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

Blue Crowned Mot-Mot

52/52 Painting Challenge – Painting #8

The Blue Crowned Mot-Mot

For this painting challenge I combined watercolor with egg yolk. I took a class in egg tempera from American-born Suzanne Scherer and Russian-born Pavel Ouporov in 2004 at the New York Botanical Garden. I absolutely loved it. The major issue I had when using egg tempera, was not the egg, but the pigments. I purchased a bunch of raw pigments in powder form. In order to create a paint, the pigment must be mixed with the egg solution in order for the paint to adhere to the paper. The particles of pigment are very fine in most cases, similar to baby powder. When I was making the paint a lot of the pigment went airborne and a fine coating of dust was all over the place. Luckily the pigment I was using was Pthalo Green, which is not hazardous. I quickly decided that I did not want to go through the expense and hassle of creating a dust free box to mix the paints. I gave away all my pigments and decided to go with an alternative. I had heard that it was possible to add egg yolk to watercolor. In this painting I did just that. In order to mix the egg I had to first crack open the egg and discard the egg white. Then very carefully I pierced the egg yolk and holding onto the membrane the yolk emptied out into a bowl, leaving me holding just the membrane. It takes a few times to get the knack of it. It is easier to do than it sounds. Once I had the pure yolk I added some water and a bit of vinegar. I then put it into a small squeeze bottle and instead of adding water to my watercolor paints I added the yolk solution. It worked very effectively. I was able to create the patina that is inherent in egg tempera with out the danger or mess of using raw pigments.

To see Scherer-Ouporov's work, visit their website. They do the most incredible work. I don't think I will ever be a full time egg tempera painter but it is fun to stray off the beaten path once in a while and try something new.

To read more information about the Blue Crowned Mot-Mot here is a link to a post I did a few weeks back.

Have any of you tried egg tempera? If so, what has been your experience?

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.

Catteleya #2

Painting #5- 52/52 Painting Challenge

This Catteleya orchid was a super challenge to paint. The brilliant magenta glowed against the pale and subtle hues of the white petals and sepals. I had to use lots of delicate colors to portray the white and not have it fade into nothingness. To keep my edges visible I used a 2H pencil and then blotted it with a kneaded eraser. This produced a fine pale grey line. Many of the white flower paintings I have seen use grey to create shadows to tone white. I find this makes the white look dirty and dingy.  I decided to use pinks, lavenders, blues and greens. One of the tricks I use to capture white flowers is use paint chips from the hardware store. There are thousands of  "shades and tints" of white paint on the market. The paint samples are free from the manufacturer. I have a whole pile of paint chips that I use to match pale colors. Bright colors are easy for me to reproduce as my tendency is to paint bold. The softer and more subtle colors are challenging. I mix my paints and do a series of swatches to see what they look like, especially when they are dry. The color shift is important because sometimes the colors are too dark. I like to use lots of paint and I can't do this when I am painting white! I evaluate my swatches and dive in. Leaving the white of the paper is essential because the white turns into a color very fast. In this case less is more.

How do you paint white flowers?

The Pinocchio Orchid

Painting #3/Week #3 52/52 Painting Challenge 2012

I was visiting a friend in Naples Florida and she had a wonderful collection of orchids. They seemed to be just dripping off the trees and off the side of her house. I was in the midst of such a beautiful range of shapes and colors. It was difficult to decide what to paint. I walked around her property and found a delightful little orchid called the "Pinocchio Orchid". It is in the Lady-Slipper family. Almost 60 species and hundreds of hybrids make up the genus Paphiopedilum, often called the lady-slipper orchid. The Pinocchio slipper orchid is a primary hybrid cross between Paphiopedilum primulinum and Paphiopedilum glaucophyllum.

The reason it is called the Pinocchio Orchid is the stem keeps getting longer and longer and it continues to bloom, one bloom at a time for months.  It was towards the end of its blooming stage, but from my painting you can see how many bracts there were on the stem. Each bract had a ladyslipper flower. It had one large bloom and then 2 more buds that had not yet opened.

My friend was gracious enough to cut the orchid and stem so that I could take it home and complete my painting. Orchids here in Florida are very easy to come by and very affordable. I am in HEAVEN!

Happy Halloween! A Botanical Pumpkin

Painting a Lumpy Bumpy Gourd

It is the time of year when all the gourds come out in the supermarkets. The crazy shapes and color combinations are a great challenge for the botanical artist. In celebration of Halloween I painted a pumpkin that had lots of "warts" on it. One of the things that needs to be considered is the over all form which is a sphere and then the forms within the forms.  I painted this one in watercolor and started with a wet on wet wash of brilliant yellow so that the gourd would have a golden glow.



