Saturday, November 27, 2021

Focus on Medium: Call of the Canvas

Jo-Ann Sanborn representing acrylics.

Jo-Ann Sanborn representing acrylics.

By Steve Gimmestad

Note: This is a series of articles about the mediums people use to express themselves and create some great works of art for us to enjoy.

My art envy carries forth from the last article to this one and those who work the canvas so well. One of the assignments I had in 5th grade at Lily Lake Elementary School was to paint a blue sky. I got a B-. Really? How do you mess up painting the color blue at the top of a sheet of paper? That’s why it was an amazing opportunity for me to talk with a few people who got it right and are at the top of the game for their craft.

To be fair, the title of the article may be a bit misleading. I have taken the liberty of using the word “canvas” as an all-encompassing term, a broad stroke, (if you will pardon the reference) referring to anything one may choose to use in their artwork. This can include paper (albeit the good French kind) walls, fingernails…what have you. Let’s not get bogged down in semantics and take a look at what the mind can do when properly tuned in and honed by experience.

There are many types of materials used in painting. For brevity sake, this article will focus on three popular types; oil, watercolor and acrylic. Let’s start with oil.

“I think I was born with Crayolas in my hand,” says Tara O’Neill. “I don’t remember a time as a tiniest kid where, if I was left to my own devices, I wouldn’t crawl into a corner and draw or color or paint.”

Tara O’Neill is a Marco Island artist with many awards to her credit, including 2015 Artist of the Year from the Marco Island Foundation for the Arts. Her work can be viewed throughout the community and she is represented by Blue Mangrove Gallery in Town Center. (

“It’s music,” says Tara of her works in creation. “It’s as close to playing music as I’ll ever get.

Tara O’Neill representing oils.

Tara O’Neill representing oils.

I always have music playing in my studio. You build up from the deep darks to the brighter lights…you can almost name the instrument the colors represent.”

Using her drawing skills as a beginning for her career, Tara evolved her work to using only color and paint. Oils are one of her favorite types of paint. Why? “Because oil is forever alive,” she says. “An oil painting will never be completely dry so I can keep paintings alive for months if I want to. It will always have this ability to expand and contract. It maintains a translucent quality, so in about five years, you can feel the glows from color underneath. I love that!”

Let’s clean off our brush and take a look at another type of painting – watercolor. Welcome to the studio of Joan Scherer.

Joan Scherer is an award winning Marco Island artist whose works can be found, among other places, at the Center for the Arts here on Marco. (

“I had an art teacher in 8th grade,” says Joan, on the beginning of her love for watercolor. “And she showed me how to put a little color down on the paper, and then touch it with water. The paint flowed into the clear water and the effect…oh, it gives me goose bumps when I think of it now.”

Joan used her artistic talents as a hobby while working as a teacher. Then, at age 40, she decided to make the leap and use her artistic talents full-time. She now uses her teacher training as an instructor in the art of watercolor.

“Watercolor can be pesky,” quips Joan. “It flows all over the place and you have to learn how to control it. There are ways to do this and it’s a fun way to paint.”

Viewing Joan’s work, you realize that she has mastered the control necessary to make watercolor. She also says the tools necessary are lightweight and easy to carry to most anywhere you desire to capture a moment. It’s a great way to create

Joan Scherer representing watercolors.

Joan Scherer representing watercolors.

some very emotive moments on your canvas (or in this case, some quality paper).

Let’s give Joan back her brush and head over to the studio of Jo-Ann Sanborn.

Jo-Ann Sanborn is a Marco Island artist known for her work all the way to Maine. She has received numerous awards including Award of Excellence in the Founders Exhibition of the Naples Art Association Von Liebig Art Center. You can find her work at Sunshine Studios (in the Esplanade). (

“I’ve painted most of my life and always had a painting going,” say Jo-Ann. “I didn’t take it to a professional level until I move to South Florida in 1993. I fell in love with the Everglades.”

Acrylics are Jo-Ann’s favorite way to work. “They’re extremely versatile and you can pretty much do what you want with them. They’re extremely durable and very flexible. They give me the options I want to capture a subject. That includes using some acrylic that contains sand or glass for texture.”

Jo-Ann first used her talents as a hobby and then realized the value when she traded a painting for an old stone wall which was then used to build her fireplace. A prime example on how opportunity can be found in many places.

Artists are commonly asked if they create art for themselves or do they create for the buyer? (Yes, I’m guilty of posing that question sometimes, too). Tara put it well: “My personal relationship with a work of art lies totally in the joy and challenges of its creation. Once a painting is finished, so is that relationship. I have no need, nor desire, to keep any of my works, but will work tirelessly to find its proper owner!”

Each artist in this article is an instructor and shares her craft through classes at the Marco Island Center for the Arts. Visit their website for more info:

“You have to get out and experience the magic; being bathed in the great golden light of a sunset, or a watching a wind rifled palm. That’s where it starts.” – Jo-Ann Sanborn


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