Blog and Portfolio Setup for Artists


You’re and artist with a need of a blog or an online portfolio. Where to start? Here are some ideas with positives and downsides – just a little something to help someone get started. You can find links to the resources at the end.

Build a Portfolio Site

There are several options to choose from. I organize them by the level of difficulty. First is easiest and has my recommendation for those starting out.

Easiest portfolio setup

Use a portfolio portal such as Carbonmade or deviantART. You can get your portfolio started right away and you will be part of a community. Then you can purchase a proper artist domain name like yourawesomename.com and have it redirect to your portal address. Redirection-only domain names are inexpensive.

If possible I suggest choosing a portal that suits your art, like CGsociety’s CGportfolio for CG artists, so that you can get crique and connections from alike minds.

When expanding a portfolio service may get too limited or expensive. Or maybe not, you do get a nice portfolio setup for the money. Of course nothing stops you from building a personal site later – you already bought the domain name, right?

Middle way portfolio setup

Get and a hosted blog on a site like Blogger, which is free, and then customize the blog into a portfolio with a free theme. Then purchase a proper domain name like yourname.com and have it redirect to your blog address.

Expanding doesn’t cost if you use free tools and do the work yourself, but it is work. Also hosted blog is not as customizable as blog in your webspace. You can however move the content to your own domain later if the need arises – how easy or hard it is depends on blog platform.

I see this option taken quite often but too often without any effort put into making the blog easy to use or easy for eyes. Don’t leave it at that – a great number of visitors leave at first glance of an unprofessional looking site.

All the Way Portfolio Setup

Going your way all the way is to buy web domain and hosting and build your site there in HTML and/or Flash or using a blog platform with a paid / free portfolio theme. This is work enough especially if you are an optimizing nut like me, but can also be dead easy if you pay somebody to do it for you. If you go for a blog setup and want to do it yourself, good theme can also ease your way a lot like Striking does for me.

End result is full control over everything and a unique look if you put some work or money in it.
Remember if you just want your images and videos on a nice looking personal site, HTML is a valid choice. HTML pages are a light load for the server – considerably faster to access than PHP pages running on a database(=meaning any blog system). Static pages are also quite secure unlike blogs – read my experience.

Attention for your Portfolio / Blog

Portfolios on a portfolio/art portal like CGsociety get exposure simply by existing AND showing good work – or would if there were not a ton of other good work already. To stand out you almost have to get featured, meaning get your work selected to special gallery and hence featured on front page and elsewhere on the site. So submit your very best. Competitions are also a place to shine.

Portals like Behance and CGsociety are also talent archives for companies browsing for possible employees. So while you may build for your very own site, do put few of your best images on a portal as well and link to your domain. It can’t hurt.

A good idea is to partake in art forums and link back to your blog/portfolio. Say you could start a sketch thread on a forum and link to your gallery where people may go to see more. If you receive comments, be it critique or praise, be nice and return the favor. Networking is your friend.

Your own domain gets no exposure by just existing(like portfolios at portals do). You need to get the word(=link) out and submit your to search engines. For real tactics see Problogger-links below at Recourses.

Of course you can never expect just having a portfolio online bringing work to your door. If I look for work, I actively reply work posts and send my resume out. Actually many recruiters prefer having sample images with the resume instead of links. But still having the portfolio can be crucial since that’s where people go to see and read more.

Build an Art Blog (with a Portfolio)

Easiest choice for a blog

Pick from blog portals like Blogger, Typepad and WordPress.com – get a Hosted Blog. There is very little setup work involved to get started, most hosted options are free, and you can use themes or their equivalents to style your site. However tweaking site look and usability is where you spend some time if you want to stand out.

Buy also a domain name like coolname.com and have it direct readers to your hosted blog address (like yourblog.blogger.com).

