Florida painter, Everglades, Marco Island, artist Jo-Ann Sanborn


Three Watercolor Postcards



A little work today yielded three post cards. I'll use them for thank you notes here, or send them to collectors who may have purchased while I'm away.

Watercolor is a delicate and lovely medium in the right hands. I know that I have far to go before becoming competent in this difficult medium. I have, however, enjoyed varying from my usual acrylic, and being still able to work while traveling with very few materials.

I'm looking forward to my next visit to the Everglades, and to being back in my studio in familiar surroundings. I'm ready to have a big canvas in front of me and a big brush in my hand, and the space to stretch out a bit and work large again.

Travel expands our minds in many ways. Seeing the art and lifestyles of other cultures, past and present enriches our lives. In time, assimilation of the things I've seen and the experiences I've had will surely translate into growth in my artwork, but at this point I'm not able to predict what those changes will be.

I'll be back in the studio on Friday and look forward to seeing you! Come at 4 and you can join me for afternoon tea!



Tea Time

After an almost 30-year hiatus, tea has come back into my life. Green tea for breakfast, and a lovely black tea with milk in the afternoon. In the past I always drank tea with milk and sugar, but switiched to black coffee many years ago while working for FEMA on the island of Samoa following a storm. No tea, no milk until the supply boats came almost two weeks later. Black coffee was what was available, and that has been my choice ever since.

Now, however, I've been reminded of the advantages of having a nice cup of tea. Its a good pick-me-up, and good things to eat invariably accompany an afternoon tea. My personal favorite is a scone with cream and jam.

Several of the French impressionists made tea time a subject of their paintings. The Monet painting below is a beautiful example of afternoon tea in the garden.

Monet was serious enough about his afternoon tea time to have a beautiful Limoges set made for use at his home on Giverney. Afternoon tea was often served to visiting artists and guests, and was served in the lovely gardens when weather permitted. The recipe for Monet's Madeline's, a sweet, lozenged-shaped cookie, can be found in the cookbook Monet's Table, which describes how food was grown and prepared at Giverney.

Other impressionist artists like Renoir also painted tea time. The idea of afternoon tea is seeing s revival in our community on Marco Island. If you'd like to try a traditional cup of tea, please join me on Friday, May 5, at 4 p.m for tea and scones. I'm looking forward to seeing you.



The Gambia

There had been no formal welcome in our previous ports, but as the ship drew near the dock into Banjul, The Gambia, we were drawn to the rail by the beat of native drums. A trio of vividly costumed African dance groups accompaniedy by a bevy of drummers put on a terrific competition made us feel most welcome.

Also on the dock were stalls of quite a few local merchants, showing a wide variety of handmade arts and crafts. Much of the two-dimensional paintings were sand painting, seemingly made for the tourist trade, somewhat flat and not reflective of the lively community. The quality of the three-dimensional work was much better, with some fine examples of hand carved animals and figures of native wood.
I was particularly interested in fabrics, because this part of Africa is know for batiks, but on the dock I found a lot of tie-dye, but only one batik dealer. I am not good at bargaining, uncomfortable asking to pay less when these people seem to have so little, but eventually purchased the piece above. My batik depicts the life of the Gambians dying cloth, and I will hand stitch the edges and make a wall hanging of it.
The Albert Marketplace was a short shuttle bus ride away. Leaving the sunny street we went deep into a dank warren of vendor stalls, and found where the locals buy their goods, including native food and grains, shoes, a fish market, and exotic spice smells from small charcoal braziers in a restaurant area.
Of particular interest was an area dedicated to the tailoring of colorful local clothing. Men sat at a variety of pedal driven sewing machines while their assistants measured people for their hand tailored vividly colored garments. In comparison, it seems as though our lives are cellophane wrapped and sterile.



I used my watercolors to capture some quick impressions of Ghana on bookmarks I had prepared ahead and brought with me for the purpose. These were all done in about 40 minutes, first drawing with an India ink pen and then color added with my watercolor brush pen. My interest in the trees is apparent, but I hope to do more sketches of the wonderfully colorful women carrying fruit and other goods on their heads and babies on their backs.

Arriving in Ghana, we docked in Takoradi, a bustling and important deepwater seaport city. Together with its sister city Sekondi it is the capital of western Ghana. The discovery of oil in the area has lead to a massive migration of people from all over the world. There is much poverty, and living conditions are quite different from what we are used to in the US, however the people seemed active and engaged in their daily activities with markets for fresh food and goods on every corner.

