Jan Piller – “In the Mood: Spotlight” Interview

Next, we shine the spotlight on Photographer, Jan Piller. In this interview, Jan talks about her appreciation of life itself (and its various forms) and the importance of “spirit” in artwork and photography. We also hear the touching story behind Jan’s work “Upon the Windowsill of Heaven”, and how nature once reflected a poignant time.


Welcome to “In the Mood: Spotlight”, Jan!

Tell me something about where you live…

I live in a small town in southern Ontario,  Canada. This small town is surrounded by corn fields. It’s not where I belong; I was born and raised near Toronto, Ontario but my heart is in Northern Ontario with the forests and the lakes and the granite walls of pink and black.

What inspires you most to take photos?

Life inspires my photography. I love “life”. I love the process of life. And that includes all life, plants, flowers, insects, animals, humans and birds. I’m awestruck by the process of life and the continuity of it.


‘Dance of the Migration’ by Jan Piller

Can you tell me something about your “In the Mood: Featured” work?

“Upon the Windowsill of Heaven” comes from a quote (anonymous) that reads :

Every Morning, Lean thine arms awhile
Upon the Windowsill of Heaven
And gaze upon the Lord,
Then, with that vision in thy heart
Turn strong to meet the day.

This little poem/quote has been my mantra for years now. It was the inspiration for the image. The image is a picture of a tree where I used to take my best friend “Nugget” for a walk during a very dark and scary time of my life.  After Nugget died, the path grew over with weeds and brush. It seemed right somehow that that would happen.

Upon the Windowsill of Heaven

‘Upon the Windowsill of Heaven’ by Jan Piller

Which image in your portfolio has received the most response and what do people like most about it?

The image people like the most and that makes the most sales is in fact “Nugget”. I’m certain her spirit touches people even years after she has left this earth.



What do you enjoy most about taking photos?

What I enjoyed about taking photos was seeing the world through a tiny window. Looking through a small viewfinder forces your focus onto just one thing at a time. It’s a very meditative and mindful exercise. I haven’t taken any pictures in almost two years now. My health doesn’t allow for it and I miss it very much.


‘Where Jack Frost Sleeps’ by Jan Piller

How important is photography to you?

Importance?  Well life isn’t about “doing”, it’s more about “being”, so I don’t place much importance on something I can do or not do  – it doesn’t define who I am.

What do you look for most in a piece of art or photography?

What I look for most in a piece of art or photography is the spirit of the moment. When there is passion and spirit behind a piece, it comes through in the piece – it can be sensed.  If I can’t feel the spirit that was behind it, then it’s just another exercise in drudgery for the sake of being called an artist; as if being an “artist” is some kind of banner to be waved about. There’s  a lot of ego in art today and less passion and vision. But people won’t be fooled by that. I’ve often uploaded pieces that I recognized were just drudgery and just uploaded them for ego’s sake. None of us get it right all the time.

Portrait of a Woman

‘Portrait of a Woman’ by Jan Piller

Apart from photography, what other interests do you have?  

I like to be an activist for justice – I speak out for those that can’t speak, or are too small or too weak to speak, or who don’t have a voice. There’s too much cruelty in the world and too many people are willing to turn a blind eye to it. I can’t do much – I can’t go to protests, but I can write letters to those that I think can make a difference.  And I love books – good action filled entertaining books!

Do you have any advice for photographers that are just starting out?

My advice for new artists starting out is – stay humble and accept criticism. There’s nothing more annoying than a “know it all”. You don’t know it all. Nobody knows it all. And if you can’t take criticism, then you’re operating through “ego” and you’ll never produce a piece that comes from the spirit.

Spring Sonnet

‘Spring Sonnet’ by Jan Piller

Thank you so much for being interviewed for “In the Mood: Spotlight”!

You can see more of Jan Piller’s work at http://jan-piller.artistwebsites.com/index.html



John Swartz – “In the Mood: Spotlight” Interview

Next in the spotlight is photographer, John Swartz who tells us the story behind his beautiful photo, “Three Fishermen” and shares his cherished memories of times spent in the Philippines.


Welcome to “In the Mood: Spotlight”, John! 

Tell me something about where you live 

I live and work in Japan. It is wonderful and expensive place to live. Crime is near nonexistence but they still have. Experiencing Japan is a daily thing for me. 


‘Local Soba’ by John Swartz

What inspires you most to create art or take photos? 

Hmmm…. That would definitely be the WOW factor. When someone looks at a picture or painting and you see their mouth say WOW without making a sound. For that moment they have left the world and put their mind in a different place based on that art work. Not all my pictures have the WOW factor but that is my goal to achieve. 
On the same notion I always welcome criticism good or bad. Yep even the bad. That too even inspires me.

