Aesthetics

This is the last part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of my creativity. Being an inspired individual, this is something I feel I must do to expand my thought process. As long as I can remember, I have been doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not Validation”. To focus on what drives me to be creative and not seek out the instant gratification of social media. The last part in this series, I want to talk about is my sense of Aesthetics. If you haven’t, be sure to check out parts one and two, Passion along with Inspiration.

What is aesthetics? According to Wikipedia, it’s a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste and with the creation or appreciation of beauty. Here’s my simple definition, why things look good, how to create something appealing as well as how to present it. I know it is far more complicated than that. I have always been a bit of a philocalist, a lover of beauty. From images & artwork, music & movies, the human body, and even moments in time. This will not be a post about me explaining my sense of aesthetics. What I do want to share with you all is how my sense of aesthetics effects my everyday life, how it effects the things I create along with how it effects the way I see the world. Be warned, this will be subjective.

My sense of aesthetics is responsible for me having an extremely critical eye. It doesn’t matter what I’m looking at, if it’s an image, a scale model, a surface detail on a vehicle or how light shines on someone’s hair. How is it composed? Are the proportions balanced? Should I Shoot in Landscape or portrait? And that’s just for photography. My eyes and brain are constantly evaluating the aesthetics of things. I’ve learned to put my critical eye to good use. And a good example of this is at work.

I’ve been an automotive clay sculptor for various major companies for the past 20 years. The easiest way to describe my job is, a designer draws an idea, I sculpt that idea out of clay and change it until management is happy with it. First in scale, then full-size making hundreds of changes along the way. As I model, I’m constantly asking myself questions. First, does the model look like the designer’s sketch? Then, if not, what do I have to change to make it look like it? Then I’ll make the necessary changes and ask the same questions again. All the while, being very critical and brutally honest about every surface I create.

Just like my passion, my attention to detail has infiltrated and spread into every part of my life. Over the years, it has become a finely tuned way of seeing the world around me. From how I see images with my photography to sculpting new automotive products at work. It is something I have learn to embrace and use to better my work. Because of it, I know I see things differently than most. I see all the details before I see the whole thing. And if the details are done poorly, I lose interest, move on and don’t see the complete object or picture.

That sharp attention to detail is also a habit that has found its way into my model making. As I build a kit, I treat each part like little models. Putting as much detail into it as possible. I also spend a considerable amount of time addressing how the kit comes together. Hiding the seams and joints to make it appear to be seamless. Even come time to paint, I’ll sometimes spend 30 to 40 minutes masking something off that only takes 2 or 3 minutes to airbrush. All the extra care and attention I put into the build, will make for a more visually appealing model. That ceaseless questioning the aesthetic’s of things along with my attention to details has made me a masterful sculptor and model maker.

Holy Tape Batman

As a photographer, knowing what makes a good image along with being able to see the image before you shoot it heavily influences my sense of aesthetics. When I’m behind my camera, if I’m at an aviation event or on one of my adventures, I’m not looking for subjects to shoot. Instead, I’m searching for some interesting light. “Shoot the light not the subjects” is a fundamental principal of my process to capture images. I feel the light in an image can make or break it. It can set the mood, make it pop, add dimension, and even direct one’s eye.

Fear the BONE

One of my photographic practices I enjoy doing, is to walk through the belle isle conservatory with my camera in hand, but not shooting anything. As I walk from room to room, I’m looking at the light. What is it doing? What direction is it coming from? Is it a reflection? Once I’ve made a complete lap of the conservatory, I then go through again shooting the subjects in the light that stood out to me. I try to keep track of the time of day, weather and sometimes even the season. Maybe the image is an afternoon shot, maybe it would be better on a sunny day or even wait until springtime when everything is in bloom? And yes, I have waited for months to capture a certain image. I have found that I produce better images if I do this walk around first then if I had not. And I did something similar during my trip to Antelope Canyon, by booking two differently timed tours.

