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.

Transferring Files between Devices (Mobile Tutorial)

It’s spring here in Oregon, so it’s time for some spring cleaning. And who doesn’t need to do a little cleaning in the photo library on their device? So today I’m going to kick off the first in a series of Mobile Tutorials on Image File Management, starting with transferring image files between devices.

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If you are like me, you might find the iPhone screen is a bit small for editing. I remember a specific moment in my early days of mobile photography… I had posted an image online which looked good to me on the small screen (an iPod Touch at the time), but when I saw it later on a large computer screen, I was horrified. It looked awful! I had missed some subtleties in the edit since I was looking at a small screen. Within days of that experience, I went out and purchased an iPad, knowing it would make a huge difference in my photo editing to have a larger screen. The larger screen means I can better see what’s happening with the whole image, as well as the details, as I make changes. I also have more workspace for edits which require fine control, like masking.

But more than a big screen, more than one device means big complexities with file management. When you have more than one device in your workflow, how do you quickly and easily get my photos from one device to the other? How do you keep from duplicating files on multiple devices, to the point you can’t even find the ones you want to edit?

Over time, I’ve developed a few requirements for my file transfer:

  • I only want to transfer the files I intend to edit. If you take multiple photos of subject with your iPhone, exploring small adjustments in composition, exposure or focus, then it’s nearly impossible to tell from looking at the Camera Roll thumbnails which image is the best. In the past, I’ve resorted to counting the tiny thumbnails from a reference photo in order to find the one I want, which is a method fraught with potential errors. I want to take the “noise” of having many images on the iPhone and simplify things on the iPad by selecting the photos I want to edit before transfer.
  • I want to view the image on the larger iPad screen before I transfer the files. Since the iPhone screen is small, even with my wonderful reading glasses I can’t see as much detail as I can on the iPad. That means that if there are subtle differences in focus between one image and the next I might miss them on the iPhone. Viewing the image on the iPad before transfer allows me to look at several image options and then transfer the best one.
  • I need a solution that works with and without WiFi. My iPad is WiFi only, so I don’t have the option of a cellular data connection. I might want to transfer files between iPhone and iPad when a WiFi connection isn’t available, so I’d better have a solution for that situation.

I tried all sorts of things in my early days learning iPhone photography, from iCloud to Photo Transfer Apps. After a while, I settled on two procedures for transfer, one for when a Cloud connection is available, and one for when it’s not. I’ll walk you through both and then tell you why I don’t like the other options I’ve tried.


Transfer with a Cloud Connection

When I have Cloud connection, I use Dropbox as my means of transfer. With a Dropbox account and the app on both devices, I can upload all of the images from my iPhone to Dropbox and then review and download only the best ones from my iPad. Here’s how to do it…

1. You will need the Dropbox app on both devices and a Dropbox account. (If you don’t have a Dropbox account, sign up here. Using this link will give us both more storage!) Install the app and log in to your account on each device.

2. On your iPhone, set Dropbox to Auto Camera Upload. You do this by tapping the Settings icon, and then tapping Camera Upload to access the Menu.

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Once you are in the Camera Upload menu, turn the Camera Upload switch to “ON”, switch Use Cellular Data to “OFF” (unless you want to use your cell data for photo uploading – not recommended if you have a limited data plan), and switch Background Uploading to “ON.”

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Now, everytime you connect to WiFi, your most recent photos will transfer from your iPhone into Dropbox. Handy, huh?

3. On your iPad, you DO NOT want Auto Camera Upload. Be sure Camera Upload is turned “OFF” in the Dropbox app on the iPad. Dropbox will prompt you to turn it on, but don’t enable this feature on the iPad.

4. When you are ready to review your photos, open Dropbox on the iPad. Tap the Photos icon at the bottom of the sidebar to see the most recent photos by date. You can scroll through to see any image larger on the right side of the screen. Note: You are not seeing the full image in this view, because the top and bottom menu bar overlap part of the image.

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To see the full image as large as you can, tap the preview on the right and the rest of the Dropbox window will disappear and the image will enlarge. You can swipe left or right to scroll through the images in full screen mode, where you can see all of the details. When you identify an image you want to edit, tap the image again. This will take you back to the Dropbox window.

From here, tap the Export icon on the top menu bar and then select Save Image to save to Camera Roll. Voila! You are done. You have reviewed the images full screen, and then transferred only the specific image you want to edit to the iPad. Now you can proceed with the editing process on the iPad.

Whenever I’ve taken new photos on my iPhone, I spend a few minutes when I am next on my iPad to review and download images through Dropbox. Then, whenever I pick up my iPad to edit, I start with the photos I’ve already selected on the Camera Roll. It saves me a lot of time and hassle since I don’t have to revisit a bunch of photos on my Camera Roll to find the best one every time.

