Liberate Your Art 2015 Blog Hop


The Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap has wrapped up another wonderful year! Here are the stats for the fifth year of the swap:

1290 pieces of art liberated
214 artists participating
12 countries represented

Every year, there is something new that the swap brings to the fore for me. This year, it was the idea that art knows no boundaries. Boundaries are a human invention. They are imaginary lines used to mark territories on a map, or they are imaginary lines in within the self that limit our actions. Some boundaries are good, but it’s amazing how many boundaries we gather up in our lives that artificially limit us. Art helps us to find the boundaries, push on them and break free.

Liberating your art is about pushing beyond the boundaries of fear and doubt.

Every one of you who participated this year is a unique, talented individual. You and your art deserve to be seen and heard. With that in mind, here is the 2015 video! I asked participants to send me a digital image of the art featured on their postcards for use in the video. About half of the artists sent me an image, so enjoy this amazing celebration of liberated art, realizing this is only a fraction of the artists who participated in the swap. If you can, watch it in HD. It’s gorgeous!

Thank you, thank you, thank you all for liberating such amazing art, making new connections and showing that art truly has no boundaries.

Now, it’s time to HOP! I have a special bonus for the blog hop participants in the form of a giveaway drawing! At the end of the blog hop, by random drawing from all blog hop participants, I will be giving away:

  • One copy of the book Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art. I bought two copies of this gorgeous book in the gift shop at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC last year, and I’m giving away the second copy to one of you!
  • One 6×9″ fine art print, matted to 11×14″, of this year’s Blog Hop image “Art Knows No Boundaries,” shown above. Having this image in your studio could be a reminder to continue to push those boundaries and liberate your art!

If you’d like to purchase your own 6×9″ fine art print of today’s image and help me defray the extra expenses I incur on behalf of the swap, I am making it available for purchase during the time of the blog hop. To order, click here if you are within the US and here if you are outside of the US. Postage is included in the purchase price. (Don’t worry, if you purchase the print and then win the giveaway, I’ll refund your money.)

Enough words from me… Let’s hop!

Learning Again

Meet Roman, the second of our two cats. He’s a big cat, full of “I’m going to do it my way” personality. He’s lot like the cartoon cat Garfield, if you want to know the truth. He’s driven us and the balance in our home crazy in so many ways since he joined our family, but he’s wiggled his way into our hearts just the same. Our lives and our home wouldn’t be the same without him. I think my husband, who really didn’t want to get a second cat, loves him the most. 


We’ve had him about a year, but I’m not sure he’s ever appeared on my blog before. I’ve taken hardly any pictures of him since he joined our family, mainly because I’ve been exclusively using the iPhone for photography and it’s so darn hard to photograph pets. But after reading my friend Jolanda’s guest post on photographing pets with your smartphone last week, I was inspired. I stalked my cats one morning over the weekend and managed to capture one or two good images. 

It was fun! I have a lot to learn to get to her level with photographing my pets with an iPhone but I think it’s worth the time. I now have this great image of Roman, who is such a big part of our lives right now. He’s already nine years old and won’t be around forever.

And learning something new is one way to dig out of the creative low point I’ve been experiencing lately. So that is good too. You just might see a few more cat photos pop up on my Instagram feed

Because, you know, there can never be enough cat photos on the Internet.

Guest Post: Photographing Pets with your Smartphone

Today we have a guest post by photographer Jolanda Boekhout from The Netherlands. Jolanda and I first met through Big Picture Classes in 2010 and she has participated in four of the five Liberate Your Art Postcard Swaps. I was marveling over her postcards, where were images of her cats she posts on Instagram, and asked her if she would share about her 365 project and how to photograph pets with your smartphone. Welcome and thank you, Jolanda! I’m inspired to go photograph my pets now.

A 365 with My Cats

I started a 365‐project with my iPhone for the first time in 2012. Since that moment I haven’t stopped shooting daily, addictive as it is. Sitting on the couch on New Years’ day morning 2014 with my three cats around me I already knew my word for 2014, ‘quiet’, but I still had no clue what my 365 photography project for 2014 would be. I jokingly asked my partner Eric what he thought of me following the cats with my camera for a year. He didn’t think it would be interesting or challenging enough. Boy, how wrong he was.

