by Caroline Gabsewics
Thirty years ago Joanelle Mulrain put down her paintbrushes and headed for the corporate world. Mulrain started painting again about a year ago and since then, it has been an adventure.
Mulrain’s husband and local immigration attorney, Jeffrey Mulrain, died from a serious type of leukemia 11 years ago. Mulrain resigned from the then-Baptist/St. Vincent’s Health System as vice president of corporate communications soon after and decided to explore past dreams.
She spent a few years in Washington, D.C. where she worked for a U.S. senator. Mulrain and a friend also opened their own art gallery and it was then that her roots in art and her love of nature blossomed. She and her oldest son Jeffry, who is a pre-med student at Stetson University, were a part of the crew of the HMS Bounty that sailed from Jacksonville to South Street Seaport, N.Y. The two of them also recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and are now planning a trip to Mount Everest. Just last year she wrote the book “Re-Rooting Life’s Journey.”
After her youngest son John, a student at Bishop Kenny, asked to move back to Jacksonville to attend high school, Mulrain bought a small house near San Marco that has now become her art studio.
“Since I started painting again, it has been quite a journey,” said Mulrain. “It is just crazy how things happen.”
Mulrain’s signature paintings are of Florida cattails and Great Blue Herons, which became her logo for Great Blue Heron Studios. During the week she is the director of marketing for the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute. On weekends, Mulrain takes her kayak to the St. Johns River and captures photographs of the nature around her, including trees, cattails and animals.
One of her paintings titled “Florida Cattails at Lochloosa” is on the cover of The Florida Bar Journal’s March issue.
“I got a call from a friend (who works at the Journal) that loved the painting and asked if I would like it to be the cover for the March issue,” said Mulrain.
She has gotten phone calls from friends all over the state about her painting on the cover.
“I’ve had friends call from Tampa, Sarasota and Tallahassee,” she said. “It’s been great.
“My husband was an immigration attorney and isn’t it interesting that 11 years later (after he passed away) I end up on The Florida Bar Journal’s cover.”
Cattails have become one of her favorite subjects to paint.
“People love them, and cattails are whimsical,” she said. “They’re willowy and wispy.”
Many of her paintings include cattails in some way, in part because it is her signature.
Mulrain has a degree in fine arts and painted a lot in the 1970s, before she began working for different companies in Jacksonville.
“I loved painting, but my father always told me you could never make a living by painting,” she said. “In this past year I sold a painting to the doctor who was my husband’s pathologist, and I thought, I can do this.”
Since then her artwork has been displayed at local galleries, she joined The Art Center and this week she and two other local artists are opening the Laura Street Gallery.
“I do it because it is fun and I’d like to see if I can make a go of it,” she said. “I am pleased that people enjoy the view, because that is what it is.”