On Art and the Web
The internet is an ever changing space. Sites rise, fall, and some cease to exist. And over time more users are cornered into the same handful of mainstream websites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. These sites have become increasingly hostile to their userbase be it predatory algorithms, unclear rule enforcements, or terrible mis-management. Even seemingly small things like profile customization are getting stripped away in exchange for more agressive advertising and monetization schemes.
I've migrated between sites a bunch since I first became active online. And as I get older I'm realising (and witnessing) how these larger sites have harmed the art world (and the internet as a whole).
- People are forced into chasing ever-changing algorithms for a vauge chance of visibility.
- Site mis-management puts small/indie creators' livelyhoods at risk in a way they can't control.
- NFTs and other schemes that prey on the financially vulnderable are constantly peddled to us.
- AI images & content are threatening to reduce art to no more than just things to be spewed on a timeline and forgotten.
- In general, art being valued only as "content" based on what drives clicks and profit
- There's definately way more I can add, but we'd be here all day if I did.
It's bleak to think about it honestly. Every day being an artist online feels less about bringing what you have to the table, but becoming no more than just a content generation machine. And with the art community be it hobbyists or professionals being reliant on social media as a means to keep up it's difficult to escape.
In comes the portfolio site. Most artists recommend setting one up to have some form of stable ground & gallery separate from your socials. But in all irony these too tend to fall under the trap of mainstream sites with many being basic templates with nothing much to them. In real life and online I've heard many artists realise they forget to update their pages. But it hard not to when guides start and stop at "throw up your best work, an about me. contact page, done". Even small add-ons to use it as a platform like having mailing lists or a site RSS feed are barely touched upon. And even more concerning, some people have written off artist's websites as obsolete. Say, why are we treating these "important sites" as throwaway things anyways?
I believe we should rethink how we treat and build artist websites. Afterall, they're a place outside social media, and with mainstream sites becoming less and less dependable why not put our webpages to good use? The control isn't under some faceless corporation or immature billionare, but the artist themselves. You can show off your 'pics on your own terms with no agorithm to say what's "trendy or not". You can design your pages how you want, make it personal, like a little web home. In an era where larger sites tend to squeeze us out, we should be spending more time with our own sites spaces. Learn how to build, to maintain, and to explore our smaller webpages. To both revive and preserve means of connecting and sharing beyond the grasp of large platforms. This corner of the web, reguardless if it's a portfolio/art site, a personal page, fanshrine, it belongs to us. Let's keep it that way, and let's keep the spirit alive.
Personal sites have existed since before I was born. In the early internet they were the de-facto means of expressing yourself through heavy coding, decoration, and hours of labor and love. Even social medias of the time like MySpace had a heavy focus on making it your own. But sadly the hosting platforms for most of them have vanished. In their place came the big social medias we know and loathe today. A total return to the age of the personal webpage is unfeasable with how baked these services are into our lives, but we should preserve the tradition of the personal site to keep these spaces from being swallowed up and destroyed in years to come.
My Own Site
For this site in particular, I use my own HTML + CSS knowlege I've picked up these past few years to build a proper web-home away from social media nonsence. I chose to build it as a personal & art site hybrid. The way I see it, one of the big reasons I started drawing is self-expression and making things for myself. It feels disingenuous for me personally to make my page a throwaway I'll forget about every few months. I've even started dropping the term "portfolio" when talking about my site because of this, I don't treat it as one, more so a hub for my artsy things.
As mentioned, customization's always been a major draw for me and it's sad seeing sites remove more and more of it (rip: my DA stamps collection, 2014-2020). And here the bar is non-existant. If i know how to build it, I can probably do it. For me personally, I dislike 'site builders' like Squarespace, Wix, Wordpress, etc. They're easier to use, but what I can do with them can only go so far to make it less template-y. This is my corner of the web afterall, I want to keep it more 'me'. Learning HTML, CSS, and JS is a learning curve (seriously, I break things trying to experiment all the time!) But It's rewarding for me knowing I had a major hand in how it looks and learning more about site building each time I try something new.
And on social media... I still use it for promoting my art & this website, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't hate it. More so that I'm growing older. I hate how algorithmic and predatory they are. I hate that people are only treated as data to be harvested for ads, and how it's rare a site bothers listening to it's userbase instead of favoring what's gonna fill their wallets more. And how the value of art & the people who make it is judged by 'engagement'. Hell I didn't realise how badly the latter affected me until recently, when I realised it killed a interest of mine for years (i've managed to return to it but still). I'm drained, and I'm tired. In a perfect world I'd switch completely to only running my own page. But alas I still need socials because as much as we hate it, it's the art world's main way of connecting. Though managing this page, as well as the wider "small web" push for both artists and personal sites alike there is hope an online existence outside of larger platforms can still persist.
But in conclusion:
- The modern web and it's biggest platforms are harmful to artists (and people as a whole)
- We need to preserve a personal, user-driven web
- I'm building my site to reflect this
- You should probably work on your website (or build one if you haven't)
Authors Note: This took a while to (re)write honestly. Especially in light of 2022 (jesus christ it's a terrible year for artists), and being close to the end of college as of first posting It's been a weird time. Like, rethinking how I want to do art and what the hell I'm gonna do. Hell, the way I wanted to take this site even changed during making this. But I guess this requires another blog entry & more time to sort out. But I'm glad at least I have a better "site manifesto" and some statement about myself on this world-wide-web.