The Finger-painting Approach

In the midst of learning about containers and PHP (no blogging on that yet) and daydreaming about how to put together my own PHP/JavaScript site/application/what-have-you that’s a tool exactly tailored to what I need, I decided to go back to basics: HTML, CSS, and nothing else.

I’ve messed around with HTML and CSS before, but it will have been almost three years, in, I don’t know, February? Maybe less. CSS in particular is a terrible horrible minefield, so I wanted to know more about how that works. I messed around with JavaScript some about a year ago, and before that in May or June of 2018, but I remember almost none of it.

So I built a monster.

Seriously, go take a look. It’s right here at pilotirwin.com/hideouscreation/. It’s so ugly. I love it.

There’s a lot of freedom in letting yourself be absolutely terrible at something. I love following tutorials, it’s probably 95% or more of what I blog about, but a tutorial is designed to walk you through carefully designed steps so you can get to a polished, or at least decent-ish, final product. But I think there’s something to be said for the finger-painting approach, where you take amateurish, basic knowledge, and make something terrible, and delight in all your mistakes. And I know I’m not alone in this, but making this nonsense has really reminded me of it.

Everything about the page is ridiculous. It’s blatantly stream-of-consciousness, written as sort-of notes to myself even as I was writing. It’s documenting my process without actually really explaining the steps I’m taking (just “Hm, I wonder how you make THIS page element” followed by a page element that isn’t really anything), which means that if you want to figure out what was going on at any given time, you’ll probably have to back-engineer from context.

And I’m really happy with it! It was quick and experimental, which is something I struggle with — as I said, I love tutorials, but I always want to sit down and carve out hours at a time, which is very hard for me. This was done sporadically across yesterday and today, and giving myself the freedom to be bad meant that I could be speedy, since I didn’t have to follow along with anything. It was all “Oh, that could be interesting…” followed by either “I think this is how I remember doing that?” or a two-minute search for exactly what I needed.

I’m even going to let this blog post be short and silly and amateurish! I’ve churned this out in maybe fifteen to twenty minutes because I want to publish it before I go to lunch and I’m very hungry, so no tags or categories here, goodbye and have a nice day.

2 thoughts on “The Finger-painting Approach”

  1. I truly love this early web aesthetic. One of my favorite web artists Olia Lialina has looked in-depth at the early homepages of the 90s, and find so much beauty and value in that process, and I see that here too. And her paper “From My to Me” really nails the idea around how the idea of the homepage you create and are proud of became a branded object with far less attachment and value in many ways: https://interfacecritique.net/book/olia-lialina-from-my-to-me/

    She also digs in on the actual aesthetic of these early sites, and I really want to return my own homepage to that Prof Dr. Style webpage she discusses, they are so beautiful! http://contemporary-home-computing.org/prof-dr-style/

    Anyway, this is not just play, it is the beautiful history of the web at work!

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