5c6a9160fbcropJill Stefani Wagner, PSA-MP

I am a professional artist, based in Michigan, and I love the simple joy of layering pigment on paper and canvas.

I work in 3 quite different mediums: watercolor, pastel and oil.

Watercolor is a very fresh, intuitive process that involves layering water-based paint on paper. You start with your lightest washes and build successively darker with each pass, leaving the white of the paper showing through for your brightest highlights. There’s no turning back once you’ve made a design or color commitment and I must admit, I throw away more pieces than I keep. But every once in a while, you have an inspired moment where you create exactly the effect you wanted – or even more exciting – you produce something that veers from your original idea and exceeds your expectations!

Pastel seems to me to be almost the polar opposite of watercolor. This opaque, dry medium uses strong unadulterated color and is as close as you can get to painting with pure pigment. I usually start with my dark and medium colors first and slowly build to bright highlights with lighter pastels. I find this medium a bit more forgiving. If I change my mind, I can change anything from color to form to position, just by scraping and redrawing. Pastel is a challenging medium for me and I am constantly learning new skills and techniques. But no doubt about it – I’m hooked!

My new work in oil feels like an extension of my pastel working process. I usually start with a dark transparent red oxide underpainting and work my way forward, bringing color and light into the composition. I use water soluable oils, which look identical to traditional oils, but do not need toxic solvents. I love to build thickness and texture and move the paint around on the linen. Painting en plein in oil is (again) challenging, but absolute heaven when it clicks!

My subjects are varied, ranging from country landscapes to inner city architecture, from formal portraits to casual nudes. I love to travel and sometimes work from photos I’ve taken on the road, but when weather permits, my first choice is always to paint outdoors (en plein air), especially in my beloved Italy.

The consistent theme that attracts me is light and shadow. How does sunlight play on an old building? What happens to the folds of material on a dress when light cascades across it? Do leaves on a tree appear differently at various times of day? How is color affected when ambient light changes?

I aim for realism with a painterly twist, but sometimes I allow the rich hues and textures of a scene to dominate. Watercolor and pastel are exhilarating mediums that lead to endless adventures… and sometimes I’m just happy to follow their lead.



Jill Stefani Wagner’s watercolor and pastel paintings have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and are included in various corporate and private collections.

Eleven of Jill’s paintings have been accepted into the prestigious International Association of Pastel Societies Exhibits and she has been honored with multiple awards in the Pastel Society of America, where she has been designated a Master Pastelist. The Pastel Society of North Florida recently honored Jill with Best of Show Award in their National Exhibit. Pastel Journal Magazine has  awarded her five Honorable Mentions in their Pastel 100 Shows and she has been juried into various Great Lakes Pastel Society National Competitions and Annual Michigan Watercolor Society Exhibitions.

Ms. Wagner has mounted solo exhibitions at The University of Michigan, The University of Michigan Health System, The River Gallery and Pfizer Corporate Headquarters.

In 2016, Jill’s painting appeared on the cover of Plein Air Magazine. Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine (2012) highlighted Jill’s artwork and career in an article titled “Today’s Masters, Artists Making their Mark.” In  2012, Pastel Journal included her pastel paintings in an article on art inspired by travel. The best selling French magazine, Practique des Arts, highlighted her “skyscapes” in 2012.

In Michigan, her work is represented by the River Gallery in Chelsea, Tvedten Fine Art in Harbor Springs, J. Petter Galleries in Saugatuk, WSG Gallery in Ann Arbor and The Gallery in Saginaw. A Master Pastelist in the Pastel Society of America, she also  belongs to Degas Pastel Society, Great Lakes Pastel Society, Oil Painters of America, Great Lakes Plein Air Painters Association and Ann Arbor Women Artists.

Jill Stefani Wagner was born in Port Huron, Michigan. She received a B.F.A. from The University of Michigan School of Art and was the owner and creative director of an award-winning advertising and graphic design firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before “seeing the light” and becoming a full-time artist.


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