Troubleshooting Dropbox:

  • If it doesn’t seem to be auto uploading from the iPhone, open the Dropbox app and check your settings to make sure Camera Upload is turned on.
  • If you have a lot of photos to upload, you might need to occasionally open Dropbox and tap on the app while it’s uploading since it will time out.
  • If you have a lot of images on your Camera Roll, you might want to pare down the number of images on your device before you turn on Auto Camera Upload or you could fill up the free space included with the Dropbox account. (The next mobile tutorial will cover transferring files to the computer and deleting from your device, so hang tight.)
  • If your Dropbox account runs out of space, you can either purchase more space or delete the files in Dropbox you no longer need. Since this is only temporary storage for me, I never purchase space.

You can use this method for transferring files as long as you have a connection to the Cloud, either through WiFi or a cellular data connection, and between any type of device. Dropbox makes apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, both Windows and Mac computers, and can be accessed from a web browser. With all of those options, it should work for whatever devices you operate!


Transfer without Cloud Connection

When I don’t have a cloud connection, I use Apple’s AirDrop feature, which will work between most iOS devices.

1. Make sure WiFi, Bluetooth and AirDrop are turned on for all devices. You can do this quickly and easily by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to get to the Quick Access menu, and then tapping the icons. For AirDrop, when you tap you will get a popup menu with options. I always set AirDrop to “Everyone” to make things easy.

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2. On the iPhone, go to the Camera Roll. Tap an image to view, and then swipe left and right to scroll through your image options. When you find one you want to transfer, tap the Export icon to bring up the Export menu. You can select multiple images to transfer as well.

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3. When you are ready to transfer, make sure your other device is turned on and unlocked, or AirDrop won’t find the device. Tap the AirDrop icon to search for nearby devices.

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4. When your device shows up in the AirDrop options, tap the icon to transfer the selected file(s). Watch the screen of the receiving device, and you’ll see a window with the status of the transfer.

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The upside with this method is that you can quickly and easily transfer files between devices, in either direction. The downside with this method is that you can’t view on the large iPad screen before transferring, but at least you can view it full screen on the iPhone. If I’m not sure which of a few images is the best on the iPhone, I’ll transfer them all to the iPad and then delete the ones that don’t work out.

Since most of the time I have WiFi, I don’t use this method often, but I like to have it available.


Why not iCloud or a Photo Transfer App?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, when I first added the iPad to my workflow I tried many different options for file transfer between devices before settling on these methods. I’ll share what I didn’t like about the other options I tried. I last used these options ~two years ago and the features may have changed since then, so take my comments here with a grain of salt.

Apple’s iCloud/Photo Stream

There were a few issues I ran into with this service that led me to give it up entirely:

  • When Photo Stream is turned “On” for a device, it automatically uploads and downloads the images in the Photo Stream to your device. All new images from all devices are mixed up into one “Photo Stream,” essentially a combined folder in the Cloud. Each file gets a new sequential image name and date/time, based on when it was added to the Photo Stream, so I lose traceability to the real date/time an image was created. As a linear thinker, that matters to me. I like to keep my image sources (iPhone or iPad) separate and sequential within themselves, not all jumbled together in one place.
  • Photo Stream was limited to 1000 photos. As you get beyond 1000, and remember that is total across all devices, you just lose the older ones out of the Photo Stream and you are back to transferring manually if you want an older image. You can probably pay for more storage, but since I just want to transfer not to archive, I have no interest in paying.
  • Images were resized, without your knowledge or ability to change the settings, depending on the device you were viewing the image on. So if I took a square image on my iPhone, which would be 2448×2448 pixels, it would be available on my iPad with only 2048×2048 pixels. I have no idea why they would do this, but after finding this out, it was a deal breaker for me. I work really hard to manage my file size and resolution as I edit files, I don’t want my file transfer service to change things without my knowledge!

Even if these settings changed since I last use it, the fact that there was so little control or notification about the settings makes me nervous. This service is not made for the serious photographer who is worried about file management and resolution, but for the average iPhone user who doesn’t have the same needs as I do. Apple can change how it operates in the next update and I could have a new issue I need to resolve, without even knowing. No thanks.

Photo Transfer Apps

I tried multiple apps and they all work pretty much the same: Download and open the app on both devices, select the image(s) to transfer from an iPhone thumbnail, select the device to send it to, and then wait. There are some problems with this method:

  • Choosing images to transfer based on thumbnails doesn’t work well. As we’ve already established, if the iPhone screen is too small to see fine detail and subtle differences in focus, a thumbnail is not going to work either. You end up needing to transfer more images to the iPad in order to review and decide the best ones there.
  • The apps limit you on the number of images you can transfer at one time. They must assume you are only transferring one or two, because they all limit the number you can transfer at a time and require you to select them one-by-one. I can’t remember exactly how many the apps limited me to, but I was finding this an issue for me. I had to do a repetitive batch transfer process to get the images over the iPad for review, which took a while.
  • Once I selected a group of photos, depending on the app they would actually transfer over in reverse order. And since I had to transfer in batches, that was a double-whammy to my desire to keep things in chronological order.
  • The apps would say they worked with WiFi or Bluetooth, but connection was spotty with one or both depending on the app. Pairing devices was a challenge in all of the apps I tried. When it did finally work, transfer was slooooowwww and you had to make sure your device didn’t go into sleep mode, or you needed to start the transfer process again.

