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!
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!
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.
WE just got back from an amazing trip to Costa Rica this year. I am still in awe of the diversity of this tiny country. We visited so many beautiful places and saw an amazing array of birds, plants, animals and yes FROGS! We are already planing the trip for 2017. Here is a little colored pencil painting I did as a demo while I was on the trip. I used baby oil……. Yes!!!! baby oil to get the smooth blending of the tonal values as well as the dark background.
In recognition of Moth Week (July 18-26, 2015) I painted this Crescent Moon Moth. The Latin name is Epiphora rectifascia. It is a Giant African Silk Moth and is part of the The family Saturniidae. This one comes from Africa. I was lucky enough to see this very large moth in a live exhibit at the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, FL. The Saturniidae family has always fascinated me. They are huge, and have complex markings. As caterpillars they are voracious eaters. They devour their host plants, consuming as much of it as possible before they pupate. The Saturniidae caterpillar pupates by producing silk. The caterpillar is protected inside its silk cocoon until it emerges as an adult. The adult moth is transformed without a mouth. They live up to 2 weeks and their sole purpose is to mate, find a host plant to lay the eggs on. Once this is accomplished, they die. There is no time for eating. The caterpillar does all the eating early on so it will have enough energy to transform itself into an adult and find a mate.
My technique: For this painting I ripped a scrap of Fabriano 300lb Soft Press Fabriano Artistic watercolor paper. I then soaked it in hot coffee grounds. Once the paper was dry I transferred the pencil drawing onto the paper. I then painted a thick medium brown layer of gouache (opaque watercolor). Once this was dry I did the details in colored pencil. The colored pencil was easy to use and gave me the stippled effect of the speckled look on the wings. I am experimenting and having fun!
Should I donate my artwork?
This is a question I think all artists should carefully consider before giving away their art. I am frequently approached by numerous organizations to donate a piece of my artwork for a fund raising campaign.
There are so many charitable organizations. Some good, some bad. How do you decide whether you should donate to their cause? Here is a list of things I ask myself if I am considering donating my work:
- If I had money to donate, would I give to the organization?
- How much would I give? 10, 25, 50, 100, or more dollars?
- One of the things an artist must think about is putting a dollar amount on how much they are willing to donate.
If I donate money, the chances are I would probably donate something somewhere in the range of $25 to $200 to an organization. The art which is donated should not exceed this amount. I am bombarded by many charitable organizations I figure how many I want to give to and set a dollar figure for each organization. This is the same formula that I would use for donating a piece of artwork. If I can afford $100 to send to an organization, then I can afford to send them a piece of artwork that I would sell for $100. It would be unreasonable for me to donate a $1500 painting to an organization since I make my living as an artist. Donating that painting is a potential loss of $1500.
I believe it is important to support the groups or organizations that follow the same ethics and value systems as my own.
- Does the organization tell you where the money goes?
- Are they just soliciting money with no direct usage for the money?
- How do they allocate the funds?
- Does the organization have paid employees?
- Is there a way to see where their funds are being spent?
- How long has the organization been in existence?
- Does your artwork in someway fit in to the mission of the organization?
I generally will not donate a piece of my artwork if I find that any of these things do not fit into my vision of where I want to see my work displayed, or how organization conducts itself. I was recently solicited by a volunteer from BEAR EDUCATION AND RESOURCE (BEAR) PROGRAM I did not know that an organization of this kind existed. The volunteer wrote a personal and very poignant letter to me. She gave references and website links in her email which allowed me to go visit the different websites to see what the foundation was all about. From reading the information on their website it was very clear to me that I would be participating in this fundraising campaign. They clearly stated on the website that they are about educating people to conserve wildlife habitat for the black bear in New Jersey. Conservation through education is exactly the affiliation I want to belong too. They are auctioning artwork in hopes to raise funds to bring educational programs into the classrooms and into neighborhoods so that bears and humans can coexist peacefully. They are lobbying and legislating to have bear proof garbage cans mandatory in areas where bears are known to live in suburban areas. I created this special piece for them. My donation an 11 x 14 colored pencil painting a mother bear and her cub. I estimate that the worth of the painting is about $250. The “Third Annual Silent Art Auction” will take place on November 7th at the Morris Museum at 6 Normandy Heights Rd, Morristown, NJ 07960 (973) 971-3700 If you are in the neighborhood stop by and support this cause!
Remember to make sure when you commit to donating a piece of your artwork that it represents something you believe in.
Any thoughts about this? Please leave your comment. I would love to hear from you.
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:
- 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.
- 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!
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.
