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.




The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica

20 years ago I made my first trip to Costa Rica. I had always wanted to see the rainforest. I went with some friends and we traveled by bicycle. Bicycling in Costa Rica was a challenge for me. To make a long story short…. I sold my bicycle there and have taken the bus and rented cars ever since. The first contact I made on that trip was Judy and Luis Arroyo. At the time they had a small business on the Estrella River giving birdwatching tours on a pontoon boat. The business name was Aviarios del Caribe; “The Aviary of the Caribbean”.  I wanted to stay longer but didn’t have the funds so I was looking for a place to volunteer. I was hoping to swap a t-shirt design for a place to stay. I wanted to spend a quiet week or so painting. I believe I was their first volunteer!

“Dulciné the 3-Fingered Sloth” Watercolor ©1992 Mindy Lighthipe. This is one of my very first paintings from my studies at the New York Botanical Gardens Illustration Program.

This is where I met my first sloth. Many of you know Buttercup. She is the 3-fingered Bradypus sloth that has become the mascot of the Sloth Sanctuary. She is the most photographed and probably the most famous sloth in the world. This was not the sloth I met. The first sloth  that came to Judy and Luis was also a 3-fingered sloth. Her name was Dulciné. She did not live very long but she paved the way for Buttercup and many other sloths to find their way to the Sanctuary. At this time there was very little known about sloths. It was uncertain what they ate, how they reproduced or communicated.The Arroyos became fascinated with these rainforest mammals and before anyone realized it, the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica was born.

The experience of staying in Costa Rica was life changing for me. When I came home I enrolled in the NYBG botanical illustration program.  I decided to go back to school and study scientific illustration. I started my career in art and teaching in the early 1990′s. Since that trip I have been traveling to Costa Rica every year. I have been leading tours for 15 years to share with others what I have grown to love.  Each year we visit the Sloth Sanctuary and yes, Buttercup is still there!

In May of 2011 my dear friend Luis Arroyo passed away leaving Judy and her family to run and operate the Sloth Sanctuary. It has been a struggle with the world wide economic situation, the growing sloth population, habitat destruction and more, but Judy Avey-Arroyo is moving forward to continue the dream that she and Luis started years ago.

“The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica” Watercolor & Gouache ©2012 MLighthipe #40 of #52/52 Painting Challenge

So I am following full circle. I have just finished a new painting. I worked from some of the photographs that Suzie Eszterhas  took of a 3-fingered sloth and her new born baby. I am pleased and honored to share with you the new Sloth Sanctuary Logo. I am currently working on t-shirt designs and other gift items. The new “Sloth Shop” is up and running for the holidays!

make custom gifts at Zazzle

Cedar Key, Florida

Nature’s Eden

“Blue Heron” Original Watercolor by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012
On exhibit at Cedar Key, Fl

I am pleased to write about a new organization I joined here in Florida. It is called Florida’s Eden. They are a group of artists, nature lovers and business people who all care about the delicate and amazing environment here in Florida. They are the voice for positive, solution-oriented approaches to Florida’s economy, environment and education. They have an amazing website and I highly recommend that you take a stroll through and see the amazing things they have listed on their website. Not from Florida? Their ideas can easily be adopted and translated to any area that you are from in the world. See how you might help preserve your local  environment, educate others, while boosting the local economy too. Local=WIN, WIN, WIN!

My painting of the “Blue Heron” (#40 of my 52/52 Painting Challenge) will be included in a Florida Eden’s Art Exhibit coming up in December. Here are the details.

If you are in the area I hope to see you at the artist’s reception!

“Visions for the Region”

December 1-30, 2012
Opening Reception:  December 1st, Saturday, 4pm – 6pm

Cedar Key Arts Center
457 Second Street
Cedar Key, FL
Upstairs, over the Cedar Keyhole Arts Coop
Open 7 days, 10 am – 5 pm

Hope to see you there!

Sea Grapes are Native!

I hope that everyone on the eastern coast of the USA are recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. I have friends and family who still do not have power and some that  have massive property damage. My heart goes out to everyone and hope that things get back to normal soon.

Painting #38 of 52/52 Challenge- Sea Grapes -Watercolor Mlighthipe©2012

All over Florida we have a plant that is used as an ornamental plant but it actually has many environmental benefits. This native plant is called Sea Grape, – Coccoloba uvifera. It actually has been documented to  help sea turtles! Coccoloba uvifera is a remarkable native, salt- tolerant species of plant found along many of Florida’s beaches. Plants appear as low spreading bushes or tall continuous hedges along the sand dunes. This plant can be identified by its thick circular leaves 8” to 10” in diameter and its grape-like clusters of fruit. This fruit is consumed by a number of native birds and mammals, while the protective canopy provides habitat for animals including songbirds, lizards, gopher tortoise and beach mice.

