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.

While leading a tour in Costa Rica I came upon this VERY large male green iguana. I watched him for over 20 minutes. He was very aware of my presence and it was awesome to see him make eye contact with me, This video was taken at the Selva Verde Lodge in the Sarapiqui region of CR. For more info about Artistic Adventure Tours visit:

Frogs Everywhere!

Frogs at The Selva Verde Lodge

During our Bugs,Beasts, & Botanical Tour we have been staying at the The Selva Verde Lodge in the Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica. The trip has been a whorl wind of excitement. Each day we have been seeing so much and learning so much that by 9:00 it is lights out and we are all asleep.

In the tropics the sun rises at 6:00 am and sets at 6:00 pm. One of the really fun things we have been doing after dinner is taking pictures of the Red-eyed Tree Frog. Selva Verde has a frog pond and yesterday it rained. The frogs went wild. We could hear all kinds of chirping and were able to see frogs jumping from leaf to leaf in a chorus of joy!

Photographing in the dark is tough when your camera can't really "see". We have been using flash lights to locate the frogs. So as not to harm the frogs I have been using my zoom lens and standing far away from them. My camera is a Lumix Panasonic FZ40 and has 24X digital zoom. This camera lets me get close enough to get details, but far enough away to not startled the frog. Some of the pictures came out blurry at first but as I got more accustomed to shooting in the dark I was able to get some "good enough" shots to paint from.  There are other people on the tour that have much more elaborate cameras and their pictures are better than mine. I carry the Lumix because it is very light and has macro and zoom capacity. I don't want to carry the heavy lens around. I have art supplies to carry also so I try to travel light. My purpose is take reference photos, not beautiful pictures. If I get a beautiful photo that is great, but my main concern is getting the reference shot.

What kind of camera do you take photos with? Any tips or advice you want to share?
Please feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from you!

From the rainforest,


PS~ I have been working on Painting # 6 of my 52/52 painting challenge. I will post it when I get home. It needs to be scanned. I didn't want you to think I had forgotten!