Outliers

May 30, 2012 | Leave a Comment |

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The image highlighted is an outlier. While the rest of the images are shot aerially looking down, it’s shot at ground level looking up. It won’t fit with the rest of the images until more images like it are completed to balance the set within the set.

Outliers. They’re the images that don’t fit neatly in a body of work. Outliers test the code of a style or body of work.

Widely divergent outliers, if they’re good but not great, often indicate a failure to move beyond conventional to more personal ways of seeing. If they’re great, they may represent a valuable new area for discovery or even a breakthrough.

Moderately divergent outliers may be just what you need to advance a body of work by providing one or more valuable variations on a theme, adding new energy and content into the mix. This is particularly true if just one thing is changed from the characteristics of the larger set (angle of view, range, duration, etc), as what changes calls attention to itself and questions are asked about how this change expands our understanding of the subject or artist’s intent.

If outliers are included for the wrong reasons (like you can’t put the image aside for now or find another context for it), they often disrupt the tone and continuity of a collection of images. This weakens the overall effect. This is the jack-of-all-trades master of none syndrome.

If outliers are included for the right reasons (they display a different but related theme or way of seeing the same subject and provide new avenues for going deeper with your subject and your relationship to it), they strengthen both other specific images within a set and the group as a whole as well.

On occasion one (rarely more) outlier can work within a body of work, when presented as a prelude (before), turning point (middle) or after thought (end), to suggest other as yet not fully resolved dimensions within a body of work. Use this strategy carefully, as outliers draw a lot of attention to themselves.

Pay attention to outliers. They’re your worst enemies. They’re your best friends.

See more images in this series on Google+.

Read more about Bodies Of Work and Developing Personal Projects here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Personal Projects
Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work. When you define a project you focus, set goals, set quotas, set timelines, create a useful structure for your images, collect accompanying materials, and polish the presentation of your efforts so that they will be well received.
Focusing your efforts into a project will help you produce a useful product. A project gives your work a definite, presentable structure. A finished project makes work more useful and accessible. Once your project is done, your work will have a significantly greater likelihood of seeing the light of day. Who knows, public acclaim may follow. Come what may, your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Create a mission and set goals.
Define the purpose of your project and what you’d like to achieve through it. Many times, people adopt the mission and goals of others without first checking if those goals are personally beneficial. Some have professional aspirations, others don’t. Your goals will help you determine projects and timelines that are appropriate for you. The few moments (or hours) you spend clarifying why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you’d like to see come of it will save you hours, months, even years by ensuring that you’re going in the right direction – a direction of your own choosing. When you take control of your personal projects, you also take control of your life.

Make a plan to achieve your goals.
A plan will help make your project a reality. A simple action plan is all you need to get started. Action plans define the steps that are required to achieve completion. Action plans should be clear and practical. Action plans should be flexible; odds are, things will not go exactly according to plan and you’ll need to modify your plan to accommodate surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. Reality happens. Grace happens too. Having defined what you need to accomplish, your unconscious will go to work on the task, generating many ideas. You’ll find yourself ready to make the most of unexpected opportunities as they arise.

Set a timeline.
A timeline can be used to combat procrastination and/or distraction and encourage you to produce work. Set realistic timelines. Unrealistic timelines simply produce frustration.

Identify where and when you’ll need and who will help you.
While many artists define and produce projects themselves, some artists engage a curator, gallery director, publisher, editor, agent, writer, or designer to help them realize a project, in part or in whole. Finding the right collaborator(s) can improve any project. Above all, seek feedback. Seek feedback from people with diverse perspectives whose opinions you value and trust. One thing you can always use, that you can never provide for yourself, is an outside perspective. People with different perspectives may identify ways to improve, expand, or extend the reach of your project. Remember, feedback is food for thought, not gospel. In the end, all final decisions are your decisions; it’s your project.

