Jill Stefani Wagner - inspiration for artists

By Jill Stefani Wagner

I have a confession to make.

For a good part of my life I was often terrified of new challenges and the possibility of failure. Whether in my advertising career or my new art life, I constantly struggled with the urge to turn down opportunities that were out of my comfort zone.

The process in my brain would automatically go something like this:

“Absolutely not.”
“No way.”
“Not gonna happen.”

“It’s beyond my skill set.”
“That would be difficult.”

“Maybe in the future…”
“Well, others have done it.”
“What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Maybe I could handle it…”
“No reason not to try.”
“I think I’ll go for it.”

“Ok, I got this.”

I went through every one of those steps when I was asked to be a creative director and then vice president of an advertising agency. When it was time to for me to leave that company, I thought there was no way I could start my own successful firm. Wrong. And 25 years later, when I pined to sell my ad agency and become a full-time artist, I tortured myself for months and months before I got the nerve to follow through.

Jill Stefani Wagner, "HideAway," oil, plein air, 12 x 12 in.
Jill Stefani Wagner, “HideAway,” oil, plein air, 12 x 12 in.

As a newbie artist there was a long list of “I can’t do thats:”

Taking a workshop with a superstar instructor
Approaching galleries to represent my art
Demonstrating a painting in front of a crowd of people
Applying to national competitions
Painting at plein air festivals
Mounting a solo exhibit
Teaching my own workshops
Moving from pastel into oil painting
Becoming Faculty at the Plein Air Convention
Appearing on “Eric Rhoads Live”
And so on…

Jill Stefani Wagner, "Bill's Shed" pastel, plein air, 12 x 12 in.
Jill Stefani Wagner, “Bill’s Shed” pastel, plein air, 12 x 12 in.

Somehow I handled all of those new challenges…and rarely failed. Over time I have realized that doing what scares me most is the best, and probably ONLY way for me to improve. Intimidating risks helped me expand my boundaries a bit farther and add new skills and techniques that enhance my artwork. And I learned to accept the convoluted process I personally need to go through to finally say “YES!” to new opportunities.

Almost every time I took a chance at doing something that seemed outside of my capabilities, good things happened. (Well, there was that one time that I held my very first workshop, painting outside, with a full case of shingles encroaching on my eye. But I digress… ) Mostly doing those scary things has been exciting and invigorating!

But… that’s not to imply that pushing my limits is easy. I still get nervous with each new adventure. Case in point: When Streamline Publishing asked me to come to Texas to film some art instruction videos, I almost declined. Although I had directed shoots for corporate clients over the years, it was quite a different thing to consider being the one on camera. But I love to teach and knew I had helpful information to share with pastel students, and making a video was the next logical step in my art career.

I went for it —and the whole experience was amazing. A supportive pre-production team, fantastic directors and cameramen, and superstar marketers helped create an environment that encouraged success. After some of the fear dissipated, I actually enjoyed it!

Jill with members of the Streamline Publishing video team
Jill with members of the Streamline Publishing video team

New challenges aren’t quite as frightening as you might envision. But you’ll never know until you try. So go ahead, step out of your comfort zone and take a chance. Get out there and do what scares you most!

how to paint with Pastels video
Never ordered a painting video online? Give it a shot! (click here to learn how to paint with pastels)

Whether painting landscapes, interiors or figures, my primary focus is always the light and how it affects the subject I’m trying to capture. Working in pastel and oil I approach my paintings as a sculptor would, carving out nuances of highlight and shadow.

An avid plein air artist, I’m inspired by the American landscape and that of my beloved Italy. I find my greatest joy painting on location, taking in the atmosphere, temperature, sounds and smells, as well as the view. I participate in national plein air festivals, traveling throughout the country to capture the uniqueness of each venue. During the cold Michigan winters I work in my studio creating larger pieces…but always, always chasing the light.

Jill Stefani Wagner, "At the Point," pastel, studio, 17 x 20 in.
Jill Stefani Wagner, “At the Point,” pastel, studio, 17 x 20 in. (demo filmed and scheduled for a Streamline video workshop)

More about the Artist: Jill Stefani Wagner’s artwork has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the country and is included in many corporate and private collections. Her paintings have been juried into prestigious national and international oil and pastel exhibits, and have been honored with multiple awards.

One of Jill’s paintings graced the cover of Plein Air Magazine and her work is often featured in their pages. Fine Art Connoisseur magazine has frequently highlighted her paintings, as has Pastel Journal and the French magazine Practique des Arts. Wagner has been invited to be on the pastel Faculty at the Plein Air Convention for four years and enjoys teaching workshops and mentoring other artists.

Visit EricRhoads.com to find out all the amazing opportunities for artists through Streamline Publishing, including:
– Online art conferences such as Plein Air Live
– New video workshops for artists
– Incredible art retreats
– Educational and fun art conventions, and much more.

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