Renowned Artist Provides Instruction at Rookery Bay Reserve

Rookery Bay.classby Renee Wilson

Rookery Bay Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of pristine wilderness, and within Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center those acres are transformed indoors in the form of art.

A 70-foot watercolor of wildlife and habitats by local artist Kathy Spalding flows across the exhibit wall. An 18-foot by 20- foot black- and-white photograph of a mangrove island by Clyde Butcher anchors the stairway. In the art gallery, a partnership with the United Arts Council of Collier County annually provides juried painting and photography exhibits by local artists. And in the classroom, back by popular demand for the third season, art enthusiasts can learn from master artist, author and instructor Lee Hammond, whose classes cover a variety of modes and styles with a focus on animals and landscapes.

Hammond is a police composite artist, holds licenses to paint pictures of NASCAR drivers and has published more than 30 art instruction books that have sold more than one million copies. With a home base in the Midwest all summer and fall, Hammond has established her winter teaching home at Rookery Bay.

In February Hammond offers two animal drawing classes, one in graphite and the other in colored pencil, and follows up in March with acrylics classes covering realistic painting of landscapes and seascapes.

Hammond has taken jobs in nearly every aspect of art, including commercial graphic layout, retail store displays and billboard painting and illustration. In the late 70s, she pursued a career in law enforcement and became the police composite artist for the Lincoln Police Department in Nebraska. She was even trained by Smith & Wesson.

Hammond then moved to Kansas City and remains the police artist for the Kansas City Metro Squad to this day. She has been on call
for the show America’s Most Wanted and has been featured on Court TV, TruTV and many other crime shows and documentaries.

Hammond became one of the leading illustrators for NASCAR, creating custom drawings and prints for the NASCAR drivers and teams from 2000-2004. These were sold nationwide and on QVC. Lifelike Portraits from Photographs was published in 1994 and became one of North Light Books’ best sellers. It was re-released in 2010 as a 15th anniversary edition. She is also creating a full line of teaching DVDs and has had more than 30 books published on drawing and painting, many of which are available for purchase in the nature store at the Environmental Learning Center.

Class space is limited and registration is required. Class tuition is $375 for her five-day classes (supplies extra).

Upcoming Events

Register online at

Feb. 3 (noon to 1 p.m.)

Lunch & Learn Lecture
The Scent of Scandal: Inside the Wild World of Orchid Smugglers
A look at the bizarre world of orchid smuggling, which resulted in a
Florida scientific institution — and tourist attraction — being charged
with violating federal law. Includes lunch from Carrabba’s. $10 (free
for members)

Feb. 5 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Darwin Day

In celebration of the birthday of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin,
the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center offers “buy one, get
one free admission.” Registration NOT required.

Feb. 9 – 13 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Art Class: Animal Drawing in Graphite

Feb. 14 (8:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

“Wing it!” beginning birder’s workshop
The program will introduce participants to the basics of birding
including the use of plumage, flight patterns, behavior, binoculars,
field guides, and other tools in field identification. The classroom
session will be followed by a field trip to a nearby park to practice new
skills. Registration is required as space is limited to 20 students. $30
(members $25).

Feb. 23 – 27 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Art Class: Colored Pencils

Feb. 27 (5:30-7 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m.)

Amazing Adventures Lecture Series
“Getting to the Roof of Africa”
World traveler and Biomedical Engineer Scott
Sherman presents his adventure of climbing the
highest volcano in Africa: Kilimanjaro. The talk
includes the planning, preparation, training, travel
and successful completion of the trek. Over 20,000 people attempt
to summit this mountain annually and only about half of them actually
make it. Relive the experience with Scott and learn what lessons
can be learned from undertaking such a grand adventure. Includes
refreshments. $10 (free for members).
Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, 300 Tower Road
(between Naples and Marco Island off Collier Boulevard) is open Mon
– Sat, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 239.530.5972.

Volunteer honored for his contributions

Ted BelowTed Below recognized for 40 years of avian monitoring

Ted Below, a longstanding volunteer at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, was recognized by the Board of County Commissioners in Collier County on December 9 for his dedication to the study of birds and the protection of their habitats in south

Following his tenure as National Audubon Society warden at Rookery Bay, Below continued his efforts to monitor pelicans, wading bird rookeries, osprey nests, and beach bird nest colonies. He conducted his work as both a paid employee of the reserve and also as a volunteer, often regardless of weather conditions. It was this determination that encouraged Gary Lytton, director for the reserve, to nominate him for national recognition in 2001 as one of NOAA’s Environmental Heroes. On his 90th birthday in December, Below was presented a proclamation, prepared by his colleagues at Audubon of the Western Everglades.

Below has logged more than 9,000 hours of volunteer service at Rookery Bay Reserve, shares his library of bird photographs he has taken, and continues to provide lectures about the birds he studies.

Perhaps his biggest accomplishment is his long-term database of avian populations.

“It is astounding in the world of wildlife research to have a 40 year long record of coastal birds in Southwest Florida,” said Lytton.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters near Naples. It is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in cooperation with NOAA. For more information visit

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