Stay focused and follow through.
You can work on multiple projects at a time. Be careful that you don’t get scattered. Starting projects is easy. Finishing them is hard. Make sure you’re working on the best project. List all your possible projects and identify the ones that are most important and the ones that are easiest to finish. If you’re lucky enough that the same project fits both criteria, focus all of your efforts there. Otherwise, you’ll have to strike a balance between what’s practical and what’s most important to you. Only you can decide this and the balance is likely to shift as time passes and circumstances develop. Look for a common theme among projects. Often your projects will be related. Focus your efforts in related areas. It’s very likely those areas have greater relevance for you than others. Your work will be perceived as stronger and more cohesive if your projects relate to one another, implying evolution.

What’s your project?
A project is a wonderful thing. It gives direction. It brings clarity. It increases productivity. It produces tangible results. It brings personal growth. It presents your work in the very best light. You and your work deserve this. Pick your projects well. They define not only how other people see you but also what you become. You are what you do. Take the first step today; make a commitment to create a personal project. (Write something right now – put your words somewhere where you’ll constantly be reminded of them and can continue refining them!)

Plan to plan.
Many people refuse to plan, especially in creative fields where discovery is desired. They say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Everyone needs a plan. Often, when you start a project, knowing you need to learn more as you go forward, you feel like you don’t have enough of the pieces to make a plan or you don’t have all of the pieces to make a complete plan. My recommendation is to start with a rough plan and continue to refine it as you go.

Stay flexible.
The best plans aren’t written in stone. The best plans remain flexible. Flexible plans allow you to make course corrections along the way as you learn more about your subject, your medium, yourself, and your audience. Expect to update your plan. I find that, if I don’t update my plan during the development of a project, this a clear indicator that I haven’t found the insight(s) necessary to complete it. I expect to be changed, for the better, by the projects I engage in. I expect to grow.

It helps to have a mission.
You have so many options before you, and so many more will soon present themselves to you, that you’ll find it challenging to choose which project(s) to move forward on or which path(s) to choose during project development. Defining a mission for your creative efforts in general will help ensure that you stay on track.

Be prepared to be surprised.
You don’t have to know all the answers before you begin to work. You just have to know the most important questions. Creating is a matter of solving mysteries, of finding answers. You don’t have to solve a mystery completely; you just have to find a few answers that you can stand by. If you’re lucky, you’ll find new questions and new mysteries along the way.

Find your groove. Find your message.
Doing things consciously, repeatedly, and consistently brings mastery. Repeat your successes … and find meaningful variations on them. When you do this you give your work a theme and style, which communicate a message. When does a groove become a rut? Don’t worry about the rut too soon, most people don’t stick with one thing long enough to find a groove. They go off road, traveling anywhere and everywhere, by any and all means, and ultimately don’t end up anywhere in particular, much less a place to return to, a place they can call their own.

Past projects lead to new projects.
Often the seeds of future work lie in present work. Themes that were unclear or latent, at the beginning of a personal project, once developed, lead to new lines of inquiry and more work. A creative life is never truly over. The best creative lives evolve; growing deeper, more complex and more sophisticated.

Prepare to make your work effective.
Even the best images will go unnoticed if they’re not presented and promoted properly. If you’ve spent a significant amount of time and resources to develop a personal project, you own it to yourself to see it presented well. This may be as simple as presenting your images well to yourself or as complex as promoting a publication and or exhibit, physically and/or virtually.

Make visible touchstones to guide your progress.
If you’ve got a personal project you want to complete, make a visible touchstone and keep it in one or more places where you can see it frequently. By doing this, you’ll be directing your conscious mind to focus on it and suggesting to your unconscious mind that this is a matter of importance – both will start to work on the challenge, even when you’re unaware of it. You will literally be sleeping on it. Many of the best ideas come during this period of gestation and incubation.

Projects take time.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to finish a project in a day. Projects can take weeks, months, or even years to complete. Some projects are ongoing and never end, producing many milestones along the way (publications, exhibitions, commissions, etc). Some projects lie dormant for a period of time and then suddenly come to life again. Projects have a life of their own. Personal projects require commitment, but the depth of your commitment will be reflected in both you and your work and in the achievements you make with it.

