Little Changes in Art

Have you ever noticed the subtler things we do with our art? The little changes we make that hold a bigger impact?

When creating art, be it writing, photography, or anything else, it can often be improved with little touches. That doesn’t mean to say that big changes can’t help, perhaps you’re working with a photograph that really has no merit, perhaps your story has gone on a bit of a tangent or you need to kill your darlings, but lets discuss the little changes.

These are the kinds of things that, when done correctly, nobody may notice, but when done wrong/not done at all, they can often stand out. They’re also the kind of things that people without the ‘eye’ for them might not see, but may feel. People who aren’t writers, may not be able to say why they prefer one writing style over another, just like people who aren’t musicians, like myself, can’t necessarily grasp what makes one song better than another. We may feel it inside, we may naturally pick one cover of a song over another, or favour one photograph despite it’s subject matter being same to its kin. Sometimes the artist has tweaked something, and it’s made a big difference, and sometimes it goes without notice.

And doesn’t this make art amazing? It’s something I truly love, the ability to affect someone without them realising why, and I believe its partly to blame for arts subjectivity. In my photography work, I often make little changes to photos that I like to think really helps the overall image. However, these are changes that someone might not even realise are there to begin with. They can be something as simple as cropping a photo, realigning it, changing its colour, to something a little more complex like adding grain, or playing with the tone. Greg came to me the other day to change a photo because there was some fluff on the shoulder of a groom. It was my photo, I’d taken it, and I hadn’t even noticed this; upon changing it though it felt like a huge difference to me... I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before.

Now you might think this is me being too much of a perfectionist, perhaps it wouldn’t affect someone else. Then again, there’s no way to know whether it would without you seeing both and a comparison defeats the objective of a subconscious affect. I strongly believe, though, that there’s these little details in art that slip into your subconscious before you can register them. It’s the same with writing, the difference between a good writer and a great one is often these little aspects that set them apart. It’s also something I see a lot in films, where over time I’ve come to understand more about camera work, cinematography, and directing decisions. Having this understanding, this lens, helps me to articulate what I think makes or breaks a piece.

Just like some people don’t notice the changes, I think sometimes we don’t even really notice we do it either. We might change a few words round in a sentence and find it flows that bit better. Did the sentence work before? Certainly! But it might not have held the same impact. I think by being conscious of these changes though, we begin to understand what we aim to do with our art. We can develop a deeper appreciation for what we’re all trying to achieve.

What do you think? Are there subtleties you enjoy weaving in your work? Do you think there are hidden layers in art we don’t necessarily pick up on, but that impact us none the less? Let me know in the comments below!

The Future of the Clouds

The Tagline for this website has always been “I like to pretend I am more clever than I am“, and it’s a sentiment I still hold very true. I really do pretend I’m more clever than I am, I often give my own opinion a lot more credit than it’s due. However, it’s not really a sentiment that fully reflects what I’m doing here with Clockwork Clouds anymore.

Clockwork Clouds aims to be a place to promote positivity and incite inspiration; it’s also a place that loves a good bit of alliteration. Clockwork Clouds began simply as vessel for me to write down and make sense of my own thoughts, it then became a place for me to publish my own written work, and lastly it became a place to spread a positive message and encourage others to do the same.

This is where I think Clockwork Clouds has been going from the start, as I think it’s what I’ve always been trying to do as a person.

I’m a huge advocate for us all helping each other, whether it be through the sharing of personal experience, the offering of advice and lessons learnt, or simply allowing someone else a window into our world. The blogosphere, and the internet in general, can be a great place of acceptance, and I think we should aim to continually increase that. After all, a greater wealth of positivity can never be a bad thing. Sure, I’m still here to promote myself too… I want to post my writing, my photography, and my opinion on things, but I try to tailor my posts to carry a more positive theme, I try to encourage other people and, when reflecting on myself, I try to make sense of things or provide some piece of insight.

So, what does this mean going forward? Well, nothing is going to change too much. What I’m discussing here is what the blog has become, so in may respects we’re already there. However, I’m also going to be pushing forward to make sure we share some more positivity and encourage inspiration in others. I’m going to be making an active effort to share more creativity, be it my own work or the work of others, and I’m going to be making sure my posts have, if not a creative element, then a positive one.

If you’d like to take part in the Clouds, be it through a Guest Post, Collaboration, or simply sharing an idea or two, feel free to let me know!

Disorganisation Station

Do you ever let your disorganisation get the better of you? I do.

