Florida Society of Botanical Artists Exhibition

In December of 2016 I had the wonderful opportunity to teach a group of artists at the Florida Society of Botanical Artists in Sarasota Florida. The society is a local chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists. This was the third time they invited me to teach the group. This particular workshop was about drawing birds. I teach a variety of subjects and incorporate some ornithology anatomy in my Intro to Scientific Illustration class at the University of Florida. I wondered why this group wanted to work with birds instead of botanical subjects…….. The answer is they were preparing for an exhibition at the Sarasota Audubon Society which is located at The Celery Fields.

The exhibition is titled “Backyard Beauties” and will show case beautiful paintings of native plants and birds found in the unique ecosystem of The Celery Fields. Native plants are very important to the survival of many local and migrating species.

The Celery Fields is a 360+ acre site which consists of open marshlands, deep ponds, shallow pools, and canals. It is edged with oaks, willows, and pines. In early 2001, Sarasota Audubon began conducting bird surveys at the Fields. To date, 217 species have been recorded. Wintertime offers particularly good birding, hosting sparrows, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, and several species of rails, including Sora and Virginia. The Fields also host breeding birds, including Black-necked Stilts, King Rail, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, Eastern Towhee, Barn Owl and Eastern Meadowlark. Least Terns breed on nearby buildings and use the ponds as a primary food source. Rarities show up from time to time, including Upland and White-rumped Sandpipers, Short-eared Owl and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Sarasota County, recognizing the importance of the Celery Fields as a food and habitat source to a wide variety of birds and other wildlife, worked with Sarasota Audubon to restore 100+ acres in the Southern Cells into a more traditional wetland.

If you are in the area please visit The Celery Fields, do some nature hiking and see some of the wonderful art by the Florida Society of Botanical Artists. Details about the exhibit are located on the flyer.

Mother Monarch is featured in Cape May, NJ

11887739_828986103884343_2386452696524935746_oI recently was “tagged” on Facebook by a friend who saw that Whales Tale was selling and promoting my children’s book Mother Monarch! As many of you know I am originally from New Jersey and have spent time in Cape May and visited their beautiful store. It is an honor to be a part of it as they promote awareness about the Monarch butterfly migration. The migration has already started as they head down the coast of New Jersey. They come through Florida and head over to Mexico. They can be seen by the hundreds flying. This migration is endangered as the Monarchs rely on milkweed as their host plant for the growing juvenile…. the caterpillar. 4 generations yearly rely on milkweed for the growing caterpillars and with pesticides and habitat destruction much of the open fields where milkweed used to grow are disappearing. I wrote and illustrated Mother Monarch in hopes of educating both adults and children the need for planting milkweed. If you are interested in learning more about the migration here are 2 links I found very enlightening.



Choose the “right venue” to exhibit your art

Io Moth Lifecycle. Painting by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012Eclosion- Art Exhibit to open in Austin Texas

For the month of November and into early December there is a wonderful exhibit going on at the Art.Science.Gallery in Austin, Texas. I am honored that my painting of the Io Moth Lifecycle was selected by the jury out of 290 submitted works of art by 125 artists. This exhibit is exactly the type of venue that I look for when choosing shows to enter. The call to entry was listed in the GNSI newsletter and when I saw it I knew I had to enter. They were looking for insect paintings especially ones that show their lifecycles. How perfect could that be? I submitted 3 pieces and got one in. One of the reasons I submitted 3 is that I knew that I had 3 paintings that fit the criteria, but I also knew that the competition could be high and if someone else had a similar insect I might decrease my chances by only submitting one piece. Entering shows can be a tricky business. One of the things an artist must remember is to NOT TAKE it PERSONALLY if you don’t get in to a show. It happens all the time and happens to very accomplished and successful artists. I always recommend that you go to the show and see what was chosen. Evaluate your work honestly. Here are some things to think about:

  • Does it fit into the show? Check out sizes, price ranges and number of paintings being exhibited.
  • Is your work up to the same standard as the others?
  • Are the other paintings similar in style to yours? Is your style in keeping with the others?
  • Is there a huge range of mediums and techniques? Maybe there is a variety of techniques in the show or the technique you work in is not represented.
  • Who are the jurors? What are their backgrounds? Artists, Scientists etc. Check this out before hand. Do a Google search and see what you can find out about each juror.
  • Make sure that you follow the application procedure. Check that your images are in the format specified on the application. Make sure they clearly represent your painting and are the highest quality. You can not make a second impression in this situation.
  • Join organizations that represent the kind of work that you do. I belong to art organizations but also have joined Native Plant Societies, Entomological Societies etc.  Other organizations often have calls for entry for specialized exhibits.