Read more and see specific examples on scottkelby.com.

Read more in my free creativity ebooks.

Discover and develop your personal projects in my digital photography workshops.

Define A Personal Project

January 5, 2012 | 1 Comment |

Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work. When you define a project you make a commitment, set goals, set quotas, set timelines, create a useful structure for your images, collect accompanying materials, and polish the presentation of your efforts so that they will be well received.

Make a commitment. Making a commitment is perhaps the single best thing you can do to advance your work. You’ve already made a commitment to make images. Now make a commitment to present your images in the very best light. You deserve it. Your work deserves it. Once you make a commitment the chances that your work will improve grow exponentially.

The type of project you pick will set a quota for a minimum number of images – and in some cases an upper limit. Pick a project and you’ll instantly know how many images you need to collect/produce – and in some cases a maximum number you can include.

Show only your best work. It’s easy to be tempted to finish hastily, including lesser works amid stronger works in order to reach completion. Resist this temptation. When assembling a collection, lesser works dilute the strengths of better works.

In addition to producing, editing, and sequencing images, projects often need to be packaged in appropriate forms with accompanying materials, typically text, that make them ready for presentation and distribution. These finishing touches communicate additional useful information to a viewer.

While many artists define and produce projects themselves, some artists engage a curator, gallery director, publisher, editor, agent, writer, or designer to help them realize a project, in part or in whole. Finding the right collaborator(s) can improve any project.

Above all, seek feedback. Seek feedback from people with diverse perspectives whose opinions you value and trust. One thing you can always use, that you can never provide for yourself, is an outside perspective. Remember, feedback is food for thought, not gospel.

Set a timeline. A timeline can be used to combat procrastination and/or distraction and encourage you to produce work. Set realistic timelines. Unrealistic timelines simply produce frustration.

Focusing your efforts into a project will help you produce a useful product. A project gives your work a definite, presentable structure. A finished project makes work more useful and accessible. Once your project is done, your work will have a significantly greater likelihood of seeing the light of day. Who knows, public acclaim may follow. Come what may, your satisfaction is guaranteed.

You can work on multiple projects at a time. Be careful that you don’t get scattered. Starting projects is easy. Finishing them is hard. List all your possible projects and identify the ones that are most important and the ones that are easiest to finish. If you’re lucky enough that the same project fits both criteria focus all of your efforts there. Otherwise, you’ll have to strike a balance between what’s practical and what’s most important to you.

Only you can decide this and the balance is likely to shift as time passes and
A project is a wonderful thing. It gives direction. It brings clarity. It increases productivity. It produces tangible results. It brings personal growth. It presents your work in the very best light. You and your work deserve this. Take the first step today; make a commitment to create a personal project.

(Write something right now – put your words somewhere where you’ll constantly be reminded of them and can continue refining them!)

Find an extended version of this article here.

Learn more about creative planning and goal setting here.

Learn more in my creativity workshops here.

The Power of Words

April 23, 2011 | Leave a Comment |

 

Finding the right words can make a big difference.

Learn more about how you can use words with my online resources.

As a fine artist, I advance my career with personal projects. Personal projects also create a clearer direction for and develop greater meaning in my life. My life would be unfulfilled without them

You don’t need to have a fine art career to benefit from personal projects. Many commercial photographers find personal projects reenergize them, add purpose to their lives and quite often lead to new assignments or whole new streams of income. Many amateurs, making images purely for the love of doing it, find greater satisfaction and personal growth through personal projects.

As an artist who mentors other artists in workshops and seminars, I’ve often been called to speak about the importance of personal projects; how to find them, start them, develop them, complete them, present them, and promote them.

Here’s an overview of what I share.

Personal Projects

Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work. When you define a project you focus, set goals, set quotas, set timelines, create a useful structure for your images, collect accompanying materials, and polish the presentation of your efforts so that they will be well received.