Today I am celebrating Kirstys Birthday, so again this post has been scheduled in advance. In truth, most of my blog posts tend to be scheduled at least a few days in advance (at time of writing I have 4 post scheduled!) and it’s rare that I post on the same day as writing something. It’s better that way. It means I have more time to add information, more chance of correcting errors I’ve made, and it means I’m not just hitting you, the wonderful reader, with information on random days; you can follow along on predefined days and I have deadlines to hit which make me feel more productive. It also negates a lot of stress.

When I used to write a blog post with the intention of it going live that day, it would have a fair bit of stress around it. I’d be worried about it coming out too late, I’d be worried about all my typos, my spelling errors, and I’d be worried about missing out content I would like to add in. Plenty of times I have written a post, only to realise the tangent I end up on is it’s own post entirely. With enough time, I can split the posts and make two brand new things… Two weeks work done and dusted there!

So, why am I not like that in the rest of my life? I’ve written before about how a lot of my anxiety is caused by my own disorganisation. You can read that post here: 3 Steps to Help Combat your Anxieties!. If I think back to times I’ve been most stressed, it’s normally due to something I could have mitigated against. To use an example… there was the the time I needed to Tax my car… I left it to the last day, I didn’t have the correct documents, I couldn’t get through the phone system, and I had somewhere I needed to go. I got it all sorted in the end, but that moment of anxiety and stress was crushing.

For an even more recent example we can use the wedding last week: I’m so used to being a photographer at a wedding that I took all my equipment, but I forgot that, as a guest, I’d be wearing a dress shirt (I’d left my cufflinks behind), I couldn’t find my best tie (despite having it about a week previous), and I needed a new belt (but didn’t realise until I was getting changed). Now, I didn’t majorly stress about these things, I knew I could solve them (And solve them I did – I drove into Solihull and bought a new tie, a cufflink set, and someone had a spare belt), but there was still some anxiety there with the potential to ruin a great day. Could I have stopped this from happening all together? Yes! I could have been prepared!

There’s some part of me, some element deep down, that just doesn’t like getting stuff done in advance. I like to put stuff off until the last minute, only to have it come back to bite me, and I don’t know why. I don’t know why I can’t just think to myself “that needs doing” and then just simply do it. I don’t know why I feel this need to just put stuff off. Sometimes it’s like an anxiety all of its own, it’s like I feel uncomfortable doing stuff straight away… especially if there’s a potential for failure. It’s almost as though my head says: Why choose to do something you could fail in, or that could have an negative effect, if you can do it at a later date when the choice isn’t optional? When the negative effect is coming whether you like it or not? This is how I see the car tax. In the back of my head I knew I didn’t have the right documents, I knew I’d get stressed on a phone-call (talking on the phone makes me really uncomfortable), and I knew there’d be a big cost associated with paying my tax. All of that made for me to put it off, thinking “Why ruin a good day doing this/Why make a bad day worse by doing this… I could do it later“.

Getting stuff ready for the wedding, on the other hand, was just pure oversight. I made sure I prepared all my photography stuff, batteries were at the ready, memory cards were wiped, lens’ were cleaned. I forgot about being a Guest though, I didn’t take that into account and I forgot/lost/didn’t buy some not-too-essential-but-nice-to-have-Guest-Dress-items. In the end, it all comes down to learning from my mistakes. I’m not great at that, the fact I’ve written an entire blog post about it before and still haven’t learnt is evidence enough. Maybe now though, it’ll sink in. Maybe now I’ll be more organised. We can only wait and find out.

What about you? Are you organised? Do you have everything planned out and ready to go? Or is your life the chaos that mine is at times? Let me know in the comments below!

Weddings, Passion and Self-Conscious Creativity

Do you create without a need for recognition? Or does a little support go a long way? Do you hide your work away, self-conscious of it, or do you show it off for all to see?

As you read this I’ll be at a Wedding as a weird cross between Photographer and Guest. The Wedding is that of Kirsty’s sister, Katie, and her fiance, Stephen. As everyone I know is actually part of the Wedding itself, I’ve opted to spend the morning working it (as a Photographer) rather than sit in the crowd amidst people I don’t know. Greg will be with me, so we’ll be fully representing Level Up Photography, but I’ll be slowly turning into a guest as the evening (and the alcohol) gets going.

Therefore, it seems poignant to me to address one of my favourite topics, that of passion. If you’re new here, I’ve written about passion a few times, and this very blog started as an attempt to fuel my own passions. With the Wedding day currently taking place (at time of posting, not at time of writing – I do want to make this clear) it is obviously a prominent theme, passion is obviously very important to today’s event. So, I’m going to talk about my passions, because we’re not all bored with that subject on this blog are we?

