Joe Anna Arnett (1950-2024)

“We just have to be ready to make the jump, accept the challenge, and enjoy the journey.” ~Joe Anna Arnett

Joe Anna Arnett, distinguished artist, died the on evening of February 3, 2024, at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, after a long battle with cancer. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 33 years, James Asher. Together, they traveled the world, capturing their favorite scenes in paint. From India to Europe to South America and locations all around the United States, they shared adventures that inspired their art and enriched the lives of others.

Joe Anna is survived by two sisters, Rose Mary Banks (Michael) of Jacksonville, Texas, and Elsie Thurman (Andy) of Horseshoe Bay, Texas. She is also survived by 3 nephews, 2 nieces, 17 great nephews and nieces and a step-daughter, Denise Davis (Jeff) of Arch Cape, Oregon. She leaves a host of treasured friends around the world.

Joe Anna Arnett artist obituary
“My health has been a challenge,” Joe Anna once said. “… I just laugh and marvel that I am here at all. And smiling and loving my life and the people around me who make life so special…Just know that I am positive, happy and grateful for such an amazing life. And grateful for you!”

Joe Anna Arnett had an idyllic childhood with the sweetest parents one could imagine, as well as two wonderful sisters who were her best friends. A quiet child, she preferred reading and drawing over anything else and she identified herself as an artist early on. While the other children drew Easter bunnies, she drew the church they were pinned onto… in perspective.

While still in grade school, Joe Anna’s father, a builder, taught her linear perspective. Together, they would sit on the floor and draw buildings in two- and three-point perspective, a skill she taught others for decades.

When she earned a BFA from the University of Texas, Joe Anna realized she had no idea how to make a living as a fine artist, but could see herself becoming an advertising art director based on the skills she learned.

Her first job was with a large Advertising agency in Dallas. Soon, she felt ready to make commercials, which meant moving to New York. She landed a job at Young and Rubicam, which at that time, was the largest advertising agency in the world. There, she worked on accounts such as Merrill Lynch and People Magazine.

Walking home one evening, Joe Anna passed the Art Students League and, on impulse, ventured in. Upon smelling the linseed and turpentine, she knew she was home.

Joe Anna Arnett, "Breakfast with Roses," oil, 24 x 30 in. She said this "was painted en plein air, in my garden, over several sessions. Yes. I am such a lucky artist."
Joe Anna Arnett, “Breakfast with Roses,” oil, 24 x 30 in. She said this “was painted en plein air, in my garden, over several sessions. Yes. I am such a lucky artist.”

She began attending drawing classes whenever possible, and she said though her results left much to be desired, she found the learning process at the League to be wonderful, and she was ready to take the leap to become a professional fine artist.

When Joe Anna resigned from Young and Rubicam, her creative director said, “You have the job everybody wants! We will pay for your therapy.” Instead of therapy, she took a leave of absence, went to Italy, and tried to talk herself out of quitting, only to return to New York and resign…again.

Joe Anna continued her studies at the Art Students League for four more years, learning from artists such as Robert Beverly Hale, David Leffel, and Robert Maione.

She later moved to Santa Fe, where she met her soul mate, fellow artist and traveler, James Asher (1944-2019). Jim and Joe Anna married and then honeymooned in Kashmir for a month, setting the stage for a lifetime of traveling and painting together.

Joe Anna Arnett and Jim Asher
Joe Anna and Jim shared a lifelong passion for art, illuminating goodness and hope. For them, art was a light that ‘shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. They were featured together in PleinAir Magazine, April-May 2018, in an article titled “Oil And Water: A Love Story”

Some of her career highlights included participating in the prestigious Artists of America show in Denver for 11 years, the Prix de West at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame for 14 years, and being represented by the prestigious Zaplin Lampert Gallery in Santa Fe for over three decades. Joe Anna is now represented at McLarry Fine Art where there is currently a special exhibit of her masterpieces.

In 1997, she became a Master Artist of the Artists in America Show at the Denver Historical Society Museum. She also exhibited at museums around the country and in 2006 was honored by the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma as one of their featured artists in the Rendezvous exhibition. Joe Anna was a Signature Member of Oil Painters of America, Signature member of Laguna Plein Air Painters and Master Signature member of Plein Air Artists Colorado, a master signature member of Plein Air Painters of New Mexico and an elected member of The Salmagundi Club. Joe Anna participated in Plein Air Maui, Plein Air Southwest, En Plein Air Texas, Paint Grand Traverse, and En Plein Air Masters in France.

Joe Anna Arnett, "No Tide Waits"
Joe Anna Arnett, “No Tide Waits”

Joe Anna wrote articles for many magazines and was the author of Painting with Passion, The Best of Flower Painting, I and II and Sketchbook Confidential II. Her still life painting book, Painting Sumptuous Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers in Oil, led to invitations to teach workshops all over the United States and beyond. She once said, “If there is a passport in art, I think it must be painting en plein air. You’re in business anywhere you can put your easel.”

Joe Anna Arnett painting en plein air
Joe Anna Arnett painting en plein air in Kashmir, India, where she and Jim spent their honeymoon

Joe Anna was also a producer, writer, and master artist on “Passport & Palette,” the PBS art instruction and travel series.

