June 24, 2020

Net Art: Take your pieces to the universal URL based exhibition, The Internet.

Introducing Net Art, art that acts on the network, or is acted on by it. Pieces made for the internet, meant to be experienced at home, behind your device. For example, when you have to stay at home, there’s always Net Art. Not only in these quarantine times but actually Net Art has a history that spans more than 30 years.

You might be asking yourself, or me—the writer—how does it look like? Show me now for god's sake! Well, give me just a minute, or scroll down to see what has been created and by who. On the other hand, if you choose to stay here and read a little bit of context, I'll be delighted to tell you some interesting facts, before the fun visual part.

Meanwhile, for the patient ones, here's a small preview of Net Art.

Viktor Timofeev Remote collaborative drawing.

This might not look like a digital collage, I'll give you that.

Why should I learn anout Net Art?

The intention of this post is to open your mind to the possibilities that the internet offers in these modern times. What I'm about to show you here, will inspire you. Most importantly, you are going to get some ideas on how to use the internet to take your work beyond.

Everyone is using Instagram, Pinterest, or Behance to showcase their digital work, and that's perfectly fine. To clarify, Modern Artists should use every channel there is. Firstly, to grow their audience. Secondly, to brand their work. Thirdly, of course, to make a sustainable income to keep creating and pay for rent. However, there are other things you could take into account in the game.

What if you could take your art further. For instance, creating domains for each piece, and creating a unique experience for your whole practice. What if you could create, for example, your own personal gallery, a behind the scenes studio, or your own wall like Rafaël Rozendaal´s website. Which features all his websites, a collection of 114 websites. Yes, I counted them. One by one.

Website with collection of Rafäel Rozendaal's Net Art pieces.
https://www.newrafael.com/websites/ collection of Rafäel Rozendaal's Net Art pieces

This idea of making independent art on separate websites has started to look amazing and creatively valuable to me. This is different from making portfolios, in other words, this is a performative experience. On a portfolio, you show the work you have made in other mediums. These pieces are actual websites that perform aesthetic concepts, not only with abstraction but also with typography.

I'm not a developer, can I create Net Art?

Yes of course my dear non-code trained digital artist.

I think you could create a Net Art website with any popular builder like WordPress, or Elementor. The perk is that those builders are only template-based. Get your head around it and find some way of building weird things. However, I have not tried it myself, though.

There is, however, my favorite website builder. Yes, you guessed it, smart buddy, Webflow. With Webflow you have HTML elements, CSS styling controls, and a Javascript interactions designer. You could create circles that change background color with the mouse hovering, things that appear or disappear with scrolls, and more.

I don't know anyone who is using Webflow to create art pieces, but it works perfectly for it.

Remember, if you are familiarized with any design tool like Photoshop or illustrator, you can learn Webflow faster.

On the other hand, if you are a developer or have any knowledge of HTML at least, you can do amazing things. Just with HTML you can create interesting pieces, buy yourself a funny named domain and publish your piece of art.

I have also thought about the possibility of putting together the teachings of the Digital Collage Starter Guide with Webflow's capabilities. For example, you could create your collages, and then animate them in Webflow.

Image shows one website as an example of Net Art pieces.
http://wwwwwwwww.jodi.org/. Each of those lines takes you to a different crazy piece of Net Art

The one thing that motivates me to write about these ideas, however, is the incredible number of ways that we have at hand to make art nowadays. I want to push creators to take advantage of these tools through inspiration. We live in a time in which access to web development and digital art technologies is immense, and I wake up every day feeling incredibly blessed to be alive right now.

So, this Net Art thing... when did it start?

Well, after the internet was invented of course, but the exact date according to the Net Art Anthology by Rhizome, is 1982. Net Art Anthology is a collection of Net Art pieces from the 1980s to the present, aimed to "Retell the history of Net Art". It is the go-to digital preservation space presented by Rhizome, and organization championing digital art, in affiliation with the New Museum in New York City.

