The Photo

WIEAYB

This is the photo I took for one of my most recent projects (a book cover).  I got the brief, and knew exactly where I needed to photograph.  The book is full of things like grittiness, bleakness, urban exploration, raw emotion,  and Catholicism.  A derelict cathedral seemed pretty perfect.  Even so, I had the idea to get a more grandiose shot of the boarded-up front doors or one of the bell towers and its rotting roof.  But then around back, there was an outbuilding.  The stone cladding was falling off the brick structure underneath, and the Gothic windows were neatly and completely boarded up.  The whole place was remarkably free of crappy graffiti.  So I took the picture with my stupid ancient dSLR.

Out of all the shots I took, this was it.  I knew it, and the author knew it.  It was What The Story Looked Like.  I like that Chip Kidd mantra, that book covers are about showing what the story looks like, and it’s a good mantra to follow in all design, because it’s pretty much what design, especially graphic design, is about.   And this, in a nutshell, is what Where I End and You Begin looks like.

Cave Temple

I was contacted a few months back by a design firm specializing in book covers about the use of an old digital painting I’d posted online for a book cover.  Since the original wasn’t nearly good enough resolution for print, I worked with the firm and produced a much better quality replica.  There were other changes as well, like beams of light filtering into the cave, a bluer hue, and the addition of butterflies, who are characters in the book.

Cave Temple 2

And for comparison, here’s the original painting, which I made in August of 2009, shortly after I got my tablet.  I think it’s one of the first complete digital paintings I did.  Having a couple extra years of practice definitely helped.  Other helpful factors were a better set of digital brushes and a newer version of Photoshop with improved workflow for digital painting.

Cave Temple Original

New Site Version

Just updated the site.  It’s looking pretty blank right now, but it’ll be pretty cool once all the content is configured.

This new theme has much better front page presentation, which is probably the main improvement.  I can feature and link work visually, rather than just supplying text links.  I wanted a thumbnail grid layout on the front page, but I also wanted to be able to pick and choose projects and order them arbitrarily.  The WordPress plugin offerings are surprisingly lacking in this area – most options treat portfolio items as posts, require generating a mess of shortcode with ID-based inclusions and exclusions to get it to show the projects you want, or come bogged down with ugly styling and Javascript bloat that I’d have to strip down – so I coded up my own widget-based solution.  The front page is basically a giant widget area into which I can drag instances of a custom widget designed to create a link to the selected project and display the associated featured image.  There are definitely more efficient ways to do this and make the function more versatile, but this method was very straightforward to write.  Future work to come!

I also played around with some responsive design in this theme.  I tossed my (admittedly ancient) go-to theme starter that I’d hacked together over the years, and picked up and adapted Automattic’s _s theme, which provides great foundation code for responsive styling.  I learn a lot from building on (and breaking) existing code, so building this theme to be responsive using some updating CSS techniques and playing with jQuery was an excellent learning experience.

As for the styling, I change my mind a lot.  I set this new theme up to be a better portfolio theme overall, so for future revisions, I can just overhaul the stylesheet, rather than starting from scratch on a new theme every time I get bored of the design.  I”m always looking back and trying to improve things, whether it be the design or the underlying code.

Enjoy!