The Biggest Beetle EVER!

As many of you already know I LOVE bugs! Here is a favorite beetle I found while traveling in Costa Rica. It is a giant long horned beetle – Macrodontia batesi. It was 5 inches long! Most people are terrified when they see something this big because they think it will hurt them. This was a male beetle, noted by the elongated mandibles.  The word Macrodontia is from the Greek μάκρος (makros) meaning “long or large” and οδόντος(odontos) meaning “of teeth”. The males are usually larger than the females. They use their mandibles to fight off other males during the breeding season. The only danger they pose to humans is if you pick them up and stick your finger between the mandibles it will clamp down on your finger…… and it won’t let go! Here is a photo I took while in Costa Rica of this super cool bug and a painting I did of it afterwards when I got home. The painting is done in watercolor on calf skin vellum. The vellum had an irregular coloration and I thought this was interesting to work with.

Interested in going to Costa Rica to paint, photograph and find cool bugs? We are going in February 2018. Click here to join us!



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!

Toucan Rescue Ranch- Another success story!

Emma the River Otter- Toucan Rescue RanchI have been traveling and leading art and photography tours to Costa Rica for over 30 years. It always warms my heart when something wonderful happens to help save the animals of this country.

We have been visiting Toucan Rescue Ranch for 8 years to expose our artists and photographers to a rare behind the scenes opportunity to draw and photograph the animals they care for. It is an opportunity to learn about the conservation and rehabilitation efforts by this organization. The Toucan Rescue Ranch was established in 2004 by Leslie Howle and Jorge Murillo as a rescue center for toucans and other birds. Nonetheless, the rescue center quickly expanded to owls and other wildlife. In 2007, a baby sloth, Millie, arrived and was solely in Leslie and Jorge’s care. Millie is initially what transformed the Toucan Rescue Ranch into to a wildlife rescue. Leslie and Jorge work as a team alongside a small staff, caring for resident rescues and new arrivals. It is a dedicated rescue for Costa Rican wildlife. The organization continues to see opportunities for expansion and betterment. TRR is eager to continue to grow to save more wildlife and implement breeding programs for endangered birds native to Costa Rica’s rainforests.

Today’s success story is about Emma! Emma is a neo-tropical river otter;  (Lontra longicaudis).

As a baby she was separated from her mother when a group of children were found throwing rocks at her by the rivers edge. Emma, who was too young to swim through the current to her mom, was left chirping on the riverbank. Luckily, a courageous woman stepped in and took action against such cruelty. She quickly scolded the children who were throwing rocks and snatched the orphaned otter and brought her to the police. The police in turn brought her to the Toucan Rescue Ranch.

Typically, at the Ranch they encourage minimal human interaction with wildlife to ensure natural behaviors and overall health. However, Emma is different. Because she was orphaned at such a young age she is not capable of returning to the wild. She does not have the proper skills to survive on her own. This is why TRR did a marvelous campaign to build Emma a permanent enclosure. She thrives off interaction and any chance she can to play under the water hose. Emma can make anyone smile with her energy, spirit and overwhelming character.

Watch Emma in this video and see how she can live out her life in her permanent home. Her new home gives her ample area to swim, run and play.

We are so happy to support the efforts of this small organization. Want to meet Emma in person? We will be visiting the Toucan Rescue Ranch on our Artistic Adventure to Costa Rica in March 2017.

Costa Rica is full of FROGS!

Hi Everyone!

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.

"Froggie" in colored pencil 4.5" x 4.5" ©2016 Mlighthipe

“Froggie” in colored pencil 4.5″ x 4.5″ ©2016 Mlighthipe

If you are inserted in having this little guy in your home He is for sale…. $90 unframed with FREE Shipping!


ASBA- NY Horticultural Society 18th Annual International Botanical Art Exhibit

This year My Biriba Fruit with Hairstreak Butterfly; Annona mucosa, Atlides polybe painting was accepted into the ASBA- NY Horticultural Society 18th Annual International Botanical Art Exhibit. The exhibit will be up until December 30, 2015. Here is the story behind the painting.

Biriba Fruit- ©2014 Mindy Lighthipe

For the past 25 years I have traveled to Costa Rica and Central America to lead botanical and natural science artists into the rainforest. The diversity of species within the Neo-Tropics is astounding. The rainforest has become my classroom, where I learn and teach. Last year we visited the Tiskita region on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. While hiking on a trail near the ocean I looked up and saw the Biriba Fruit hanging from the trees. The unusual shape and color was something I was immediately fascinated with. These fruits look like ancient flails. They hang at the end of a long stem that is reminiscent of a ball and chain. Fortunately the spikes are rounded and soft and are considered by many to be an edible delicacy. I was able to draw the fruit, the leaf and stem in my sketchbook as well as create watercolor notes for the painting once I returned home.