First documented piece of net art in 1982. The purspose is to add context to the paragraph.
The World in 24 Hours, first documented piece of Net Art.

Net art artists are recognized by highly influential artistic organizations like the Moma and Artsy. That is to say, it is a legit practice with value in the world of art. However, that's not the only argument in favor of it. As we established in the Modern Artist Manifesto's Principles, you should "Work always with passion in one hand and patience in the other". Therefore, introducing new ways of expressing yourself is a value in itself, not only for your economic plans but more importantly, for the creator within you.

But it is important and motivating, however, to know that integrating these web skills within your creative process could render your hard work and everyday creation sessions, valuable for your potential audience, and make you become a great artist. It is the work you make, the constant work, that makes your career grate and transcendent.

There's not much to know about the history of Net Art beyond the work that net artists have produced. Of course, there are interesting facts to get you interested, but art is not necessarily experienced through its history. Above all, the actual works and the expression they exude visually and emotionally are the main sources of artistic experiences.

Works are not only web-based, that could also come as videos on Youtube as the one we show at the start of the post, or this one:

Alright, I want to see some Net Art stuff now!

Well, you came to this point, and I promised you visual stimulation (artistic only).

Many artists have embarked on the Net Art world. However, they are not restricted to that medium. You could find many of them have created pieces in many other formats, and that's is even more exciting. Right? Are you going to create beyond your present art form?

No pressure, but The Modern Artist requires and welcomes some pressure. Well, some of them. No problem.

Alright, examples, now! (notice the URLs)

Rafaël Rozendaal

One of the most interesting and beautiful pieces of Rafael Rozendaal.
http://www.notneverno.com/ Colorful Net Art circles website

Rafäel's websites are colorful and colorless, they move in interesting ways. In general, this websites have only one section, no scroll, and some mouse triggered animations. Take a look at them on your desktop.

Jodi

Jodi's HTML experiment, to show one of his work in the list.
https://x20xx.com/moontxt.html

Jodi is a Belgian collaborative art duo formed by Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans. Clever Huh? Joan and Dirk, Jodi, get it?

They have many HTML experiments, you just need to learn HTML in a month with Codecademy or FreeCodeCamp, and start making experiments like Jodi's.

Pro Tip: Use your browser's inspector to see Jodi's HTML document and any other website. To open it just right-click on any website and look down for the inspector option, click it and it will show you this.

Screenshot of the Code Inspector to instruct readers on how to use this tool.
This is WordPress's post page inspector screen.

SHU LEA CHEANG

LIA

https://www.seditionart.com/lia/animal-imagination-7

Software artist Lia, considered one of the pioneers of software and net art, has been producing works since 199. Her code-based work sells digitally, you get the website link when you buy her pieces.

Krassimir Terziev

https://top-84-ways.gallerygallery.space/

https://weirldwide.com/

Raphaël Bastide

https://four.otherti.me/s/

In conclusion

There are many more works to show. I'm struck by the simplicity and the focused functionality of this web-based creations.

Net Art is a field in which very prominent works are still inaccessible because there is little information about it. One of the downsides of this world is the devaluation of art, because the medium, the Internet, is open for everyone. Should these works go behind the paywall? That is something we could discuss in the comments.

One thing is sure, Net Art unites artists from many different art forms and disciplines. The pieces show how internet technologies can be used for self expression, critical reflection and communication between artists and audiences around the WWW.

June 9, 2020

Using Webflow to create unique website experiences

Artists tend to heavily procrastinate on building an online portfolio. The why? We're yet to find out, yet game-changing tools such as Webflow can help us create unique website experiences from scratch, giving us a sea of possibilities to explore, transform, and showcase our work.

However, artists and creators can give the web several other uses than just to market their own product or skills, turning screens into a novel vehicle for creative expression. 

We live in a time where creating videos, taking pictures, publishing books, and releasing songs is a riddle anyone can solve. But what about unearthing the power of one of the most complex yet fascinating inventions of our era? Code.

