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!

Big Up Your Blog!

Do you want to be part of a community that helps each other to learn, grow, share, and inspire? I know full well I do, it’s a big reason why I got set up here on the Clouds, but it’s also why I joined Big Up Your Blog!

When my post went out about “1 Year On the Clouds!” I never really did my one year on here justice. It was always a post I had left in the WordPress scheduling that I always meant to come back to closer to the time, but due to my unforeseen absence the last month I never did. It seems a bit late to write it now, but I can certainly tell you something else about my 1 year here.

When I first started up blogging I did so without truly knowing anyone else on here. I had one friend that was also blogging, and I had recently met Shelley at a Creative Writing course in little old Solihull… That was it. Blogging is a wonderful community though, and if you’re lucky enough and take part in enough things, you soon discover the other amazing blogs and accounts that are out here in the Blogosphere.

One such site I found was of local Brummie Suzie. Shortly after I came upon Suzie’s blog, she started a Facebook group. Now, I’ve been wary of Facebook groups for blogging, I don’t ever really share my own blog to Facebook (I’m not ashamed of it, it’s out there and it’s public, I just don’t push it onto my friends), and I’m also well aware that these groups tend to just be “I’ve written this“, “Share my post“, with no genuine heart behind the messages. That’s not what I’m about. It’s my personal goal on here to inspire and be inspired, I’m about positivity, I’m about love, and I’m about sharing when it’s caring. Big Up Your Blog! is a blogging group that actually does all that too.

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Together, Suzzane “Suzie Speaks” Elliot and Em Inkles have managed to create a blogging community that is as familiar as it is welcoming. They’ve fostered a group of people who share these values; help, support, inspiration, love, care, and perhaps most importantly, pride. They’ve created a forum where you can ask a dumb question, and be assured you receive an intelligent response. They’ve established a platform where you can get follows and likes, but for the right reasons, where people understand we’re trying to promote ourselves, but are not afraid to promote each other. This is exactly what the Clouds strives for, and it’s present in every fibre of Big Up Your Blog! too.

Everything about the group is in the aid of fostering love and sharing care. It’s about appreciating each others work, more than just giving out the occasional blind retweet. It’s about being proud of what you write, and of encouraging that pride in others. Honestly, I have the group to thank for so much of where my blog is now. If you share the same values as we do here on the Clouds, I definitely recommend giving them a look. The group isn’t always open, it closes its doors to help its community interact without getting drowned out. Right now though, their doors are (somewhat) open and they’re looking for new bloggers with an interest in helping each other.

What do you think? Are you a part of any blogging communities? Does Big Up Your Blog! appeal to you? Let me know in the comments below! Or, better yet, join the community whilst it’s doors are currently open!

Humanity’s True Strength

May 22nd saw some horrific attacks against Manchester. Men, women, and children were injured, killed, and left terrified by these attacks. People lost their children, their siblings, their families and I really don’t have any words that can ease that pain. I can only say that my thoughts are with them.

What I want to talk about though… is the response. For as many posts I saw across my social networks with upset and fear, I saw posts of genuine altruism, of true human empathy. I saw Muslim men offering free taxis, I saw Jewish Rabbis bringing drinks to officers, I saw white women taking in and looking after children; I saw people helping people. Regardless of race, of nationality, of sex, of orientation, I saw a larger community coming together; I saw people helping people. When the attacks occurred we responded with compassion and aid, we came together regardless of arbitrary cultural boundaries and we helped each other. This is testament to our collective human spirit and it is the exact answer we need in the times of crisis. It’s the answer we need at all times, really, and whilst it’s upsetting it often takes these tragedies to elect this response from us, it’s still fantastic that it’s there and being shown.

There is often far too much focus on the ‘Terror’ caused by ‘Terrorism’, but I’m a firm believer that this only propagates more terror. When we respond with fear, or anger, or negativity in general, we are showing that these attacks are working. When we respond with love and care, when we help our fellow human regardless of our differences, we show that we can’t be broken and that their attacks ultimately serve no point. When we respond with chants of “close the borders”, or we respond by attacking people for being different, we only fall into an awful, vicious cycle that will do humanity more harm than good. We play into the hands of the aggressor and lose any power we have for ourselves. What we need in these times, and at all times, is to truly focus on the good that humanity can do, the love that we can show each other. When we respond by coming together that is true strength.