Infrared Temple

‘Infrared temple’ by John Swartz

Can you tell me the story behind your “In the Mood: Featured” work? 

“Three Fishermen” was taken in the Philippines. A good friend of mine whom lived in the Philippines, which I would visit often suggested a trip, a trip to the local’s vacation spot. This spot was very isolated. The beauty there was so surreal. The water was crystal clear and the air was so pure. The daily life was so simple. It so reminded me of the movie “The Beach” a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss. The down side to the isolation was the local power was shut off from 6 AM to 2 PM daily and cell phone coverage was in and out which made things so much more relaxing. I took this photo sitting on the decks behind our hotel while my friend and I enjoyed a nice cold Sam Miguel. To watch the journey of the sun setting in this spot and time was a spectacular event. Non that I have ever witnessed before and I have to tell you I have been and seen many. I was definitely at the right place at the right time. Sad to say not too long ago my friend has passed away due to health issues. Each time I do see this picture I think of him and the solitary beach paradise. 


‘Three Fisherman’ by John Swartz

Which image in your portfolio has received the most response? 

Heavenly Skies. What do people like most about it? Most like the colors and rays of sun light. 

Heavenly Skies

‘Heavenly Skies’ by John Swartz

What do you enjoy most about creating art or taking photos?

Learning something new. I love a change and experience. I am self-taught since I started at the age of 7 and haven’t stopped since. I have used all mediums to include Tattooing. My current medium/tool is photography to create art, as my current job doesn’t allow me to use other mediums as I do travel a lot. 

How important is art/photography to you?

 I try to make it a part of my life daily. It’s pretty important as it makes me feel good when I am creating it. To think that someone will look at this and it will make them feel good for a moment or create a conversation. 

Tunnel of Water

‘Tunnel of Water’ by John Swartz

What do you look for most in a piece of art or photography? 

I always look at the basics rules of art like rules of thirds, leading lines, texture, light, and colors. More importantly does it tell a story? My eyes do break the picture down and I am thinking about how one made the art and what steps they went through, in other words the journey. 

Apart from art or photography, what other interests do you have? 

Besides art, I have perfected making pens with exotic woods and other materials. Woods that are used for trim in exotic cars. These pens are more for personalized gifts. 

Do you have any advice for artists or photographers that are just starting out? 

WOW, I have several folks in my area always asking for advice from me. It seems that I always tell them the same thing, to perfect the basics, practice daily, get feedback, and learn something new daily. Most importantly enjoy what you are doing. If you are not enjoying then maybe you need to stop. By the way you’re not going to get good at it overnight. Some say it takes about 10,000 hours to be a professional at something. You can do the math. 

Colored Skies

‘Colored Skies’ by John Swartz

Thank you so much for being interviewed for “In the Mood: Spotlight”! Do you have a website where we can see more of your work? 

I do have some work in Shutter Stock but it has been years since I have visited this site. As you know this is a Stock photography site and it’s not me. Fine Art America is my only current site. I am new to this site and it fits me to the “T”. I have several more photos to upload. In time you should expect to see more. Hopefully one of them will be HONORED to be “In the Mood: Featured”! Thank you. 

Andy James – “In the Mood: Spotlight” Interview

In this interview, we chat to photographer, Andy James who shows us his beautiful photography, shares his love for the outdoors and also offers some helpful advice on the business side of photography for those just starting out in their careers.



Location Photographer, Andy James

Welcome to “In the Mood: Spotlight”, Andy!

Tell me something about where you live

I live on the outskirts of Manchester in the UK. I seem to have a busy eclectic kind of life where two workdays are never the same, just the way I like it. I work from home as a full time location photographer.

The Long Walk Home

‘The Long Walk Home’ by Andy James

What inspires you most to take photos? 

The overdraft lol, but seriously being a full time photographer the production of hi quality images is genuinely a passion with a goal to giving the client the best possible service and quality for their money.
Also my inspiration can be driven by something I see in every day life, like a street scene or nice light falling on a subject.

A Calm Day

‘A Calm Day’ by Andy James

Can you tell me something about your “In the Mood: Featured” work? 

It’s a beautiful location Derwent Water, Friars Crag in the English Lake District its so peaceful and full of good memories, I just keep going back again and again. I find a great deal of solace here and love nothing more than a quiet walk or just to sit and listen to the bird song, it really is a great place to recharge your batteries.


‘Serenity’ by Andy James

Which image in your portfolio has received the most response? What do people like most about it?

I think it is an image called Aira Force waterfall, a bridge with a waterfall passing down into a small gorge oh and there is a rainbow in there as well. If you ever get a chance you should go and see it, it really is beautiful but take a coat there’s lots of water spray.
I think people like it because its different, it has charm and maybe it is just a little different than other waterfalls shots.

