Sunday, 9 December 2007

Why I Came Back


I was stressing. I'd started this blog at work because I was getting back into illustration, I was bored, and I wanted to post the little things I was making in between jobs. Also I'd discovered Illustration Friday and I was having fun with that.

I went on other Illustrator's sites. The way that people had dealt with the blogging issue appears to very much be a tale of 2 cities. On one hand you have my favourite illustrator's website (not my favourite illustrator... although he is awesome! But his site is especially awesome!) which integrates the blog squarely into the site. In my opinion, Kevin Cornell has perfectly designed a portfolio/weblog site. The home page opens up straight into the blog with all the portfolio and other projects, links and goodies arranged down the right. The portfolio sections and the store are easy to navigate and beautifully designed. A gorgeous creation.

On the other hand you have Illustrators who sepearate the blog and the website. I assume they do this for the same reasons I do. They have an existing website, free blog sites are super easy to set up and use, they are unsure that they will keep the blog up and they have a lack of technical knowledge to create their own. The amount of coding required to set up a portfolio site is, well, I set one up in my first Dreamweaver lesson. A blog page with comments and and all the trimmings is a little more complicated to code from scratch.

So I ignored all that. I was so into bearskinrug that I tried essentially to copy it.

I failed. Why? Because I don't have the technical skill to do it. I could have paid someone to do it for me but... I wanted to be in control. Also, it was awesome procrastination.

I was teaching myself all the coding I needed in order to create the site and I started to put it up online and one weekend when it had all gone wrong again I sat there staring at my screen and looked down at my sketchbook and thought...

...what a waste of time. I'm supposed to be an illustrator not a web developer.

So I fished around for a solution. I found RapidWeaver. I spent a whole day at work playing with it when we were quiet. RapidWeaver is a template based web design application for Mac. Actually, saying it's a design application is misleading. It's not really a design application. It's more of a content manager. They give you a bunch of templates and off you go. They are customisable up to a point (you can change the colours, whether you want the boarder on the left or the right of the screen etc) and that's what bothered me. It wasn't free enough. I wanted my website to be like my work, you know, unique (in my eyes).

Thing is though, website are not that unique. They pretty much keep to one essential layout. Header at top, navigation bar underneath or to one side etc etc... and of course this is a great thing! We know how to work this format! There's nothing worse that a page that says "How to use this site". If you need that page then you've failed as a designer. Remember all those crazy slow loading flash sites? I used to love designing those...

There I am, um-ing and ahh-ing over RW. Then I found a plug-in that let me add my own picture header. Ok, I thought, this is now looking like "mine". Then I started adding the galleries and you know what? My greatest internal fear was realised. Once I'd put my work up it looked like my site. All those hours coding was a waste. Well not totally a waste of time. I'm much better at CSS now!

RW has a built in blogging tool that allows you to put up an all singing all dancing blog much like this one. I figured this is it! I kill off this blog and I've created the site of my dreams! Just like Mr Cornell's! Everyone will love me, angels will sing, doors will open and the packed masses will carry me through the streets of London with money cascading down from the heavens!

I posted the death of this blog and played with the site all weekend posting a couple new things.


All was not perfect. The new blog was giving me grief.

One of the things, as a posting artist, I love about blogger is that you post a small image on the blog which then links to the full sized file. You get the gist from the blog image but if you want to see detail (how I love the detail) you select the image. Not so in RW. I found the RW page hard to read, the fonts were too big and the spacing was all wrong. The gaps between the posts were too small. The format was too wide and strange... I fiddled with all the options and couldn't get it to work. I looked back to the blogger account for guidence and saw my old nicely ordered and spaced blog and my 100 old posts, all standing behind me like an achievement, each one giving me confidence to go on with the next.

The other thing that was troubling me was that I didn't feel free to write whatever I thought on RW. My website is my shop front. You don't air your dirty laundry in the shop in front of customers. You do it out the back where they can overhear it and giggle at the gossip.

This blog is my staff room, my fag break. I feel free and relaxed here. I can say what I think and take on all comers.

Also, especially as I'm going freelance full time in the new year, I can access this page remotely.

So I put it all back like it was! I'm keeping RW for my site because it's an awesome app for managing my images and contact details and all that shop stuff. I can have a store on there too for when I start selling prints in the future. And all for $49 (£24.99 thanks to the weak dollar. I was bought a limited edition Rage CD for more than that). If wasn't posting artwork I would definitely blog there. In fact I'm going to have a little "News" blog up there, mainly to say when I've posted new images in the portfolio section.

So that's where I'm at. Going to do some drawing now. Free at last...