In addition to providing habitat, sea grape helps to stabilize sand dunes and to protect upland structures from storm-induced erosion. In fact, this plant has been deemed important enough to protect under Florida Statute. So how do they help sea turtles?

Throughout the state, stands of sea grape act as a natural vegetative barrier blocking artificial light from nesting beaches and minimizing upland glow. Trimming or removal of this vegetative barrier can increase illumination levels on the beach and deter nesting or disorient hatchlings. This is considered interference with the normal nesting behavior of threatened and endangered species and can expose the property owner to potential fines or imprisonment under the Endangered Species Act (1973) and Florida Statutes 161 and 370.12.

I found this awesome article from the University of Florida. To read more about Sea Grapes visit:

I am not sure that Sea Grapes could have deterred Hurricane Sandy from wreaking havoc, but it may aid in erosion of beaches and continue to provide food and shelter to the animals that live nearby. When ever you can………. Think Native Plants! They have so much to offer.

This original watercolor is available for sale in my Etsy Shop.

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?

Black & White at Salmagundi

Drawing Exhibition at the Salmagundi Club

"Mark", by Artist Lea Collie Wight, graphite ©2012  Salmagundi Club

There is a new juried exhibit at the Salmagundi Club in New York City.

Lower Gallery, September 17, 2012 – October 05, 2012

The Salmagundi Club was founded in 1871, and is one of the oldest art organizations in the USA. The club is located inside an historic brownstone mansion in Greenwich Village in New York City. It offers programs including art classes, exhibitions, painting demonstrations, and art auctions throughout the year for members and the general public. They have three galleries. In its 140 year history it has a membership of nearly 850 artists and patrons,  such as Thomas Moran, William Merritt Chase, Louis Comfort Tiffany, N.C. Wyeth and Childe Hassam. The Club provides a center for representational art in America.

I recently was accepted as a " juried member" into the Club. The first exhibition I submitted my work to, is the current "Drawings" exhibit.  It is currently on exhibit until October 5, 2012. I love to draw and I love graphite. I was allowed to submit 2 pieces for this juried event. I packed and FedEx-ed my 2 pieces hoping NOT to get a phone call. A phone call means that the work was not accepted into the show. I did not get a phone call and happily I received "Honorable Mention" for my drawing , "Weevil" in graphite dust on mylar. I have included both of my pieces in the show in this post so that you can see them. I highly recommend that if you are in the neighborhood to go see the show. I am really excited that I got in and that for my first show there I was recognized with an Honorable Mention!

"The Cotton Club" #32 Graphite Dust on Paper- MLighthipe ©2012

"Weevil" Graphite Dust on Mylar  MLighthipe ©2012

#33 of #Paint52, Honorable Mention in "Drawings" at the Salmagundi Club

Scan Your Art!

"T is for Tuxedo" #32 of #Paint52


"T is for Tuxedo" watercolor & ink original by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012

I had a blast painting this little piece. It took me about a week or so to figure out the colors. I spent a lot of time on the drawing and inked it with a black micron pen. I didn't realize how complicated the design was and the only thing I knew for sure was that the cat had to be black and white! I scanned the image into my computer and printed it out in a smaller size. The original is 8" x 10". I printed several small b&w versions, about 5" x 7" each onto watercolor paper. I quickly made some color choices. This was very helpful. I painted about 4 versions….. After the first one, I took what I liked and didn't like and went to the next version. It was a great process to go through and by the time I was done I had a clear plan.  I have never done this before and I highly recommend it for design work. My paintings are normally done from life so the color is decided for me. If I had I painted it like I did my first version, I would have been miserable. The color was all wrong. I would have needed to ink it again and start over. Thank goodness for computer skills……. speaking of this……..

I promised you a blog post about scanning art. It has taken me about 2-3 weeks to write this tutorial about scanning. At first I was just going to simply do a blog post. I recently got a program called "Dragon Dictate" and it allows me to talk into a microphone. As I talk, the computer types.This is an awesome way to get my thoughts and words into typed form. Once I finished talking, there was text ready to edit and I began adding images of each step. I started this tutorial/blog post/project by creating a card from this painting. The painting is from an assignment that I did in Val Webb's online "Drawn & Decorated" Class. (A new section of this class starts November 16th. I highly recommend it!) As I went through the process of making a greeting card, I took screen shots. Before I realized it, I had over 18 pages with step by step instructions, text and coordinating images! It is way too big to put into the blog post. I am in the process of creating a downloadable PDF/eBook. I am researching the best way to get it on my blog so that I can offer it to you as a download. The cost of this ebook is $1.99 and gives you a "bonus tutorial" on "Preparing Images for the Internet". There are many tutorials on working with photographs in Photoshop, but not many that deal with artists and scanning paintings. Here is a sneak peak from the book! I hope that you find it useful. If you "click" on each page a new window will open in your viewfinder for easier reading.

