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Florida Panther in Big Cypress

Watercolor, 36x42" 2022

This piece was started in 2020, but then put in storage for several months, and finally completed in January of 2022! It's an expression of my love for the Florida panther, a celebration of it's beauty, and highlights the importance of it's protective effect as an umbrella species for many other plants and animals in it's range.


The beginning of this piece really starts at the very beginning of my body of work. Throughout my life I have always been interested in environmental conservation, but didn't really know what I could do to help. Do I paint elephants to raise money for their conservation? Do I make work about climate change? Then, in 2015 I decided to look locally for ways to get involved and came across an event hosted by the South Florida Wildlands Association and the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition called Rally for the Rocklands. It was a protest in Miami opposing the development of a Walmart and apartment complex that was to be build (it has since been built) over some of the last remaining Pine Rocklands, an endangered habitat. I came to the rally with a large painted sign.

I was fired up over the possibility of being able to do something tangible to help the world around me. After the event I knew that I wanted to focus my attention not on the conservation needs of the macro species of the world (although that is very important) but on the threatened plants and animals around me that both myself and my neighbors have overlooked despite living here. This began years of learning about these habitats, experimentation with different types of art, and collaborations.

To be honest, Florida panthers were not high on my list of priorities when I began. I was obsessed with the Pine Rocklands (and still am) and felt that the little critters there were not being given enough attention compared to the panther. That slowly changed while I interned with the South Florida Wildlands Association over the years. That organization deals with challenges facing the Everglades at large, which almost always includes the Florida panther because they range so widely and their dry habitat is always at risk of becoming a house or shopping center.

In 2015 I tabled with them at the Naples Zoo. I created an ink drawing of the Florida panther as an umbrella species which zoo patrons helped to color in!

Over the years I've jumped at every opportunity to get involved with the organization. The perspectives and knowledge about Florida conservation I was taught profoundly shaped me and my work. Florida Panther in Big Cypress is inspired by their targeted work with the panther, whose entire population lives mostly in Big Cypress. The idea for the piece was hatched in 2020 when a proposed highway project called MCORES freshly threated their habitat (the highway received massive backlash and has been tabled for now thankfully). With the possible extinction of the panther on my mind, I decided I wanted to create a piece that showed the panther connected to and inextricable from it's habitat. Though I can't repay the SFWA for the great value their education and mentorship has given me over the years, a portion from the sale of this piece will go to support them.

Beginning sketches

The first stage in my process is a "thumbnail" sketch, small rough sketches meant to capture the overall look and flow of the piece. They are small in order to help me see the composition more fully. Then I develop the details and color in larger pencil, colored pencil and watercolor sketches.

Finally, a Frankenstein of reference photos and sketches is created, which I use in the next stage.


Next, watercolor paper is moistened and stapled to a wooden board to "stretch" and prevent buckling. Once dry, my sketch is printed out too-scale and tranced on the paper using graphite transfer paper. I develop the sketch even more using reference photos, until the whole piece is mapped out lightly on the paper. Then painting can begin! I start with washes to block out colors while the painting is laying flat on the table.

As I add details I use more concentrated amounts of paint and build the contrast up from light to dark. This takes place upright on the easel instead of flat (because it's better for my posture).

Imaging and framing

Framing is an important step in this process in order for the paintings to last long-term. It gives the paper rigidity and protection from the elements. I love the way the frame came out for this piece! (it was done by Custom Photo Imaging in Boca Raton, which is also where I got the piece digitized with a Hasselblad camera)

Shows, action shots and close-ups!

I was excited for this piece to show at my solo show, Mutualism, at the Biscayne Bay NWR visitor center during the summer of 2022. It was accompanied by 28 of my other original framed works.

Here's a few images of the painting on my easel!


This piece was a joy to make. I hope to continue to create paintings of panthers to raise awareness about their conservation needs. I feel like it is a duty and privilege to do what we can to educate ourselves and protect the places where we live.

The original Florida Panther in Big Cypress is available. It can be viewed here, but I can't accept more than $10k from a single sale through my website, so please contact me to set up another payment option.

Open edition prints of this piece can be ordered here, and they come in either a large or a small size ^-^

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