Art Expectations-Why do YOU want to learn to draw?

In preparing for teaching my online drawing class I am thinking about ways I could help my students. The internet is allowing me to teach people from the USA, Australia, Europe, South America and Istanbul! When I teach in a physical classroom, I get to know my students on a more intimate level. I am excited about teaching online and want everyone to get the most of the classes. One of the big questions that comes to mind is……..

Why do YOU want to learn to draw?

Everyone’s reasons are personal. Here are a few things I would like my blog readers as well as my students to think about:

  • You are looking to become a professional artist and sell your work.
  • You have always wanted to learn to draw but didn’t know where to start.
  • You have drawn for years and feel your foundation in drawing is weak.
  • You haven’t drawn in years and want to get back into it.
  • You love to draw and do it for pleasure and relaxation.
  • You believe you can’t draw but thought you’d give it a try anyway.

What are your expectations?

  • At the end of a class I should be a professional.
  • I hope to gain better insight into the skills involved in learning to draw.
  • I have been frustrated with my current skill level and need guidance.
  • I want to have fun and thought this would be something I’d enjoy.
  • I am hoping to have a good level of understanding of drawing and how to draw any subject.

What is your level of commitment in learning to draw?

  • I am committed to drawing every waking minute!
  • My approach is casual and plan to draw when I am in the mood.
  • I can devote an hour a day to drawing.
  • I am sooooo busy I will draw when I get a spare moment.
  • Come hell or high water I will get the fundamentals of drawing no matter how long it takes.
  • If it seems too hard or takes too much time, I will probably give up.

Some of these choices may seem ridiculous to you and to others completely rational and reasonable.

Here is a personal story:

In 1991 I decided to become a professional artist. I took a 2 year program at NYBG in 9 months. I worked full time, took classes and drew at least 20, sometimes 30 hours a week. Within 3 years my income came from my art and teaching art. I had a plan, committed to it and made it happen.

Since I was a little girl, I wanted to learn to play the piano. My parents couldn’t afford the lessons or the piano. I never learned to read music, but always sang and played the guitar because I could use my dad’s guitar. In 2009 my mom surprised me with a PIANO along with piano lessons. I had a teacher come to the house once a week, I practiced 30 minutes, 5 days a week for about 2 months. After that period of time I learned the scales and could play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with 2 hands. I had no idea how hard it was going to be……. I quit, I gave up and haven’t played it since. I made a conscious decision…… I wanted to be really good…….but I wasn’t willing to put in the time to get as good as I wanted. I decided it was better to quit than to be awful or at best mediocre. There are so many things to do and so little time. I decided I can only stretch myself so far and playing the piano would be crossed off the list to other interests.

In both situations I am satisfied with my decisions. I would make the same decision again.

I hope I have given you some food for thought. Where decisions have you made about why art is important to you.

Share it with us. I would love to hear from you.

Pinterest for Artists!

I have been using photographs in my art for a long time.  When I moved to Florida I had to down size my studio and find ways that I could minimize clutter. I had boxes and files full of images from National Geographic, Ranger Rick, Wild Bird Magazine and more. I collected them and used them as reference when I needed some back up reference material for a painting.  (See how I work with photos to create my art). I decided to give away  my paper files and go digital! I discovered Pinterest and was instantly addicted. I decided that Pinterest could end up wasting too much of my time and started to think of ways that I could use it in my art career. Take a look at this 5 minute video and you will see what I am up to.

How do you use Pinterest? What do you love about it? What do you want to learn about it? Please leave your comments below.

Don’t forget to Follow me on Pinterest! Remember ………. “Pin with a Purpose”.



Farewell 2012- Hello 2013!

51 0r 53 but not 52! Challenge Yourself!