I hope that this helps you into the very scary world of exhibiting your art and how to handle applying and dealing with the possibility of getting rejected. I still get plenty of rejections and I am able to brush them off. I try to gather insight as to why my work didn’t get in. The insight has given me a tougher skin and I am making wiser choices and now have a higher success rate in getting into shows.

What is your experience in applying for shows? Do you have any other thoughts on the subject? I would love for you to share it here with me and my other readers.

If you are in the Austin, Texas Area click here for the specifics on the show.

Please share my painting with your friends on Pinterest! 14″ x 18″Archival Prints available from the artist $200 with free shipping! Contact Mindy at Mlighthipe@mac.com

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.

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

Gongora Orchid & Scent Collecting Bee

Painting #26 of the 52/52 Challenge

"Gongora scaphephorus and the Euglossine bee" Watercolor ©2012 MLighthipe

It is great to be back in the studio. I started this painting over 3 months ago as part of the 52/52 challenge and over the past month I have not been able to get back to it. This is one of those paintings that takes patience and a lot of time to do. It is not exactly done in one week.  It took research, tons of drawing, many composition drafts and finally time to paint it. Some of my paintings happen "over night" but this one did not.

This orchid was lent to me by Mark Whitten from the University of Florida. It was blooming in the green house when I visited back in early May.  Gongora flowers have about a 4 day lifespan. The stalk of flowers blooms all at once. I had to work incredibly fast to draw all those flowers before they all died. (More later on my technique for doing this) The Euglossine bee is responsible for pollinating the orchid. In this painting it was important to me to show their relationship. The male bee collects fragrances from the orchid and collects them in his hind leg "baskets". While he is collecting, the orchid releases its pollinaria onto the back of the orchid where the thorax and the abdomen meet. Depending on the orchid the pollinaria is strategically placed on the bees body so that when it enters another orchid of the same species it can pollinate it. What that means is that this orchid attaches the pollinaria onto the back while another species of orchid might attach its pollinaria onto the head or the leg of the bee. The placement is species specific! I was completely blown away by this. I had no idea that pollination could be this sophisticated. Here is a close up of my painting that shows the pollinaria about to be released onto the unsuspecting bee.

I struggled a bit with positioning of the bee because I was working with a dead bee specimen. I looked at some photos from other photographers to see how bees attach them selves to flowers. I also submitted my sketches to Mark Whitten and he gave me some pointers to get the positioning correct. If you look closely at the close up you will see the tiny pollinaria about to be deposited on the back of the bee. I used a microscope to dissect the polinaria, draw it and then place it into the composition to show it in magnification.

Here is a step by step breakdown of how I constructed the flower stalk:

  1. Remove a flower from the stalk. Put an insect pin through it and stabilize it on a kneaded eraser.
  2. Place the flower below eye level and started drawing it on tracing vellum.
  3. Rotate the flower and draw a different angle.
  4. Do this 6 times.
  5. Change the flower from below eye level to at eye level and repeat step 3 & 4.
  6. Change the flower to above eye level and repeat step 3 & 4.
  7. Cut up tracing vellum into individual flowers, number each flower and  place in an envelope.
  8. Work on a larger piece of tracing paper and draw the stalk.
  9. Place the flowers on the stalk to reconstruct the flower way the flower is arranged.

It took me longer to draw the components and arrange the composition than it did to paint it! I painted one flower while it was still fresh and made careful notes that I could go back to later on.

I hope that this helps give you some insight on how I do my lifecycle paintings. If you are interested in studying with me there are 3 upcoming opportunities. In February we are going to Costa Rica for a 10 day tour. I share my techniques on photographing my subjects, field sketching, research process and more! To find out how you can participate in any of these wonderful opportunities click on the links below.