We all have a medium of storytelling that we love, mine is cinematic. Some prefer to read; I enjoy watching storytelling. My sense of aesthetics has altered the way I view movies and shows. Some say I’m overly critical when it comes to things I watch. My suspension of disbelief does not tolerate garbage. A poorly conceived story, weak characters, predictable plots, shitty visual and special effects along with crappy cinematography and editing. All contributing to poor storytelling. Which is becoming a dying art form that is increasing due to absurd number of reboots along with the poorly rehashing of established materials.

Even though they are only a few minutes long, there are videos on YouTube that I enjoy far more than those multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions. For example, “Nerdwriter’s” brilliant video essays, to the entertaining maker “This Old Tony”, along with “Sean Tucker’s” personal life-long journey into photography. Regardless of content, they all are clearly passionate about their work. And it’s that noticeable hint of passion I can identify with.

This personal journey of exploring my creativity has been a healthy personal struggle. And through struggles, we grow. It started with a question and took me along an unexpected path that taught me something about myself. And what have I learned? That my creativity is divided into three unique elements. Passion is my fire; Inspiration is my fuel and Aesthetics is my vision. That all three needs to be nurtured and managed with care. My creativity is only one of my numerous fragments that makes me who I am.

Thanks for coming along,

Steven

On a side note, my distaste for social media has slowly eroded with my return to Instagram along with the start of a Flickr account. I’m using Instagram as a creative writing exercise. Sharing a brief story with each image. And Flickr is going to be the place where I show my images. Due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, my March and April adventures had been put on hold until we get through this. Stay safe everybody.

A look back at 2018 and my thoughts about 2019

Here we are at the end of 2018. Time to reflect on this year’s goals I set for myself and see what I accomplished. Yeah, I reduce my online presence with my photography this year. I quit Instagram and just recently I abandon Facebook. Both are not the platform in which I want to share my work. Last year, I had just about 1200 visitors with 4800 views. 2018, I got about 1100 visitors but with over 6600 views. I don’t care about the number of people who visit my blog, I care about the one who come, look around and stay for a while. People who read what I say and enjoy it.

I felted that I did embrace my idea of “It’s about concentration and not validation”. I started a series called “Exploring My Creativity”. The examination of my creativity starting with Passion and followed up with Inspiration.  Two of my most difficult post and currently working on part three, “My Eye for Aesthetics”.

 Let’s me be honest, I like the attention I get from showing off my work. We all do, in some shape or form. But that should not be the reason why we create and share. We live in a time where photography is oversaturated. If you don’t believe me, just google “number of images on instagram, on Flickr or on Facebook” and see what you find. And it seems like the spotlight shines on those who can get the most “Likes” verses those who have a true talent or have a creative and artistic vision. I can’t say I am either.  Ansel Adam once said, “The production of beauty without other motivation.”  That really resonates with me and I’m going to make that my focus of all my passions during 2019.

My Photography and Writing

  • More meaningful content along with photography with intention. It may upset some of you and I might even lose some you. But they’re things I need to speak about. Things I feel are important to me and I must do what I feel is right.
  • To keep growing, struggling with things and to keep pushing my creativity. Maybe play with abstract, shoot more landscape, to continue to travel to new places.
  • To continue to create images that are unique to Me. If I only go to one event or a thousand next year, I don’t care. And just like 2018, I will not continue to attend the same shows and events in past years. 

Here’s my favorite 10 images from 2018. Each of them has a story behind them as well as they clearly define what I remember of events of 2018. Every time I look at them, it’s like a time machine taking my back to those moments. Doing things I enjoy, hanging out with friends, meeting cool people and seeing some cool shit.

I also got into trouble along the way. While back in Virginia, my sister, her husband and I when to the Tidewater Comicon. Like Rick, I pissed off Negan! This Summer, the Detroit Institute of Arts hosted the Star Wars costume exhibit. Vader got a little frustrated with me and tried force choking me. Then out at Vegas during the Star Trek convention, the Borg tried to assimilate me! After that I found out what happens when you call a Klingon a p’tach!