All is Quiet

All is Quiet

So I started this adventure with Tara, Blackie & Piet… with a little doubt in my heart. Would my photos be diverse enough to make the project interesting? Would my cats be bored with me after a while? Would I feel bored with shooting the same photos over and over again? How could I think all these disturbing thoughts! After a few days I got more and more excited. My cats have such an interesting and adventurous life!

Quite the Adventurer

Quite the Adventurer

Working with your own animals can be challenging, in spite of what Eric said. Animals have a mind of their own. You can’t ask them to sit and pose in a certain way, well you can ask, but the outcome won’t be like you have in mind. :‐D. Registering a habit you love on photo needs a lot of patience. You need to have your iPhone close all the time, and it can take a lot of photos till you’re satisfied with the result.

The reward came with photos that made my heart sing. A photo of the contentment on Piet’s face while sitting on my lap, the details of the beautiful and characteristic coloring of Tara’s fur and Blackie’s mischievous actions made me feel full of love. Working together and watching them being patient with me filled me with emotion. Some photos made me laugh and some made me cry of love. But all of my photos are special in one way or another, like my cats are special.

The Outside Office

The Outside Office

I ended the year with sadness in my heart. How could I stop photographing my beautiful friends? I haven’t stopped. I’ve set a goal for myself to shoot 365 photos for Tara, Blackie and Piet so that I can create a 365‐book for each of them.

All of my 365 photos I share on Instagram as @jofabi (and Flickr and Facebook ). Tara, Blackie & Piet have their own hashtag (#tarateetje, #apeknapie & #sweetpiet.).

What made a 365 with my cats priceless? With so many photos of each of them I’ve been creating a beautiful memory, in experiencing the adventures in their lives in an active way, but also with a beautiful collection of photos.

How to photograph your pet with your iPhone…

There are several things you need to remember when photographing your pet, in general and with a phone.

The basics: Be patient | Shoot | Practice

First of all you need to be aware that photographing your pet takes patience. Shooting your pet with your DSLR or your phone doesn’t make a difference in that. Photographing your pet with your phone has the advantage that you’ve got your phone close all day long. Don’t give up too soon if you don’t get the result you want right away. Give it time. And always be sweet with your pet.

Observe your pet with different eyes. Connect with your pet and try to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Once your pet is accustomed to you and your camera being close all the time he or she will take you on a beautiful journey.

Making yourself ‘invisible’ is a great way to get surprising images. Try to focus your attention on anything but your pet and press the button when your pet settles down and thinks you’re not watching.


The Box

What I love about animals is the look on their faces when they are focused, on you or an imaginary prey. This is the moment that you can tap your point of focus, the eyes for instance, easier because you’ve got some extra seconds. A phone doesn’t focus as fast as a DSLR so you need to get creative with your pet.

Do Not Look at Me

Do Not Look at Me

Sometimes I choose photos that are not in focus. Some of the actions of my cats make it impossible to focus. Having patience with yourself is important in those moments. And accidental shots, which for me are mostly out of focus, can be really beautiful. I often remind myself that a blurry photo tells a story too. What I look for when choosing my daily photo out of a couple of blurry photos is a nice composition or an expression or pose that says it all.

Missed you too Blackie

Missed you too Blackie

And what I always like to photograph is my sleeping cats. Be as silent as possible, study your pet and try a different vantage point (from above or lie flat on your belly).

Drop of Sunshine

Drop of Sunshine

When you get the hang of following your pet with your phone after some time you can start to add some extras to your photos. Play with composition, light and shadow or lines and shapes. Catching lens flare, which is really easy with a phone, is adding a dreamy, playful or funny tone to a photo.

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Be aware of the background in your photo. Choosing the right background, which can be any part of your home without daily life clutter, can add peace to your photo. But deliberately photographing your pet in your daily clutter can tell a story just as much.

When starting to follow your pet daily with your phone think about what you want to remember. Maybe a habit, daily rituals, sharing cuddles, an action with a favorite toy and your interaction with your pet. Once you start you’ll be inspired by the day.

A Windy Morning

A Windy Morning

Instagram: @jofabi, Flickr, Facebook

Thank you so much Jolanda!! Visit here for more mobile tutorials!

Keep Creating

I’ve been quietly struggling with my art lately. For some reason, I’m adrift. I’m not clear about what direction I’m going, what I’m trying to learn, or what’s the next challenge.  And one thing I know about myself, I need learning and challenge as part of my creative process.

