Woot! Check it: My newly revamped site is Adobe Muse's Site of the Day.
Display Comments Add a Comment
Woot! Check it: My newly revamped site is Adobe Muse's Site of the Day.
This is a scratch that just had to be itched. While I love the concept of deviantART, I hate the way it looks. I mean, I REALLY hate it.
First off, the colors. While green, in and of itself, is a lovely color—it's the color of grassy meadows and sunlit forests, after all—whoever "designed" this site chose the worst possible shades of green and them paired them together to create something grotesque enough to make Mother Nature throw up a little bit in her mouth.
Next, there's the icons. Icons that I'm sure were pretty cool and even "cutting edge" when people first started decorating their GeoCities websites with them back in 1997. Sure, the whole "retro" look is cool these days, but only as long as you're doing it ironically. In other words, by people who are actually cool, but choose to dress nerdy, and thus make the nerdy look cool.
This, however, is a case of a nerd who has no idea what cool is, can never hope to know, and still gets beat up for his lunch money even as an adult.
On top of all that, there's the sheer clunkiness of the site itself. Trying to find my way around that site is like trying to pilot the space shuttle.
All of that has driven me absolutely stark-raving bonkers for some time now, and I finally couldn't stand it anymore. It was like walking past a painting over and over that's hanging crooked: I just had to stop and straighten it. And then get a whole new painting, because the original one looked like ass.
Now, I didn't waste a ton of time on this; I didn't put the same sort of effort into the user interface, iconography, etc. that I would with a normal, paying job. I used buttons, textures and icons other designers have created and made available free online. Basically, I just wanted it to stop looking like ass. (Click images below to embiggen)
If you have a website, you probably struggled through its birthing process from concept to reality. You can take comfort that you aren't alone. Your pain is felt by many, myself included, agonizing over such questions as: What design should I use? Should I use a template or should I go with code (.html, that is) and carve out my own layout? After all, there's something to be said about being the master of my own destiny even if it is with baling wire and bubble gum. Then again, maybe I should just hire it all out. How much could it cost anyway for the basics about who I am and what I'm peddling? And what's all this fuss I hear about content anyway?
These are just a few of the questions facing those pursuing an identity on the worldwide web. Consider for a moment what drove your website decisions about both the design and content? Did you hire a website designer to help chart your course in cyber space? Whether "designed" or home grown, to what extent was the cost a factor in your website decisions? Either way, are you satisfied with the outcome? And if you had it to do over again, would you follow the same path? What would you do differently? I'll start out. Feel free to chime in about your own experience.
Relatively soon after I got into the writing game (meaning at the point when my mom told everyone from her beautician to the pharmacist that I was writing poetry), I began to feel the push toward having a website. Actually, it was more like standing on the edge of Niagra Falls with a cheering crowd behind me yelling, "you don't need no stinking barrel!" Way back in those days (meaning about four years ago), I knew nothing about websites or how to design them; or, truthfully, what to put on them.
I began with a very basic (we're talking two tin cans and a string here) "website" offered by AOL using their "AOL hometown" template. My content was minimal--mostly a little background information about me (the poet, remember?) plus what I was working on currently and a list of two poems I had published so far. The AOL template offered four or five colors, a few "header" themes and about three text boxes to key free-form text into.
Needless to say, it was a modest website. But when I finished, I thought I had indeed arrived in the cyber world. The only problem, no one knew I was there which, in retrospect, was probably a good thing. But at least if someone asked me, I could beam with pride (OK and maybe a little smugness) and give them my URL. Hey, I was nothing if not pure coolness. I mean, I could totally imagine myself in a TV ad: "Got URL?" "Well, duh! Yeah, I got URL!"
Oh, and did I mention my URL was 43 characters long and included most of the letters in the English alphabet, three carefully placed Chinese characters, half the symbols across the top of the keyboard and six forward (not backward) slashes. Come to think of it, the URL actually looked a lot like the inside of those cartoon bubbles when the speaker is really, really mad.