I started last year, 2012, off with a 52/52 painting challenge. I wanted to do 52 paintings in 52 weeks. Did I make it? I am not really sure if I did or not. I have uploaded the results of my work onto my Pinterest boards as well as my Flickr account.   My confusion is that I have 53 postings on my Flickr account and 51 on my Pinterest Board. The reason for the discrepancy is that I did major graphite drawings for 2 of my paintings and then scanned and posted them.  I then painted over the graphite drawings using gouache and covering up the graphite. The paintings were again scanned and posted as finished pieces. The question is did I make my challenge or did I fall short?

2012 was the toughest year I have ever had. I lost 2 family members, both unexpected and tragic. I had to deal with several illnesses this year in my family, some curable and and others not. My family suffered the effects of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. All in all, I am glad to see 2012 end.   So given the horrible year  I had, I think I did what I set out to do……….Be an ARTIST.

My message to my readers is this: Do not measure  progress in terms of success or failure, but in terms of whether you have remained true to yourself. Whatever it is, it is important to you, and maybe only to you. Hold onto it, keep it safe and never let it go. My passion for the natural world  is where I find my sanity, hope, and inspiration. To abandon it would have been the worst thing I could have done this year. Thank you for traveling with me on my 52/52 journey. It was great having your support and encouragement.

Here is my last trio of paintings for 2012. I spent the Christmas week in New Jersey and New York City. I stayed with my artist/friend Patricia Wynne and she taught me how to make MonoPrints. I was very reluctant but decided to push out of my comfort zone and try something I didn’t think I would like. I have to say that working with oil based ink on a plexi-glas plate felt like scribbling with motor oil. I wasn’t crazy about the process, but when I was finished I didn’t hate it, half as much as I thought I would! I submitted them to the Salmagundi Club’s MonoPrint Exhibit starting at the end of this month in NYC.

Rainbow Keeled Toucan Monoprint- Mlighthipe©2012

“Plunge”- MonoPrint MLighthipe©2012

“Inferno” MonoPrint MLighthipe ©2012

 I wish all of you a healthy and prosperous 2013. I am looking forward to this new year and will be announcing some special offerings soon. I have been working with some video ideas and will be offering an online class soon.




Multi-Tasking & Time Management

Football Season Means Colored Pencils!

#35 Raja Birdwing- Colored Pencil with Decorative Paper Background. Mlighthipe©2012

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!

#33 Male Wood Duck- Colored Pencil MLighthipe©2012

#34 Goliath Beetle- Colored Pencil- Cast Shadow Photoshop; Mighthipe©2012

#34 Goliath Beetle- Colored Pencil with Decorative Paper; Mlighthipe©2012

#36 Owl Butterfly Emerging- Colored Pencil with Decorative Paper; Mlighthipe©2012

#37 Orange Birdwing Butterfly- Colore Pencil with Decorative Paper Mlighthipe©2012


How do organize your time?

Painting #24- Pretty in Pink!

52/52 Challenge- Painting # 24 –

6 Steps for Artists- Finish that Painting!

"Pretty in Pink" Original watercolor by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012

I know that tulip time has passed and that summer is here but this gorgeous pink tulip is a painting that I started back in the spring before I got bombarded with orchids! Sometimes paintings get left unfinished because something else comes along. With a good solid drawing, paint mixing swatches and some reference photos a painting can come to life and be completed months after it is long gone.

Here are the steps I take to make sure I get all the information I need to complete a painting long after the flower is gone:

  1. Get a good line drawing and composition on a sturdy piece of tracing vellum.
  2. Transfer the drawing onto watercolor paper and redraw to make sure all the lines are fluid, graceful and clearly rendered.  All stems should be in the center of the flowers, etc.
  3. Mix and create color swatches of the flower. The foliage lasts longer and can be done later. This is also true for the bulb and root system.
  4. Paint a petal on a scrap and record the colors used. If it is a complicated color mix, mix enough paint for the painting and save that palette for when it comes time to return to the painting.
  5. Take reference photos of the flower and include macro shots of different parts of the flower, ie: like where the petals meet the stem. I use photos for subtle details rather than for color matching. Color should be done in swatches and documented. Relying on colors from a photo can often be very inaccurate.
  6. Probably the most important thing is to gather all this information and put it all together in a safe place and remember where that safe place is! It is very frustrating to try to complete something without having everything you need in one place.