So… I slowly continue to create. To look at the world around me and see what catches my eye. I’m waiting for inspiration to show me the way. 

This one came along yesterday, and I love it. 


 But it feels as if I had to be dragged kicking and screaming along the entire way. It’s as if inspiration reluctantly showed up for a moment, then ran away. “That’s all you get,” Inspiration says, “I’m outta here.” No clues left as to how to get it to stay.

So, dear blog friends, I’m looking for a diagnosis, and a cure. What’s wrong with me? Is it the seasonal blahs? Is it a creative rut? What will get me out of this funk?

All I know how to do is keep creating. If I keep creating, maybe Inspiration will stick around long enough to show me the way.

Want to be an artist? Get used to disappointment.


Being an artist is the most amazing thing you can do. You get to create something from nothing and share it with the world. 

Being an artist is also one of the hardest things you can do, because when you share your art with the world, you are sure to receive rejection along the way.

The more you put your art, and your self out there, the more likely you are to find success. But for every “yes” you hear, you will hear “no” five or ten or twenty times more often. 

As an artist, you have to develop a thick skin. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, again and again, believing you can get the “yes” but being ready to hear the “no.” 

And you know what? It gets both easier and harder with each “yes,” at least for me. A “yes” tends to make me forget, for a brief period of, all of the “no” I normally receive. I forget how much amazing art there is out there, and how small my chances really are for any single “yes.”

Last weekend, I had an opportunity that really solidified the reality of being an artist today. I went to a jury preview event for Art in the High Desert, an art fair held every August in Bend, Oregon. They showed every single one of the 616 applicants for the 110 spots in the fair.  

Stop and think about that for a moment. That’s a 1 in 6 chance of getting in. And it’s even worse, depending on your category. Thank goodness I’m not a jeweler. There were 122 applicants for 12-13 booths. That’s 1 in 10 for them.


The thing that hit home most from this event was not what I expected. I expected to learn how images show up in the Zapp jurying system, how a group of images works together, and how the booth shot affects the application. Yeah, I got all of that.

But the most impactful thing? Seeing how darn good all of the art was. I don’t remember thinking, “Wow, that art doesn’t belong here.” I remember seeing a lot of wonderful, high quality work. Enough to fill almost 6 shows of 110 booths each.

Which made me realize… This is probably how everything is in the art world. There are way more great artists than spaces for every art fair or exhibition or grant we apply for. A “no” from any one thing is not necessarily a rejection of me or my work. There is a lot of great work out there. More every day, as all of us artists continue to create and grow and new artists join our ranks. Add to that the subjective nature of a jury selection process, and you start to see the landscape artists have to operate in. 

It also made me realize how precious those “yes” answers are. How hard to come by they can really be. Looking at it from this angle, with a better understanding of how competitive the field is, I realize how lucky I’ve been to get as many “yes” answers as I have in the relatively short time I’ve been putting my art out there.

All I can do as an artist is continue to focus on creating my best work. Continue to grow in my craft, develop my own style, and learn to present myself in the best way possible. 

And then I have to put my work and myself out there.

The only way to get a “yes” is to expose myself to a “no.”

If you are an artist, remember this. Don’t let a single “no” stop you. It’s going to happen more often than not, as an inevitable stop on the path to the “yes.”

Something from Nothing

My studio is filled with prints right now as I start to get ready for art fair season. Seeing this abundance of imagery, I find myself in awe of the artistic process. Of how we can create something wholly new from seemingly nothing.


Think about how amazing this is…

I walk through my daily life. On occasion, I am aware enough of my surroundings to stop and notice something interesting. I pull out my camera, frame an image or two, and then move on.

Later, I edit the images, working with the raw material to alter mood and message. I print, finish, frame, and hang on the wall.

From almost nothing, a momentary observation, to something real and tangible on the wall of my home. Or, even better, someone else’s home. I take the makings of my ordinary life and transform it into something I can share. Something that other people can and do choose to have in their space.


How lucky am I, to be able to do this? How lucky are we all, that we have art to show us the extraordinary in the ordinary? I am amazed, humbled, and grateful to be part of the process. 

If you haven’t printed your work lately, or finished and framed a piece to hang on the wall, I encourage you to do so. Finish the process of creating something from nothing. Become a piece of the world that gets observed as part of daily life, fueling even more creation of art.

You won’t regret it.