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Mobile Art – APPart Artist Interview with Diana Nicholette Jeon – TheAppWhisperer

As the AppArt editor, I’ve made so many special and talented friends, but I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting a few live and in-person. I very recently had the pleasure of meeting Diana Nicholette Jeon who was vacationing in Phoenix and we became fast friends and one whose artwork I greatly admire. You are no doubt familiar with her distinctive work and vocal commentary on our Facebook page, Diana knows who she is as an artist, and as a person and isn’t shy about revealing herself. Her distinctive work is created with scrupulously interlaced imagery, a clear vision, technical precision and artistry resulting in spellbinding work that always distinctive. I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting to know the person behind Diana’s art.

Contact Details:

Saatchi Art



Would you tell us more about your art background and transition (if appropriate) to working with mobile hardware, i.e. iPhone, iPad, tablets.

My father was trained as a sculptor at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Although he did not practice, I grew up around his art and enjoyed visiting museums with him. I considered studying art in college, but for a variety of reasons, I decided against it at that time.

Following graduation, I worked long hours the high tech industry in the Silicon Valley, but I longed to make art. Eventually, an opportunity presented itself that gave me a way to test the waters of going back to school. I began at Berkeley during the summer session, where I undertook an intense and brutal six weeks of drawing and photo classes. I stayed at Berkeley as a non-matriculated student for the rest of the 1994-95 academic year, taking a full load of art and art history courses. It was there; in the fall of 1994 that I was introduced to Photoshop and fell in love immediately. Sadly, I was unable to touch it again until 1997 when I enrolled in an introductory digital art course in HI. After that, there was no looking back.

Given my interest in photography and the fact that I draw poorly, gravitating to digital was a natural for me. I spent 11.5 years in school studying composition; techniques, tools, art, landscape, photo history; and how to handle professional practice concerns. I studied mostly part-time due to financial constraints and I went through the majority of my schooling as a mother of a child that grew from an infant to a 7 year-old son while I did it. I dragged my husband and son from Honolulu across the ocean to Baltimore (a place none of us enjoyed) to get my MFA degree and back home to Hawaii afterwards.

Transitioning from digital to mobile was never a thought for me. I am lazy at heart; I hate to lug equipment, I liked the aesthetic of the low-tech cameras and I loved having apps so I could work *right that minute, wherever I was. * Moving to the iPad was a given, I could use advanced properties of Photoshop (and other Adobe programs) in my sleep, so picking up any given app and figuring it out, for me, was just an extension of what I already knew. I really never had to think about them, except to note whether I liked the interface and did it work in the manner I wanted it to.

You’ve probably noticed that I have not called myself a “Mobile Artist” or “Mobile Photographer.” I doubt you will ever hear me say that. I use mobile tools for only 98% of my personal art practice. But I call myself an artist that uses mobile tools because for me, the key word first, last and always, is “Artist.”

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

Please describe your style of art and your portrayals

The majority of my work usually addresses a social or political issue, or is some sort of self-reflection or commentary. I use myself as the model for the majority of it because I am available and my rates are cheap! But it is also a cathartic method of self-exploration.

For several years now I have been photographing people in public places, because the private things people do in public spaces fascinate me. So in that sense, you could also call me a street photographer, but not a typical one. I’ve never been a rule follower, and I see little need to start at this age! I enjoy working with the ideas of the street style imagery and altering it to make it more painterly and fine art styled, it’s something I’ve kept returning to in spurts over the past few years.

In 2004, after I achieved my BA degree, three of my college colleagues and I had a show at the Hawaii Pacific University Gallery (here on Oahu.) In an interview, by Victoria Gail-White, the Art Reviewer for the now defunct Honolulu Advertiser I gave the following quote about my work: “The title is ‘Transgressed Boundaries,’ says Jeon. “Somehow, that transgression is, for me, a mixing of materials that makes a statement that I can’t make using each medium alone. The way I see the world, and the things I choose to comment about in the world, are often not single-layered. When I do straight photography or just straight traditional media, it seems flat. The layers of meanings that are built into the pieces also have to do with the actual layers that are built in through Photoshop or through scanning to create the piece that ties it together. The only way I can build on those meanings is by mixing my tools. I feel that what is innate to the things I want to capture through my art isn’t something I capture right out. Part of it is how I interface with the work. Through building these layers of meaning I ultimately get to a piece that says what I want to say.” My tools may have changed since then, and they will continue to change and evolve right along with technology. But the essence of what I said then still holds true for my work today. The meaning is in the layers, and the mixing of the hand with photo. I doubt that will ever change, no matter what tools I use.

