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!

Digital Cameras for Artists

Pygmy Owl ©2014 Mindy LighthipeI use my camera as a research tool to photograph my subjects.  I am always debating whether or not I should spend tons of money and buy a super duper camera. It is difficult for me to take pictures when I have too many bells and whistles. If I have to keep changes lens and carry extra equipment it starts to be too much for me. I have been using the Panasonic Lumix series of digital cameras for a while.  I recently bought the Lumix DMC-F270 which has a  60x zoom lens on it. It has the capability of shooting videos as well as digital photos in RAW format. It is extremely compact, light weight,  with an eye piece as well as large LCD screen. I paid under $400 for the camera.

Today I was hiking in Honduras and we came across a Pygmy Owl high in a tree. This tiny little owl is about 5 inches tall and hunts for food in the day time. Here is a video I took of the owl.  I started out with the full 60x zoom so that you can see the owl. To show you how FANTASTIC this camera is I slowly zoomed out from the owl to show you just how far away I really was……. and how awesome this camera really is!

If you are interested in learning more about how I use my camera in my art work think about coming with me on my next Artistic Adventure Tour to Costa Rica.

Art Design Advice- Start at the End

When I start a project for a client I always start with the finished product size or sizes. It is necessary to know what the end use will be. I want my clients to get the most versatile design work that can multi-purpose across a number of platforms. At first I found this concept to be a bit stifling until I realized  it made a huge difference in the way I approached my art. I recently designed a logo for the The Toucan Rescue Ranch in Costa Rica. They  were looking for me to create a design that would work as a logo, stationary, business cards, t-shirt design, website banner and Facebook Page Timeline Banner. I thought I would share with you my design process:

Mock up for FaceBook Timeline Banner

A rough sketch started the design process. Here is the mock up for FaceBook. ©2014 Mindy Lighthipe

  •  I took all the platforms the design would be used in and got the dimensions for each and wrote them down.
  • Working on tracing paper I created a series of life size windows with a ruler and a pencil for each set of dimensions.
  • I drew the elements, keeping in mind all of the sizes and where the most important elements should and shouldn’t be placed, using my windows for guides.
  • I scanned the preliminary sketch into Photoshop and placed it in the Facebook Timeline Banner dimensions, creating a mock up of what it would look like. This particular process was very critical as you can see from my mock up. I had to make sure that the avatar or profile picture did not cover anything important. As you can see there was not a lot of room to fit in all 3 animals, so the owls’ head is cropped. I played with this for some time as I didn’t want them all in perfect line. Each head is at a slightly different level for more visual appeal.
  • Once I got the composition working for all the different sizes and applications I was able to transfer the drawing and do it in color.
  • I normally work from back to front in a piece but decided to focus on the animals first to see what they would look like on a white background. For this piece I chose to work in colored pencil.
  • Toucan Rescue Ranch- © Mindy Lighthipe

    The design was scanned in case the client wanted to use it with a plain white background. ©2014 Mindy Lighthipe

  • I scanned the image into Photoshop again and saved this version with the white background. I wanted to give the client the option of using a simple white background.  I knew that once a colored background was in place, it would be difficult to remove it, and then only in Photoshop.
  • I then did a colored background and scanned it into the computer to do the final computer design work .
  • T-shirt designs are better when they are not contained within a perfect rectangle. The fabric stretches and often distorts the right angles of the rectangle.
  • Once the color piece was scanned I created the type and also created a ripped edge effect to take care of the rectangle distortion problem.

Here is the finished result!

Toucan Rescue Ranch Costa Rica ©2014 Mindy Lighthipe

The finished t-shirt design for the Toucan Rescue Ranch – ©2014 Mindy Lighthipe

If you would like to see the finished banner,  visit the The Toucan Rescue Ranches’ Facebook Page…… and don’t forget to “Like” their page. If you would like to show your support for them, please consider purchasing a t-shirt or other gift item at their Zazzle store. We visit The Toucan Rescue Ranch as part of my Art Tour to Costa Rica. To find out more about the tour click here.


The Aracari and Photographer Permission

Aracari - Colored Pencil; Mindy Lighthipe ©2013I have loved the aracari ever since I saw it flying in the rainforest in Costa Rica. It is a small toucan and is not as easy to spot as a toucan because of its size. They love to eat palm nuts and this is usually where you can find them. I had some of my own photo references for this painting but came across the photos of James Adams. He is the manager of The Lodge at Pico Bonito in Honduras. I met him on Facebook and eagerly look forward to the pictures he posts on his page. I have wanted to do a painting for some time but just needed a little bit more reference to do it. When I saw that  James had fabulous shots I immediately emailed him and asked him if it would be okay to use them as reference. He agreed!  Thank you, thank you , thank you  JAMES!

