Creative Tutorials,  TUTORIALS

Mobile Photography – Musings on Mobile Art

This week our Mobile Photography Tutorial Writer, Jerry Jobe has decided to take an overall look at mobile art and questions whether it really is art. Take it away Jerry…(foreword by Joanne Carter).

“I’m out of town for the week, so I thought I’d step outside my usual review/tutorial to give my own take on a topic that comes up repeatedly on various forums: is what I’m doing art? For that matter, is what you are doing art?”

Random Notes

mobile art


There is now a section on The App Whisperer site known as the Artist Directory. I have not requested to have an entry in the directory yet. Why is that, when I make a weekly contribution to the site with my articles on all the photographic/art apps? It’s because I don’t consider myself an artist. I don’t have training as an artist, or for that matter as a photographer. My hands seem to have their own lives to live, so I can never be sure of the steadiness of a camera or the flow of a drawn line.

Bullet Time

But here’s the thing: does not being an artist mean that it’s impossible to create art? Why should it? My definition of myself really has nothing to do with what I am able to create. I put more structure to my definition of artist than “one who creates art”, and it seems that many others do also. So it’s not my opinion that you have to call yourself an artist to “do” art.

Park Illustrated

I was inspired to write this article because yet another group on Facebook seems to think that digital art is limited to art created with apps that emulate traditional art: painting, sketching and drawing. When someone posted a piece that was painting over a photo, they were criticised for “slapping a filter on a photo” and not creating “real art”.

She Often Could Be Seen

Well, there will always be those who denigrate photography as not being “real art”. I have to admit, overlaying an entire photo with a filter and then maybe adding a sticker is not something I would ever call art. However, when the creator of a piece spends time with a photo, making artistic decisions and targeting changes as effectively as they can, are they not creating art? I certainly spent some time on this image, created from a photo I captured of a forest path with a figure from the app Hallows Eve.

Harper’s Mill

So is it the amount of time you spend on a piece that creates art? I’ve spent hours masking and collaging images together to end up with crap, not worthy to see the light of day. At the same time, I’ve cropped an image, applied a B&W filter and a border, used a little dodge and burn and ended up with some images that I would call artistic in no time at all.


I think it comes down to the creator making a decision that helps convey something that makes a piece art. It has to matter to the artist (and hopefully, the audience). In the image below, I removed some people from the beach. Detail was not important to me – I didn’t care about the texture of the sand, the wall or the water. I didn’t care about capturing the accurate color of the scene, or capturing the expression of the boy. What I was seeing was the three figures working together across time. This is seeing and creating something that was really there, but wasn’t at the same time. At least in my opinion, it was art.

Autumn Winds

That’s not to say that photographs are needed to create an artistic piece, even for non-artists such as myself. It’s possible to start with a blank canvas, as all the “real artists” do, and find you’ve done something worthy of sharing. This, to me, is another essential part of art – the sharing.

He Doesn’t Know Where to Look

Yes, you’ve got to be making artistic decisions on color and balance and tone and texture. That does not preclude happy accidents. The accidental arrangement of the shapes suggested a person to me, so I added my own eye and some texture and created “He Doesn’t Know Where to Look”.

To Go

Personally, I don’t really get those people who rule out works based on photographs. I know; they toiled long and hard, doing something I am unable to do in applying paint, chalk, charcoal to canvas. As I said earlier, the amount of time and the effort is not what creates art. So the kind of effort you are making should not matter either. If the work below was photorealistic painting instead of a transformed photograph, then the artist may be able to charge more because of the effort expended – but it doesn’t make one art and the other not art.

Picasso Inmate

Art certainly doesn’t need to be “pretty” either, so long as it conveys the message or feeling the artist intends. The audience may find something else in the work than the artist intended, but the artist should not be wishy-washy. “Eh, it’s whatever you think it is – I just did it.” (Once again – my opinion.)


The inspiration for artwork can be a favorite photo. Perhaps a portrait.

Erosion Fence

Or a landscape.


Or you can be inspired by a favorite place. I’m often at Disney World, so much of what I create is based there, like “The FUTURE”.


Or “Italia”.

Christmas Cafe

Or “Christmas Café”.