And I'm sure it was for security reasons that whatever was keyed into the URL line could not be copied and pasted in the event of a keying error. That is, it had to be totally rekeyed from the beginning. Needless to say, I didn't have a lot of visitors to my website.
Yet, imagine my panic when about two years later, AOL announced via message that they would be eliminating their "website" feature in 30 days. Assuming ALL CAPS meant they were serious, I immediately followed their suggestion to save off my content, which I dutifully did in a Word file (with a hardcopy backup of course). Then, I sat site-less for nearly a month until I mentioned my dilemma to a cyber-savvy friend.
With great patience and forebearing (both biblical concepts), he showed me the basics of website design using .html code. I must say, after mastering my AOL URL, I actually found .html fairly easy. He also talked me through the drafting, editing, saving and uploading steps required
Check out this website I stumbled across: Not for Robots Writing is hard. People for whom writing is not hard are robots and should go away. Thank you. I’m not telling anymore, just that when I found myself in the midst of the site I knew it was perfect for Sundays for the Soul. Let [...]Add a Comment
How have I not been following Tony DiTerlizzi's blog? He and co-author Holly Black are releasing a cool edition of the Spiderwick Chronicles with lots of "special features" much the way DVD movies do. Brilliant.
Check out Patricia Newman's sizable collection of author profiles. From her site: "I’ve interviewed all of these fantastically talented children’s authors and illustrators for a monthly column I write that appears in regional parenting magazines. Please read their profiles and then read their work!"Add a Comment
Check out more Maurice Sendak video interviews on Rosenback Museum's YouTube page:
It was recently pointed out to me via email, courtesy of illustrator and concept artist Tanja Wooten , that there was a mispelling on my web site.I could only offer the following explanation:I once had, among my wretched crew, a viking lad aboard for keeping track of just that sort of thing, by name of Sven the Spellchecker. Unfortunately, he was also known as Sven the Seasick, and was alsoAdd a Comment
I just noticed this morning that Blogger has a new "Pages" feature, which is a lot like the tabs you see in other blog sites like WordPress, and frankly, it's about time. I spent the morning compiling a lot of my links into pages, which are now listed to the right, instead of having to force viewers to scroll waaaaaaay down the page to find them.Granted, if I knew a little more about programming,Add a Comment
Just a few I've stumbled upon recently:Lunchbox FunniesThis is actually a portal site to 8 different comics for kids, including Aki Alliance, Astronaut Elementary, Cow & Buffalo, and Zip and Li'l Bit. Great stuff.The Putrid PalThe Putrid Pal is an undead French boy who lives underwater near the sea. He spends most of his time wistfully staring out at sea, or playing with his monster friends. He'sAdd a Comment
By Bill Kirk
Bill Kirk's Website
(Published in Scouting e-zine Cracker Barrel, 2008)
You'd think it would be easy,
To tell about the day's
Events and how they happened
In ordinary ways.
But this day wasn't normal,
Though it was kind of cool.
I learned to care for victims
At Boy Scout First Aid school.
At first I was a victim.
I had a "broken arm"
And "bruises" and a "headache"
As if I'd come to harm.
An "accident" had happened
On my "mountain bike."
But soon I was "discovered"
By "hikers" on a hike.
They checked out all my "bruises,"
And bandaged all my "scrapes."
In no time they had splinted
My arm with sticks and tapes.
Soon after I was "stable"
I had another role-
To help a rock slide victim
Impaled upon a pole.
Of course, he was "unconscious."
His "skull" had hit a "rock."
Because we had just "minutes,"
We worked against the clock.
At first we rolled him over
And "stabilized" his "spine."
We did a lift and carry;
In no time he was fine.
Several hours later,
The day was finally done.
Although the lessons were intense,
We'd learned while having fun.
When I got home, exhausted,
My wife said, "How's your day?"
"You won't believe..." then I just couldn't
Bring myself to say.
Terrible Yellow Eyes is a collection of works inspired by the beloved classic, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Over time, they'll display a growing collection of works created by invited contributing artists.
From the site: "We share a love and admiration for Sendak's work and the pieces we present here are done as a tribute to his life and legacy."
Some killer work here. Very fun.
