A Day in the Life of … Jill Stefani Wagner

Welcome to our new “Day in the Life of …” series for Plein Air Today, in which we feature one of today’s master artists who are willing to share a play-by-play of what it’s like to be a professional plein air painter.

Today we’re going on a tour with Jill Stefani Wagner (see her PaintTube.TV “5 Step Pastel Painting” workshop). A devoted plein air painter, Jill’s oil and pastel paintings have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and are included in various corporate and private collections.

No doubt about it. Winter in Michigan can be cold and gray … but beautiful, too. Every morning I start my day with a brisk 1-2 mile walk. The exercise wakes me up, gets my head straight and inspires me for the day ahead.

Artist's Life


After a quick breakfast, I catch up on email and take a look at my schedule for the day. It’s gonna be crazy busy so planning is essential! I have two Florida plein air events coming up, a solo show to take down, workshops to coordinate, and equipment and supplies to purchase. It’s funny how others think we artists live a life of leisure …

Art business


Looking at my dwindling frame supply, I realize I need to stock up for my upcoming festivals. I rush over to my favorite framing shop, Saline Picture Frame, to confer with one of the owners, Sara Bowe. After considering a lot of options, we decide on one of their beautiful handmade frames, and I order a bunch in different sizes.

Framing for artists

frames for artists


I make it back to my studio just in time to meet Bob Perrish, a dear friend, wonderful painter and master woodworker. He has built and is delivering something I’ve wanted for years and years: a custom “Big Girl Easel!” I’m absolutely thrilled. It works like a dream and I’m hoping this new equipment will improve my art proportionately. (Check out Bob’s easel plans here.)

easels for artists


Tuesday is always my favorite day of the week because my studio assistant, Tia Sunshine Dye, comes over to work for a couple of hours. An artist in her own right, she has a background in theater design and lots of social media chops which she shares willingly. Tia varnishes and frames paintings, cleans brushes and palettes, tones canvases, handles packing and shipping, helps hang shows and soooo much more. A true gem that I’m proud to call my friend.

framing for artists

varnishing paintings


While Tia’s working in the studio, I saddle up to my computer to handle a few marketing tasks. I respond to gallery inquiries, enter an American Impressionist Exhibit and put the finishing touches on my Door County Plein Air Festival Program ad. Later, I’ll post paintings on social media and start on this month’s newsletter. And, oh yeah, add images to my website.

I consider ALL of these tasks “marketing.” After years of owning an advertising agency, I know that everyone with a product to sell HAS to promote it to reach their largest audience … even if it makes them a bit uncomfortable.

artist careers


Finally, I get a chance to put the finishing touches on a pastel painting of Bella Italia that is waiting on my old easel. I could paint the country of my ancestors non-stop. After 12 visits, Italy feels almost like a second home to me.

life as an artist


I work in both pastel and oil and find it helpful to paint in both mediums concurrently. I can pick up my pastel sticks anytime for a few minutes or an hour. I save my oils for when I have some uninterrupted hours to paint. This diptych is part of a new RiverStone series on larger canvases. Six or seven of these paintings will be heading to J. Petter Galleries in Mid-April.

life as an artist


My painting is interrupted by a request for a guided tour of my solo exhibit in Ann Arbor. This show features mostly plein air paintings of Michigan. It had been postponed twice because of COVID but we finally opened in February even though our state, unfortunately, was still experiencing a lot of virus cases.

life as an artist


When I get back to my studio, I’m excited to find that several packages have arrived. I love opening up new art supplies … maybe just a smidge too much …

artist supplies


It’s wine o’clock! Nothing like a glass of chardonnay and some good art reads at the end of a long, exhausting day. AHHHH…

artist life

But… tomorrow is another day…and I get to paint! I’m a lucky artist living in eternal gratitude…

Jill Stefani Wagner, PSA-MP IAPS/MC

Discover techniques from Master Pastelist Jill Stefani Wagner, who is revealing her brilliant pastel techniques to help you advance your skills.

The “5 Step Pastel Painting” video workshop is just what you need to help you lessen your anxiety when starting a new painting, create higher quality work, and lessen your “throw-aways.”

Jill is going to help you with everything from offering the best tips for painting from a photograph to stepping back and calling the piece finished! [learn more about painting with pastels here]


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