My image, my focus: Kindness Challenge Week 1

Imagine a figure, blurred. The background behind vibrant, bustling and ever changing; a wall of monitors displaying thousands of different images and flickering all at once. Each flashing image has a soundtrack, but each is simply drowned by the other; each a smaller part of the ever growing cacophony. You’d be forgiven, given the scene in view, that these countless images, that there is no meaning here; that each screen serves only to be part of the whole, and to perpetuate this mess of unintelligible information. Closer inspection of the figure in front, however, will show you that his eyes do shift briefly, that his attention does focus, and his own image along with it. The blurred figure, in fact, may not be blurred at all when his eyes focus, like a lens finding a focal point. When he sets his sight on one image, one dream, he aligns again. There is definition to him, shape. He has presence, and physicality where previously there was none… but it’s fleeting. It’s lost again to the next saccadic movement.

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This week was Self Love on the 2017 Kindness Challenge, my intentions, for which, can be found here: Setting My Intentions. This week we’ve been challenged to take note of all the ways we feel we have to earn our own approval. This sounded a good premise on its own, but then I saw the suggestion of ‘Create a self-portrait’. Now, I’m no painter, but I am a photographer. I was determined to build an image with my camera and use that as a statement ‘This is who I am’ or ‘This is who I feel’, and then counterbalance it with an image of ‘Who I would like to be’. I never had the time or resources to take the image, though. I had the equipment, but the setup was a little harder than I’d care to admit, I wasn’t able to achieve the vision I originally set out to portray – the irony isn’t lost on me, by the way. Then it occurred to me, I may be a Photographer, but I am also, undeniably a Writer! So, I turned the image into prose instead… and thus I started doing myself a kindness… I’ll explain.

See, the piece above is open to interpretation… but to me represents my feelings towards myself. You’re welcome to interpret my writing however you see fit, and I’d love you to share below if you see it differently, however I’d like to explain what it also means to me. The figure, if you hadn’t guessed, is myself… or, at least, the way I feel about myself. I’m fuzzy, undefined, intangible. The backdrop in the piece is a portrayal of my dreams, my many, many dreams. Unspoken, and unreferenced, there’s dreams of being a good boyfriend, being a good son, being a writer, being a photographer, being the best me I can be… I often feel I am struggling forward towards these dreams, but also that I’m making no progress, mainly because, more often than not, I am just sitting back and watching them pass me by. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know this lack of motivation is a constant topic I try to address; this piece is no different.

Early on, I realised that the Self Portrait I had in mind was out of my reach, my aim was too high, and it was unachievable. Rather than beating myself up about it though, I knew I still needed a post for Self Love this week. So, I adapted. By doing this, I achieved my dream image, but I painted it with words rather than painting it with light. I didn’t allow myself to become distracted (mainly because I had a deadline) and I didn’t allow myself to become disheartened (because I found a different route of approach).

My soul searching for this week has revealed that I feel lost when I am not working towards my dreams, but also that I am far too content to allow myself to get to that point. I have so many dreams I want to achieve, that sometimes I simply lose sight of the one for the many. The sheer quantity of them, and the lack of focus I have for them, encourages them to build up and encourages me, their viewer, to simply sit back and watch them play out without me. My dreams define me, for better or worse. I want to say “I am a writer!“, I want to say “I am a photographer!“, I want to say all these things, but I won’t allow myself to define ‘Me’ that way if I don’t achieve them. That’s how I judge myself worthy of approval, if I’m succeeding in these goals. I need to teach myself to understand that these goals and dreams may help to define me in some instances, but they certainly don’t define my worth. I need to learn that I am capable of loving myself even when I don’t meet my standards, and that through self-love I actually support myself in meeting these standards in future. If I support myself, if I focus on the aspects in my life that are worthwhile, that help build my future, then all the better. I need to focus on ‘getting there’, not focus on having ‘not got there yet’.

If I had to set a Mantra based on my discovery for this week, it would simply be: “Find Focus”.

When I’m down because I’ve wasted another day without creativity: Find Focus. When I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t spent as much time with my family as I could: Find Focus. When anxiety is building up inside of me at the thought of ‘putting myself out there’ and taking a risk: Find Focus.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!