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

How are you inspired, motivated and nourished in your work?

I don’t really have any answers for this question. I am inspired by a look in my son’s eye, a news story, the ocean, a bad experience, and other artists. My life as I live it is the canvas. I just have a lot to say, it seems, and it needs to come out all the time!

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

How often do you create images? Do you feel under pressure to produce more and more or do you not subscribe to this? If yes, does this sense of urgency help you in your creation process?

I am a full-time artist. I am ALWAYS working on images. I always have a multiplicity of images in different stages of development. Some will take me a couple of years to get right, and others will come together in a couple of days. Most are somewhere in the middle.

Do I feel a need to produce? Yes, and no. I mean you cannot earn any money if you are an artist that doesn’t make anything. But you also can’t earn any money if you, excuse the language, throw crap up against the wall. Churning out work a few times a day, or putting work out there that is no where near “ready for prime-time” is never something I am going to do. Like everyone else, some of my work will be stronger than others, but none of it will ever be something slapped together or poorly thought out.

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

Do you adapt a similar ‘routine’ to creating your images or do you change and vary your process depending on the piece?

I brought the processes of traditional art, most specifically printmaking, to digital work, and I bring the processes of digital and traditional to mobile. I don’t have a routine, per se, but I do have practices that I repeat. I am NOT into erasing. I want to mask, I want layers, and I want what is termed “non-destructive” editing. I reuse things, objects, photos, layers, etc. and I do not like to recreate the wheel, especially on a daily basis. Non-destructive tools work the same way I taught students to use Photoshop or Illustrator, because if you need to make or choose to make changes, the file will be forever editable and no one needs to start from scratch on it. Unfortunately, most mobile apps are still based in erasing and flattened layers after a working session. This is part of why I gravitate to some specific apps more than others, because they allow me to work the way I like.

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

Do you have a particular methodology in your work? Do you allow a specific time frame to complete an image? Do you need to work in a certain creative environment?


Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

Do photographic images feature in your work, what form do these take?

Photography has always formed the basis for my work. I draw poorly, and always have. In fact, that first summer at Berkeley, my drawing teacher was actively pushing all semester long that I *find different field than art.* (I didn’t listen, obviously.)

My photography ranges from barely enhanced full images to chopped up into tiny pieces or so painted over that you have to trust there is a photo underneath.

However, I will never be a master of photographic technique. I am not good enough with details to be. So I gravitate toward things like “Krappy Kameras,” because they did not require this level of skill. Cameras such as modified Holgas, modified old Polaroids, Oatmeal Boxes, cheap, low-res digital cameras, and so on. I am the most impatient person on the planet. Film takes time, and you have no idea what you got till you see that contact sheet. So I need to work with processes that I have visual feedback rather immediately. Digital tools seemed to be made for me in that regard.

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

Do you use any additional hardware to help you create your art, such as a stylus? Can you also tell us about any other hardware you use including, software, accessories including batteries, chargers, lenses, storage.

I have used everything I could get: water casing, lenses, styluses of all qualities, power pack phone cases, car chargers, cloud based storage, magnetic footed bendable tripods, a water glass as a tripod; you name it, I will try it. The other day, at Target of all places, I found an add-on mini speed light. I bought it, but haven’t had occasion to try it yet.

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

Are you motivated by competitions/competitiveness or does your satisfaction come from within? How do you involve yourself in competitions, shows, challenges and what are your reasons for doing so?

My motivation is what I will call externally focused internal motivation. I look at what hangs in museums that are considered “master work.” During the time of its creation, the average person, some even by the powerful patrons and critics of its time, disdained much of it. I look at what the art world authorities consider being highly successful contemporary artists. Winning the “popular vote” is not on my radar at all.

I NEVER enter those sorts of “competitions” where the work is voted on by the public, or those run by vanity galleries, especially the online-only type. I know saying this is going to make me even less popular than I already am with some folks, but seriously, it is what it is for me.  It may be the exact right thing for someone else with different work and/or different goals. For some, art (in any form) is something they do to relax, for fun, a hobby, or whatever reason – but this is what I do full-time. An artist is what I am. It is what I do. If I do it well enough, I will make a mark in the history of art that will be written long after I have left this planet. If I don’t, well, I will have given everything I have to that effort. In the end, I make art because I have no other choice. I have to do it. It is an integral part of me. I am an artist.

