplined program and I was fortunate enough to live within driving distance to take the courses and eventually teach and direct the program. It opened up a new world for me and helped to build the foundation of my drawing and scientific illustration practices. I moved 5 years ago from New Jersey to Florida, so going back to NYBG was a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I certainly don’t miss the traffic or congestion of the NorthEast, NY Metropolitan area but I can honestly say I didn’t realize how much I missed teaching there. The students are really fabulous. My dad taught 8th grade English and always thought I should be a school teacher. Dealing with English and kids going through puberty would have made me stark raving mad! I chose to supplement my income as an artist, teaching art to people who really want to learn and that means ADULTS! These students/artists came with all the enthusiasm a teacher could ask for. They were eager to learn and in the 3 days I tried to cover as much information as possible. I love to teach because it forces me to communicate on different levels. I am a visual learner myself and found that not all people learn the same way. I did visual presentations, created handouts, did a lecture or two and did lots of demos. We worked from real specimens as I encourage this. Working  from photographs has its limitations. Insect anatomy is crucial in depicting these tiny critters in nature paintings or in scientific illustrations. We also worked with microscopes to give the student the advantage of seeing many underlying structures that are not visible without magnification. My motto is…. ” The more you see, the more you understand which means more you can portray in your art.”  Here I am including some of the drawings/paintings that were done in the class with the artists’ names and contact information. Feel free to contact them if you are interested in buying or commissioning a work of art. They were all super!

Idea leuconoe- Rice paper butterfly © Leslie Day Colored pencil on mylar Contact Leslie at: www.leslieday.nyc

Idea leuconoe- Rice paper butterfly © Leslie Day Colored pencil on mylar Contact Leslie at: www.leslieday.nyc

Butterfly © Ellen Matusiak, colored pencil on mylar with decorative paper underlay. Contact Ellen at: ellenmatusartist@hotmail.com

Butterfly © Ellen Matusiak, colored pencil on mylar with decorative paper underlay. Contact Ellen at: ellenmatusartist@hotmail.com

Peacock Butterfly ©Lydia Irwin Colored pencil on paper.

Peacock Butterfly ©Lydia Irwin Colored pencil on paper.

If you are interested in learning more about Drawing the Beauty of Nature please visit my section of online drawing and painting classes. If you have an art group or organization that would like to have me come teach please contact me at Mlighthipe@mac.com.

New Online Watercolor Class starting September 21!

I am happy to announce my new online Wonderful World of Watercolor Class will start this fall on September 21, 2016. I want to thank all my fellow artists for the overwhelming success of  my Foundation Drawing and Drawing Plants classes. For the past year I have had requests from all corners of the world asking me to do more online classes. I spent May, June and July designing, painting, shooting and editing this new 12 week class in response to YOUR REQUESTS! It takes me a long time to do this because….. I do it all!

Wonderful Watercolor with Mindy LighthipeI  designed the class to take you through all the tough issues that make people think watercolor is difficult to do! I call it de-mystifying watercolor. I used to think watercolor was fussy, difficult and unforgiving….. sounds like a bad relationship! After experimenting, working hard and taking classes, I learned watercolor can be easy, fun and correctable!!!!! It all has to do with understanding the properties of how the paint works with the amount of water you use for a given desired effect. In this class I cover all the ins and outs to help you gain control while still being spontaneous! Color mixing is an integral part of the lessons which will give you confidence in understanding and getting the results you want each time you paint. Learn to create color recipes that will work successfully everytime. No more mud or guessing!

I hope you will join me in this new class.  To learn more about my online classes please click here.

Do you know someone who loves nature and would enjoy learning to draw or paint in watercolor? If so………  Please share this post. Spread the word to appreciate…….. Drawing the Beauty of Nature!

The Ants Go Marching!

Red Peonies, Ants & Red Admiral ©2010  Mlighthipe

Red Peonies, Ants & Red Admiral ©2010Mindy Lighthipe 20 x 24 watercolor

I love Peonies! Years ago I planted about a dozen or so of them in the fall in my garden. When spring came the following year I couldn’t wait for the flowers to bloom. To my dismay I saw all the beautiful flower buds covered in ants. Drat! I thought they were going to eat the flowers and I would end up with just stems. I did some research to find out what kind of insecticide I should spray on the plants only to find that the flowers would not bloom without the ants! Really? Yes, really! The flower buds are covered in a sticky sugar which attracts the ants to the flower. The ants collect and “clean” off the sticky substance allowing the flower to bloom in all its’ glory.  How cool is that! This is how this painting was born. The Ants go Marching!!!! I decided also to add a couple of Red Admiral butterflies into the painting.

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