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!



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!

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!

Drawing Butterflies

Charaxes lucretius © Tammy Mcentee colored pencil 4.5″ x 6″ Contact Tammy at:

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:

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

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

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

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

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!

New Online Drawing Class!


I am thrilled to announce that after at least 2+ years I have finally developed and designed an online drawing class. I did a lot of research and took several online art classes to see what worked, and what didn’t.  To my surprise I found I really liked distance learning. I was able to work at my leisure, go back and review key points, and share my experience with other artists from around the world via Facebook.

In designing my class I wanted to fill a void in the online art video world. After researching what was available on the internet and evaluating my own strengths and weaknesses, I came up with DRAWING as a FOUNDATION. I have taught for over 20 years, teaching drawing, pen & ink, colored pencil, gouache, watercolor, pastel, and scratchboard. With the exception of drawing, all of these subjects are techniques. Drawing is the one thing that all these techniques have in common. It is where they all start. You can’t learn these techniques with out having some kind of drawing to work with.

All too often I see artists give up or be frustrated with their work. They rush in too fast to do the painting part, often working from photographs and do not understand what to do. There are drawing errors right from the beginning which were overlooked until color, form or black & white techniques were introduced. After investing countless hours on a piece, the frustrated artist gives up and declares the piece a “failure”.

When I was the Program Coordinator at the New York Botanical Garden, the first thing I did was to make Drawing 1 mandatory for all students. The program consists of 200+ hours for a certification in Botanical Illustration and every student who wanted to take any of the classes had to start with Drawing 1. Sometimes potential students were disheartened to hear Drawing 1 was a pre-requisite, but after going through it, the beginner as well as the experienced artist was grateful for the education.

I have taken what I taught in that beginning Drawing 1 class and expanded it, improved it, and tailored it to artists looking for a good, step by step, in depth Drawing Foundation Class.

The class begins February 18 and runs until April 22, 2015. The videos are available until June 22 during this class to give students plenty of time to do the assignments and review the course material.

Click here for more information or

Sign me UP!  $149

Costa Rica Art & Photography Tour!

Top 10 Reasons to go to Costa Rica!

Click here for itinerary!

Iphone 5s Frog ©2015 Mlighthipe1. No SNOWY, DREARY, DANK, ICEY weather in Costa Rica
2. No down jackets, polar fleece or thermal gloves allowed.
3. Mindy shows you awesome ways to draw and photograph the amazing flora and fauna of Costa Rica.
4. Your very own Nature Guide will take you on daily hikes for birdwatching, frog hunting and more!
5. Watch chocolate grow on the trees.
6. Stay in a place where orchids are dripping off the trees.
7. See frogs that are electric blue, raspberry red and lime green.
8. Help conservation efforts to rehabilitate toucans, sloths and owls…. of MY!
9. Take a boat ride through the jungle and pretend you are in a Humprey Bogart movie.

and the best reason……
Where can you go in February, drink a fruity cocktail in a rocking chair with one toe dipped into the pool, a pair of binoculars around your neck, your camera in your lap, your drawing pad on the table next to the rocker, watch a caterpillar pupate into a chrysalis at the same time you watch the sunset, listening to the chirp of a grasshopper, in hopes of seeing a quetzal fly past you?

If you would like more information about the tour please click here

Realism or Illustration- Which do you prefer?

Metallic Beetle ©2013 Mindy Lighthipe

This Metallic Beetle was painted 400% larger than life. ©2013 Mindy Lighthipe




Botanical Art is rich in tradition, especially when it comes to technique and composition.

I promised to share with you the class I took last month with Anna Mason at the Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Fl. She has a very wonderful style of painting that is not a “typical” botanical portrait. Her subjects are  all larger than life. They give a blast of color as you enter a room or gallery. The images “pop” and as her website is called, Watercolors With WOW, this describes Anna’s work perfectly.

I really didn’t know that much about Anna or the way she painted but I wanted to take a class to see how someone else approaches watercolor. To my surprise these huge paintings are done with mostly very small brushes and are done in a dry brush technique. This is completely the opposite way that I work so it was definitely a challenge for me. I struggled in class but managed to do 2 almost identical paintings in the class. The first painting was done more in the technique I use with my color selection and the second painting was done using a dry brush and Anna’s color palette.

Anna works mostly from her own photographs and it is very interesting to me that if the detail is not present in the photo, it does not  appear in the painting. She does not add detail where it is not seen in the photo. This is very different from the way that I was trained and my tendency was to want to add things that I see on the living orchid but were not in focus on the photo. When I questioned Anna about not putting in the missing parts, her reply was, “The difference between my work and other painters of botanical subjects is that my paintings have a high sense of realism, while other botanical painters focus on all of the details which makes their paintings, illustrations.” I thought about this for a while and she is absolutely correct in her thinking. A botanical purest would have to agree that Anna’s paintings are so lifelike that they almost seem like photographs. Traditional botanical works usually have less contrast and depth. Botanical painters often use a formulaic scientific lighting usually leaving out shadows and cast shadows. Often the paintings show cross sections and dissections of plant parts. The typical botanical style clearly is an illustration.

After I got home from the workshop I decided to do a metallic beetle and blow it up 400%. I worked from several photographs and this is my result. I still haven’t reached a comfort zone with her technique and used some of my own techniques thrown in along the way. I do my painting for myself and I like a good challenge along the way.  I strive to grow, learn, and incorporate new techniques into my  own style and vision.

What is your take on realistic painting versus illustration? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment and share your views.

Awesome Frogs of Costa Rica!

Commando Frog & Red GingerFabulous FROGS!

I am very excited to share this painting with you. It was done by one of my students Rayma Peterson. Rayma was with us this past February on the Artistic Adventure tour of Costa Rica. One of the highlights for many of us in the group was the opportunity to photograph and sketch tropical poison dart and tree frogs. On every tour we have a naturalist guide that finds the most fabulous things for us. Part of the itinerary is staying at Selva Verde Lodge. It is in the heart of the Saripiqui region and has an abundance of wildlife. Our guide this year was Jimmy and he did an awesome job of “frog catching”. He set up tables to  recreate the forest floor. He then released several species of frogs onto the leaf litter.

The focus of our artist/photographer tour is to teach people to gather enough reference material through photographs, onsite sketching, color notes and personal experience to go back home to their studios and paint! This is exactly what Rayma did. It is now 6 months later. She lives in Toronto where the summers are short and the winters are long. I really love the detail and color she got in her leaf litter. The painting is rich in color and texture. It was so awesome to see her painting and interpretation of our “frog day”.

To see more of Rayma’s work visit her websites at:

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If you would like to join us in Costa Rica in 2014 click here.

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