Landscape Love
Jo-Ann Sanborn's Everglades

by Julie Clay

THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES are revered worldwide as a pristine slice of nature and an important part of the ecosystem. While the majority of us are busy posting sunset pictures on Facebook with our smartphones, capturing the essence of this majestic landscape might best be left to the pros.

Enter Marco Island-based artist Jo-Ann Sanborn, celebrating 20 years of portraying the Everglades on canvas for the world to enjoy. I recently stopped by her Sunshine Studios gallery, located in the upscale Esplanade shopping center, and felt like nature’s simple beauty had just come alive inside her modestly sized space.

“It’s a great landscape, I’m not sick of it yet,” relates Jo-Ann of her subject matter, “The light is fabulous, and it changes. There’s always something new to see and discover, and try to interpret. She continues, “I think people generally are drawn to water. You have the beautiful sky to reflect and the pattern of the trees.”

Upon entering her studio you might feel as though you’ve stepped onto an Everglades marsh trail, given the array of landscapes adorning the walls. From grassy prairies to marshlands dotted with palms and wide open blue skies, Jo-Ann’s canvases bring this national landmark into homes around the world. You can often find her painting off to the side of the gallery where she has set up her acrylics and easel. The Everglades’ natural allure provides all the inspiration she needs for her works.

The gallery also features a collection of her daily paintings, a ritual she began in 2007. “I do these daily paintings in oils just to get more comfortable in the medium,” Jo-Ann informs us, “The daily paintings are a great way to do some painting every day. You can’t become an artist if you don’t. Often when I’m not ready to paint a big painting I can test out a color combination in a small painting and sometimes it goes the other way.

Jo-Ann describes her subject matter, “I’ve painted in the Fakahatchee, which I love for the bold growth of the palms. They stick up into the landscape and they form great shapes against the sky and the background. Further back into Big Cypress I like the stones. The prairies are wonderful too because you get the open space, the grasses and the palms. I particularly love the sable palm because they each seem to have their own personality to me.” She adds, “I was delighted when the Marsh Trail opened up a couple of years ago in the 10,000 Islands.”

Jo-Ann studied art while in her 20s, attending art school and taking all the foundation courses without getting a formal degree. Moving to Florida 20 years ago, she decided to take up painting as a profession.

“Throughout my life I’ve always had a painting going, but I was never serious about it,” Jo-Ann reflects, “I think if you’re passionate about it, it can be done.” As evidenced by her collection of work, Jo-Ann Sanborn is serious about showing the world the Everglades. Pausing in her gallery, she affirms, “The landscape has soul, and it’s that soul that I hope goes with the painting.”

Jo-Ann confirms that the winter months could be the best time for viewing the Everglades. One of her works captures a collection of bald cypress trees. By January, Jo-Ann shares, the trees have shed their leaves for a three-month stretch and the gathering of empty tree trunks can take on a ghostly appearance during this cooler time of year. However, Jo-ann’s favorite interpretation of Everglades beauty happens in the summer heat.

“I particularly like summer because the skies are so dramatic,” she admits. “There’s so much moisture in the air that it brings out the color, like beautiful morning billowing clouds that at the end of the day are thunderstorms. The majesty of nature is so wonderful that you never really capture it.”

One way to learn about the Everglades, conservation efforts and to see the landscape through Jo-ann’s knowledgeable eyes is to read her book, Embracing the Everglades. Although compiling the book was a bit of a challenge when one would prefer to be painting, Jo-Ann is satisfied with her printed creation. “I wrote about the Florida landscape because I feel that people don’t really understand how the systems of the Everglades work,” she explains. “It all goes together, like alligator holes.”

She recalls a particular bit of history. “One thing I thought was really interesting was that someone had excavated under a tree island [a collection of trees in the middle of a prairie] and discovered traces of ancient fire and food. It may even be that those little bits of human interaction have provided the nutrients that allowed the tree islands to survive.”

If you’d like to chat about the Everglades, view a landscape or two and maybe even see the artistic process in action, stop by Jo-Ann’s Sunshine Studios of Marco Island gallery at the Esplanade Shoppes & Marina. The gallery is open Wed-Fri 10am-5pm & Sat 10am-2pm.

Jo-Ann is also a featured artist in the National Association of Women Artists of Florida show on view thru January 29 at the Marco Island Center of the Arts. •

January-February 2014

“The landscape has soul,
and it’s that soul
that I hope goes
with the painting.”

Jo-Ann Sanborn's
Sunshine Studios
of Marco Island
760 N. Collier Boulevard
Marco Island