Using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create art isn't by any means ludacris, rather disruptive and beautiful. Webflow, amongst other web tools, has made this new artform easy, accessible, and learnable as it has never been without the need for actual coding. Based on the primary logic that developers use, you can create unique web experiences upon an interface that doesn't differ much from Photoshop or Illustrator.

Want to draw an angry beaver front and center on your landing page? Just draw it! The code writes itself.

Art and Technology—forever

The movers and shakes of the artistic landscape across human history were more than aesthetically conscious. Many of them practiced creativity as an enabler for inventiveness, and vice-versa. And from that imaginative soup—technology, methods, and artifacts, were born to change the culture, to elevate the human mind, to increase love and dignity in society’s deepest identity. 

We could talk about anything and describe what defines an artist in 2020. We could dab upon social media, Youtube, streaming, networking, and other modernity-relevant KPIs to develop and measure an artist's career. But there is one specific skill that could define the artistic stereotype, and that is curiosity

Curiosity is our formal invitation for the Muse to come visit us in our studio and deliver today’s dose of inspiration. Curiosity is also what led me towards the world of code.

Websites are like books, notepads, cyber surfaces where you can illustrate your ideas freely. I picture a website in the hands of Leonardo Da Vinci and can't help to imagine what would he do with it. What would Da Vinci do with a tool like Webflow? What kind of mesmerizing artifact would he invent, prototype, paint?

Well, I guess unfortunately we'll never know, but what's for sure is he would have to open a starter plan account.

Webflow: The No-Code Revolution

Getting started is super easy and entails zero costs. You just need to open an account, explore the Designer interface, play around, and check the different screens. Whenever you hit a roadblock, Webflow's University has got you covered with plenty of instructive material to ease the learning curve.

If you know little about HTML, CSS, or JavaScript, don't hassle! They offer comprehensive tutorials of the fundamentals ranging from the Box Model, to Flexbox, to styling, animations, responsiveness, you name it.

Once you've got the basics down it is time to begin experimenting and that's where curious you kicks in. Inspiration comes unannounced when we give standardized tools alternative uses. Use to your advantage that Webflow wasn't created with artists in mind to create a unique website experience.

What does it looks like?

Looks like that. On the right, you have everything related to the styling section: colors, spacing, size, position, some movement, displays. On the left, you have the main HTML elements: blocks, links, sections, paragraphs, images, navigation, and more. And finally, up top, you have different screen views, the preview button, and the publish button. And on the top right, you have the interactions and animations.

So, left side column HTML, right side column CSS, and top right corner JavaScript. That simple!

Unique websites experiences design with Webflow

Alright, let's feed that idea machine of yours.

By now you feel like if Da Vinci has possessed you, and you are not only ready to paint La Monalisa but to also prototype the next flying apparatus. You feel part artist, part engineer, part hacker, and very very bold and crazy. You are inspired by words, but you now need the visual juice. Let's give you the visual juice.

What you are about to see are not pieces of art made with Webflow. Instead, I'm going to show you sites that contain beautiful interactions and smart functionalities. Remember, aesthetics are not everything, we also want to invent stuff.

opendoodles.com

The landing page of the opendoodles website, showing a grid of white and red doodles.

Opendoodles is exactly what its name says, free doodles to download. But not only that, but they also have a generator. You can create your own doodle, color it the way you want for your project.

This website is made by an artist, an illustrator, but is not just made to show the work. It also works for other people who might not be capable of drawing doodles, is inventiveness at its peak.

finsweet.com

The hero section of Finsweet's website, showing a beautiful illustration of a lion in purple and green.

The people at Finsweet are artists in their own way. They create beautiful websites, structures, experiences, they are like architects. However, the most interesting thing about this site is the lion's animation. Please check it out and then come back, take your time.

Are you back? Perfect then. Did you see how everything moves? You can do all of that without a single line of code. But let me be clear, I encourage you to learn code. You can also experiment with custom code. What is custom code? Custom code is a piece of code that executes a specific action, animation, or interaction.