You can be inspired by a technique or app. The Circular app inspired “Disoriented”.

Warm Welcome

And Tangled FX inspired this charming little scene.

Profiles in Texture

A ‘Warhol-esque” technique resulted in this triptych.

The Right Angles

In a way, this article is a plea. A plea from someone who may not consider himself an artist, but does look on some of his work as artistic. Try not to be divisive. Have an opinion about the pieces you see, but don’t completely dismiss them because you work differently. I write my tutorials so that everyone can create works that please the artist within.

Portrait Gallery

That doesn’t mean that groups should not be set up with rules. If you want to start a group that is solely black & white photography, or sketches, or still life, that’s great. You can say everything must be done on an iPhone, or must pass through Corel Painter on the desktop, or whatever. Just don’t say your group is for digital artists, then say “Not so fast, Mr. Photo Manipulator!

There’s a Change Coming

As long as we are discussing digital art that may include photography, let me touch on something that has also caught my eye. Some photo manipulators do not properly credit the photo source(s) they use in their works. I avoid this for the most part by using my own photos.


There are many sources for your work. If I see a nice photo taken by one of my friends, I may manipulate it and repost it as a comment to the originator. Then I mention their name when posting the result in my own space. The original image for the work below was taken by a friend, Kathy Fiandaca.

Can you Recall No Melody of Mine?

To me, proper attribution is not just saying you got the original image from Google, or Pixabay, or a museum’s public domain site. If you can find the originator’s name, use it! The original image below is of me, but comes from Capas Jones of Cloud 8 Photography.

A Kindly Soul

I hope you don’t mind me taking some time to give my viewpoints on topics many of us face on a regular basis. If you use the mobile photography/art apps that I present to you each week, you will find yourself making works that you consider to be called “art”, whatever your definition of the word is. When that happens, give credit for any image you used and take credit for the art you have achieved!

Until next time, enjoy!

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Never content with just scratching the surface of what an app can do, Jerry Jobe decided to pass on what he learned about imaging apps to others. He’s constantly trying to figure out just what tools other artists have used, and trying to incorporate them into his own work, in an attempt to find his style. He’s written tutorials on over 145 apps so far, which you can find (along with his Song of the Day entries) at He lives near Atlanta, Georgia, where he also finds a creative outlet in acting and directing in community theater.


  • Pat brown

    Jerry, thank you for these thoughtful comments and for your generosity in writing about various apps. I have benefitted from both. Of your artworks published here, my favorites are “A Kindly Soul” (wonderful), “Can You Recall No Melody of Mine?,” “Picasso Inmate,” and “Fishermen” (love this). Bravo!

  • diana nicholette jeon

    I’m all for everyone doing creative work of whatever type they want. But doing creative things with photos (phone or otherwise) is not enough to make one an artist. Hell, there are many degreed photographers who work every day shooting things like “lifestyle imagery” that are never going to be artists even though they make a living at photography. That doesn’t mean that any given lifestyle photographer or non-degreed creator is NOT an artist; some are.

    The majority of people who make things with their phones are never going to be “artists,” however. People who are have either a strong degree of innate ability to compose well and good fingers/decision-making, or are already degreed artists, or both.

    Also, there is a body of art work that has gone before, both long before and a few years before, artists are aware of what has come before them and where their work fits on that continuum. Creators? Not so much.

    Why do I say all that?
    -Because I am a degreed artist, the child of a degreed sculptor/educator (who did not practice due to the effect of war on his psyche.)
    -Because I taught classes that were open to everyone as well as classes that were only open to admitted majors, and the difference in the students is stark, even in the entry level class you can see who is really going to become an artist and who isn’t.
    -Because real artists do not run filters over a photo and call it “art” unless then photo was already good enough to be art to begin with but I see that all the time.
    -Because real artists do not spit out a work an hour and call it “art.” But I see that all the time.
    -Because even some people who are degreed artists and photographers do not make art but make decoration.

    I could go on, but, for me the bottom line is that not every work of creative expression done is art, even when it is a degreed artist doing the making. I make plenty of stuff I would never call art, but rather studies or sketches or learning exercises or things done because I just needed to make something, or felt like learning something. Occasionally some of those will ultimately, over a longer term, become something I would call art.