Golden Mission Inn | Watercolor 2011

Stories from the Art: Joanna Mersereau

Portrait by: Gene Sasse 2012

“What motivates me to paint?
Why do we eat, sleep or love?
It’s what you do, and if it weren’t fun,
why would we do it?”


With a strong pallet of vibrant colors, Joanna Mersereau gives us a glimpse of her world through her art. With an eye for design and form that comes from a background incorporating a love for architectural design as well as a passion to create beauty, she “paints what she sees” and wants to share her world with others.

Painting her way through the beautiful countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and here in the United States, Joanna has produced hundreds of pieces that reflect the loveliness of her surroundings.

Joanna studied Industrial Design at the University of Illinois, and loved the “strains and structures, the theory and applied mechanics” of the field. She still has a love for mathematics as well as fine art.

She began her official painting career in 1969, while working under renowned watercolorist Milford Zornes. In the early years, she fondly remembers Zornes encouraging her by saying “If you keep on painting, you will get better”, and she believed him. At one time, 30 years after painting with him, Joanna traded one of her original paintings for one of his. “I certainly have gotten better”, was her pleasant thought.

She doesn’t paint every day, there are flows in her energy. When she is in a high energy mode, she will accomplish her work and then have a fallow period for a few weeks, until the need to paint builds up again and a slight trigger – a photo or object dear to her – will cause her to once again be at her drawing table.  

“I think about my paintings for a long time”, she says, ‘there is lots of planning involved. The painting itself doesn’t take very long. I sketch first, and my trials and errors happen in my sketch book.”

Serene and philosophical, Joanna is disciplined and her attention to detail remarkable. She paints the realistic as well as things that intrigue her - a deviation from reality. And what a lovely side trip that is, transposing natural colors for an abstract idea that always seems to work, she will wash the reality of a landscape with a transparency that is enchanting. “The basis of any good painting is the abstract design” Zornes had taught her, and she agreed with him, back then as well as today.

While saying that painting is always a challenge, and if not, she would be lulled into boredom – she also states that “Whenever a painting is easy and fun, it means they will be successful" as you can see from her body of work that Joanna is up to the challenges presented to her.

Peace Tower | Watercolor 2011
Asistencia Nocturne | Watercolor 2013
Curator: Gene Sasse
Writer: Laurie Morrison
© 2013 Inland Empire Museum of Art
All Art © by The Artist