For the most part, these attitudes are part and parcel of the work I make, and the work reflects it. Would most people want my work hanging over their sofa? No, they wouldn’t. Not even the people who really like it! It’s challenging, eclectic, and odd – and after you look beyond the pretty colors – frequently disturbing. It’s not something people want to look at or have look at back at them, as they are relaxing around the house. I don’t have any problem with that, because I don’t create my art to be enjoyed while at home while sipping a pina colada.

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

What causes you to pause and take stock of your existing work?

I probably should do this, but honestly, I don’t. I just keep moving on to make the next piece. Perhaps that is because I am my own toughest critic. My students would have told you that nothing was ever good enough for me. I would disagree with that in many cases, but I would agree to the point that if I was hard on them, I’m 10 times harder on myself. Sometimes I revisit completed work later, and rework it in a new way. I am my own toughest critic.

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

How has mobile technology and connectedness changed the way you see?

These are, for me, two separate things. Mobile has not changed the way I see or what I say, at all. But it has made it much more convenient for me to literally work anywhere, anyplace, any time of day or night.

The Internet and social media in general have been an incredible boon to someone like me, who is practicing contemporary art on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What sells and what is valued here is typically traditional media and tourist art. I had no really active digital peer group here, but in 2000 when I found an internet news group called Digital Fine Art, created by Harold Johnson, the man who later started Phoozl. I made some incredible contacts through being active there, and I also learned a lot. I made friends with some folks who are still my friends today. I got “adopted” by a group of digital artists, eventually called the Digital Art Guild that was actively practicing in San Diego County. For a number of years, I exhibited with them once to twice a year. I can say the similar things about FB groups, and in particular, some of the people I have met via The App Whisperer groups and other groups here. I am lucky to have made friends with some incredible artists and photographers, to the point where a small group of us have decided to collaborate together. It’s really very exciting!

Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

How has helped you with your art?

The App Whisperer showcases, and more recently the lectures Joanne Carter gave at the NEC show, Birmingham and The Museum of Art lecture in Seoul, South Korea, have made my work visible to people who would probably not have seen it otherwise.

I am eternally grateful for the eyeballs that it has brought to my work and me. There is no way to repay what Joanne, Gina, Cara, Jennifer, Donna, Giulia and Vanessa and you have done for my visibility as an artist, Bobbi.


Image – ©Diana Nicholette Jeon

Bobbi McMurry received her BFA from Arizona State University where she focused on painting, drawing, and printmaking. After graduating, she spent many years as an Art Director for custom and newsstand magazines. She has recently rekindled her passion for creating personal images and has gravitated to the world of mobile art. Her work has been accepted into numerous juried exhibitions, and has been recognized in mobile art competitions including The Third Wave and the Mobile Photo Awards. Additionaly, her work is part of the current iPhonic Art Exhibit at Markham Vinyards in California. She has been featured on mobile photography blogs, and recently became a columnist for The App Whisperer. Bobbi lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona.


  • Damian De Souza

    Bravo, Diana, I love what you’re doing and would hang it on my walls.

    • Diana Nicholette Jeon

      Damian, thank you for the compliment! I appreciate so much that you took the time to read this interview and then to comment, even though this is maybe the first time we have gotten to “speak” to each other. I love your work, too (probably because it also is not work that the average person would want over their sofa. That’s why I would want yours over mine, as well.)

  • Debara Splendorio

    Diana, I discovered your work this year through TheAppWhisperer and it’s brilliant. Loved this interview, you are a fascinating artist. Yes, I too would hang your artwork over my sofa.

  • Mark Schnidman

    Great interview, Bobbi and Diane. Your art can occupy any wall in my house and feel welcomed. In fact, I’m surprised your work is not on more walls in galleries and museums throughout the world.

  • Carolyn Hall Young

    Diana Nicholette Jeon, I appreciate the generousity in the sharing of your images, your thoughts, your history, and the context of the evolution of your work. I respect your images, along with the courage and determination you have invested in the making of them. Brava, Diana!
    Thank you for publishing this, Joanne Carter. This is a terrific interview, Bobbi McMurry!