Botanical Illustration in Costa Rica

Botanical ArtThe guaria morada became Costa Rica’s national flower on June 15, 1939. It is said to reflect its nation’s people in its beauty, fragility, and abundance. The gorgeous purple (You know how I love PURPLE!) flower is an epiphytic orchid, growing on trees, sustaining itself, but attaching itself on Costa Rican trees for support.

It grows in pre-montane zones between 1,600 and 3,300 feet above sea level. Due to its near over-harvesting in the past 80 years, they may be difficult to spot in the wild. The distinctive fragile purple petals are easily spotted in local gardens where Costa Ricans proudly cultivate the bloom. ( I just got back and they are everywhere!) The flower is still popular and can be found in nearly any botanical garden or nursery in Costa Rica.

The guaria morada has a very fragile scent that is said to be filled with dreams yet to be fulfilled. The spiritual significance of the flower is quite touching – it brings fortune and luck while evoking peace and love according to local lore.

Photographs don’t do the bloom justice. Botanical illustration captures an accurate rendering of the stem, leaves, and bloom while maintaining a semblance of the spiritual importance that the flower has in Costa Rican culture.  I painted this orchid many years ago and luckily sold the painting before the age of digital archives so I will just have to paint another one!

In the meantime here is a painting that I did of a naturalized hybrid orchid. This orchid is a hybrid that occurs naturally in Costa Rica. It is called Phragmipedium Grande (Phrag. caudatum x Phrag. longifolium) It reportedly was collected in the wild in Costa Rica decades ago, and has been distributed among several orchid growers here in the US. The hybrid has also been artificially recreated by orchid breeders many times. The tendrils were so long! It was loads of fun to paint.

To learn more about Costa Rica’s flora and botanical illustration, please search through my blog posts at Perhaps you would like to join me as I offer art tours and workshops to help you capture the elegance of your own natural endeavors. With the spirit of guaria morada, I would bid you good luck and fortune in all of your future botanical pursuits!


Costa Rican Organic Chocolate

Do you LOVE chocolate?

Sibu Chocolate- Costa Rica

My good friends at Sibú Chocolate are making the BEST handmade organic chocolate in Costa Rica!

I met George Soriano in Costa Rica almost 18 years ago when he was working for an Eco-tour Company. In 2007 George and his partner Julio Fernandez embarked on making handmade chocolates from organic cacao farms  in Costa Rica. The studied in Paris to learn how fine chocolates were made by hand.  They experimented with creating recipes of flavors that are found in Costa Rica. Sibú Chocolate works with a Rainforest Alliance certified farm, which means that farmers follow sound agricultural practices that protect forest, rivers, soils and wildlife, while being good community neighbors. It also ensures that workers have just wages, dignified living conditions and access to education and health care. They only use the best ingredients available, sourced from local producers and organic farms. To read more about Sibú Chocolate please visit their website.

I am thrilled to make this my 5th year taking my Artistic Adventure Tour to visit Sibú Chocolate in February 2014. We get to taste all the different recipes and learn about sustainable organic agriculture in a gorgeous cloud forest setting. The history of chocolate is covered in detail. Later on in the trip we will go to the Tirimbina Rainforest and see how chocolate was made by the Mayan and Inca Indians. There will be lots of tasting and time to sketch and photograph in the rainforest!

Join Us! Do you have questions about the tour? Leave a comment or email Mindy at:

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 ( now run by  / ) – a Scarlet and Great Green Macaw breeding and reintroduction into the wild program.



The Green Iguana

52/52 Painting Challenge: Painting #7- Not Always Green!

"Senor Iguana" Watercolor ©2012 Mindy Lighthipe

As some of you may know I was in love with an Iguana. His name was Father Mulcahy, named after the priest on the hit TV show called "Mash". He was given to me by a priest named Father Lope who had rescued him from an abusive home. When Father Mulcahy got  too big for his aquarium he needed to find a new home and luckily it was with me. He lived with me for 9 months and I never thought that a lizard could have so much personality, charm and intelligence. When Father M passed away I was devastated and made a small intaglio print to remember him. I had wanted to do a better portrait of him in color but time got away from me.

The Green Iguana starts out its life almost lime green. It is relatively small at birth and the green color helps it to blend into its surroundings for protection from predators. It is a strict vegetarian and lives its life in the tree canopy but can also be found on the ground. As the male iguana matures it gets large cheek pouches, a "showy" dewlap under the chin and turns beautiful shades of green, turquoise, olive, orange and rust. Father M was just beginning to mature at 4 feet long and had these amazing colors.

I recently lead an Artistic Adventure Tour to Costa Rica and while I was there I had another encounter with an iguana. He was a very big boy. I would say his body was about 3.5 feet long with a tail that was even longer. He was hanging out by the bird feeder at Selva Verde Lodge looking to steal some bananas that had been left for the birds. I sat and hung out with him for about 20 minutes. He was very aware of my presence. I sat for a while, took some still pictures and then took video clips. It was awesome to see him make eye contact with me.

I decided to do my watercolor above of Father Mulcahy as part of my 52/52 painting challenge after my encounter with Senor Iguana. He reminded me of Father M and I felt a special connection with him. I enjoyed doing the background and adding lots of pigment using a wet on wet technique. I did the detail of the scales in watercolor pencil because I couldn't bear to paint all the tiny details.

I don't know it there is another iguana in my future. I would never buy an iguana. It would have to be another rescue. I love to see them in the wild. They have become disposable pets in the exotic pet trade and in parts of Florida they have become an invasive specie. They should be left in their native habitat, wild where they belong.

This painting is available for sale. If you are interested in it please e-mail me.

Harpo The

On my recent trip to Costa Rica I went to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica and fell in love with a 2-fingered sloth named Harpo. We will visit the sloth sanctuary in February 2012 on my Artistic Adventure Tour for artists, photographers, birdwatchers and nature lovers. for more information visit: