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Work Samples

Anguish

Anguish, 22" x 26", Watercolor on paper, 2018
Anguish, 22" x 26", Watercolor on paper, 2018

Rift

Rift, 15" x 22", Watercolor on paper, 2017
Rift, 15" x 22", Watercolor on paper, 2017

Gaze

"Gaze," 15" x 22", Watercolor on paper, 2017
"Gaze," 15" x 22", Watercolor on paper, 2017

Aurelia

"Aurelia," 15" x 22", watercolor on paper, 2018
"Aurelia," 15" x 22", watercolor on paper, 2018

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About Joanna

Harford County

Joanna Barnum uses watercolor to express universal emotional states and the unique spirits of her portrait subjects, balancing experimental, abstract use of the media with sensitive realism and symbolism. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006, and has since made her living as an artist across the realms of fine art, illustration, and teaching. She is a Signature Member of the National Watercolor Society and serves on the boards of the Baltimore... more

Lost Edges & Simultaneous Realities

“Lost Edges & Simultaneous Realities” (2017-Present) is a series of large scale portrait paintings exploring the potential for the unpredictable nature of the watercolor medium to reveal the emotional state and unique spirit of the subject. Nuanced control of the watercolor medium is used to create realistic, accurate likenesses which coexist and interweave with chaotic fields of color and texture created through random, experimental use of the medium. These disparate vocabularies may exist in tension or in harmony, provoking an emotional response in the viewer, implying an open-ended narrative, and serving as a metaphor for the intellectual versus the emotional.

"My current process for creating the work in this series begins with shooting photo reference of friends, family, and professional performers, because of photography's ability to capture fleeting expressions and emotions. Sections of my preliminary drawing on watercolor paper are masked out, and watercolor is splashed, dripped, sprayed, and brushed onto the exposed areas, alternating wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry applications. When the masking is removed, the traditional components of the portrait are completed utilizing a controlled application of the media, layering washes of warm and cool colors to create realistic skin tones. Sometimes multiple reference sources are woven together in different layers to create conceptual juxtapositions or to create a feeling of movement or the passage of time. Ultimately, I work back and forth between the figurative and abstract components to resolve the composition and concept for the portrait."

Since earning a BFA in illustration in 2006, I have built an artistic practice combining illustration, commissioned portrait painting, gallery exhibition, and teaching. Over the past few years, my personal fine art painting has regularly returned to the portrait, with an interest in subjects with a powerful personal presence, and a style that balances expressiveness of the medium with accurate likeness. This work has recently begun to delve deeper into the experimental elements key to the “Lost Edges” series, and to increase in size.

James Webb Space Telescope

In 2016, Joanna was selected to participate in NASA's James Webb Space Telescope artist project as one of a small group of artists invited to observe the new telescope in person and create works inspired by it for exhibits at NASA Goddard, Art.Science.Gallery, and the Texas Museum of Science and Technology during 2017 and 2018.

Read Bob Bahr's interview of Joanna about this project for Outdoor Painter, "Painting a NASA Telescope."

  • James Webb Space Telescope

    "James Webb Space Telescope," 15" x 22" watercolor on paper, 2016
    "James Webb Space Telescope," 15" x 22" watercolor on paper, 2016 Painted from Life
  • Icon: Gaze

    "Icon: Gaze," 22" x 22" watercolor on paper with 24k gold leaf, 2017
    "Icon: Gaze," 22" x 22" watercolor on paper with 24k gold leaf, 2017
  • Icon: Metaphor

    "Icon: Metaphor," 22" x 22" watercolor on paper with 24k gold leaf, 2017
    "Icon: Metaphor," 22" x 22" watercolor on paper with 24k gold leaf, 2017

"Just Desserts"

“Just Desserts” (2013-2014) is a series of watercolor portraits depicting adult women in the act of eating dessert. Some of the subjects are blissfully absorbed in the act of eating, while others confront the viewer directly, with expressions ranging from coy to defiant. On a literal level, these works discuss the contemporary American woman's complex, often fraught relationship with food and body image. The unapologetic indulgence of the subjects also serves as a metaphor to confront the scrutiny from society (apparent or unconscious) that women are subject to when choosing to pursue personal ambitions and desires directly or aggressively.

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Joanna's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.