Aira Force Waterfall

‘Aira Force Waterfall’ by Andy James

 What do you enjoy the most about taking photos?

That split second and moment in time that has been frozen with the challenge to make that shot your own.

I’ve worked in some of the largest studios with high levels of pressure to finish your work on time, then move onto the next job. This was always completed but never to the expense of quality, to supply a quality product was always my goal and it is this that I enjoy the most.


‘Welding’ by Andy James

How important is photography to you?

It really is my life blood, aside from the financial aspect, it keeps the mind turning over trying to reinvent the wheel again and again but maybe coming up with a different view or be creatively different.

What do you look for most in a piece of art or photography?

Ideally something different or original, but always something that appeals to me. Some art will genuinely make your mouth open wide in wonder, this is what I strive for in my images. Hopefully some of my images will have that effect and maybe inspire others to create something special.

Must Finish the Book

‘Must Finish the Book’ by Andy James

Apart from photography, what other interests do you have? 

I walk a lot, love to go camping. I have always been an outdoor kind of person. I did some climbing and skiing but had to put that off after an injury to my leg but I’m mostly over that. Have just started diving a little so I do try to keep busy in my free time.

Do you have any advice for photographers that are just starting out?

Be true to yourself, if your intending to make a business out of photography/art research your genre. Get a variety of work/clients it’s amazing how much one area of photography will go quiet but another will be buoyant.
Make a business plan, so many people in the photography business forget this it just amazes me. You really do need to be a great business person as well as a fantastic photographer/artist. It’s a sobering thought that most people I know from photographic college are no longer in business. keep a real eye on your cost and most of all make money.

Thank you so much for being interviewed for “In the Mood: Spotlight”! Do you have a website where we can see more of your work?

Its been a pleasure you can see more of my work on www.jandyames.co.uk.


Mark Reep – “In the Mood: Spotlight” Interview

In this interview, Mark Reep opens the door and invites us inside his fascinating creative world. Find out what drives and inspires Mark to draw, write and create his beautifully intricate stoneworks.


Artist and Writer, Mark Reep

Welcome to “In the Mood: Spotlight”, Mark!

Tell me something about where you live.

I live in an old house on the remains of an old farm, long fallow, overgrown. Cutting brush and firewood keeps me in touch with the land, and I’ve rebuilt a few old stone walls. These days, I work mostly with smaller stones, and the abundant native fieldstone provides material for my in-studio stoneworks as well. New York’s Finger Lakes region is nearby, and the gorges of Watkins Glen and the Ithaca area are also a lifelong inspiration.


One of Mark’s stonewall rebuilds.


An example of Mark’s hillside stonework.

What inspires you most to create art?

Inspiration comes in many forms. A small stone with a good shape makes me want to fit it among others in a stonework. When my girlfriend and I walk past Cornell’s old observatory at sunset, I want to take photos as long as the light lasts. Or until she says, Okay. Enough. Experiences, conversations find their way into my writing. All these things are raw material.




‘All The Best Hopes’ Click to see Marks in-progress photos documenting the building process in this piece. Artwork for sale.


Cornell University’s Fuertes Observatory. Photograph by Mark Reep.

For me, drawing is different. Of course materials, place, experience find their way into the drawings as well, but much less directly, and without intent on my part. I’ve great respect for all those artists who render lovely likenesses, who can capture the look and feel of a place and moment. But I’ve never been interested in documenting in that way with pen or pencil. For me, the joy of drawing is in exploration, discovery. I like to simply start drawing, see what happens, then what I can make of it.


‘Bell of Song’ Charcoal, Graphite

Can you tell me the story behind your “In the Mood: Featured” work?

‘Light Be My Friend’ is the most recent of a loosely related series of drawings exploring light: Light transformative, as illumination, epiphany, visitation, spiritual energy, what have you. Light as beacon, guide.

The title of this drawing is also a response to some unusually dark art I saw recently. Many of us enjoy the freedom to make whatever kind of art we choose, and certainly we’re entitled to work through our personal challenges in the same way. Each to their own. But I’ve also known artists whose lives were unimaginably difficult who never allowed their art to be anything but positive and inspiring. Much respect for that. Dark is easy. Anybody can do dark, and the world’s already dark enough. Why not try to make it at least a little brighter, more beautiful. Just my take, for whatever it’s worth.


‘Light Be My Friend’

Which image in your portfolio has received the most response? What do people like most about it?

My drawing ‘The Gift Within’ has been very well received. It was featured in a recent Black and White Biennial exhibition, and it will be included in Spectrum 21. ‘The Gift Within’ is an unusually complex example of what I do; this drawing took about nine months to complete, and I doubt I’ll devote that much time to a single project again. So the response has been gratifying.