Workshops with Mindy in the USA

Artistic Adventure Tours with Mindy in Costa Rica

A Tribute to Friends

It has been a while since I posted. It has been a difficult time for me and my family. We have had a severe tragedy within our family. My husband, Joe lost his son Joey in a fatal accident. He passed away on July 10th. He broke his neck on July 1st  in a boating accident.  He suffered 3 broken vertebrates and the spine was also moved out of place. They did surgery (Monday , July 2nd ) to repair the damages. His spinal cord was damaged and it looked as if he would have been a quadriplegic had he survived.  He was paralyzed from the shoulders down. He was on a respirator due to the fact that he was not able to breathe on his own. They had hoped to perform a tracheotomy but he was not strong  enough for this procedure. There were too many complications and his  body was not able to come out of shock. He passed away with friends and family in the room with him. A parent is not supposed to loose a child. We have started bereavement counseling and it is helping us go through the grieving process. It has been tough here but we are hoping that time will guide us to a better place of understanding and resolve. Up until today I have not felt like writing and painting has been nearly impossible with all the chaos we have encountered.

I realize that life must go on and I am trying to move forward, get back to painting and back to my writing. I would like to take this time to reflect on some dear friends that have passed away. About 20 years ago I met an American couple who retired to Costa Rica and spent the rest of their lives breeding, raising and releasing endangered macaws. Their names are Richard and Margot Frisius.

Richard and Margot Frisius

Richard and Margot Frisius set up Amigos de las Aves, (Friends of the Birds) a non profit organization based in Costa Rica, dedicated to the conservation of the two native Macaws, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and the Great Green or Buffon's Macaw (Ara ambigua).

Richard began his career working for Pan American Airways. He and Margot traveled around the world for 39 years, living in many different countries. The diversity of these countries and the animals they encountered led them on a passionate journey.

They retired  in Costa Rica in 1980 and became the first aviculturalists to breed macaws within the country. Amigos de las Aves was created in 1992. The non-profit organization incorporates breeding techniques, aviary management, environmental studies and conservation issues in order to carry out controlled release programs in conjunction with MINAE (Ministry of the Environment and Energy) and Costa Rican laws. They were the first people to reintroduce breeding pairs of the great green macaws into the wild.

Mindy at Richard & Margot's Amigos de las Aves.

Richard and Margot welcomed me into their home in 1992, the year that Amigos de las Aves was formed. I got to spend time with them and the macaws. They were so knowledgeable about the birds and gracious with their information. Through Artistic Adventure Tours I took my tour group to see them every year. It was a truly unique and wonderful experience. They allowed my students to draw, paint and sketch their birds. It was always a fabulous experience for all. Margot died about 4 years ago and Richard passed away June 17, 2012 at the age of 93. The legacy that they have left behind is one that everyone who loves natures wishes they could do. Margot and Richard not only dreamed, they made their dream come true for generations to come. Every time I see parrots flying free in Costa Rica I know that Richard and Margot are flying with them.


Colored Pencil drawing by Mindy LIghthipe ©2000

Their legacy continues through http://HatchedToFlyFree.homestead.com/AAdlA/AAdlA.html ( now run by http://TheARAProject.org  /  http://facebook.com/TheARAProject.org ) – a Scarlet and Great Green Macaw breeding and reintroduction into the wild program.



3 Sassafras Leaves

Painting #23- 3 Sassafras Leaves

3 Sassafras Leaves- Original Watercolor 10 x 14; Mindy Lighthipe ©2012

After a week of "Plant Camp" my head is spinning! I learned so much in the 5 day workshop. Some of it was horrifying and some of it was awesome. The horrifying part was learning about how invasive plants are ruining huge ecosystems, particularly in the lakes, rivers, streams and the Everglades in Florida. Government agencies and interest groups fight continually about how, when and where the eradication should, would or could take place. It was mind boggling to see it first hand.

The awesome part about the workshop was that 24 teachers, including myself were trained to identify invasive as well as native plants in Florida. It is the hope of the program that we take all the information we have learned and teach others; especially school children who are the future of our planet. The teachers were selected from applications all over the state. I was chosen and was also asked to do a mini workshop on drawing leaves. I was thrilled to do this because most of the art programs in Florida are being removed because of budget cuts. I was able to give these math, language arts and science teachers a way to introduce drawing to their students and encourage them to create nature journals. They were all enthusiastic and we came up with lots of projects and ideas to get the children excited about plants and nature.

As I continue to process and refine my knowledge I will be blogging about my experience in hope to broaden awareness to all of you out there to be aware of what is going on in your "neck of the woods".

For painting #23 I received a commission from my Etsy Shop to paint the 3 sassafras leaves again. I painted them this past fall as separate paintings and listed them in the shop. They were bought by a fellow botanical artist. This commission was for a woman who has a friend who is opening a restaurant and the name of it is "Sassafras". What a great gift to give to someone. It was great to come home from Plant Camp and spend the weekend painting a Native Plant!