Let's say you want to add a contact form from Mailchimp. You copy the code from Mailchimp (they give it to you), and embedded on your site. Webflow allows you to add custom code and scripts that are applied to your entire site or to individual pages on your site. 

Back to the point, you can create your own gallery with these interactions, wait there's more inspiration coming.

Tip: Explore CodePen to search for beautiful custom code animations.

okalpha.co

Hero section for Okalpha website.

This is one of my favorite websites. Again, this is not a piece of art in the standard sense, but it is a deeply beautiful experience. Okalpha is an animation studio. Their layout, the movement of the pieces on scroll, and the geometric shapes reminds me of Mondrian.

Even though they are selling their services, this website is a piece of art. Take your time to check it out and see for your self.

Again, I'm not showing actual pieces of art made with web development tools. I'm just giving you a range of ideas of what you can do with Webflow, so you get inspired and try it out for your next project.

Tip: You might build a collage with scrolling interactions, for example.

sky-box.webflow.io

The whole site of sky box by Kai Jolli

Sky-box is actually a piece of art made with web development elements. It is described by the creator as an "Experimental fan art using divs and SVGs with mouse movement and scroll interactions".

Divs are the basic HTML element. A div can be used as a section, as a container for a header, a navigation bar, and forms. Divs can also be used to create lines and shapes. You can style them and animate them. Divs are very important and versatile.

Kai Jolli also has another website with a beautiful and disruptive experience called web elements. If you visit it you can explore ways to make navigation different.

Tip: Look at websites beyond the content or the selling proposition, the most detailed ones can inspire amazing ideas.

cloud-nine.webflow.io

Cloud nine has only on e section with an animation.

This is another interesting idea to implement pieces of art with Webflow.

If you have different pieces to show, you could create as many pages as you need to create what you have in mind. This example shows how simple it is to get on board with the no-code revolution. It is not necessary to make complicated websites. Simple things can be striking, too.

To close the list I want to show you one of the most amazing examples of interactive design.

translate-wf.com

A section in Weglot's website where you have to click to brake the block on the right.

Weglot is a translation integration for Webflow websites. Their landing page design shocks anyone beyond languages. The animations that Weglot used to create this website are so detailed and sleek, you'll want to clone this site.

Guess what, you can actually clone it. Webflow allows you to clone many sites for you to learn how are they created. You can check their structure, animations, styles and more. This platform really gives you all the help you need to break the code barrier. Isn't it inspiring?

Tip: Visit Webflow's showcase page and explore the clonable websites. Well, you have the links in the last sentence. You are welcome. 🙂

Start creating!

I hope you are by now inspired, or at least full of questions you're eager to answer.

If you want to learn more about how to make unique website experiences using Webflow please feel free to drop us a comment down below. We can only invite you to go to Webflow and start experimenting and learning. Don't underestimate the learning curve, for further help go to Youtube and watch Ran Segall or Pixel Geek's "How to Webflow" series.

Happy no-coding creation!

May 28, 2020

How to build a stunning art portfolio using Semplice

Back in the day, artists used to carry around their top work in a heavy, worn out, thick leather briefcase that I bet brought more back pain than work itself. Fortunately, that is a thing of the past. Today we'll embrace the digital age and learn how to build an art portfolio using a tool a rave often about, Semplice.

Honestly speaking, I took a good while to set up my own art portfolio. By that, I mean well over two years. I was anxious about where to start, which platform to use, what works to showcase, and what color should the favicon be. That is the little, microscopic, logo that shows up in the browser’s tab. Talk about perfectionistic shenanigans.

The hard truth is you need a portfolio to cut through the noise. You need to make yourself discoverable by creative directors, agencies, or potential clients. You thus need that online presence in 2020 if you ever want to make your work profitable.

Good news is, I'm here to tell you we can do this despacito and we can finish fast. Let's get it!

