Dallas native creates a pop culture painting business

Alayna Cagle
Oxford Stories

STUDENT PROFILE – Senior integrated marketing communications major Olivia Wagner has been creating art since elementary school. Today, she operates her own pop culture painting business called artbyswagner.

She discovered her love of painting when she was around 8. Her favorite pastime was going to the store Earth Paint and Fire with her younger brother, Liam, and painting ceramic pieces. Her first piece of art was a key holder made for her mother and father, John and Suzanne Wagner. 

Born in Dallas and raised in New Orleans, Wagner’s parents, cousins, aunts and uncles urged her to attend the University of Mississippi to be close to family living on the coast. Although her cousin Stephanie earned a degree in hospitality, she urged Wagner to look into the UM School of Journalism and New Media because of the great reputation and community. Marissa thought integrated marketing communications was the perfect fit for Wagner. 

Wagner attended Ursuline of New Orleans Private School for girls where her favorite subjects were visual design, history, language arts and an extensive art program. She was a part of the creative team and a leader in the art course. She spent her afternoons helping other students. Ursuline Academy is well known for their esteemed and experienced teachers. Her art teacher, Mrs. Gilbert, worked with Wagner.

Wagner attended Lakehill Preparatory intermediate school in Dallas, where she won an art competition voted on by her peers for her poster drawing of Earth and space. To this day, she keeps the poster in her studio as a reminder of her first successful piece.

Before college, she experimented with several art mediums, such as watercolor, charcoal drawing and clay sculpture. In her high school theatre class, she was designated head of stage makeup. She created dozens of fake wounds she was later celebrated for. Wagner has since found that the medium she is most successful at and enjoys doing the most is acrylic and pastel painting. 

In 12th grade, Wagner created her first portfolio, artbyswagner, which became popular on Instagram. Even in the early stages of her first few posts, she began receiving many direct messages asking if she was willing to sell them. Prior to this, Wagner had no plans to assemble a business with her artwork.

Nonetheless, after collaborating with Gilbert, family and friends, she decided to create the small business. artbyswagner that has since branched out from Instagram to TikTok.

“I find that social media is the best way to promote my work because my audience age range is between 15 and 25,” Wagner said. “TikTok and Instagram are the best ways to reach potential buyers.”

Skylar Marra, Wagner’s sophomore year roommate, has purchased three of her canvases. Like Wagner, Marra is an Integrated Marketing Communications major. They bonded through their sorority, Phi Mu. Marra was drawn to Wagner because of her creative and outgoing nature.

“When she is not studying for classes, Olivia devotes her time to new pieces at her clients request,” she said.

The business artbyswagner carries custom artwork that is mostly about pop culture.

“I usually paint what my clients request,” she said. “If it is a celebrity, they will print out the exact photo they want me to replicate. I get a lot of requests for pets, musicians and television shows. My favorite piece was painting a client’s sneakers as Tiger King,” said Olivia.

Some of her other favorite canvas pieces include: War what’s it good for, Hippie Sabotage, Spreading Rumors, Miley Cyrus and Travis Scott. Savannah Graham, one of her customers, said she gave Olivia her favorite picture of Miley Cyrus, and the poster product Olivia created was identical.

“It’s hanging up in my bathroom, and I always get positive comments about it,” Savannah said. 

Wagner aspires to further her artbyswagner line after earning her degree in May. She hopes to work in the creative department for a marketing firm. She is hopeful to continue artbyswagner in her hometown Dallas and is excited to take her next step as a young artist. 

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