Carnivorous Botanical Painting

Designing Botanical Art for T-shirts

"Bog Life- Pitcher Plant"  Original Watercolor by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012      Paintng #31

When I moved to Florida, I had to leave my garden behind and start all over again. Living in New Jersey for most of my life, I guess I took it for granted that there was good soil everywhere. New Jersey is after all, "The Garden State". A lot of people laugh when they hear this. It is often thought of as the Industrial wasteland at the "arm pit" of New York. It is true that there are many oil refineries and lots of industry. NJ has ugly sections, but once you get inland the soil is rich and fertile. I had an impressive flower garden filled with Peonies, Daylilies, Hydrangeas, Bearded Irises. My vegetable garden had the best tomatoes, asparagus, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. My native garden had about 7 host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars as well as countless nectar plants for the adults. It was a labor of love for over 11 years.

My first experience with a shovel in Florida was not what I expected! It sunk into the ground and I immediately came up with a huge pile of dirty sand. I kept digging but there was no "dirt" to be found. I knew I was in trouble. How am I going to get this property to be a garden and not a brown sandy mess? I immediately joined the Florida Native Plant Society. The most important things I learned about gardening is that invasive plants can take all the fun out of gardening and buying plants that are not suitable for the climate or soil is a waste of time, energy, water and money. Florida as well as other parts of the USA have been experiencing a drought. The heat and the intensity of the summer sun makes it even worse. Planting native plants was the way to go. I quickly started to learn about host plants for Florida's native butterflies. I currently have about 20 different host plants for the caterpillars and this summer I saw more butterflies, moths, caterpillars and lots of other flying critters in my yard than I ever did in New Jersey.

The Paynes Prairie Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society (my chapter) asked me to do a t-shirt design for them. Every fall they have a plant sale and hundreds of native plants go up for sale in a feeding frenzy for eager gardeners. I decided to paint the Pitcher Plant, (Sarracenia leucophylla) because it is one of the native plants in my area that is rare and endangered. They are so unusual. The open "pitcher" is a trap for unsuspecting insects. Once a bug crawls into the pitcher, it is "curtains" for the bug! The inside of the plant has many sticky little hairs that trap the insect. It eventually dies, decomposes and the plant ingests it. Yum!

The little frog in the painting is the "Green Tree Frog" (Hyla cinerea). It too is rare because if it is being pushed out by the Cuban Tree Frog, (Osteopilus septentrionalis) an introduced and invasive specie. The Cuban Frog actually will eat the native green tree frog. Both the plant and frog live in a bog environment, which because of the drought and water issues in Florida, are making it harder to survive. The Common white-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum albistylum) and the Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) also live in bogs so I thought they would be a nice addition to the painting.

Designing and painting for printing on fabric has some special considerations. Here are some tips and pointers.

  1. The images must be bold and slightly outlined. If the lines are too light  and delicate, they will not print.
  2. The color should be punched up and brighter that normal. Pastel colors sometimes fade or disappear in the printing process.
  3. Be careful in choosing colored t-shirts to print on. If they are too dark, the lighter colors in the painting will not show up.
  4. Talk with the printing company and find out what resolution and format the digital file needs to be in. Most companies recommend 300 dpi and jpeg format. Sometimes a company requires a different format and you may have to do the file over again.
  5. Have a proof done before the whole job is printed. It would be a disaster if there was a typo or the color combination of the painting clashes with the fabric color of the t-shirt. This may cost you money, but it is well worth the extra price.
  6. Find out the delivery time. If it is for a benefit or special date, give the printer a month or more to get the job done. If there are errors or mistakes, there will be time to fix it.

I have scanned the painting into the computer and am ready to start playing with text. The t-shirt will have the chapter's name and FNPS printed on it. This t-shirt helps to benefit the society and bring awareness to the public about using native plants in their garden. When the shirts are available for sale I will let ya'll know!

I haven't forgotten about the Photoshop demo on scanning, color correcting and printing. I am putting it together, so hang in there while I get it written. I am working on it!

