Joanne Julian was born in Los Angeles. She received her BA and MA degrees in sculpture and printmaking from California State University, Northridge and her MFA degree in painting from Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. She has been a faculty member at College of the Canyons in Valencia, CA since 1973 where she was Chair of the fine arts department and Gallery Director. She has also taught and lectured at Art Center College of Design, Glendale College, University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University, Northridge. She has exhibited at Jan Baum Gallery [Los Angeles], Thomas Babeor Gallery [La Jolla], Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Newport Harbor Art Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many others. Public collections of her work include Atlantic Richfield, Bank of America, Grand Wailea Resort, Home Savings of America, The Irvine Company, Nestle, Nikko, Price Waterhouse, and Teneco Oil.

Julian has studied and traveled in Asia, which is immediately noticeable in her work. Critic Robert McDonald, past senior curator of the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, says, "She has developed a reductive style," and adds, "Critics have often identified a Zen quality in her work...a gentle merging of natures, a unification of humanity and all living things, of yin and yang, the discipline and spirit of Taoist painting."  McDonald also wrote, "The works of Joanne Julian remind us that drawing is a physical enterprise. With the sureness of an athlete or a dancer, she has always tamed energy with grace. A sense of energy in motion, irrespective of imagery, dominates her works. They are both refined and vigorous, dramatic and beguiling, complex and reductive." He concludes that her works are truly exceptional, saying, "They are visual, yet they also have qualities associated with music and dance. They express graphically the energy that informs all phenomena."

Author Betty Ann Brown sees Julian as "a modern American master of haboku ('flung ink' style.) Usually associated with Zen Buddhism, haboku was practiced by monks who, after years of arduous training, sat in meditative repose until they sensed a oneness with the universal life force. The monks then moved from meditation to art allowing the force to flow through them, through the brush and onto the paper in rapid dexterous strokes."

Julian has mounted 20 solo exhibitions and over 60 group exhibitions nationally. She works often on a commission basis on site-specific pieces for international corporations. Critical reviews, essays and reproductions of her works have been published in The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Artweek, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Images and Issues, Arts, Press Telegram, Art Scene, Art in America, Forum 2001, and Perspectives among others.