1. Set up the basics

Here's how to build a stunning art portfolio using Semplice—the easy mode. No coding, no cumbersome web apps, no annoying subscriptions. Only the good stuff, I promise.

You’re going to need two things: a domain name and a hosting service. For which I will recommend GoDaddy and Flywheel. Why those two? Reputation, compatibility, outstanding customer service, friendly interface, and bliss to use altogether. The best of the best.

Once you bought your domain, all that’s left is to point the DNS over to Flywheel’s server. There’s an easy to follow guide that will help you right here.

Your domain name of choice should be easy to pronounce, ideally in several languages. Preferably short, lacking hyphens or periods, and snappy if possible. I would clip onto those avoiding cliches like “www.willsartportfolio.com” or “www.artbywill.com”. No offense intended, Will.

Get creative. Use your full name if it ain’t a tongue twister, and if it is, find a witty zag to it. For instance, “www.willywill.com” sounds funny, memorable, and even looks cool in the browser’s search bar. Squeeze those creative melons of yours and make some melonastic melonade.

Pro tip: You can look into Top Level Domains for an extra dose of Wow.

2. Choose your portfolio builder

If you read the title right, then you know what I’ll promote here: Semplice. My favorite, WordPress-based, website builder. Other great art portfolio alternatives are Behance, Adobe Portfolio, and Squarespace.

Semplice is a bliss to use. It counts with a comprehensive tutorial section you can browse here. It encompasses everything from quick set-up to font installation, module functionalities, and so on. Awesomely enough, you can also dive into their hacks database for some nifty visuals to add an extra pinch of sensual across your site. Fantasticoso.

I would recommend you dedicate some time to read through the reviews first and get a better grip on where I’m coming from. Us artists and designers fall like meteor showers for shiny objects. We are the firsts ones to click “Buy now“ if the product is exquisitely designed. Disregarding its source, backend, or usability. Whether that be a pet rock, or an app subscription to measure our daily curse word count we damn sure don't need.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid promotion, although that would be cool. Nor am I giving you biased information. I'm writing from my very own experience using this tool. Building my site with it, and further recommending it to my creative friends. Trust me, I’m an engineer. Not.

3. Browse for inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere, are words I live by.

It’s in the songs we hear, the places we visit, the people we talk to, and the food we eat. It’s in the old and new architecture, the wild imposing nature, the captivating beauty of women, and the wisdom inked on the books we read.

The Modern Artist observes the details. He or she understands how to transform conceptual information into tangible reality. Use this skill to your advantage.

When browsing inspiration for your new website don’t feel discouraged or overwhelmed. I was there too. You’ll stumble upon the most galactic, interstellar, Elon-Musk-dignified sites out there only to question yourself: “How the hell am I going to measure myself to this? Is it even worth trying?” Well, you don’t have to my friend, and it’s absolutely worth it. One step at a time.

The Semplice team has put together it’s own showcase reel. A beautiful compilation of their top-class portfolios. There’s a little bit of everything. From designers to agencies, to illustrators and even small businesses. It’s a psychedelic party of eye-candy visuals. I must warn you though that once you’re in the Matrix, it will be hard to snap out as there’s plenty to digest.

4. Curate your work and start building

Start from the beginning and keep it simple.

Choose your best work and your best work only. That which makes you the proudest. Avoid falling into the show-it-all trap. Why?

Well, consider how big of a toll technology has taken on our attention span. You only count on a couple of seconds to help the lurker decide whether to stay or bounce. Use your resources sparingly.

Don’t be afraid to do some fashionable name-dropping while you're at it. Got some big clients you worked with? Highlight those bad boys up and front!

Going from zero to launch in a day is absolutely possible following the steps I’ve mentioned before. Diss the start paralysis for good. The faster you act, the quicker you will realize how simple it actually is. The upside is clear, once your site is up and running you can always block some time weekly to further spice it up. Add more work, curate those you have, change up the site aesthetics, you name it, the world is your oyster.

