Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Joe Anna Arnett
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Joe Anna Arnett

“Every year at the Plein Air Convention, we honor artists who’ve made a huge difference in the world of plein air painting,” said Eric Rhoads during a special ceremony at Plein Air Live, which took the place of the 2021 convention.

The Lifetime Achievement Award this year went to Joe Anna Arnett, who Eric introduced as having “had a huge impact on plein air painting, inspiring those of us who are painters, and leading the way.”

Joe Anna Arnett had an idyllic childhood with the sweetest parents one could imagine, as well as two wonderful sisters who are still her best friends. A quiet child, she preferred reading and drawing over anything else and she has identified herself as an artist for as long as she can remember. 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 has now taught others for decades.

After getting what she calls a “fairly useless 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.

She began attending drawing classes whenever possible, and 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, 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.

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

Jim Asher and Joe Anna Arnett
Jim Asher and Joe Anna Arnett

Some of her career highlights include 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.

In 1997, she became a Master Artist of the Artists in America Show at the Denver Historical Society Museum. She has also exhibited at museums around the country and in 2006 she was honored by the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma as one of their featured artists in the Rendezvous exhibition. Arnett is 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 has participated in Plein Air Maui, Plein Air Southwest, En Plein Air Texas, and Paint Grand Traverse, and En Plein Air Masters in France.

Joe Anna Arnett teaching a plein air painting workshop
Joe Anna Arnett teaching a plein air painting workshop

Joe Anna has written articles for many magazines and is 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 says, “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 was also producer and writer for, and a 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. Joe Anna says that teaching so many workshops over the decades has made her a better artist. She tells us, “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.”

When it comes to the adventures of being a professional artist, she says, “We just have to be ready to make the jump, accept the challenge, and enjoy the journey.”

Watch the ceremony from Plein Air Live below, and feel free to use the comments section below to help us congratulate Joe Anna:



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  1. Congratulations, Joe Anna! You inspired me so much after viewing your video on painting lilacs. I love your paintings!

  2. Congratulations, Joe Anna, on a well-deserved honor! You are an inspiration to the Art World, and especially to the world of Plein Air Painting.


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