Viewers have said kind things about different elements of the drawing- The tree, the bridges, the waterfalls. The title seems to resonate as well. We’ve all been given gifts, you know? We all have something to offer that no one else does. It’s comprised of individual talent, experience, viewpoint‒ All those things that made us each of us unique. And it’s our responsibility to recognize, maximize those gifts, and make something good of them.

Again, my take, anyway.


‘The Gift Within’


‘A Walk In The Moonlight’ Ink, Graphite

What do you enjoy the most about creating art?

I love the work itself. Being absorbed, giving my best to a drawing, trying to stay out of its way, let it be the best it can. Again, my juice is exploration, discovery: Oh, what’s back in there? I can almost see… Find the right music to work by‒ Right now, I’m mixing it up with Zoe Keating, Keith Jarrett’s solo improvisations, and bootlegs of Ronnie Dio’s last tour with Heaven and Hell‒ and the hours fly by. Good times.

Of course, then there’s that point when mostly what’s left is the work necessary to bring each to the level of finish I like: Hours of making tiny little pencil marks, adjusting with a kneaded eraser. Stipple, blend, unstipple, repeat. That’s less exciting work. But it has its own value, often meditatitive.


‘In Silence’ Graphite, Charcoal


‘Forgiveness’ Charcoal, Graphite

How important is art to you?

It’s central. I’ve always been an artist of one kind or another, always will be. One day you realize how all the things that make you who you are‒ things you’ve considered failings as well as strengths‒ lend themselves so well to the artmaking life. And it feels like forgiveness, validation, coming home.

What do you look for most in a piece of art or photography?

Beauty, in whatever form it may take. I like art that inspires me to go make something myself. Likely it won’t be related. You just see something wonderful that someone’s made and it makes you want to get back to work, right now.

Apart from art, what other interests do you have?

I expect many are arts-related in one way or another. I’m a lifelong reader: John Crowley’s ‘Little, Big’; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country For Old Men’; M. John Harrison’s ‘Light’; William Gibson’s ‘Pattern Recognition’ are a few favorite novels. I like indie films- Greta Gerwig’s ‘Frances Ha’ and Emilio Estevez’ ‘The Way’ are a couple we’ve enjoyed recently. We watch a lot of documentaries too‒ ‘Just Like Being There’ is a great look at the gig poster industry.

I write fiction, poems, an occasional review (a list of recent publications is here: http://markreep.blogspot.com). I’m working on a novel, and assembling a collection of arts-related pieces. I’ve edited a limited run quarterly lit & arts journal called Ramshackle Review (http://ramshacklereview.blogspot.com). I enjoyed working with other writers in an editorial role, and I liked curating featured artwork. I wish I’d had time to continue publishing Ramshackle. Happily, my partner is also an artist (http://parnilla.com), and encouraging of my artcentricities.

Do you have any advice for artists that are just starting out?

Make the art you most want to make. Your most personal work is the most unique thing you have to offer. If you fail, fail doing what you love. Then say so what, and look for another way to succeed.

Don’t wait for inspiration. Work whenever you can, whether you feel like it or not. When you look back, you may find you’ve made some of your best work during times when you didn’t want to work, or when working was difficult for whatever reason. Be disciplined with your time. Along with health, time is the most precious thing we’re given. And there’s never enough.

Make your own way. Again, we’re all different. A fortunate few of us may sell well in galleries; others will work in film and gaming industries. But many of us will need to find a way to market our work ourselves. It’s never easy. But we’re blessed with so many opportunities and tools that were unimaginable a generation ago. Quality print-on-demand services like Fine Art America have made it possible for each of us to offer artcards and prints in a variety of formats. And most importantly, they’re affordable. Use social media. Offer your work directly. Do whatever it takes to buy materials and keep doing work you love.

Thank you so much for being interviewed for “In the Mood: Spotlight”! Do you have a website where we can see more of your work?

It’s my pleasure, Jenny. Thank you! Here’s my website: http://markreep.net.

If I may, I’d like to plug an upcoming show: My exhibition ‘Dreams In Black and White’ opens at Found In Ithaca, Ithaca, New York, on June 4. The show will be up through June 30.

About In the Mood: Spotlight

“In the Mood: Spotlight” will be interviewing selected artists and photographers who have work displayed in the In the Mood: Featured collection. The collection is a showcase of high quality, mood-focussed art and photography from around the world. “In the Mood: Spotlight” is here to interview the talented people behind the images. I hope you enjoy getting to know these awesome people as much as I do. It’s time to start shining the light!


 “In the Mood: Spotlight” interviews by Jennifer Woodward.