About Gear

I’m not buying into to the mirror-less trend. Until Canon comes up with a singles lenses mount, I’m sticking to DSLR. And in 2019, I’m going full frame baby! For X-mas, I got myself a Canon 5DS R and the 24-70mm F/2.8L MK II. Both came with a bundle of goodies. Extra cards and batteries, grip, filters… Got a new sling bag too. It’s not as big as my backpack and larger then my messenger bag. And just like last year, end of the year is a great time to back-up your images. I back-up my images(including images from my phone)on 3 different hard drives to reduce the chances of losing everything at once and in one location. Back That Shit up Photographers!

My Model Making

  • Like my photography and writing, to keep growing, struggling with things and to keep pushing my creativity.
  • To be more of a model maker, making my own parts and be less of a kit builder. Been playing with the idea of getting a vinyl cutter, so I could make my own custom paint mask along with making custom vinyl surface detail.

modelstuffpic

If you like what you see and read here, click the “Like” button! Along with feel free to leave a reply below or start to follow my blog.

See you all next Year!

Steven

Inspiration

This is the second part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of my creativity. Being an inspired individual, this is something I feel I must do to expand my thought process. As long as I can remember, I have been doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not Validation”. To focus on what drives me to be creative and not seek out the instant gratification of social media. “Passion” is the first part of this series. Go and give it a read if you have not already done so.

If Passion is my fire, then Inspiration is my fuel. Without it, the fire does not burn bright or fierce. It keeps my creativity going. And like any fuel, the quality of it is what’s important. You don’t want to fill up a Ferrari 812 Superfast with 87 octane. You want 93 or better! I’m not looking for material that is “kind of cool”. I want amazing, beautiful, captivating and most of all it must inspire me to keep going. Things that get my gears turning and or gets me to think about something differently.

My Inspiration is a routine. Like my Passions, my Inspiration must be nurtured as well as be well maintained. My routine to find inspiring material is to search, review, weed out and then search some more. It comes for various and sometimes odd places. So, everyday I take some time to search and look for new material. Doesn’t matter how I feel. If I’m upset, frustrated or just tired. Most times it helps me get out of whatever funk I’m in and loosen up my gears of creativity. It doesn’t mean I find new material everyday. But went I do find something; I save it to my PC and on One Drive (Microsoft cloud storage) so I always have access to it from my phone.

What I find inspiring in the past, may not speak to me as the same today. Because of that, I must maintain my inspirational material. About once every few months, I’ll go through my folders and remove any material that no longer inspires me. What inspires me is different for each of my Passions. For example, things that inspire me about photography does not inspire me about model making. And the same goes for things about writing and blogging does not inspire me to do illustrations.

I want to go through a few of my sources of Inspiration. Let’s begin with photography. I browse various websites for different reasons. I search Flickr for generally all-around photographic subjects. I’m not saying the best images are there, just that there is something different every day. Everything from landscapes, wildlife, floral, and to portraits. Both in Black & white and color. As I look through those images, it reminds me of when I first started my adventure into photography, shooting anything and everything. It helps me keeps that mindset of discovery and playfulness fresh in my mind.

Some days it is painful, browsing through thoughtless images. And other days, it can be refreshing and re-energizing. It’s those days I can get lost into the “rabbit hole” in the search for material. One thing I find wonderful about Flickr, is went you find someone who has a ton great of images. It’s that discovery and seeing the work from of other creative souls, I find that incredibly inspiring. One thing I must be conscious of is to just seek out what I find inspiring and not critique and judge other’s images. No good will come from me looking down on ANY one’s images.

photography image

On to Aviation photography, back in the day we had Fence Check. Which at it peak was nothing short of amazing. But now it is long gone. And there has not been an equal in aviation photography forums to fill that void. I tried Instagram for a while, but I feel it is more a popularity contest then anything else. There are a few aviation threads on various photography forums. But I find these threads move fast, and images get buried in the thread. Yes, these threads are a great source for inspirational material, but they are not consistent. I have found that Airliners.net proves a good mix of aviation subjects consistently. Yeah, there are a ton of photographers that are content with shooting nothing but airliners. Not everyone who post images there share that mindset. It is those who think outside of that box are the photographers I’m interested in seeing their work. Photographers who understand and use the elements of design in his or her images. Over the years, surprisingly I have managed to find a fair number of inspiring images there. There is also AirFighter.com but there is more to aviation photography then just war machines.

