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 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:

    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!

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

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