A few weeks ago I had a few moments of clarity. I shared a post I’d written and it received more hits and shares than ever before, partly because it was posted directly to my own personal Facebook, partly because the topic was sensitive in nature. That same week, I also received compliments for my photography, both from an actual paying client, and also from a few friends who were really pleased with some of my work. To have a week where I received such recognition for both my creative pursuits was… a little overwhelming, but ultimately fantastic.

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One of the photos I am most proud of!

Days, weeks, months can go by and nobody notices what you’re doing and that can feel like what you’re doing isn’t quite right, that what you’re doing isn’t clicking. I think this is more so with creativity than anything else, especially if you’re a self conscious creative. There are people out there who are clearly brave enough to just create for creativity’s sake; they want for nothing but for the joy of creation, or they simply believe that what they’re producing is of a high tier. However, there are many of us who, despite creating simply to create, do so a little more tentatively and with the hope that what we’re doing is well received. I’m the latter.

As much as I blog simply to blog, as much as I take photographs to simply make a good image, I do so with the desire that someone will enjoy this work. I don’t do it to receive compliments, though of course they’re always welcome, but I do it with an intention that someone may get some enjoyment out of it. The thing is, when we’re self conscious about our work, we’re less likely to boast about it, and we’re far less likely to show it off. So, what did my recent week of praise teach me? It’s that to receive the encouragement we desire, we need to actually make our work known. By hiding our work away, we are nothing more than a self-fulling prophecy. How are we to receive encouragement for things nobody realises we do?

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The Photo of Odin that got me some love from my friends!

Ofcourse, it’s a double edged sword. By putting our work out there we open ourselves up to criticism, we have to leave our comfort zones. But it finally helps us answer our enternal questions, are our passions good enough? I find out if my writing is good enough by posting blogs, I find out if my photography is good enough by sharing my photographs, and more-so by making a career out of it. I open myself to criticism, but I vow to take it on board and adapt with it in mind. This ensures we continue to get better, this ensures we break a never ending cycle, for one that is more favourable and positive. Rather than worrying about our work, rather than hiding it out of worry, and rather that worrying more because nobody is passing comment on it, we change. We become someone who puts their work out there, who receives feedback for their work, who improves their work, and who puts their work out there once again.

Being at a Wedding is about passion, but it’s also about celebration. We all have our passions, some of us will be better at them than others, but that’s never a reason to stop. We should be celebrating our work, we should be proud enough to show it off, regardless of our skill level. A Wedding is a celebration of your love, it’s you saying to the world that “this is us“, so shouldn’t we show off our work? Shouldn’t we say “this is me – this is what I create“? After all, there’s one thing Weddings are about more than both Passion and CelebrationCommitment. Lets be committed to our creativity, let’s celebrate it with passion!

 

What do you think? Do you share your work or are you more inclined to keep it hidden? If you’re the latter, a bit like me, why not take it upon yourself to share something this week. If you do, let me know in the comments below!

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You’d almost think I’ve timed it this way, though I haven’t, but my Facebook page just went live and this will be the first post to it! How’s that for Passion, Commitment, and Celebration? Click here or on the logo to take a peak!

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Battery Powered Humans

Human beings are like batteries. We charge ourselves, we carry out our tasks, we deplete our energy, and the cycle begins anew. What differs is the types of batteries we are, how quickly our energy runs dry, and what we can do to recharge ourselves.

Obviously we’re not really batteries, and, as any Matrix fan will tell you, we wouldn’t be very good batteries either, at least when it comes to powering something else. Processors maybe, but not batteries… Anyway, that’s a different tangent. Using the battery analogy, the thing that has always interested me though is how we go about recharging.

I may have written about this before, so forgive me if I’m retracing old steps, but it’s come up a bit in conversation really and I feel compelled to write about it. I want to discuss the differences between being an Introvert vs Extrovert.

Many people, myself previously included, think about the terms in pure black and white. Introverts spend time alone, they’re not very social, they prefer to read, watch tv, or hibernate, over going out into the open world and partying, meeting people, or spending time at functions. The Extrovert is, therefore, the polar opposite, they’re confident and chatty, they love just going out there and meeting anyone and everyone, they’ll talk to strangers, they’ll be the life and soul of any event they attend. The world is never so black and white though, and when coming to define ourselves we may often err on the side of one, but it’s unusual that someone is completely in one camp over the other.