Moving on into my love of model making. I been building models since I was seven and 35 years later, I still love playing with plastic. One source of inspiration for me to building anything, comes down to a single question, “What if…” I’ve built models for competition in the past and all the research and kit correcting is no longer enjoyable. So, I started to build the things I wanted to make. That’s where my favorite question comes into play. What if Israel had A-10 Thunderbolt II? What would they look like? How would they modify them?  What I find inspiring in model making, is the imagination of the idea along with the craftsmanship of the model. This doesn’t mean that every model I find inspiring is a “What-if” build. It could be the way a model is weathered, a paint scheme or the level of detail in a scale. Even difficult paint jobs have always been a source of inspiration. Like natural metal finish, splinter pattern or a digital camouflage.

Model making image
My current builds. From the top down, 2 seat Su-33, a Forward-swept wing Su-33 and a Carrier based Su-34. All 1/48 scale

Craftsmanship is huge for me. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “What-if” or a “Real world” build, a well-built model is always motivating. Some of the best model I’ve seen are ones that when you look at them, you can’t figure out what scale they are. I have seen 1/72 scale model with so much detail, you would think it is 1/48 or larger. Something else I love, is when someone takes a substandard kit and turns it into a thing of beauty. Like Cyrus Tan 1/48 Monogram F-14D Tomcat. If you have ever put together that kit, you know just how much work he put into his build.

I find inspiring is when someone kit bash or modify a kit that make it looks believable like this, 1/18 Spitfire Mk. XIVe – Race #80 built by Peter aka “Airscale” over on Large Scale Plane forum. He started with HpH 1/18 Seafire FR47 which has a fiberglass fuselage and resin detail bits. Then he converted it into a Spitfire Mk. XIVe and skinned with it in aluminum litho plate! The amount of time and work along with research that goes into a project like this is absolutely astonishing. Which pushes me to try to do more with my models. To experiment with new techniques and materials. To get outside of my comfort zone.

Blogging is my newest Passion. And 2018 has been my second year of writing and sharing my thoughts. I’m still learning each time I post and I’m not sure what direction it is headed in. Yeah, I struggle with grammar and spelling. But I’m not going to let that stop me. I can’t, I enjoy sharing too much. So, what inspires me to write? My personal drive to be heard and to share my experiences that taught me something valuable. I have always liked the idea of passing on knowledge I have learn from other or from my own experiences. I’m still sorting out what it is going to be. Just like my photography, I’m looking for unique and personal experiences to share.

I wanted to share my inspirational folders with you all, but I don’t feel it is right to share others’ images and work with out their permission. But my goal is to have my work fit into my inspirational folders. Not trying to match or copy someone else’s work but to have my work to have the same flavor and feeling. To sum it up, I’m inspired by Photographers whose images can tell a story, Model makers not kit builders along with great Storytellers. What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments below. If you like what you see and read here, click the “Like” button or start to follow my blog.

Until next time,

Steven

Continue with the next part of “Exploring My Creativity”, “Aesthetics”

 

Passion

This is the first part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of my creativity. Being an inspired individual, this is something I feel I must do to expand my thought process. As long as I can remember, I have been doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not Validation”. To focus on what drives me to be creative and not seek out the instant gratification of social media. Let’s start with the strongest member of my creativity, Passion. Photography, model making, sculpting along with writing are my Passions.

It all started in the spring of 2018, while I visited the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle isle. I went there to photograph the spring flowers in bloom. Red, white and pink little beauties standing proud in the light. There was so much color and so many little pretties all over the conservatory grounds. After about an hour into shooting, I stopped and looked around. During that moment of silence, I heard myself say “I could do this all day long”. Loud and as clear as the sky is blue. I knew where it came from but what do I call it? It was something I have heard as long as I can remember. But it’s been so long since I heard it so clearly. It wasn’t until I got home and started looking at my images, that I realized it was my Passion speaking to me. It moved me so much, I started to question it. I came up with two short but complex questions.