~ Mindy

How to Create a Greeting Card

Start with the Finished Product

“Kohlrabi” Original Watercolor Painting #29 – Mindy Lighthipe ©2012

Would you like to reproduce your artwork onto a greeting card? I have had many of my students over the years ask me the best way to go about doing this. There are many different ways to make a greeting card. It depends on the following things:

  1. How many cards do you want/need to make?
  2. What is your computer knowledge?
  3. What editing software do you have?
  4. What is your budget?
  5. When do you need the cards finished?
  6. Is this a job you can hire someone else to do?

If you have NO computer experience, it is still possible to create a descent quality greeting card. I am going to go through the beginning of the process and as time goes by I will add more information about how to create your own greeting card in future posts.


  I can not stress this step more. Let’s say that I want to make a series of greeting cards out of my Kohlrabi and Heirloom Tomato paintings. The finished product size is going to be a 5″ x 7″ folded card. My painting must fit into this proportion or parts of it will be cut, cropped off, or have too much white space around it.

The Kohlrabi painting is 10″ x 14″. I did this intentionally because I wanted a 5″ x 7″ card. The painting is exactly twice the size of the card I want to make. The reason I did it this large is that I knew that I would not be able to paint all the detail in a 5 x 7 so I multiplied the width and height by 2 and got the exact proportions I needed for a 5 x 7 card.

The Heirloom Tomato painting is 8″ x 8″. I was not thinking about what my finished card would be. Here is an example of some of the troubles you can run into if the proportions are not the same.

In example A. I scanned the tomato into my computer and placed it into a 5 x 7 format. As you can see part of the tomato as well as the banner is cut off. The card will look awful if I printed it this way. 

In example B. I made the image smaller using an editing software program called Adobe Photoshop Elements (I will explain more about Photoshop and simple things to do in another lesson.) I then placed the tomato into the 5 x 7 format and found that the tomato had so much white space around it that the tomato was floating. It looked lost to me and I wasn’t crazy about the look of it.

In example C I dropped a red background into the card and placed the tomato on top of it. This is the one that I liked the best. However, it doesn’t look like the kohlrabi. If I put a colored background around the kohlrabi I will have to crop off some of the painting. So I now have 2 cards that look good, but they do not work as a set.

What could I have done? What should have I done? I should have decided that I was going to do a series of 5 x 7 cards and created every painting in a 10 x 14 format. I probably would have added another tomato or some leaves to make the card more substantial and match the complexity of the kohlrabi.

I hope that this beginning step will help you in the process of creating your own greeting cards. I will talk about  different options for printing the cards from going to a local office supply store, ordering cards online, creating one of kind hand made cards and more. If you have any questions please post on the blog.

To find out more about scanning your art check out my e-Book, “Scan YOUR Art”.




Triquetra- Celtic Knot

Painting #28 of #Paint52

Trinity knot Painting Mlighthipe ©2012

Painting # 28 comes from my class with Val Webb. We learned how to do some simple Celtic Knot designs. I liked the simplicity of the Trinity Knot and decided to challenge myself with doing a complicated beetle design. I have always been super fond of beetles and I thought it would be challenging to work with Iridescence and bright colors. It was a bit tricky at first to create the "triquetra" because I had to make sure it was big enough for me to be able to squeeze in all the detail I wanted. I also didn't want it to be too big. I finally settled on a 6" x 6" square. I then started to draw in the beetles and where the strand went under the other I had to figure what part of the beetle would begin to disappear. It reminded me of the work of  MC Esher. I have always adored his amazing work. The detail and the way he worked with perspective in my opinion has never been so successfully rendered.

Here is a little bit of history regarding The Celtic Trinity Knot, or the triquetra knot. The word Triquetra comes from Latin, and means "three-cornered."
When I think of the word "Trinity" it immediately reminds me of the word Christians use for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In doing some reading on the subject I found out that the Celts created this symbol  way before Christianity. The pagan school of thought sees the trinity knot as the drawing of the three inherent feminine powers: Maiden, Mother, and Crone (Older Woman). It is used in the practice of Wiccans and Neopagans.

Here are more meanings that I found:
    •    spirit, mind, body
    •    mother, father, child
    •    past, present, future
    •    power, intellect, love
    •    creator, destroyer, sustainer
    •    creation, preservation, destruction
    •    thought, feeling, emotion
    •    earth, air, and water
    •    life, death, and rebirth

My dad was an English teacher and his interest in language and folklore has always been present in my art. It is interesting to find the meanings behind symbols and words. For me, beetles are a symbol of the past, present and future. They are the largest group of animals on the planet, (350,000- 450,000 different ties of beetles on earth today.)with the greatest variety in textures and color patterns. They are found in the past. The scarab beetle signified creation and I am sure that they will out live us in the future!

Do you have a favorite symbol that you have worked with? I would love to hear your thoughts about what kind of symbols fascinate you!

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