Once I worked out the Dropbox transfer method, and later the AirDrop method, my life got much, much easier. I haven’t even explored this topic in a couple of years, everything has worked so well.

I hope this helps you manage your files between devices! Let me know your thoughts in the comments. The next File Management tutorial will cover quickly and easily transferring image files from your devices to your computer. Stay tuned!

The Beauty of Teenagerhood

The changes have been slow and steady… The deepening of the voice, the gaining of height, the expansion of opinion. My little boy has transformed into  a teenager. Surprise of all surprises, I am loving it.

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He turns 14 in just over a week and I find myself enjoying his blooming “teenagerhood” more than I ever expected.

Babyhood was an amazing period of development, but exhausting. Those early toddler and pre-k years were full of laughter and vigilance and frustration. You just can’t reason with a young child! Not to mention the vast amounts of time and attention children need and want. Where is there room for your own self? There were times I felt like there was some thing wrong with me, because I needed time for myself and didn’t want to spend all of my time with my child. There were many, many times were I wondered if I was cut out for being a parent.

But lately, as I observe this transformation between childhood and adulthood, I wonder if this was the time I was waiting for. I just didn’t know it until now. I get to see my boy as he becomes the adult he was meant to be.

I get to see him explore his interests, from choir to technology. I get to watch him develop his own opinions and think for himself. I get to observe him make his way through increasing social complexity, learning to develop and recognize healthy relationships and ways of interacting with others. I get to put in my two cents (whether he wants it or not) to influence his direction and choices and thought processes. Influence, but not define. He’s doing the definition himself.

And, along with all of that, I get to witness the most wonderful examples of his budding independence… Just last week he wrote an letter to the editor of the local paper expressing frustration about the new standardized tests coming out in Oregon schools. At first the paper wanted to publish it, but now they want to interview him, he expressed himself so well. I sit back and watch in amazement and gratitude, that my almost-14-year-old has the skills and the confidence to participate in the civic process on his own.

The added bonus, and we will see how much longer this lasts, is that he is still interested in sharing things with us and exploring our interests too. He goes to model railroad club with his dad (all of the “train guys” love him). He is doing more with photography. A couple of months ago I got this text, which warmed my heart:

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He helps with my mobile photography classes, working with the Android users since I’m familiar with iOS. He’s just joined Instagram and has started playing more with his own images. He let me share this one he created last week:

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“A little like you, Mom,” he said. Yes, a little like me. Influenced by me, but still with his own point of view.

Just like him, as a person.

Swapped and Gone

The first mailing in the Liberate Your Art Swap is off! The next three weeks, lots of wonderful mail will be making its way around the world. So how many people were in the swap this year? From where? You’ll have to wait on those answers… I’ll share all of the swap stats along with a video of the postcard art during the Blog Hop, which will be April 16-20, 2015. All of the details on the video and the blog hop will arrive via email for those participating in the swap.

We had a wonderful Swap Day on Sunday! Here’s what it looked like around my house, all swapped and waiting for the volunteers to arrive. The swapping itself is a process that would not work well with many people, too many opportunities for mistakes, so I got up early to do that part.

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Then came the sticking of labels and stamps on all of the postcards. With 8 of us, we finished in record time – 1.5 hours.

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Here are the last of the decorated envelopes I received in this year’s swap. What gorgeous mail art I received this year! I think I will go into withdrawal after this. :)

A mermaid from North Carolina swam to Oregon, courtesy of Beverly.

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I loved the message on this envelope, found within another envelope, from Chris in California…

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A lovely painted piece graced the back of this envelope from Nancy in Florida:

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Diane in Michigan is making the best of the cold weather — sending mail to warm the heart!

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Another stitched envelope! This one from Jen in Arizona. Great “Liberate Your Art” motif going on here.

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This elegant envelope arrived from Texas, sealed with wax. Kirsten‘s lettering is gorgeous!

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Dani sent this fun greeting from Australia…

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Another celebration of winter from Vicki in New York.

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These flowers bloomed all the way from Danie in Australia! Can you imagine how many people smiled at the envelope along the way?

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Kristen, here in my home state of Oregon, created a lovely collage on the back of her envelope…

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And last, but not least, Cindy sends a bit of glitter with the phrase, “Not all who wander are lost.” I love that saying!

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That wraps up the mail art for the 2015 swap. It was the best year yet for decorated envelopes. Thank you all so much!! It has been so much fun to received them.

The next swap update won’t be until the Blog Hop in April where we wrap everything up for the year. Stay tuned!!