Found this web site called "No Flying No Tights" (great name) that posts recommended graphic novel reading for teens as well as middle grade kids. (The lists are good, but boy, the design of the site itself is, sorry to say, gawd-awful. I'll try to look past that...).
Some days, don't you wonder where everyone is out there? I'm mean, shouldn't there be some evidence left behind when someone has actually dropped by Ye Old Blogspot Blogging Post? They say Pinging one's blog is critical---can't do without it, you know. But what does all the pinging really do, anyway? What if I didn't ping?
From the site: "We are six children's book authors with a wide range (and many years) of experience teaching writing to children, teens, and adults. Here, we will share our unique perspective as writing teachers who are also working writers.
"In addition to discussing what we've learned about writing and the teaching of writing, we also hope to accomplish something on the blog that we can't do on our websites: facilitate conversations between writers, teachers, and librarians about the subjects we love best--writing, teaching writing, and reading."
I have begun to descend the slippery slope of re-designing my portfolio web site (and you can be sure that, once finished, this blog will look different, too). Now, while I have been intending to do this for a long time, I've started down a slightly different path than the one I had intended. And I'm a little nervous about it.
You see, I've had this sort of alter ego for some time now (I think I've mentioned this before). Once in a while, just for fun, I'll go by my middle name, Ingvard, which I got from my Danish mother. This Ingvard character is an old fashioned viking, who goes by the formidable name of "Ingvard the Terrible". I've always liked the idea of this guy, but I never knew what to do with him: write a story with him, draw a comic...
Lately, as I've been thinking about redesigning my web site, I was trying to decide what kind of look to give it. My thoughts wandered into viking territory, and this larger than life character popped up once again. So, while I've always thought my given name, Sean Ashby, was my "brand", both as an author and an illustrator, I needed to market that name they way you would a traditional product. So where did this Ingvard guy come in? Was my subconscious suggesting I use it as a sort of nom de plum, a la Daniel Handler's Lemony Snicket persona?
That possibility, frankly, scares me a little. I guess that, whenever I imagined myself as a published author, etc., I imagined doing it under my own name. I guess people do it all the time; Charlie Sheen, I believe was born Carlos Esteves, and he and his father Martin Sheen changed their names when they got into acting because they felt no one would hire a latino actor with such a foreign name (their brother, Emilio Esteves, however decided to keep his name and did just fine).
I don't know. I'm not saying that I'm going to do that, but my gut is trying to push me in a certain direction, and it's fighting with my mind. I just wish I knew what that direction was.
So who knows. I'll play with this new website design that features the whole viking look and see where it takes me. Many times, following your gut makes things easier, and ends up being the right thing to do, but that doesn't make it any less scary.
Enjoying these podcasts from HarperCollins, including Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, Avi, Bruce Hale and more.
From the site: "What Book Got You Hooked? invites readers everywhere to celebrate unforgettable books from childhood and help provide new books to the children who need them most. First Book asks visitors to share the memory of the books that made them readers and then vote for the state to receive 50,000 new books from First Book, helping to get more kids hooked on reading."
For me, it was "Bunnicula" by James Howe.
As I was cruising the blogosphere, lamenting the lack of any male bloggers when it came to sites about kidlit, I came across this one! Not only that, The Graphic Classroom is focused solely on graphic novels and extols the virtues of using them in the classroom.
From the author: "I am now a full time graduate student in the college of education at Missouri State University. I am getting my Masters of Science in Education – Elementary Education.
"I know that reading is a problem for many students today. I feel strongly that comics and graphic novels can be one way that we can combat this problem. Graphics novels should be in every public school library and classroom library. That is why I am choosing to write my thesis on using comics and graphic novels in the elementary classroom."
Aaaaw, yeah! Consider it bookmarked.
The new site is coming along pretty well. I've been working on doing some illustrations just for the site (the home, about and contact pages), and thought about posting them here as I finished them, buuuuut, I've decided to wait until the whole thing is finished. (Like it would spoil anything for all 2 people who read this thing).
Finally! After piddling with it for who knows how long, I've finally launched a redesign of my illustration web site. Check it out!
