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!

My Therapy

“I don’t feel like writing so I’m writing.”

That’s how I began this post. I wrote this one line.

The thing is, writing is more than just my hobby, and it’s more than a future career. To me writing is my therapy. I use writing to make sense of my own feelings and get my own head straight. Almost all writing I do is intended to be read by someone, regardless of whether it actually is, and that leaves me thinking about what message I want my writing to have.

The reason I started this post was because I was feeling down. This happens to me once every other month or so; I start questioning the point of it all, I start doubting my ability to achieve anything, and I start wallowing. The thing is, it’s so easy to foster negativity. By it’s very nature, negativity encourages us to do nothing about it as it encourages us to do nothing at all. That leads me to not wanting to get up in the morning, not wanting to go to work, not wanting to take photos and, most of all, not wanting to write. It often takes me days of being in this state, days of simply ‘existing‘ but not living. So, I forced myself to write.

When I write, it’s my therapy, and when I write my spirit lifts. As I wrote that very first line of this post I instantly felt lighter, then as I wrote more I started realising that many of my thoughts and fears, many of the things promoting this negativity within me, were down to simple reasons. Things like not sleeping properly, things like not feeling confident about the future, things like not feeling grateful or proud for the things I have. The more I wrote, the more I realised I could fight this negativity; by quantifying my demons in words I was able to combat them in my mindset.

Then I deleted my post. I deleted all those negative things. That post wasn’t fit for my audience, it didn’t carry the message I want a post to carry. It was me whinging that life wasn’t quite going my way, but in reality the main issue was myself. Instead, I’ve turned that post around into this, one about fighting that negativity. This is what the Clouds stands for; it’s here to promote positivity and inspire imagination. I wanted to tell you that even when you’re having a bad day, or a bad week, or even a bad year… You can often combat it by doing something you love, even if sometimes you have to force yourself to do it in the first place.

Of course, there are times when the bad simply outweighs the good, medical conditions or family tragedy are not simply combated with the pursuit of a hobby, interest or love. My point though is to not underestimate their ability to help, they may at least take the edge away, and through art and creation we may learn to understand ourselves.

Do you have those periods of time where you just want to give up? What keeps you going? What is your own personal therapy? Let me know in the comments below!

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!

The Message of Chester Bennington

Today we mourn an artist who gave everything they had to their music. Who fought an admirable battle, and left in their wake a message about love, passion, and mental health.

By now, even people who had no connection to Linkin Park have seen the headlines; Chester Bennington took his own life after a long battle with depression. I hardly had any words. Two weeks ago, to the day, to the time that the headline flashed up on our screens, Kirsty and I had been watching Linkin Park perform live. We were reliving our youth, bathing in the nostalgia of a band that defined our teenage years. Around us, I was taken aback by the sheer range of age groups; the late 20 somethings, early 30 somethings like Kirsty and I, the older crowd, carefree and rocking out, and even a ton of younger faces, from single digits up to early teens. Up until that point I hadn’t really known their music was still touching the youth of today, but I was glad for it. To me, they were a band like a time capsule, they represented a period of my life, a big period of my life, and I have a lot of memories set to their music. It was good to see they were connecting with others too.

When the news struck, my Facebook descended in disbelief. I saw heartfelt posts from friends, I saw people shaken by a celebrity death that had never been shaken before, I saw people who had just felt a connection severed. One of my old university friends shared her artwork, images painted and drawn of Chester, and a motivational post about how Linkin Park had inspired her to pursue creative dreams. I saw many more friends sharing how Linkin Park had got them through trying teenage times. Even Kirsty, who isn’t one to post wordy status’, moved me with her words about this now-lost smile and the impact its owner had had on her life.

When you and your mom wait all day to see your favorite band, and you know it was totally worth it.

A post shared by LINKIN PARK (@linkinpark) on

So what about me? Well, I wanted to share this Instagram post of Chester performing, and I wanted to talk a little bit about mental health. This small snippet, to me, is bittersweet. Here is a man performing, putting his life, heart, and soul into his songs. He is surrounded by adoring fans, people who are touched by his message, people who actively love him and his music. In this captured moment he literally couldn’t have any more love. His message is reaching people, his passion is moving people, his art is helping people. As a writer/photographer, I’d strive for nothing more than that kind of reaction; to do that much good with the little time we have here. Yet, even with that much love it’s clear Chester felt alone, or unworthy, or any other negative and irrational emotion that depression can conjure. This video shows a man suffering from loneliness within a crowd; someone feeling unworthy despite the love of his fans. He is struggling despite his own message to the crowds, perhaps wishing he could hear his own advice.

When we saw Linkin Park those two weeks ago, we had no idea it was to be their last gig. When we saw them, Chester campaigned for love. He told us to join hands, to share a moment with our neighbour, to love each other in the face of the terror and hate being shown the world today. Again, this memory and this message is now bittersweet.

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I’m writing this post, not to cash-in on a celebrity death, but to make a special mention of Mental Health Awareness. From the outside, Chester had it all. He had fame, he had money, he had his gorgeous children, and he had adoring fans. The image above, the looks in his fans eyes, would be enough for me to say, with no other evidence, that he had a good life. That’s not how he felt, and this isn’t a true reflection of his suffering. If anything, it serves as testament that we can seemingly have everything in the world, from the most material of possessions, to the most love anyone can be given, yet depression is a nasty affliction that can take an immense and immeasurable toll. We never know what someone else is going through, which is all the more reason to show each other kindness, patience, and most of all love. The phrase “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” couldn’t be truer and more poignant in this moment.

Anyone that has suffered with depression, long term or short term, will know what it can do to your mind. Will know the thoughts it can tangle you in, how trapping it can be and the options it may make you consider. Many people fight against depression and mental health of everyday of their lives. Many people do so without recognition, without witness. We never know exactly what others are thinking and feeling, and we never know when a day might be someones last. Lets take Chester’s message, proclaimed loudly at his last gig, and show each other love. Lets mourn, but lets learn. Life is far, far too short to not be kind to those we meet, to hold grudges and anger, to not offer a helping hand to those we see struggling. Lets be better, more approachable people, so we can fully tear down this stigma surrounding mental health, so we might save someone going through a hard battle.

This is the part where normally I ask for a comment, a like or a share. However, instead I want to encourage you to spend the time talking to someone, sharing your love with them, or even just letting people know you’re there. I will always be here for people who want to talk, friends, family, or anyone at all. Let’s be better, for the sake of each other.