artist holding painting, posing with fellow artist/friend together
Artist Jill Stefani Wagner at Door County Plein Air Festival with fellow artist and friend.

How did you get started and then develop your career?
Jill Stefani Wagner: Like many artists, I knew from a very young age that I HAD to create art. I attended the University of Michigan Art School and majored in painting and history of art. During my last semester I realized I’d need to make a living (horrors!) and switched to graphic design. That led to owning a mid-sized advertising agency in Ann Arbor for 25 years.

I sold that business 10 years ago and I’ve painted professionally ever since, in both pastel and oil. I attend museums and workshops and paint non-stop, knowing it’s the only way to improve my skills. I enter national exhibits to evaluate my work in relation to others. After discovering plein air painting, the way I create has improved exponentially. Over time I’ve added galleries to the mix, and teach workshops and at the Plein Air Convention.

My previous marketing experience taught me how to be “buttoned up” and always over-deliver. I’m willing to work at the (daunting but much-needed) social media aspects of my career. And I understand that although I’m an artist, I’m also a small business owner.

How do you describe success?
Jill Stefani Wagner: I believe “success” is a moving target, no matter which career we choose. New opportunities create new goals, and though I don’t always succeed, I definitely learn from each one. Finishing a difficult artwork, creating a commissioned painting that makes my patron smile, having my work accepted into a national exhibit and accepting new gallery representation are all steps of the latter we artists climb.

And every minute of this new art life makes my heart sing. I wake up with glee, knowing I get to paint today! For me, THAT is the ultimate success!

To see more of Jill’s work, visit:

2 servers in low light, facing their back to the viewer
Jill Stefani Wagner, “One Up, Two on the Rocks,” oil ,12 x 12 in, 2017
During the cold winter months in Michigan, I spend time in my studio capturing “the light” in restaurant and bar scenes.
pastel painting of sunset overlooking water with house at waterfront
Jill Stefani Wagner, “At the Point,” pastel, 12 x 12 in, 2022.
The featured painting for my new video that will be available in late August: Jill Stefani Wagner: Pastel Painting from Photos: A 5 Step Process


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