Artist Interview: Jan Wagstaff

posted on January 29, 2016 by
janwagstaff We're so excited to launch our newest project, 'Artist Interviews.' Thank you, Jan Wagstaff, for being our inagural interview! To see more of her work visit

Tell us about the subject matter/content of your work? My subject matter is derived from the natural world. I am interested in how I perceive what is around me, be it bodies of water, fields of grass or forests of changing seasons. Water is fascinating because of the many layers that can be focused on: reflections, objects floating on the surface, things on the bottom, shadows, etc. River_Jewels

Tell us about how you work/your process. I paint by layering color over color and the objects, subject matter comes out through the various layers. I photograph interesting sites, from different angles and then create my composition based on various parts of the photographs. Studio 3

What medium(s) do you work with? I paint with oils on canvas and paper.

About how many hours/day/week do you work? My work schedule in the studio varies. When I am exploring imagery in a paintings, I’ll go in and out of the studio to paint or look at what I have done, partly out of frustration and partly because I don’t know what I want. When I am in the groove, I’ll spend 4 or 5 hours per day. Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 5.40.39 PM

How do you navigate the art world? Navigating the art world shifts and changes depending many factors. One is the art world itself. Retail galleries, corporate galleries, design firms all have different interests. I do my work, looking for any and all opportunities and sometimes things click and sometimes not. I have been painting and selling for 40 years so I have seen changes in the business of the art world along with my own change and development. The mort important thing is to keep making art and be as true to yourself as you know how to be.

What is your definition of success? Success varies. It can come after completing a challenging painting. It can come from people wanting to own my work.

What inspires you? What do you read, listen to, look at, watch, eat, smell…? Experiencing nature inspires me: smelling, hearing, and seeing it. I read, walk and meditate.

What else would you do if you weren’t an artist (or what do you do when you aren’t making art)? When I was young, I did ballet. If I were not a visual artist, I would have been a dancer.

What are you working on now? Right now, I am working on a landscape series. Grasses, grass thickets are never very far from my interest for subject matter.

How do you get yourself through dry spells, self-esteem fluctuations, deep shyness, general low periods, inertia? Dry spells are usually caused by lack of motivation. Sometimes I let them be just that and other times I’ll challenge myself with a color, different medium, subject matter, anything to spark an idea. Traveling also helps. Acres

Tell us about your education and background. Self taught? Mentors? Art college? Lessons? Internet? Combo? I received both my BFA and MFA from the California College of Art. I was hired shortly after graduation to teach at California State University, Chico. I learned as much from teaching as I did from my formal education. I left Chico after 7 years, moved to the Monterey Peninsula and focused on my painting and clothing design. I started teaching again at York School and remained there for 24 years. It has all been a great education.

Any feedback on the value of YAC I love YAC. Many of my students have attended the afternoon sessions and gained skills and confidence. Having the freedom to create in a safe environment is priceless.

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