This is where recharging comes into it. A few years back I read an eyeopening article that completely changed how I viewed the Introvert vs Extrovert debate. I’m quite introverted, I enjoy spending time to myself, but I also enjoy seeing my friends, going to the pub or having board game nights. That puts me into somewhat of a grey area. What the article did though, is help me realise I don’t have to be in one camp instead of the other, I just had to realise that one camp is where I recharge, whilst the other is where I expend energy.

See, I could spend all day playing video games, honestly I could. I’ve been known to wake up on a day off and just game all day until bedtime, that’s sometimes 16+ hours worth of gaming I could happily do. This is because being alone, having some time to just game, isn’t exhausting for me and doesn’t expend much energy. I’m not even talking physical energy, as obviously being on my ass all day isn’t exhausting in that respect, I mean mentally and emotionally. Now I also enjoy seeing people, my friends and family, but if you put me with them for 16+ hours I’d be drained. As an opposite, I have friends who could happily do something with someone every single day, whereas if they spend too much time on their own they start crawling at the wallpaper. I used to just think they were awful at entertaining themselves, “how could you not enjoy your alone time?” Well, the fact is that they actually do enjoy it, but it’s exhausting for them. Introverts expend energy in social situations, Extroverts recharge. Extroverts expend energy when entertaining themselves, Introverts recharge. It’s really that simple.

The beauty of this theory is that it covers that grey area nicely and it doesn’t limit how we view ourselves. Both types of people can enjoy both sides of the fence, but they only do so for so long before they need to take a break. I think we all understand the importance of needing a break sometimes. If I have a busy week at work, then a weekend full of plans with family and friends, I no longer feel guilty for planning in some alone time; some recharge time.

Hopefully this has helped you to define the lose terms ‘Introvert’ and ‘Extrovert’. What about you? Where would you place yourself? Let me know in the comments below!

Lighting the Way: Lighthouses and Fireflies

It can be easy to get stuck in the rut that is life when you don’t have anything to look forward to. Sometimes you simply run out of plans, maybe it’s the come down of a particularly busy period, but it really helps no end to have something in the distance keeping you going.

Last year I wrote an article called ‘Lighthouses‘ which focused on how it pays to have something to look forward to. Kirsty and I had received some great news and, almost at the exact same time, received some awful news too. You can read more about it here, Lighthouses, but needless to say it was having something good to look forward to that can keep you going at these times.

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That future lighthouse on the horizon

Recently, (and I say recently to mean the past several months) it’s been hard for me to make plans due to work commitments. I’ve had to work weekends, I had to work evenings, I’ve had photography jobs booked (Definitely not complaining about this part! But does hamper the social life somewhat), and all in all I’ve been a busy little bee. Over the time, plans were something I couldn’t really afford to make, as I was aware they may have to be canceled last minute to cater for work. The thing is, all that ended recently, but my attitude didn’t; I was stuck without plans.

We’re not even talking big plans, I didn’t make any small plans either. I didn’t book a small cinema trip, or a quiet night in with Kirsty, I didn’t go for a few at the local with friends, or host a night of board games round mine. Plans were drying up, the light was dying down, the murk of everyday monotony was encroaching all around. You see, I like to think of these little plans, the smaller moments, as fireflies guiding you through the dark every day. The bigger events, the ones you build up to from afar, are your lighthouses, the end goals on the horizon. One light might be brighter than the other, but they’re both important, and they both keep you moving through the darkness. I’d lost my lights to the shadow of work.

Now though, I have a new taste for planning. I’m reminded by how good it feels to have something to look forward to. I’ve been booking tickets, I’ve been contacting friends, I’ve been making plans! And, in all honesty, it feels great! Surrounding yourself in fireflies, meals with family, drinks with friends, and nights watching that reality show finale you’ve been shamefully lured into watching a whole season of… ahem… All great little lights that take no time at all to set into motion, keeping you going when things are getting you down. Then, on top of that, having that lighthouse to aim for, those bigger events like a holiday or wedding, really does make it easier to move forward, it makes life feel that bit more worthwhile. When you’re trudging through the day to day, or dealing with some inevitable negatives thrown your way, that future plan on the horizon is something to keep powering through towards. And when it’s over? When the big day you’ve been building towards is all done, memories now made? There’s usually a come down, a ‘back to reality’, but as long as you have more plans to keep in sight, things are sure to be good! Just keep following the fireflies to reach that next lighthouse.