Do you know about invasive plants in your area? If you do please share them with me and the other readers. The more we know the more we can make a difference.

Hatched to Fly Free – Costa Rican Macaws

Great Green Macaw- Colored Pencil ©2001 MLighthipe

For over 20 years I have been going to Costa Rica. I marvel at the diversity and the amazing array of shapes, colors, textures and sounds of the rainforest. One of the most thrilling things I have ever seen is a great green macaw flying in the wild. They are loud and gregarious and to see them flying rapidly like a rainbow streaking across the sky is breath taking. Through exotic pet trade these beautiful birds have been ripped from the wild to be stuck in cages as someones pet.

Scarlet Macaw- Colored Pencil ©2001 MLighthipe

The population of wild birds is dwindling but there is a husband and wife team who devoted their retirement years to breeding these macaws to release them into the wild. Richard and Margot Frisuis settled in Costa Rica and started Amigos de las Aves a non profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the two endangered species, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and the Great Green or Buffon’s Macaw (Ara ambigua). Amigos de las Aves incorporates breeding techniques, aviary management, environmental and key studies and conservation issues, in order to carry out controlled release programs in conjunction with MINAE (Ministry of the Environment and Energy) and Costa Rican laws. 

For over 15 years I took my artists and photographers to see Margot, Richard and all of the fantastic birds. Margot has passed away and Richard has retired from the sanctuary. The couple successfully released over 30 breeding pairs into the wild. To successfully release the birds volunteers must monitor and subsidize the feeding for 2 years. Their food in the wild varies from season to season. Birds which are bred and raised in captivity are hand fed and most of the food  is not necessarily what they will find in the wild. This is a tough hurdle to climb over in releasing them. They need to learn from their human volunteers what trees will be in fruit at what time of the year. Margot and Richard trained and worked with their volunteers to make this project a success. Their legacy has continued through the ARA Project, which is in conjunction with the World Parrot Trust.

Here is an awesome video from the ARA Project of a macaw from egg to feathers. It was filmed over a 90 day time frame. This is an fantastic film for natural science and wildlife illustrators as it show the pin-feathers of the bird and how it develops. It reminds me of the time lapsed photography I used to see on Walt Disney on Sunday evenings.

I will be taking my next group of artists and photographers to Costa Rica this coming February 2012. Although I won't be seeing Margot or Richard I am hoping that I will see some wild macaws streaking through the skies. My friends have done a marvelous thing!

Learn more about traveling to Costa Rica on my Facebook Page- Artistic Adventure Tours.

Follow me on Twitter!

Honey Bees- Why we need them

Honey Bees are the ultimate pollinators!


In 2009 I took a beekeeping class and received a grant from the state of New Jersey to start my own honey bee colony. I was so excited about the opportunity to learn about them. One of the first things I learned was that the reason the state was giving grants to individuals was that 75% of all hives in NJ were commercial and were leaving the state on big trucks to pollinate commercial farms across the country. New Jersey is called the "Garden State" and as far as I am concerned grows the BEST tomatoes in the world, among other fruits and vegetables. The bees were leaving the state and local farmers were in need of the bees to help with pollination of crops. The state decided to enlist local homeowners to help with the task and as an incentive they gave away hives to first time bee keepers.

So what does commercial bee keeping entail? An 18 wheeler can carry hundreds of bee hives on its trailer. Each hive can have 60,000+ bees in it. That's a lotta bees! The hives are stacked one on top of the other. They are taken across state lines to pollinate a variety of crops and travel a circuit of farms. An example of a "circuit" is the citrus groves in Florida. Golden Blossom Honey is a bi-product of the "work" the bees do on the citrus groves circuit. The bees are transported to Florida when the trees are in blossom each season. The bees fly from flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar to feed their colonies. As they do this they carry pollen on their bodies and cross-pollinate the flowers. Cross-pollination is necessary for the flower to become fertilized and become a fruit:  orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit etc….. When the flowering season is over the hives are loaded back on the trucks and go to another location. Without the bees doing all the work there would be no citrus in your local supermarket. Golden Blossom Honey is the bi-product, which is the excess honey that the bees collect after they have fed their colony.

With  traveling, use of pesticides, and habitat destruction populations of domestic and wild bees are in decline. It is know as Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists are just now beginning to realize the seriousness of this decline. This decline is a serious threat to our future agriculture. If you would like to learn more about honey bees here is a new movie trailer for the a movie coming out called "Queen of the Sun".

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