Focusing your efforts into a project will help you produce a useful product. A project gives your work a definite, presentable structure. A finished project makes work more useful and accessible. Once your project is done, your work will have a significantly greater likelihood of seeing the light of day. Who knows, public acclaim may follow. Come what may, your satisfaction is guaranteed …

Read the rest on scottkelby.com.

Learn more in these related digital photography ebooks.

Develop your personal project in my digital photography workshops.


Making the Visual Verbal

February 22, 2011 | 1 Comment |

Many take the view that pictures should be seen and not heard. I did. After being called to comment on my work time and time again, I realized that learning to comment on my work not only made my work more effective but it also helped me understand my work better and solve certain creative challenges. In fact, I realized that there are many types of writing and many uses for writing. Writing is now an integral part of my creative process from start to finish. Making the Visual Verbal is a useful skill that can benefit everyone, including you. You don’t think you can write? Anyone can finish a sentence. Finishing it well just takes practice. And some kinds of writing don’t need finished sentences. While it’s true there’s only one Shakespeare, we can all write. After all, think of all the great writing (fiction and nonfiction) that’s been written since Shakespeare. Personally, I don’t want to receive love letters written by Shakespeare. I want love letters written to me by my wife.

Here’s a piece I wrote several years ago on scottkelby.com.
Tune in tomorrow for a new piece on scottkelby.com – Developing Personal Projects.

Making the Visual Verbal

“Pictures should be seen and not heard.” “If we could communicate what we want to communicate with words, then we’d be writers not artists.” The words had rained down on me so many times that my mind had been saturated with the idea. While it reflects some truth, chiefly that a text (written or verbal) can never be a substitute for an image, it can also be misleading. Pictures have always been, continue to be, and will always be talked about-particularly by artists.

Growing up in an artistic family, the parade of visitors and people we visited included many types of artists from musicians to sculptors and most frequently photographers. The topics of conversation were far-reaching and colorful. Often there would be complaints about what had been written about their own work, sometimes about what had been written about each other’s work, or ……what had been written about other artist’s work. Then, if they existed, out would come quotes from an artist’s personal writings that were used to illuminate, reinforce or refute varied points of view (Artist’s letters, journals, interviews and statements have always held a special position in the history of art. They have forever shaped the commentary that surrounds work.) Inevitably, the very same artists, who claimed that artists should remain mute, would be lured into giving a lecture or an interview about their work. Artists approach the process of making the visual verbal with mixed feelings; part trepidation, part confirmation, part validation. To be sure, while there are many pitfalls to be avoided, there are many positive byproducts to making the visual verbal.

Writing can illuminate new avenues of inquiry for the viewer and in so doing enrich the entire viewing process, including the subsequent viewing process of future works by other artists. Writing is a process of revelation, It is a process of making thought visible. It is a matter of clarifying a process of thinking. By making what was intuitively sensed visible to the conscious mind, the familiar is clarified and the unfamiliar is brought to light.

Writing about images is inevitable. This kind of writing has always been there. It always will be. Someone, somewhere, sometime will write about your images. You have a great deal to contribute to the process. Along the way, you’re likely to find that writing about your work will be extremely revealing.

Many positive things happen when you engage writing. You will understand your work better. You will be able to communicate more clearly about your work. You will affirm the strengths of your work. You will be able to chart your own artistic development over time. You may even be able to uncover the seeds that will provide future growth in your work.

There are a variety of ways to make the visual verbal. There are artist’s journals, artist’s statements and writing exercises that can be used to get to the core of the inner life of work. There are ways to prepare for interviews; these days many interviews are conducted through writing over the Internet. There are lectures, and writing and rehearsing creates a solid structure for them. Writing can be a tremendous aid to any creative endeavor at any stage in the process …

Read the rest here on scottkelby.com.

Find more tips on writing here.
Read my artist’s statements here.
Read interviews I’ve given here.
Read my conversations with photographers here.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.


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