Important: be wary of image size. A heavy site will spook your viewers away like Freddy Krueger at the playground. Do some speed research on exporting images and the best practices. I personally do PNGs at less than 1mb tops. Which to be honest, I’m not even sure if it’s the optimal way to do it but hey, it works for me.

Pro tip: Use video. Video is great to make a strong first impression. We like to see things move, twitch, flutter, and kick. Have you a process clip of your creative method? Drop it in. Does your work move per se? Wonderful, use that. Can you find a way to add a little animation here and there? Crank up that creative genius of yours.

5. Write an About page that rocks

Aha! We've arrived at the dreaded About page. And what a pain this one can be.

There’s no right or wrong formula to nail it down. Some of us approach it eagerly, others prefer to leave it for the very last. Whatever profile you fit best, I can say from my own experience that being 100% content with your About page is a big affirmation. Nonetheless, it’s an absolute—impassable—must on your site.

You can find About pages in all shapes, forms, and colors. First, second, and third-person summaries. Those that tell their whole life’s story in HD 5K format. Those written impersonally by somebody else (why please?). And those that barely giveaway their birth certificates’ legal name. Who are you, Mr. Game and Watch?

The sweet spot here is well-grounded in being yourself. Being genuine in the way you write and express your feelings. Replicating how you would have a conversation with your next-door neighbor or cat down the road. Why? Simple, we all thrive for more human connections, the “I’m speaking to you” kind of exchange.

Tell a story, give away a personal quirk, fun fact, or secret. Bond with your audience by making them feel that you’re one of them. Because you damn right are…or not, E.T.? We’re all imperfect, and that’s beautiful. We’ve all made mistakes, felt ashamed, or got caught showing our moves off to the Dragon Ball Z theme song before the living room’s TV, Dancing with the Stars fashion. That, of course, was uh...a friend of mine.

Pro tip: SHOW YOUR FACE. Yes, you read right. Unless you're Felipe Pantone, put that shining face of yours front and center. And if you're into the incognito trend, great, then put one of your back. Or heel. Or eardrum. Just portray your human condition somehow, that makes people click. You can check mine here.

6. Weniger, aber besser

How my german friends would say: less is more. Coined by the designer Dieter Rams back in the day, these are also a handful of words to live by.

I learned a lot during my two years in Germany. Beautiful people, beautiful country, and oh my lord beautiful beer. Amongst the things I got to take away into my life journeys is their precision mentality. Sayings things straight and keeping stuff down to the fundamental.

Being not only simple but practical helps find better solutions in less time, thus wasting less energy. This applies to design and art alike. So I beg you please, don't overcomplicate things when they don't need to.

Picture your site as a living, breathing, organism destined to grow, evolve, mutate. Version 1 will never be the same as version 2, nor 3. The curve will steepen as you grow as a professional. Better, stronger ideas will come your way, and by no means will you ever be bound to your first swing at-bat.

7. Share it with the world

Congratulations, you finished your portfolio! Now what? Well first, why don't you start by giving yourself a pat on the back?

Us artists tend to under celebrate our victories because our focus is fixed at creation. I remember when I first hit publish on my website. It felt like I lifted the sinking Titanic off my back—violinists playing along and baby sharks [tu-tu ruru tu-ru] swimming around gracefully.

It was the righteous resolve of over two years of procrastination, mind drilling self-doubt, and a life long discourse of “do I have to do this to prove myself to others?” Big nope is the answer.

You do this because you love what you do. Because it is in your godforsaken right to share it with the world. But you know? I'd go one step further and claim it is your duty to share your gifts. Art is freedom, art is imagination, art is the fabric that gives our life's purpose. So why would you contain in your tiny crystal box? Let it be free!

To wrap it up, know that promoting your work is as crucial as producing it. Art and business go along like bread and butter, bolognese and parmesan, cats and yours truly. For now, use Social Media to showcase your new website. Instagram is a great place to get the ball rolling. And in case you haven't already, why don't you start uploading your work regularly on it? Hmmm, I wonder... what could possibly go wrong?