Now, the first thing you may have noticed is that it's a big redesign. One of the things I wrestled with was whether or not to use my rather distinct middle name, Ingavrd, as a sort of "alter-ego" or keep using my given name and surname (Sean Ashby). My head said, Use your given name, dummy. You may not have a lot of equity built up for it yet, but if you use some silly nom de plume you're stuck with it. Plus, people will be confused by the change, etc. etc.
But my gut wanted to do something different. There was this guy, this character, this larger than life viking named Ingvard the Terrible that was fighting to get out. I wrestled with this for a while, and finally decided to give it a shot. Like I said, I don't have a whole lot invested in Sean Ashby, per se, and I still use my name on the site.
And as you may have noticed, the blog has been affected, too. Although, for some stupid reason, I can't change my profile picture. Blogger is bugging out on me for some reason, but at least it's a viking character, albeit not the new one. [UPDATE: I decided to just get rid of the old pic, and upload my own to get around that problem.]
I'll also be adding a bunch of old work to a Deviant Art site—ingvard.daportfolio.com—that will link from the portfolio page of my site. I may even decide to buy a URL that reflects the Ingvard name, but I haven't quite decided.
So, now that it's up, what's next? Promote the dumb thing. For starters, I'll be making the rounds at various web sites to post the news. Then I think I'll also print up a round of postcards to mail to all the people that I just sent sample sheets to a month or so ago (sample sheets with the old look on it). And as soon as I get the dough, I think I'm going to buy a slot on picture-book.com, which has nothing to do with the new site, but hopefully it will draw some traffic.
Phew! Glad it's done. Feels like I finished some massive home-improvement project, like remodeling a bathroom. You know, without having to spend all that time going back and forth to Home Depot...
Having started flirting with the use of another name (albeit my middle name) for promotional purposes, I've started thinking a lot about pen names and alternate identities. I don't know of too many in the kidlit world, outside of maybe Lemony Snicket and the "authors" of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, but I'm willing to bet there's more than I'm aware of.
For any illustrator wanting to put together an online portfolio, you'll be amazed at the options you have available to you. Fortunately for me, I have enough knowledge of web design that I can fumble my way around Dreamweaver and build a decent site myself. But for those without the benefit of such knowledge, and without the mullah to pay someone else to do it, there are a few options out there that aren't a bad second choice.
You can set a portfolio up completely for free, which is nice. You manage it through the browser, which is also nice. The downside? You have very little control over how it looks other than the placement of the different sections. But you know what? The main reason people come there is to check out your art, right? So keeping it simple with a plain white or dark gray background is just fine.
You'll also have to have the deviant art name in your URL (as in ingvard.daportfolio.com), but that's not a big deal really. I keep my main work on my site, but I also decided to post older stuff on a DA site.
I don't have any personal experience with this one, but it looks slick and operates pretty much the same way.
A few other places to check out on your own (you can probably find more just by searching under "online portfolio"):
For further reading, check out this article on Smashing Magazine on creating the successful online portfolio.
Let's say you have a little web knowledge and want to get a little tricky with the navigation of your gallery (though be warned, some of these may or may not be discouraged in the aforementioned article!)
It costs about $40 and require you know a little bit of how to get around in Flash. I am definitely a beginner when it comes to Flash, and I could figure it out with a little reading of the tutorial. There's additional software if you're looking to manage a huge, circulating portfolio (like for a professional photographer or something), but that's probably not necessary.
This one's free (though he does take donations, so why not drop the guy a few bucks for his work?) This is what I used for my current site, and I've seen it used plenty of other times. It requires a small amount of tinkering with your HTML, but again, I'm a novice at that stuff, and as long as I followed the simple directions, I got it up and running with no problem.
This is also free, and probably geared toward regular Joes who want to put all their vacation photos on their family web site, but it can definitely be used for illustrators. I requires a little more tinkering, but it allows you to manage everything through a web browser, and let's you create multiple albums (and sub-albums, etc.) and move things around pretty easily.
If I think of anymore (I know I'm forgetting something), I'll be sure to post it.