Here are 3 pumpkins that I did in graphite. The first pumpkin was very smooth and  oval, the second one was more compressed with sections and the third one was short, squat and had deeper undulations. I also did an armature drawing of each to show how the surface contour changes as the form changes. With a gourd that has the grooves as well as the lumps it is important to remember that each one of them has a surface contour and a juxtaposition to the light source.

This painting is available for purchase in my Etsy Shop: BugsBeastsBotanicals




Day 30- THE LAST DAY OF the 30 Day Leaf Challenge!

I made it! 30 Leaves in 30 Days!!!!!


As you know I have been exploring my new habitat here in Florida. I was on one of my leaf collecting hikes and came across a grove of Oak trees like none I had ever seen. They were tall and skinny and had the biggest leaves I have ever seen on an oak. In New Jersey there is a wide variety of oak trees and the leaves range in size from about 2  to maybe 5 inches. The oak leaves in this grove were 10 to 14 inches long. I have included a photograph with a ruler to show you that I am not pulling your leg!

This type of Oak is called the Turkey Oak. These deciduous leaves are simple and alternately arranged. The shape of each leaf usually has 5 lobes but may vary from 3 to 7. The leaves, with narrow lobes and deep sinuses, resemble a turkey foot. The top of each leaf is a yellow-green and paler below. On the bottom portion of the leaves, rusty-red colored hairs run along the veins. Each leaf possesses a small point at the tip. Turkey oak grows in dry sandy soils associated with longleaf pine, bluejack oak, and sand post oak. Here in Florida we have sand….. not much dirt.


I have been working on this leaf off and on for over 2 weeks. I did it life size. The finished piece is 14 x 18. I am teaching a class, "Pan Pastels, and Everything but the Kitchen Sink" this coming weekend so I have been practicing. I started by drawing the leaf and then painting it in an almost flat coat of yellow ochre gouache. I then used the Pan Pastels and began to sculpt the undulations in the leaf. I used colored pencils, granulating watercolors along with the PanPastels to come up with this painting.

This is the end of my 30 Day leaf Challenge.Thanks to all of you  that were here to cheer me on. I will keep posting and I hope you continue to visit my blog!


This leaf is available for purchase in my Etsy Shop: BugsBeastsBotanicals

Day 29- 30 Day Botanical Leaf Challenge

Leaves turn into Flowers

I was at Kanapaha Botanical Garden and found this little branch. It is a bamboo flower. Bamboo is actually and evergreen plant, and a member of the family Poaceae and is a true grass. I didn't know that bamboo flowered so this was a pleasant surprise. Bamboo does not flower often so this was a rare treat. As I was observing it, it became very clear that the petals or sepals of the flower were just leaves in a slightly different shape and color. They grow in a cluster and are arranged in a whorl. Each petal has a mid rib, just like the leaves. It is easy to see the evolution of the flower by looking at this primitive plant.

I painted this in watercolor and started from the background and worked towards the foreground. I made the leaves in the background lighter with less detail and  contrast so that they would appear further away. This technique is called an atmospheric fade and I like to use it whenever I can. It creates layers for the viewer to see, If all the parts of the plant are in sharp detail it would actually flatten the painting. The atmospheric fade adds an ethereal quality to the painting. It was nice to break away from the standard leaf and do something that had multiple planes.

This painting is available in my Etsy Shop: BugsBeastsBotanicals

Day 28- 30 Day Botanical Leaf Challenge

Trifecta- Multitasking

One of the great things about doing this 30 day leaf challenge is that I have to stay on my toes and get the job done. As I have stated in previous posts, I am not the most organized person, but I am dedicated. I went on a walk with the Native Plant Society of Florida the other day and collected these leaves. They are from a Sassafras tree. The tree has 3 distinctive leaf shapes on the same tree. When I was a little girl my grandmother taught me about leaf identification. She said the way to know that the tree was a Sassafras was to look for "oval", "mitten" and "ghost" shape. I have always remembered this!

I wanted to do all three leaves at once so I set up an assembly line. I started by cutting 3 sheets of watercolor. I then drew the 3 leaves. I then mixed up my watercolors and tested them for color accuracy and then I did the left side of each leaf, one at a time. When I was on the third leaf, the first leaf was dry and I started to do the right side. Once all the lobes were painted I went in with the detail. Before I knew it all three were done in almost the same time it would have taken me to one. The reason for this is that there was no time wasted "waiting for the paint to dry". I do this in my full composition paintings. I jump around the painting so that I don't overwork one area. It seems to work well for me and I thought I would share this with you.

Do have a similar or different method that works for getting more done? Are you a multi-tasker? Please feel free to leave your comments. I enjoy hearing from you.


These leaves are available in my Etsy Shop: BugsBeastsBotanicals

Page 1 of 3123