On the same trip I met a woman who was in the last stages of terminal cancer. One of her wishes was to visit the rainforest and see as many different butterfly species as she could. As we walked along together she spoke of her love of butterflies. We immediately bonded as kindred spirits. The hairstreak butterfly in this painting was one that we spotted on our brief encounter together. The area was just down the ocean path from where I found the Biriba Tree. I sat with her and we quietly took pictures of the butterfly. I never saw the woman again but our chance meeting had an impact on me. Upon my return I painted the Biriba fruit and decided to put the butterfly into the composition. I felt it was a way to tell the story of my encounter with her; a small, fearless butterfly resting peacefully on a terrain of many peaks and valleys.
As a botanical and natural science artist I paint things depicting the interconnectedness of plants and insects in the natural world. Many of my works depict the lifecycle of butterflies with their host plants. This particular painting is more about the chance meeting of these two species and my chance meeting with another nature enthusiast.

I LOVE the iPhone!

I just got back from my trip to Costa Rica. We had 10 days of pure heaven, photographing and sketching the wonders of the rainforest. One of things I enjoyed the most was taking pictures with my iPhone. I have the iPhone 5s and it does a great job in taking close up photos. For the trip I treated myself to a few accessories which really turned out to be wonderful additions to my equipment. Here is a shot I took of a Red-eyed Tree Frog with the iPhone and another photo with the Olloclip 4 in 1 Wide angle lens attachment. Can you believe the clarity????? I used the “Selfie Stick” to get into some tight places. It also helped to keep the camera steady while I was trying to focus and click the shutter.  Below are some other photos I took with the iPhone and the Olloclip lens.


Taken with the iPhone 5s and Olloclip 4 in one lens; wide angle lens ©2015Mlighthipe

Iphone 5s Frog ©2015 Mlighthipe

Taken with the iPhone 5s in Costa Rica. ©2015 Mlighthipe












Here are some more shots I took on the trip with my iPhone. To purchase these products and other useful tools for artists check out my “Amazon Favorites” below.

Hammer Head Wasp- ©2015MLighthipe

This tiny wasp looks like a Hammer Head Shark with wings! It landed on somebodies plate during breakfast!

Cacao Flower- ©2015 Mlighthipe

This very tiny Cacao flower will one day grow up to be CHOCOLATE!

Rainforest Moth- ©2015 Mlighthipe

This vibrant moth was napping under a leaf. the Selfie Sick and Olloclip made this shot from the iPhone a breeze!

©2015MLighthipe Mushrooms in the rainforest

These tiny mushrooms were taken in low light in the rainforest. ©2015MLighthipe


Botanical Illustration in Costa Rica

Botanical ArtThe guaria morada became Costa Rica’s national flower on June 15, 1939. It is said to reflect its nation’s people in its beauty, fragility, and abundance. The gorgeous purple (You know how I love PURPLE!) flower is an epiphytic orchid, growing on trees, sustaining itself, but attaching itself on Costa Rican trees for support.

It grows in pre-montane zones between 1,600 and 3,300 feet above sea level. Due to its near over-harvesting in the past 80 years, they may be difficult to spot in the wild. The distinctive fragile purple petals are easily spotted in local gardens where Costa Ricans proudly cultivate the bloom. ( I just got back and they are everywhere!) The flower is still popular and can be found in nearly any botanical garden or nursery in Costa Rica.

The guaria morada has a very fragile scent that is said to be filled with dreams yet to be fulfilled. The spiritual significance of the flower is quite touching – it brings fortune and luck while evoking peace and love according to local lore.

Photographs don’t do the bloom justice. Botanical illustration captures an accurate rendering of the stem, leaves, and bloom while maintaining a semblance of the spiritual importance that the flower has in Costa Rican culture.  I painted this orchid many years ago and luckily sold the painting before the age of digital archives so I will just have to paint another one!

In the meantime here is a painting that I did of a naturalized hybrid orchid. This orchid is a hybrid that occurs naturally in Costa Rica. It is called Phragmipedium Grande (Phrag. caudatum x Phrag. longifolium) It reportedly was collected in the wild in Costa Rica decades ago, and has been distributed among several orchid growers here in the US. The hybrid has also been artificially recreated by orchid breeders many times. The tendrils were so long! It was loads of fun to paint.

To learn more about Costa Rica’s flora and botanical illustration, please search through my blog posts at Perhaps you would like to join me as I offer art tours and workshops to help you capture the elegance of your own natural endeavors. With the spirit of guaria morada, I would bid you good luck and fortune in all of your future botanical pursuits!


Green Ibis

Green Ibis ©2014 MIndy LighthipeI 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.

Green Ibis Photo ©2014 MLighthipeHere 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.

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