1.What is Passion? (what does it mean to me?)

2. How has is changed your Life?

I spent countless hours pondering for answers to those questions. I struggled to clearly describe how I felt. How could I describe something that I had come to live with for so long? At one point, I felt it would have been easier to describe blue to a blind person. I found sharing these questions with others who I felt had passion in their lives. I was not looking for my definition of Passion in others but more to the point, finding others that felted the same as me. I had some of the most honest and enjoyable conversations with other creative people. It’s very interesting to hear how others describe their Passion. I want to share with you some definitions of Passion from other creative individuals I have met in my travels as well as how Passion has changed their lives.

Let’s start with Nick Malachowski. He’s a Lead Automotive Designer. I had the pleasure of working with him in 2016. Here’s his thoughts…

Passion is the enemy of fear. Fear prevents us from exploring the unknown, from being vulnerable, from uncovering the truth about us and about the world. Passion is the very act of pursuing those things.

There have been specific decisions in my life I have be faced with (quite recently in fact) where there was no guidebook to tell me what to do, and most of them involved a level of risk that could have paralyzed me. Passion was my catalyst for change.

There can be times where passion can cause pain. When you pour your heart into creating something that doesn’t function or resonate as intended. But, as with most pain, time heals and brings perspective – even revealing that sometimes the most important experiences in our lives can reside within failure.

And a life driven by passion, and accepting of pain, is the only version of life I’m interested in experiencing.

The International Society for Aviation Photography rents a house very close to Wittman Regional Airport during EAA AirVenture. This is where I met Vincent Trelut, a man of many talents. Here is how he feels about Passion…

Passion is what occupies my mind when it is free from obligations or necessities, and my brain is available for pleasure and joy. It is what drives my motivation in life beyond the usual day-to-day activities, because I have not made a living or a necessity out of my passion: it is therefore consuming some of my resources, without bringing money to fuel it. I live passion for aviation history, flying and photography with freedom and an amateur spirit.

Passion has made me knowledgeable about history, science and many other things. It has stimulated my brain and body, contributed to keep me healthy. It has made me meet great people, make friends and share with others. It has also absorbed a lot of my time and resources, probably too much from the viewpoint of my family. It has also made me focus on a few topics only, and created a bias in my approach to life, at least in my leisure time. The key is to keep a balance and not be too passionate all the time on the same topics, while still keeping passion alive, because it stimulates and makes me learn so much, becoming a better person.

During our Friday night cookout at AirVenture, I met Gary Daniels, His creative career spans from designer, creative director to marketing executive and now he is Owner of Daniels Creative.  I feel we instantly hit it off. And the following morning, He did a masterful job during our little photo shoot of warbirds and re-enactors. Super talented and passionate guy. Here’s Gary’s response.

Why does a person find they are drawn to something so much that they pursue it in life, either as a hobby or a profession? A lot of factors come into play here. Maybe something sparked an interest when they were young.  Maybe they stumbled on their passion later in life by accident. It’s a mystical and magical thing. That is almost impossible to describe sense it is so different with each person.

And a ‘passion’ can be literally anything! I once met a fellow that collected old credit cards. He had thousands and he was passionate about it! He talked to me for 30 minutes about his collection and it was all I could do to not dose off! I thought, “What a gigantic waste of time!” Go figure, but he was very passionate about it and that was ‘his passion’. Who was I to discount it?

I spent my professional career in the creative industry and I was exposed to fantastic designers, photographers, illustrators, writers, etc. I had this very discussion with many of them. And, I heard this statement from almost all of them, ‘I didn’t start out doing this…I didn’t pick this, it just found me.’ 

Another aspect of the human experience, I am most appreciative of, is the gift of imagination within each of us. And, because of our inherent ability to imagine, we create passions that we pursue…sometimes for a week, sometimes for a lifetime. Imagination and passion, I feel, are the two human drives that give each of us a reason to live.