For those of you out there that use other people’s photographs a word of caution. You MUST ask permission to use a photo as reference and give the photographer credit whenever possible. They own the copyright and it is disrespectful to use it without permission as well as illegal. I do not like to simply copy a photograph but use many of them as reference to come up with a final composition. This is the kind of information that we teach on our Artistic Adventure Tours. We are headed to Costa Rica in February 2014. It looks like we may need a trip to Honduras to visit James!

Do you have a favorite photographer?

This painting is available for sale in my Daily Paintworks Gallery or can be purchased directly from me here. Original Colored Pencil Painting- Aracari 10″ x 14″ unframed. Fits into a 16″ x 20″ frame. $600 + free shipping.


Insect Photography with Nancy Richmond

Buglet by Nancy RichmondA Bug’s Life Photography Exhibit

I am thrilled that my super duper friend Nancy Richmond has gotten 4 of her insect photographs into the permanent collection in the 1650 Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. The juried show is titled, ” A Bug’s Life” and opened in Los Angeles on August 17, 2013. She used a Canon EOS 50D and a 100mm macro lens to shoot her insect photos. Here are 2 of her photos. (Check out the link above to see the whole show.)

Nancy and I have been friends for over 25 years. We met at a Kayak Show in Princeton, NJ after we had both just returned from traveling in Costa Rica. It was an instant, life long friendship. We have been traveling together ever since; Nancy with her camera and me with 400 pounds of art supplies! (My supplies have gotten lighter over the years!)

Buggy by Nancy RichmondNancy’s career started as a photo journalist for the Asbury Park Press. In 2012 she got her MFA in Fine Art Photography from The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She has experience in shooting every kind of subject imaginable. She shares her unique vision of the world through her amazing photography. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her knowledge of photography is amazing.

In 2001 Nancy started working with me teaching photography on our Artistic Adventure Tours.  We have taught in the Galapagos Islands, France and Costa Rica. Both of us are passionate about nature and have found Costa Rica to be one of our favorite destinations.

Nancy Richmond

Nancy and friend in Costa Rica!

Would you like to learn how to take better photographs? Would you like to become confident in taking reference photos for your paintings? Not that I am biased…. but you gotta take some lessons from Nancy Richmond. She is awesome!

Join us in February in Costa Rica.

See more of Nancy’s Photography

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Costa Rican Organic Chocolate

Do you LOVE chocolate?

Sibu Chocolate- Costa Rica

My good friends at Sibú Chocolate are making the BEST handmade organic chocolate in Costa Rica!

I met George Soriano in Costa Rica almost 18 years ago when he was working for an Eco-tour Company. In 2007 George and his partner Julio Fernandez embarked on making handmade chocolates from organic cacao farms  in Costa Rica. The studied in Paris to learn how fine chocolates were made by hand.  They experimented with creating recipes of flavors that are found in Costa Rica. Sibú Chocolate works with a Rainforest Alliance certified farm, which means that farmers follow sound agricultural practices that protect forest, rivers, soils and wildlife, while being good community neighbors. It also ensures that workers have just wages, dignified living conditions and access to education and health care. They only use the best ingredients available, sourced from local producers and organic farms. To read more about Sibú Chocolate please visit their website.

I am thrilled to make this my 5th year taking my Artistic Adventure Tour to visit Sibú Chocolate in February 2014. We get to taste all the different recipes and learn about sustainable organic agriculture in a gorgeous cloud forest setting. The history of chocolate is covered in detail. Later on in the trip we will go to the Tirimbina Rainforest and see how chocolate was made by the Mayan and Inca Indians. There will be lots of tasting and time to sketch and photograph in the rainforest!

Join Us! Do you have questions about the tour? Leave a comment or email Mindy at:

Must See Places to Draw, Paint and Photograph

Birds-of-Paradise Project


Throughout my life I have always been mesmerized by the flamboyant, outrageous colors, textures and patterns created by Mother Nature. A friend of mine sent me this YouTube video from Cornell University because she KNEW I would LOVE it. New Guinea has been on my bucket list for decades. It is one of the untouched places in the world that still has birds, insects and mammals that exist no where else in the world. I don’t know if I will ever make it there, but seeing this video makes me want to go even more. I thought I would share it with you.

Do you have New Guinea on your bucket list? Share with me the places that you would love to go to draw, paint and photograph.