Being Creative

Long before she studied graphic design at Carnegie Mellon, Joanne Wasserman knew that the creative arts would be her calling.

“As a child, I was very artistic and I took art classes and kept enjoying them through middle school and high school,” she says. “When I was applying to colleges, I was interested in English as a major and their graphic art program (pre-computer) was impressive and I picked it up as a major.”

After graduating college, she moved to Washington DC in 1979 and opened Wasserman Design, offering original art, custom art services and graphic design.

“I came to Washington and found three studios where I could practice my calligraphy as a job and one hired me for minimal wage and that lasted a short time,” she says. “My father believed in me and suggested I go into business for myself, and I went to the Small Business Administration and I was introduced to someone who had extra studio space.”

She started knocking on doors and cold calling clients and has been self-employed ever since. As graphic design became more technology driven, Wasserman decided to stay old school, working in the realms of calligraphy, drawing, and painting.

“I wanted to remain in this realm of hand-created unique work,” she says. “Graphic design changed dramatically due to the Mac and I didn’t want to go that route. I continued pursuing customers who would appreciate having original work created by hand rather than computer software. I’m doing my best to actually prosper as an artist.”

Inspiration comes from exploring chosen material through study of her subjects and the composing of unique formations in letter and picture imagery. Her intention for every work of art is the same: to communicate what she finds most intensely meaningful about the circumstances of the subject’s identity.

“A lot of artists say they paint every day but I’m not like that, I need to have a reason for creating something,” she says. “I search for meaning. I read and like to find new things instead of falling into the traditional things that others
may fall into.”

As someone who is often up late into the night, Wasserman loves the way the night sky looks and one of her favorite paintings is called, “Asteroid Pre-Dawn,” using a mix of three watercolors (red, yellow and blue), as a way to pursue the movement of night without using the color black.

Today, she specializes in creating testimonial works of calligraphy and illumination art, and portrayals of the society.

Her work can be seen throughout Virginia and Washington, DC: There’s a mural painting for the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, a visual tribute to the school’s educational mission across the entire field of nursing practice; a collection of drawings and watercolors that were made to express the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation’s advocacy on behalf of all countries in which landmines have been used; and testimonial works of art for Senator John Warner, of Virginia, and Former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

One of Wasserman’s most impressive works is a series of
27 modern illumination paintings she calls “Change Agents of American Culture,” which represents creativity and invention within American society from 1860 to the
end of the 20th century.  

“My objective is to shine a light on a selection of American-made marvels as well as the imagination-wielding environments where inventing and creating practices thrive—especially in the whirl of bustling, hotbed arenas of science, art, humanities, business industry, and sports—but also in realms of contemplative insight,” she says. “Their results in inventions, creations and discoveries have been as diverse in causation and purpose as the men and women who brought them to exist.”

So far, 18 pieces from the collection are completed and have been exhibited in metro Washington, DC as large watercolor, modern illumination calligraphy paintings.

“From generations past as well as in more recent times, creators and inventors have brought into being things that were not known, or that did not before exist. Their outpourings in all manner of unique conceptualization have benefited the people of the United States of America since the time of the founding of the country,” Wasserman says. “By their works individually as well as collaborations among any number of like-minded persons, American creators and inventors brought to the fore wondrous ideas and generated original productions in an immensity of private, commercial, and public ventures that affected the whole society in positive ways.”

For more information on Wasserman or to see more of her work, visit

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