PRINCETON — The paintings of Princeton artist B.J. Wagner are currently being featured in the tasting room at August Hill Winery in downtown Utica.
Wagner’s artistic background is quite extensive, not to mention captivating. Her career extends from designing labels for food products to painting a commissioned piece in the home of Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys.
Throughout her career, she has worked with many styles and mediums including ink, caseins, oils, pastels, watercolors, acrylics, fabrics and wood.
Her murals can be seen around Princeton — in the halls at Greenfield Retirement Home and in the lobby at the Grace Performing Arts Center.
Aside from her show in Utica, Wagner is also preparing to launch her first website to sell her popular Swedish Folk Art pieces.
Wagner grew up on a farm just outside of Princeton and attended a one-room schoolhouse. She was the only student in her grade, therefore often times was overlooked and had a lot of extra time on her hands while the teacher was helping other students in the school. During those times, she would draw portraits of her classmates. When she took them home to show her mother, she decided to enroll her daughter in private art lessons.
During her high school years, Wagner studied art with the prominent Princeton artist Mary Win Norris. She can recall sitting in her kitchen working on a painting while Norris prepared dinner for her family.
After high school, Wagner attended Bradley University in Peoria where she obtained an illustrator’s position from a label company. There she painted and airbrushed vignettes of food products and hand-lettered labels.
From 1965-91, she was an illustrator for Dynamic Graphics, where she designed all sort of clip art often used in newspapers. She still has old pieces she created for holiday pages and seasonal fashion sections.
In 1979, Wagner enrolled in an illustrators workshop in Terrytown, N.Y., where she met a representative and began doing work for companies like Dell Publishing, Publishers Graphics, Sun Rise Greeting Cards, Bradford Exchange, Riverside Press and more. In 1986, she developed her own line of greeting cards,
From 1994-2006, she ran her own business, the Art Shoppe, in St. Charles. Here she offered painted murals, prepared custom art, and designed, constructed and painted furniture. The gig allowed her to travel all over the country doing commissioned pieces in homes from California to South Carolina.
Some of her pieces were featured in Country Living Magazine, Good Housekeeping and Country Kitchens magazines and decorating books.
In talking about her years within the art world, she said art is something that’s always changing, revolving and never staying the same.
“There’s always a new trend, a new thing that people seek out,” she said. “Figuring out what it is that people like at a particular moment is the hard part.”
Wagner will also be one of numerous artists who with gather for the second annual artisan market at Hornbaker Gardens in September.
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