Do What Scares you Most!

The following post is contributed by Collective member, artist, Jill Stefani Wagner, PSA-MP IAPS/MC 

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.”

Bella Toscana, Pastel by artist Jill Stefani Wagner
Bella Toscana, Pastel by artist Jill Stefani Wagner

“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.

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…

At the Point, pastel by artist Jill Stefani Wagner
At the Point, pastel by artist Jill Stefani Wagner

Somehow I handled all of those new challenges…without failing! Over time I have realized that doing what scares me most is the best, and probably ONLY way for me to improve. And I learned to accept the convoluted process I 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 Publications 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 knew I had helpful information to share with pastel students, and making a video was the next logical step in my art career.

Ann Arbor Daze, oil painting by artist Jill Stefani Wagner
Ann Arbor Daze, oil painting
Taking the High Road, oil painting by artist Jill Stefani Wagner
Taking the High Road, oil painting by artist Jill Stefani Wagner

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. And after some of the fear dissipated, I actually enjoyed it!

Artist Jill Stefani Wagner with Streamline Video crew
Jill Stefani Wagner with Streamline Video crew

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!

5 Step Pastel Painting video featuring artist Jill Stefani Wagner by Streamline Video. Available for purchase.
5 Step Pastel Painting video featuring artist Jill Stefani Wagner by Streamline Video. Available for purchase.

(Never ordered a painting video online? Give it a shot!)

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 the prestigious International Association of Pastel Societies Exhibits and she was recently honored with multiple awards by the Pastel Society of America and the Great Lakes Pastel Society. The Pastel Society of North Florida honored Jill with First Place and Exceptional Merit Awards. Pastel Journal Magazine has given her six Honorable Mentions in their Annual Pastel 100 Competitions. 

One of Jill’s paintings graces the cover of the November 2016 Plein Air Magazine and her work is often featured in their pages. Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine has highlighted her work as has Pastel Journal and the best-selling French magazine, Practique des Arts. In 2016, 2017 and 2019, and 2021, Wagner was invited as Pastel Faculty at the Plein Air Convention, and also enjoys teaching workshops and mentoring other artists.

She has been designated a Master Pastelist by the Pastel Society of America and Master Circle in the International Association of Pastel Societies, and also belongs to American Impressionist Society, Oil Painters of America, the Great Lakes Pastel Society and the Degas Pastel Society. Her work is represented by five fine art galleries in the Midwest.

Jill Stefani Wagner was born in Port Huron, Michigan, and received a B.F.A. from The University of Michigan School of Art. She owned an award-winning advertising firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before “seeing the light” and becoming a full-time artist. Visit her website https://www.jillwagnerart.com

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