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Surrounded in little plans, little lights that guide…

I partly think this is the reason for the ‘Honeymoon‘ after a Wedding, something to look forward to after the day and something to ease the emotional come down when it’s done. Believe me, I work enough Weddings to tell you that they fly by, literally zip by in an instant. It’s one of those ‘Blink and you’ll miss it‘ scenarios. On a side note: it’s why I love photography so much, you’re able to capture these fleeting moments, provide eternal proof of this magnificent day for people; a day that they struggle to remember despite having to have put months, or years, of blood, sweat, and toil into planning. A shameless plug for Level Up Photography if ever there was one.

So this is a public service announcement, a message to you all, make plans! It doesn’t have to be expensive, like a holiday, it doesn’t have to be big trip, some of the best things to look forward to can be the cheapest and the smallest. Having an evening of peace with a loved one, cuddling up under a blanket with a book. Sure, if it’s a grand occasion, (a few theatre trips, a reunion, and a gig, to name a few of mine), it might be a brighter light through the dark, but the little fireflies of smaller events can lead you just as well.

Do you agree? What are you looking forward to in the near future? Lighthouses, Fireflies, I want to hear either! Let me know in the comments below!

 

Shakespeare Would Have Been a Rapper

If Shakespeare was alive today, he would have been a rapper, spitting lyrics over beats and battling with the best of them.

Ok, maybe not, maybe he’d just be a critically acclaimed writer/director combination, but I’ve been listening to Rap and Rap Battles recently and something in them struck me.

My music taste varies considerably, in my youth I was a typical ‘Metal Head‘, with the long hair and black clothing, and whilst I’d have denied it back then, I’ve always enjoyed a cheesy pop song. Nowadays I’m far less judgmental, I’ll listen to anything and, if it’s catchy, I’ll be singing along. Since I don’t understand music (I don’t play a single instrument), I don’t hear how ‘technical‘ a certain song is; it’s not the Lens I see through. I understand words though, and lyrics stand out to me. 

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Me at 16… Yes… 16! My hair got even longer before I cut it off at 18.

Speaking of words, I love Shakespeare. I’m not a mega fan, I can’t tell you where each quote comes from, but I’ve seen a majority of his plays now (either at the RSC or via the Live Streams into a Cineworld Cinema). One thing I love about Shakespeare, more than anything, is his ability to manipulate his language, his ability to twist a phrase. Shakespeare even manages this in a play title, lets take ‘Much Ado About Nothing‘, which actually has three meanings. Much ado about nothing, where ‘nothing‘ means literally ‘nothing‘, thus making a big deal out of something that isn’t, a mountain out of a molehill if you will. The second meaning is the word ‘noting‘, which would have been a near homophone in Elizabethan times, and thus meaning to make a great deal out of gossiping, literally ‘noting‘ what other people are doing. The third, and raunchier interpretation, is due to ‘nothing’ being slang for ‘An O Thing‘ in Elizabethan times, meaning, quite bluntly, a Vagina. This makes the third meaning of Much Ado, to mean making a great deal out of sex, another running theme of the play.

This is what I think ties Shakespeare to Rap. Good rap is more than someone speaking fast over a beat, its the ability to turn and twist a phrase. Poetry creates an illusion, it can portray emotion, it can paint pictures and take you places. A good poem leaves me with a lasting feeling, and whilst there’s cross over between Poetry, Spoken Word, and Rap, I feel the latter relies far more heavily on the clever‘ one liners that are great in the moment. Is it more fleeting? Perhaps. However, the most quotable of Shakespeare is the stand-out lines, the ‘Country Matters‘. If you sit and break down rap lyrics, you realise the amount of ways they can make a phrase turn, the double, or even triple, entendres. There’s such play on words, irony, pop-cultural references, political statements, that a comparison to our favourite playwright is easily made. Sure, there’s also a lot of false bravado and sex talk, but isn’t that basically Shakespeare too? 

The reason I’m writing this isn’t really to tell you Shakespeare would have been a Rap artist, instead it’s to analyse what I like, and something that’s occurred to me this week is that I like Shakespeare and Rap for similar reasons. Shakespeare grips me when a line stands out, Rap gets me when a line makes me jaw drop in a similar fashion. To boil it down, what I simply love is language and an ability to use it. Language is such an amazing gift that we’ve been granted and it’s important to note that people are utilising it all over the world, in so many different mediums. It’s not just the classics we should look to for our inspiration. Authors write with poetic lines, whilst Poets weave stories through their stanzas. Genres converge, and I think some people see it whilst others refuse to look at other mediums due to the culture that surrounds them. Basically, I’m saying take a look at everything around us, challenge yourself and see where writing is being used differently. There’s enough room in this world for anything, and we should seek inspiration in everything.

What do you think? Am I making sense? And how about you have you ever noted a similarity between two vastly different genres? Let me know in the comments below!