Joe Anna taught for the Scottsdale Artists School for its first fifteen years, as well as programs in France, England, Ireland, Spain, Italy, and even in Ecuador for workshops in the Andes. She said, “Explaining a principle brings you to an even deeper understanding. Through these experiences, I’ve made cherished friends all over the world. I add these friendships to my lifetime achievements.”

Watch her PleinAir Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award presentation from the 2021 Plein Air Convention (PACE):

Joe Anna also loved her garden; everything grown was for painting. She called the antique roses, “the girls.” She also painted sunflowers and peonies year after year. The thing she may have enjoyed most was sharing her garden with other painters, friends, and neighbors.

Joe Anna was a member of Christ Church Santa Fe where she has enjoyed worship with many brothers and sisters in Christ. Since childhood, she has fervently practiced her faith in Jesus as her Savior.

The family suggests memorials to:
Christ Church Santa Fe, 1213 Don Gaspar Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87505
Scenic Haven Cemetery, Inc., PO Box 1887, Jacksonville, TX 75766

"Chioggia Evening" painting
Joe Anna Arnett, “Chioggia Evening”

“Jo Anna was a trailblazer by making the world aware of plein air painting, and she achieved a level of excellence in her paintings few ever accomplish,” said Eric Rhoads. “But it was her heart, her love of people, and her efforts to help others, which made her a spectacular human being.”

More friends have shared the following on her Facebook page:

“The lovely and talented Joe Anna Arnett … and I first became friends at PACE several years ago when we painted demos on the main stage together. We immediately hit it off and our presentation was like two lifelong friends painting together. Everyone assumed we had known each other forever. She and I often laughed about that.
Oddly, a few days ago, I sent her a message about how much I looked up to her and how she had encouraged me and been a role model to me. I had no idea that at the same time as I was sending the note, she was leaving the hospital to come home to hospice. She was heavy on my mind that day even before I knew what was happening. It was about an hour later that I got the word that she was stopping all treatment and wanted to be at home. She had fought a long battle, up and down, better then worse, and knew it was time to rest.
Those of us who knew her were truly blessed. She had such a beautiful heart. She was full of grace and she spoke her mind.
Like so many others, I will miss you, dear Joe Anna. No doubt you and Jim are both grinning from ear to ear, together again, no more pain, only eternal peace.” ~ Lori Putnam

“💔 The art world was so lucky to have her and her legacy will continue in all of those she touched. I had the good fortune to meet her in 2020 in Santa Fe where she gave a most eloquent presentation to the artists participating in the Plein Air Arts Festival. She was inspiring and generous with her words❣️” ~Marla Brenner

“Joe Anna will be so sorely missed! I feel honored to have known her and taken a workshop with her in Los Gatos years and years ago. She taught me so much, especially to see ‘gesture’ in all things!! Such a loving person, I am grateful to have seen her again at PACE. My sincere condolences to all of her family and close friends, may she rest in peace.” ~ Nancy Atherton West

“When I started the plein air circuit 5 years ago I met Joe Anna, one of the sweetest people in the industry, and became a friend. Joe Anna will be sorely missed. Condolence to Joe’s family and friends.” ~ Richie Vios

“Joe Anna was one of the sweetest, most kind, gracious and genuine people I’ve ever known…my love and prayers go out to your family, friends, the art community and all who knew and loved her. So grateful to have been one of so many who were blessed to call her friend. Godspeed… until we meet again…give Jim a big hug for Don and me…love you Joe…😢” ~ Debra Joy Groesser


  1. Awe, I’m sad to hear of Jo Anna’s passing. I admired her when I first saw her work, if I remember correctly it was in the North Light book series. Then one day she walked into the gallery that I tended in Manchester, NH. She was kind and gracious and I was so thrilled that she came into the gallery where I worked. She was a beautiful person & I will always remember her bright wonderful kindness!

  2. Joe Anna was a wonderful friend, a wonderful artist and a wonderful person. We spent time together on Tuesdays drawing the model at Roberta Remy’s studio. We had lovely lunches together. She was such a dear. We spoke about everything…painting and God. In English and French. We just melted together as friends. I will miss seeing her, hugging her and sharing everything with her. God bless you Joe Anna. Albert

  3. Joe Anna and I were close friends from the moment I first exhibited her work in a show I produced for NYC’s Grand Central Galleries in 1992. She was without doubt the finest flower painter in America, and her personality (and soul) matched the beauty of her flowers. I own two of her paintings. One was a 50th birthday gift from my husband. He told Joe Anna one thing: “Paint Alexandra.” That painting features a book, a pomegranate, and a gardenia (my signature flower). Joe Anna said it reflected me because I brought knowledge (book) to the ignorant (pomegranate) through beauty (flower). The last she called me by phone–2 weeks ago–she knew she was dying, but so like her she fought for art, happiness, and friendship to the end. I exhibited her paintings and published her articles over the decades of our “sisterhood” via my nonprofit ART foundation and very recently honored her on our new website opening: She lives with me there. Alexandra York


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