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Meet the People: Jean Sanders of New Bern Illustrated

Jean Sanders - New Bern Illustrated

There are so many talented people living among us, so we decided to start a new feature story “Meet the People”.

After following Jean Sanders, creator of New Bern Illustrated, for years on social media, I wanted to shine the light on her wonderful photography and illustrations! The images have been thought provoking and uplifting. Wanting to learn more about Jean, we did an email interview. Here’s the Q & A’s:

Where are you from and when did you relocate to New Bern? Why did you choose New Bern?

I am originally from Stamford, CT, but we came to New Bern via Sewall’s Point, FL and before that High Point, NC. My husband, Tom, started working at Hatteras Yachts in the 1980s, just after we were married, when we moved to High Point. He continued working in the boating industry in Florida and had the opportunity to return to Hatteras 5 years ago. We were thrilled to leave Florida behind and get back to North Carolina.

How long have you been a graphic designer, illustrator, and photographer?

I received my BA in Fine Art from Washington College, in Chestertown, MD. I thought I was going to live a very romantic life as a painter but found gainful employment (and fantastic practical experience) as an illustrator for Belk Department Stores in Greensboro, NC. I learned newspaper advertising business while illustrating sheets, towels, furniture, baby car seats and food processors. There is nothing like being on deadline to keep you motivated. I started doing freelance graphic design and illustration in High Point for furniture companies and retail stores. I did line illustrations of fruit, vegetables, meats and cheeses and wine for The Fresh Market’s weekly print ads when they opened their first store in Greensboro – raw monkfish was a professional challenge. When we lived in Florida, I exhibited my paintings in galleries and museums while raising our two children. Eventually I worked as a designer for the Scripps Media group, doing print ads and editorial illustration. For the past 10 years I have been the Creative Director for the non-profit Community Newspaper Project and its publications, The Chestertown Spy and The Talbot Spy. I write and illustrate a weekly food column as well as designing ads and graphics. Freelancing demands versatility.

What draws you to your subjects?

Food illustrations are lots of fun – so many interesting organic shapes and colors. Otherwise, I draw and paint what I see in my everyday life, the ordinary objects that are delightful if you give them the opportunity. We are surrounded by beauty every day. You have to learn to slow down and look.

When did you create New Bern Illustrated?

New Bern has so many charming and historical features, (unlike Florida) and when we first moved here, we lived in an apartment above a dress shop in downtown, on Middle Street. We have a dog who needs to walk quite a lot every day, so I was out exploring all the nooks and crannies in the historic district. There are dozens of beautiful gardens, courtyards, windows, river views. It was easy to find ideas for pictures every day. I love posting my paintings on Instagram – there is a large community of supportive artists on Instagram. ( I have followers on my Facebook page, too. Come see what is new:

What motivated you to publish your coloring books? How many have you published and what are the names?

I had recently illustrated an adult coloring book for Ellie Claire Books:  In My Garden: A Coloring Journal (available on Amazon) and thought that the New Bern bears lent themselves perfectly to a coloring book treatment. My agent wasn’t interested, so I self-published them. There are three books: Bears!, Bears, Too! and Mums & Bears. They are available for sale at Mitchell Hardware and the Tryon Palace Gift Shop.

Has self-isolation effected your creative process?

My routine hasn’t changed too drastically with self-isolation. My husband has been working from home for the past two weeks, but he works at the kitchen table, and I stay in my studio. I do miss my almost-daily trips out to the grocery store, though. I lead a rather boring, quiet daily life.

Do you have any advice for others on how to cope with life during the pandemic?

We are lucky to be enjoying such a beautiful spring. I have an illustrator friend in England who lives near the beach in Bournemouth, and she can’t even walk her dog down by the water. She has a very restricted amount of time she can spend out-of-doors. We, on the other hand, can take the dog for leisurely strolls around the water at the new Martin Marietta Park. We have a loaf of stale bread we want to feed to the ducks and geese downtown on the river later this week.

Every day is different, and everyone has varying skill sets, and myriad worries. Our daughter, who lives in Jacksonville Beach, FL, just had a baby last week. I’d really like to be visiting her and doing a few loads of laundry so she could nap. It is a good time to pick up the phone or learn how to Zoom. We’ve had cocktails on Zoom and felt more connected to the world. We are living in a remarkable age for connecting with people and places all over the world – there are some amazing museum virtual tours. It’s a consolation to see the great treasures sitting at home. Watch some funny movies! We watched Contagion during the first week of self-isolation and that was a HUGE mistake. We have rented Fleabag the Charity, because 75% of the rental fee is going to Covid-19 charities – so you can laugh and feel as if you are making a little contribution to the human race. If you can afford to, please contribute to the local Food Bank. And most importantly – keep a safe distance. Wear your mask!

What do you want people to know about you and your commission work?

When all the dust settles and we get back to normal, if people go to my website, they will see pet portraits I have been commissioned to paint. A 5” x 7” original watercolor/pen and ink portrait costs $100. You can always DM me on Facebook or Instagram.

I hope that you enjoyed learning about Jean’s story as much as I did. A few takeaways for me:

– Every day is filled with special moments that may make your day a little brighter. Slow down and make a conscious effort to look for them and appreciate. If you do, it will become a habit and ultimately, enrich our lives. With everything going on, I know it can be hard to do. I’ve struggled with this until recently, so it’s possible.

– If you can afford to, donate to others in need. Even a small in-kind or monetary donation can help you feel better during uncertain times.

– Reminder to enjoy New Bern’s parks and other outdoor opportunities. Whether you have a dog or not, it’s important to get fresh air and walk or run.

Thank you, Jean, for sharing your story with us!

Share your story with us. We would love to share it with our readers in hopes to make a difference in somebody’s day! Send us an email or give us a call at 252-259-6853.

Wendy Card