I hope that these 6 tips help you to create good working habits so that paintings can be completed later on.

Do you have a system that you use to document and save your reference material? I would love to hear from you!


This painting is available for sale. Contact me for more information.

Paint the Flowers First!

52/52 Painting Challenge- Painting # 9

Dendrobium lindleyi (aggregatum)

Original Watercolor by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012

Dendrobium Aggregatum is also known as Dendrobium lindleyi. It is the first specie orchid I have painted. All the orchids I have painted before have all been hybrids. I have been attending the Gainesville Orchid Society meetings and have been learning a lot about them. Although I am not a big fan of the color yellow I loved the pseudo bulbs and the shape of the flowers. They look sort of like pansies and the color reminds me of daffodils. It is about this time that the daffodils start to bloom in New Jersey and this is the first time I am not living in New Jersey to see them. This orchid blooms in the spring and has very fragile yellow  flowers which smell like honey. Most of the orchids I have painted last about 2-4 weeks. I bought this plant with 2 spray of buds on it and within 2 days the flowers were open. I thought it would slowly open up and I would be able to capture the buds as well as the flowers in my painting. Overnight the flowers opened. What do you do when this happens?????? I dropped the painting I was working on which was another Flying Fox Bat and immediately started to draw the flowers. I quickly got the composition done, transferred the drawing, redrew it and painted the flowers FIRST! The foliage, pseudo bulbs and roots will be there after the flowers are gone. This is how I normally do my painting. If the flowers die before I get a chance to paint them I usually wait until the following year to paint. It seems like a long time to wait but I prefer to do this rather than work from photos. The color and details I can get are more accurate than relying on photos. Luckily this time I was able to get it painted before they all died. My growing expertise is yet to be seen. I don't know if the plant will ever bloom for me again….. for that matter….. I don't know if I can even keep it alive! Thank goodness I have the 52/52 challenge to keep me on my toes!

Break out the Label Maker- Time Management for Artists

I have had people write into to me with questions about how to manage time. One of the biggest complaints I hear is,

"I never have enough time to paint, How do you do it?" 

Do you know where your kneaded eraser is?

One of the first things is to be dedicated. A long time ago when all my friends were getting married and talking about having children I made the early decision not to raise a family and commit my life to being an artist. I never really had the strong maternal "urge". My instincts were to create art and I knew that I would not be able to pursue my dream if I had children to raise. I know lots of artists who have done both; raised children and have a successful art career. For me it never seemed possible to do both. don't be discouraged you can still be focused too even with a family.

So in part to answer the question, "How do I do it?"   I immerse myself in my work. I constantly take and teach classes. I grow and raise my subjects. It seems everywhere I turn there is something that is art related surrounding me.

Of course I have the problem that others have about evil necessities like eating, sleeping, cleaning cat boxes, watching football with my husband and being the caregiver for my mother. Every artist has stumbling blocks. One summer my mother was very ill and it was almost impossible to get any art done. I stopped and thought about how was I wasting my time? My biggest issue was trying to find things…… Where are the scissors? my kneaded eraser, my favorite brush etc…. I was spending tons of energy and frustrating moments trying to find things. As we head into the New Year one of my ways of reclaiming time is to label the outside of all my drawers and storage compartments. I must have a dozen kneaded erasers and I have a pull out drawer that is labeled "erasers". When I clean up, I have a place to put those erasers that have grown legs and walked around the house. When I can't find an eraser I go to that box and viola! there they are, or at least one so I can get to work. Putting labels gives everything a home, a place to return to at the end of the day.

If you are looking to reclaim time so you have more time to create ask yourself, " How do I waste the most time during the day?"

Please leave your comments and solutions so that you can share with others how you "find more time to paint". We would love to hear from you!


I am almost finished with painting #3…….coming on Friday… The Pinocchio Orchid!