The sea is an integral part of life here, and we passed an active fish market with fish drying at the edges of the road. The beaches are beautiful, and there is a growing tourist industry.

The saddest part of human history is man's inhumanity to his fellow man. Among these is the exploitation of the Africa races. On the coast near Takoradi is Cape Coast Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by the Swedes in 1652, later occupied by the British. Slaves were held here, sometimes for months in unspeakable condition while awaiting transport to new worlds in need of cheap manpower to support growing economies. Below is the doorway of no Return, where slaves held in dungeons for months would catch a view of the sea before being herded in the holds of waiting ships.

The slave trade was a multinational business. Not only did the Swedes build the castle, which was occupied by the Portuguese and the British, but the slaves were prisoners of war from the tribal wars in Africa, were supplied by fellow Africans and Arabs, and shipped in French, British, Dutch and Portuguese ships to work in their colonies in the new world.

It was encouraging to see the bustling waterfront today, with the selling of fish and the mending of nets, children playing soccer, and families enjoying a swim in the sea in an area that had once held such heartbreak.




Cameroon is lush and green, with the sea peppered with small fishing boats in the early morning.

My watercolor kit is shown above, with a few of the postcards I've painted from Cameroon. It's easy to use and I have everything I need, although I must admit that I enjoying the recharging time as much as working. Notice the small bookmark down in the left hand corner of me enjoying the sea.

The Cameroonian woman who came on aboard to answer questions said there are few native handcrafts on shore, but the traditional white costume she was wearing is still handmade. I was particularly interested in the beautiful headscarves worn by both men and women, and was told they are imported from Nigeria

I visited a botanical garden and was particularly interested in the medicinal plants, many of which have not been introduced in America. There was also a couple of artisans selling their work, but we were advised by the guide not to purchase from them. We later found out that the reason was that the guide managed the official shop, which unfortunately contained little of quality or interest.

We also stopped at the Wildlife Center, a refuge for orphaned and injured lowland gorillas, gibbons and drills. The confines were somewhat small, but the thought that these magnificent animals would be releases into the wild was reassuring since all are severely endangered.



San Tome

After three days at sea, the islands of São Tomé and Principe appeared soon after sunrise. The islands are located in the Gulf of Guinea off the northwestern coast of Gabon, West Africa. San Tome was named by Portuguese explorers who arrived on St Thomas's feast day, and Portuguese is the language here spoken today.

The islands are part of an extinct volcanic range with rich soil. They are covered in lush tropical greenery surrounded by the dark blue and azure of the the sea. In the early morning, fisherman in colorful small boats seek a living from the abundant waters surrounding the islands. These are the colors of some Caribbean islands, Hawaii, and Marco Island, bold colors you will see later on my palette.

I did not find a painter to speak with, but learned there is a vibrant community of handcrafters who use local materials of shell and fish bone to make jewelry. The white skirt and blouse of traditional clothing is also handmade, but the beautifully patterned headscarves worn by most everyone are not made on the islands but on the African mainland.

The atmosphere is rich with color, abundant vegetation, humid sea air and sunlight, in strong contrast with the dry, brown, dessert regions of Namibia, visited earlier.




Two days at sea brings us to Namibia, a vast desert nation with a population of only 1.9 million. We dock in Walvis Bay, passing working ships from many nations. Flocks of flamingos and pelicans feed in the Bay's nutrient-rich lagoon.

Namibia is also home to the Wel-witschia plant, one of the longest living plants on earth. The Wel-witschia can live up to 1000 years and survive without any rain for years.

Last night we drove miles into the desert for dinner, and were treated to African song and dance under the stars. Some guests walked up the highest dune to view of the undulating sand, (as depicted in the travel brochure) but I preferred the entertainment amid candle glow under a canopy of stars.

Dinner followed in draped tents. It was lovely, but the food reflected the need to please universal tastes. Wouldn't it have been delightful to have experienced the authenticity and variety of delicious African food?




Rome! Fat pigeons and cappachino in a rooftop garden for breakfast and the Spanish steps out my window. Rome is full of people for the Easter holiday.

Walking the streets, the colors of the buildings are rich with the patina of age, and art and sculpture is everywhere. My art supplies remain in the suitcase as I experience visual artistic overload.
Enjoyed a visit to the Sistine Chapel yesterday. By 9 am the lines of people waiting already stretched many blocks. I was very glad to have pre-ordered the no-line tour which was well-organized and efficient. While it was delightful to see the Chapel, the beautiful Raphael paintings and the Pieta, after a while it was a relief to get away from the jostling crowds. Today is much quieter as the holiday visitors thin out.

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