Passion has a life cycle. You may be hair on fire passionate about something, then, the flame burns out. You may start out lukewarm on something, then, it becomes a full-blown passion. I have experienced both of these scenarios with several ‘passions’ in my life. Many ‘passions’ have come and gone.
But, for me, the one passion that has maintained a fire is photography. I think because of the creative aspect of the craft. And, photography is one of the miracles of the human experience. Being able to capture history with a device that snaps 1/250-of-a-second snippets of time is quite miraculous.

The positive aspect of my photography passion is the experiences the craft has made possible, the travel, the opportunities, the friends met along the way, and the desire to be better at the craft. Photography keeps me involved with life, with capturing the wonderful aspects of this world we live in.

The negative aspect, for me, has been the frustration of staying on top of the technology and the cost of staying current. And, the drive to be better can be so tiring if you do not keep that aspect of the passion in check. You can burn your passion out if you are too critical of yourself. Becoming better at your passion is a natural progression of practicing and nurturing it but pushing too hard just breeds discontent and self-doubt in your abilities. And, that can douse the flame.

But, a surprising bonus came out of my photography passion as I grew in talent and knowledge…I like helping others be better in the craft. Early in my photography passion, I was very competitive and did not want to share my ‘secrets’ of how I got the shot. That was borne from insecurity in my abilities and taking myself way too seriously. Now, I realize that there is always someone better than me, and always someone not as good as me. I have learned to drop the ego and just enjoy the craft with others at all levels. Teach as I can, learn as I can. And, the interesting side effect of this approach is that my passion for photography has actually heated up and I enjoy it so much more.

Of everyone I asked, I gravitate towards Gary’s definition the most. Can’t wait for our paths to cross again!

But after months of pondering, I’m starting to form a definition I feel good about. It’s a fire that burns in my mind, body and spirit. When it is lit, I can tell you what color the flames are along with how hot they are but not how long it’s going to burn. Doubt and frustration can quickly snuff out its flame. I love feeding the flames and enjoying its heat. I must be careful and not put too much fuel into the fire. When I do, my life become out of balance and I start to neglect other parts of my life. Sometimes it becomes difficult to maintain balance, but I know I do my best work when I am.

While nurturing a passion of mine, it brings me an unmatched profound satisfaction that I cannot find anywhere else in my life. The nonsense of the world as well as the noise in my head fades into a peaceful silence. Time gets lost as hours pass like seconds. During that time, a clear and peaceful calm engulfs me. That time is sacred to me and I will not let anyone in anyway sabotage or try to take it from me. My passion has steeped into every part of my life and has become an important part of who I am. It has added many colors to the cloth I’m from.

My major difficulty associated with my Passion is that I want to spend more time doing what I love than things I should do. What I mean by that is I would love to be able to live off what I love to do versus working for a corporation. Yes, my job pays for everything I enjoy, and I keep reminding myself that but at what cost?  The mental focus and to be consistently creatively takes its toll after a while. I’m very good at what I do but it is a very taxing spending your creative energy on someone else idea and get little to no acknowledgement. And it is not the process of what I do. With a good team, the process is quite enjoyable. Working and watching a design mature even if it does not get chosen is still rewarding. My problem is that a team develops an idea but when it is presented only one part of the staff gets credit for the work done.

If I am upset or frustrated, I do not work on my passions. It often just turns to shit and is more work to try to fix it later. I’ve also had people try to give me grief about my Passions. Negative comments along with underestimating my abilities. Fortunately, I’ve learned through some painful lessons not to let those people bother me and I have become cautious to who I share my passions with. There also the pain of others that take advantage or miss using your passion due to poor planning or just plain stupidity.

Here are my images that sparked this exploration into my creativity. Looking back through my images, I can remember how much I enjoyed shooting that day. Great light and beautiful subjects.

I must say “Thank You to all who participated in this post. For shared their definition of Passion with me. Feel free to share your definitions of Passions in the comments below as well as if you like my content, click the “Like” button or even start to follow my blog. 

Until next time,

Steven

Continue with the next part of “Exploring My Creativity”, Inspiration