Block title

Work Samples

Simultaneous Realities

9" x 12", Watercolor, 2017

Escape Velocity

22" x 15", Watercolor, 2016

Outer Space

22" x 30", watercolor, 2016


18" x 24", Watercolor, 2015


About Joanna

Harford County

Joanna Barnum is a portrait painter and illustrator working in Baltimore, Maryland. Best known for her expressive but naturalistic watercolor style and ability to capture expressions and likenesses, Joanna has painted hundreds of portraits for private clients locally and internationally over the past 10 years. Joanna earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she majored in illustration and minored in art history. She currently serves as newsletter editor on... more

Lost Edges

“Lost Edges” 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. 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.

"Just Desserts"

“Just Desserts” 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.

Connect with Joanna

Joanna's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.