Your portfolio on the internet (for visual artists)

Don’t fear the internet.

Take calculated risks.

Own your work by placing it on a self-hosted server. Own your brand-name by using good url(s)

Sort out your logo and your icons, they are your identity placeholders on the social networks.

Self-hosting costs money, right?

Yes, you can use gratis services (facebook, tumblr, google +, about me) but you pay for them by licensing your data to them.

I could pay a small sum for extra comfort..

Yes, you can become a paid for member of certain services or opt-in to paid extras to remove ads or gain better customization, to pay for time placed in the spotlight.

I’ll gain ‘exposure’

Yes, joining a service can net you more eyeballs from the other users also using the service but there will be advertisements in the side bar, site-wide branding of the service you use. You will be limited to the technology your service uses.

But on your server you decide the ownership, the presentation the tech.

So how do you do?

Let’s talk about the more fun part first: deciding on your looks:

Strong (colourful, busy) images are supported more by a minimalist container for your art.

Subtle images (lightly textured, lots of negative space) need space to breathe! You just don’t mosaic subtlety and thereby drown it: you give it a few sister art projects say four (to twelve if you must) on a page

Everything else aside from your information layout -which you should keep sweet and simple-, colours used, typography is a matter of taste(s) and that is an infinite debate.

Apply your style, people will be attracted to your presentation which is an extension of your content.

Dont’ throw in everything and the kitchen sink

Show projects that you would like to receive more work of, that excite you, that bring out your best! Ask for feedback from a broad group of people filter it and apply to your website.

The wordy bit content

On your landing page (first page a visitor sees when they go to your homepage) introduce yourself as you would to a friendly stranger, be concise, use your keywords and refer to your projects. (link to those!)

When your client clicks through on your portfolio:

Show the context and /or your process on the dedicated project page
Give your work meaning beyond being pretty.
Show clients what to expect when they commission that type of work.

Don’t leave things unsaid

Include your contact info on every page it should be easy to find it and to use it immediately!

Your name | Your business name | your KVK | your e-mail/skype/telephone number | your general terms (linked) | your privacy policy (linked) | a direct link to your contact form

Have an about page, show your social links on it.

Share the love

Share links to people who have helped you on your way.

Use a link page There is nothing wrong with attribution, that is how the friendly favors network works.

People will want to hire you for being you.

the tech bit

In order to display your portfolio the following ingredients are used: HTML 5, CSS(3) PHP and Jquery

HTML description to the computer as to what that element on a page is

CSS how to show the content & element, positioning on page, the colour and bg used on page, what font the website uses.

PHP how to get the content from your database and automate page creation

Jquery, java script to make for the pretty effects you can’t (or could only with more hassle) show with CSS.

You don’t need to become a techie, familiarizing yourself with the lingo and the limitations of tech is useful to estimate the time and cost someone would need to spend to achieve a certain look.

NB: I’ve oversimplified the tech for simplicity’s sake. read on for more.


It is a given that ‘when running a program becomes obsolete’

Tech (devices: tablets computers, desktop, laptop) and tech-languages evolve.
A website is more like a car than a house, it has moving parts and they can break down because the roads (connection&information protocol transference, devices you view the site on) change for the better, usually.

So unless you keep a static page – on which nothing changes, ever- like a bit of text and a few images maintained in html and using no fun snazzy effects like fades and such.

You will have to update and maintain the code that struts your stuff. πŸ˜‰

If you don’t like, have time to or would like to learn how to code: Hire a professional to do it for you.

Hiring someone else, why?

Remember: Just because I know where the heart is and how it functions doesn’t mean I can perform open heart surgery. m’kay?

Hiring a professional who has specialized can prevent unwanted unexpected costs and stress, definitely a lot of stress:

Stressful thoughts and experiences such as:

-Am I doing it right? doubting, sleepless nights worrying about bugbears.

-Finding out that people who use an iPad or internet explorer, see a blank screen instead of your art- for nearly three months. o.0

You typically find out about a tech shortcoming when it is too late, because you are not familiar with the subject.

-and when shit hits the fan and “You have been hacked” has been pasted over your homepage or you get the dreaded red google screen of death. (malware on your website.)

You can ask someone to deal with the nit and grit and keep on making your art!

Why should I pay for added expertise?

I really can’t think of a reason why you would cut out expertise from your tool-set to make your brand/service a success.

Except that you treat your website like your hobby project, which is your choice and we’re not here to take your fun away from you. πŸ™‚

I started out working from a hobby and discovered it was a passion instead, from there I went to making my passion my business.

I learned along the way and became a better artist in addition to becoming a coder, but learning to code took focus away from my art. So choose your battles.

So what are the reasons not to spend money?

You really can’t afford just a little bit of money to invest in your work.

This is based on me assuming you are not being a penny-pincher for pinching’s sake. But skint like I was and sometimes still am.

An artist is also subject to conjecture in an economy, all professions are.

All the other reasons are bogus, either fear based or you allowing yourself to be seduced by a presentation.

You can check for bogus fear based reasoning by asking yourself this (generalized) question:

“If I don’t invest this time/effort or money in my service, why should others?”

Buying or adding unnecessary things by accident (seduction, shiny things, wants it!)

You can stop feature-creep by asking if a thing you want is a thing you actually need and can use now.

If not, make a note and use it when the time comes that it is relevant.

Conan what is best in life?

Now, don’t go run out and spend like there is no tomorrow. Take calculated risks.

Don’t invest willy-nilly, look at your options, research your options, ask for estimates, check via peer-advice and proceed cautiously.


Here are a few places where you can get gratis or low-cost resources:

Remember: read the terms of service, read the privacy policy, read the friendly manual.

It’s a bit of work but so worth it! πŸ™‚ a copy of the content management system WordPress

WordPress codex learn about wordpress workings

WordPress theme directory the themes that contain and present your work.

WordPress repository plugin directory plugins that add functionality to your website. helpful tips and tricks for starting users of WordPress.

if you only want a portfolio: portfolio first, you can take your stuff and leave no sneaky business

(yet, so check the tos and provacy policy religiously)

Themes for wordpress (presentation) makes lightweight, minimalist themes that look gorgeous on a mobile.
-the wordpress gallery is good enough to display your art with flourishes- simple administration and usability like

Woothemes has option to go commercial and sell things from your website.
if you choose one theme chose ‘canvas’. (heavy, for advanced internet users, more expensive)

Genesis themes, strong seo options already baked in.

Some other resources

Subtle patterns for a nice clean textured bg to your website
Simple Icons and sketchy icons (if you don’t have your own yet)

more about code

Don’t fear the internet

Basic html and css, Advanced html and css tutorials

Also check wptuts, wpmayor, catswhocode


And Veerle Pieters who, with Jessica Hische has shown me how it is done by example. Thank you!



The above article is far from complete, if I wanted to (oh the hubris!) I should’ve just written a(n e-)book πŸ˜‰ But as a primer it should serve.

Hello, Goodbye?

If you wish to say hello tweet me on twitter (@inktspatten for work and @yskaya for personal) if you have lengthy questions -> e-mail me.

But best is commenting on your blog or in the comments here with your questions and thoughts.

That way other people can chime in with tips!

Good luck and Godspeed.




Carolien Geurtsen March 14, 2013

enjoyed that very much! Thank you