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 Watercolor Society and the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters' Association. Joanna's work has been recognized by American Illustration, Illustration West, the “Splash: The Best in Watercolor” series from North Light Books, Infected by Art, and at juried watercolor society exhibitions and plein air painting competitions around the country. She has worked with clients and collaborators including Renegade Game Studios for the game Overlight, NASA, AARP, Cricket, Faerie Magazine, Eating Well, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Her work has recently appeared on Every Day Original online, at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO, and at Rehs Contemporary in New York, NY. Joanna also teaches her approach to watercolor as a guest workshop instructor for watercolor societies and institutions.

Joanna currently lives in Harford County, Maryland with her husband and their greyhound (and studio manager) Zephyr.


Maryland Institute College of Art, Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, 2002-2006. Major: Illustration, Minor: Art history

Selected Awards & Honors

Inclusion in Splash 19: Illusion of Light, The Best of Watercolor, 2018 & Splash 17: Inspiring Subjects, The Best of Watercolor, 2016- North Light Books

Inclusion in Infected by Art 6, 2018- juried compilation art book of imaginative realism

Gold Medal, Baltimore Watercolor Society Mid-Atlantic Regional Watercolor Exhibition, 2019

"Ampersand Award," Southern Watercolor Society 41st Juried Exhibition, 2018

Jack Reid Memorial Scholarship, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators MD/DE/WV Region, 2017

"Ron Schloyer Oustanding Watercolor Award," Pennsylvania Watercolor Society 28th Juried Exhibition, 2017

"PWCS Board of Directors’ Award," Philadelphia Water Color Society 117th International Exhibition of Works on Paper, 2017

Artist in Residence, Catoctin Mountain National Park, Thurmont, MD, May 2016

"1st Place Watercolor," “Pictures at an Exhibition," Harford Artists Association, Bel Air, MD 2015

"Juror’s Choice Award," “Strokes of Genius,” Maryland Federation of Art, Annapolis, MD, 2013

Inclusion in Illustration West 51, 2013

“Chosen” illustration for American Illustration 31, 2012, and American Illustration 29, 2010

Inclusion in The Big Book of Contemporary Illustration, Anova Books, 2009

Solo & Small Group Exhibitions

"Simultaneous Realities," Solo show, Columbia Art Center, Columbia, MD, 2018

James Webb Space Telescope Artist Project, Curated group show, NASA Goddard Visitor Center, Greenbelt, MD, 2017/ Art.Science.Gallery, Austin, TX, 2017/ Texas Museum of Science and Technology, Austin, TX, 2017-2018

“The Artist & Their Art,” Four artist show, Crystal Moll Gallery, Baltimore, MD, 2017

"Lost Edges," Solo show, Hamilton Gallery, Baltimore, MD, 2017

“Winter Meditations,” Solo show, TruAx Custom Frames, Baltimore, MD, 2016

“Plein Air Painters Under 40,” Curated group show, Still Life Gallery, Ellicott City, MD, 2015

“Maryland My Maryland: A Hometown Celebration,” Solo show, TruAx Custom Frames, Baltimore, MD, 2012

“Delicate Visions,” Three artist show, Irvine Nature Center, Owings Mills, MD, 2011

Solo show, Irvine Nature Center, Owings Mills, MD, 2008

Selected Group Exhibitions

“I Observe,” Rehs Contemporary Galleries, New York, NY, 2019

“5x5 Project,” Abend Gallery, Denver, CO, 2019

Signature American Watermedia Exhibition, Fallbrook Art Center, Fallbrook, CA, 2019

Southern Watercolor Society Juried Exhibition, Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, Kerrville, TX, 2019 & Art Center Manatee, Bradenton, FL, 2018

“Watercolor USA,” Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, MO, 2019

28th Annual Holiday Miniatures Show, Abend Gallery, Denver, CO, 2018

DragonCon Art Show, Atlanta, GA, 2018

"H2OMG: Watercolor Gone Wild," National Watercolor Society, Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton, CA, 2018

National Watercolor Society International Open Exhibition, NWS Gallery, San Pedro, CA, 2017

Baltimore Watercolor Society, Pennsylvania Watercolor Society, and Philadelphia Watercolor Society annual juried exhibitions, 2018 & previous

Art on Paper, Maryland Federation of Art, Annapolis, MD, 2017

"Face to Face: The Evolving Story of Sandy Spring," Maryland Society of Portrait Painters, Sandy Spring Museum, Sandy Spring, MD, 2017

“Gutsy: Taking the Fear Factor out of Feminism,” The Feminist Art Project Baltimore, Gallery CA, Baltimore, MD, 2014

“People in Paintings,” Crystal Moll Gallery, Baltimore, MD, 2013

“Chesapeake Watershed,” Hamilton Gallery & Maryland Science Center, Baltimore, MD, 2013

“Girls: Fact & Fiction,” Light Grey Art Lab, Minneapolis, MN, 2012

“The Four Elements,” Girls Drawing Girls, Flower Pepper Gallery, Pasadena, CA, 2012

“Deadly Sins,” Artistique Theater, Pixel Festival, Salt Lake City, UT, 2012

Artomatic@Frederick, Frederick, MD, 2012

“Live Wire,” Positron Gallery, Baltimore, MD, 2009

Illustration Exhibition, Towson Arts Collective, Towson, MD, 2009

“Ghosts of a Chance,” Luce Foundation Center for American Art (Smithsonian), Washington D.C., 2008

Photo by Allison Jessing

Photo by Allison Jessing


Selected Illustration Clients

Renegade Game Studios (Overlight), AARP, gmmb, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Faerie Magazine, UMBC Magazine, Austin Food & Wine Festival, Eating Well magazine, Cricket magazine, Mass Audubon/Sanctuary magazine, North American Review literary journal, BUST magazine, SCG Health, Avalonia Books, Berengad Games

Professional Organizations

National Watercolor Society, signature member, 2017-Present

Baltimore Watercolor Society, signature member, board member, newsletter editor, 2013-Present

Maryland Society of Portrait Painters, accredited member, 2013-Present

Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association, member, 2013-2017, artist member and board member 2017-Present

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, PAL member, 2013-2019

Selected Plein Air Events & Awards

Mountain Maryland Plein Air, Cumberland, MD: Best in Show, 2018, Selected artist, 2014

Wayne Plein Air Festival, Wayne, PA: Selected artist, 2018

Paint Annapolis, Annapolis, MD: Selected artist, 2018, Annapolis Gallery Association Award, 2017, Selected artist, 2014

Harford Plein Air, Bel Air, MD: Second Place, 2017, Second Place, 2016, Selected artist, 2015.

Floyd Plein Air, Floyd, VA: First Place Quick Draw, 2017

"Cityscape" exhibition, Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association, Peale Center, Baltimore, MD: Second Place, 2016, Best Watercolor, 2015

Piedmont Plein Air Paintout, High Point, NC: Viewer's Choice, 2015

Paint It! Ellicott City, Ellicott City, MD: Selected artist, 2017, 2016, 2nd Place Quick Draw & Juror's Choice Award, 2015, Selected artist 2014, Juror's Choice Award 2013

Easels in Frederick, Frederick, MD: Selected artist, 2014

Recent Press

The Artist’s Magazine, “A Sprinkling of Splash”- June 2019

Daniel Smith Artists Materials blog & newsletter, “Watercolor Portrait Step-by-Step” by Joanna Barnum-February 2019

American Watercolor newsletter, “The Story Behind ‘Getting to the Point” by Joanna Barnum- October 2018

Outdoor Painter, “Painting a NASA Telescope” by Bob Bahr- November 2016