I don’t consider myself much of a bird watcher. I don’t really have the patience to wander or deliberately walk around with a pair of binoculars around my neck waiting to see a glimpse of something in the distance. I don’t have a bird list that I check off. I don’t even know what I am looking at half the time. With that being said…. I do love birds. I love seeing them and painting them. I just don’t have the patience to be a diehard bird watcher. Instead of going on bird watching trips I go on nature oriented trips and birds are always part of what I see.
On my latest trip to Costa Rica we stayed in the Sarapiqui region of the country at the Selva Verde Lodge. I have been traveling to Costa Rica to draw and paint for 20 years and still see something new and inspiring every time. This year I saw the Green Ibis on a river boat trip down the Sarapiqui River. Here in Florida there are Ibis and they are white with an orange/salmon colored beak. They are common and I don’t think twice about seeing them. On the boat trip I noticed something moving on the banks of the river and it was a small group of Green Ibis. They almost completely blended into the landscape. I was able to quickly take a bunch of shots with my digital camera, using the super zoom mode. As I am not into wearing binoculars, I am also not into carrying heavy camera equipment or lots of different lenses. I have a Lumix point and shoot 24 x zoom digital camera. I find that I am able to get the shots I need in order to draw and paint from. Any information I did not record with my camera, I can research on the internet when I get back to the studio. This is what I did with the Green Ibis. I had to shoot with a very high ISO- 1600 and zoomed all the way in. The boat was moving and I only had a few moments to get the information I needed.
Here is the shot that was the inspiration for my painting above. The one thing that I did not get, was a good shot of the feet. When I got home researched my subject to find what kind of feet it had and how to position it. I decided that I did not have really enough information to do a full blown painting so I decided to keep it simple and have one foot stepping forward into the picture plane. I used colored pencil and had a great time playing with the background putting in colors that would help make the iridescent green feathers shimmer.
I hope that you like it. It is currently available as a fine art print in my Etsy Shop.
If you are interested in going to Costa Rica with me in 2015 please consider joining my mailing list or sending me an email to keep you updated.
The Aracari and Photographer Permission–
I 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.
Football Season Means Colored Pencils!
Yes folks…. that’s what the fall brings to my world. I get lots of questions about how I manage my time as an artist. People perceive me as being very organized and productive….. whew! So glad that I come off that way. It doesn’t feel like it most of the time. Here are some of the things I do to maximize my time by planning ahead:
- Colored Pencils are easily transported. I draw while my husband and I watch the football games. This way I am with him and instant replays are awesome in case my face is downward during a very important play! Is there something you can do while watching tv? Sew on buttons, create a shopping list?
- Record programs on a DVR. I have DirecTv and I am able to schedule favorite programs. I can watch them at my leisure and fast forward past the commercials. I usually watch about an hour of tv a night just before I go to bed. It helps wind down the day. I can watch an hour of tv in about 45 minutes without commercials.
- Save errands that are on a “loop”. I have friends that make fun of me because I always plan my car route in a big loop or circle. If something is totally out of the way, I save it for another time. I very rarely leave the house to go do one thing.
- I have a notebook that has a list of things “to do”. Every time I think of something I add it to the list. As I finish each task, I cross it off the list. When I get to the end of the page, I fold it in half and copy all the things I didn’t get done onto the new page. This way I remind myself to get it done.
- Clean the studio after each project or painting. I am a SLOB! I make a huge mess. Rather than clean up every day, I wait until my project is over and then I do a major cleanup. This makes everything nice for the next painting.
- Label all my containers. I realized I spent too much time looking for things. So now all my little drawers, boxes, containers, flat files etc… have a label on them that tells me what is in there. When I clean I have a place to put things in. When I can’t find something, I go to the appropriate drawer and find what I need. I probably have a dozen erasers all over the house…… When I do “Clean Sweep” they all go back into the “Eraser Drawer”. I can always find one when I need one…. This was an awesome revelation!
- Buy in bulk when you can. I bought 4 dozen kneaded erasers from Dick Blick several years ago. They were cheaper in bulk and I don’t spend a lot of time shopping online. I do this with my watercolor paper. I buy 20-50 sheets at a time when it is on sale.
- Set reasonable goals. I look at my list and figure out how much time I should spend on each thing. I prioritize the list by putting a big star next to the neglected or important ones.
- DO NOT MULTI-TASK when things are super important. I do not draw in front of the tv…. it is too distracting. It is all too easy to try to multi-task with everything that you do. Be smart and think about ways to condense things but don’t try to do it ALL and never try to do it all at once.
These are just a few things I do in the course of my daily routine. Here are some of my colored pencil drawings I have been doing while watching football games. I work on double sided mylar. My next post will explain more of how I work in colored pencil. I saved these colored pencil pieces from my #52/52 Challenge and “Gang Scanned”. It was faster to scan all of them in one sitting. The down side was that they didn’t get posted until now!