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Janice Wagner


I'm intrigued by the power and variety of visual expression throughout time, and am grateful for what I get to do on a daily basis: Paint! Since 2007, I've worked in oils in the style of classical realism, or the old master style.

To begin, I set up a still life scene illuminated by north light, which gives a steady definition to my subject throughout the day, at least in the summer months. I've found that in the Pacific Northwest, one must add artificial light especially during the short, dark winter months. Here, we don't have those bright blue sky days all year round like in the south.

Believe it or not, there's an abstract quality to painting realism. Each moment is focused on a part of the whole, and pushing gooey paint around on a flat surface, in the hope of achieving something 3-D. In that process, the mind forgets it's an object sitting on the table. How do you make the highlight on a glass several times brighter than a very white tablecloth? There's something exciting about these little milestones, about figuring it all out. Painting is a stimulating intellectual pursuit of beauty.

Being alive makes me a contemporary painter. (I think people usually equate "contemporary" with modern art.) And I am a conceptual artist, because when I work I have so many visual ideas in mind. For instance, I'll say, this is going to be about color, and then really work to make the colors pop. I love painting fruit because the colors are so rich. It's exciting when I can use a cadmium red straight out of the tube for the intensity of a deserving tomato!

So much thought goes into a composition so that the viewer's eye may wander through a painting in a preconceived way. In each painting, I am aware of the relationship of lights and darks, muted versus intense color, subtleties of edges, thickness of paint. Comparing a painting to a symphony, we may linger here or there, crescendo at a focal point, then trail off gently.

I hope the beauty that inspires me brings you a moment of joyful pause.