Upside of hosted blog is that just having your blog in a portal like Googles Blogger helps its ranking in search engines.
Downsides of hosted blogs are different limits they set: limit to customizing style or code (unless you pay), limit to what you are allowed to have on your site(like no advertising at wordpress.com) and other little things that may or may not bother you. Remember if your blogging takes off you can migrate the site to your own webspace. If you wonder about that already, better google in advance how much work it is.

Bloggers choice

This is a blog installed on a web space and domain you purchase(well, rent on yearly basis). You choose a blog platform from many options. Initial setup should be quite fast with most but prepare spending time making the site secure, choosing plugins and the like and learning about what to do to have your blog rank well in search engines.

Or you can pay someone to do all aforementioned for you.

Choosing a theme can be difficult especially when you want a good presentable blog but also want a portfolio. I recommend a theme that allows customizing front page and offers a mix of settings for both blog and folio use. In my experience (with Worpdress at least) these more flexible themes are often found under ‘magazine’ category.

Blog at your own webspace and domain gives full control but means more work to keep up to date and requires understanding of HTML and CSS IF you really want to tweak things. Also you need initial promoting to make your site found – after all it is a single site in the great sea of internet without any connections, not likely to be found unless you get the word out there.

My Blog Setup

Example: How my needs made my site building choices for me.

I need a fully customizable blog at a unique domain address and no limits on web traffic.  I want to build the look for it without writing code.
A blog runs on a database and that drops away HTML and other static web pages building methods.
Fully customizable and hosting on unique domain makes me skip hosted blog systems such as WordPress.com or Blogger.com and turns me towards Joomla, WordPress.org and other blog platforms that you install in your webspace. I choose WordPress for its popularity.
No web traffic limits and unique domain means buying a domain address and a web hosting service good enough that promises unlimited traffic.
I want to build the look for it without writing code.
Styling in WordPress is done mainly with Themes. I have previously used free themes which I had to customize ‘by hand’ to some extent, that is by editing some html and stylesheets(css), to fine-tune the look. After several versions done like that I purchased a commercial theme: Striking by Kaptinlin which suited my needs – I could do everything via menus. Since then I have moved back to free themes that need more manual labor.

ADDITION:  After one year with above theme went back to free and far simpler and less customizable WordPress themes for optimization (lightweight, faster loading) purposes.

Portfolio and Blog Setup Resources

These are links to find the places, info and inspiration to setup your blog and/or portfolio.

Portfolio Portals

http://cargocollective.com/
http://www.carbonmade.com/
http://www.coroflot.com/
http://shownd.com/
http://www.behance.net/
http://www.deviantart.com/
http://www.flickr.com/
http://portfolio.cgsociety.org/

Choosing a blog platform

Darren Rowse has a extensive article on blog platforms – what I wrote above on blogs is not even a scratch on the surface: Problogger – Choosing a Blog Platform
Also OnBlastBlog has a nice infographic of different platforms available with Pros and Cons.

Hosted blog Platforms

“Five best Bloggin Platforms” by Lifehacker (2010).

Blog Software

Top Ten Reviews has a comparison between blog softwares (2011).

Bloggers Must Read

Problogger- 29 Starting Blogging Tips, great collection.

Firstsitequide – A very nice and free guide for Starting a Blog.

Quality Blog and Portfolio Themes for WordPress

Woothemes offer professional built themes – some good ones are free, too. I really liked MorningAfter and Premium News seems good, too.

Themeforest has a rather extensive collection of themes and more.

CGmascot.com got hacked – keep your blog safe

It will not happen to me, right? Wrong. This blog got hacked and the traffic was directed elsewhere. It took me a while to notice since having older cookies on my computer I was not re-directed, I saw my site and thought everything was a-ok. When I finally found out, I had to take the site down and it took me 3 weeks of after hours work to build CGmascot anew.

CGmascot is currently still being re-built. Some things like portfolio is missing but coming later.

CGmascot hack found and resolved

August 2011 I had trouble logging in to my Worpress. Having had connection troubles from home before I wasn’t worried especially considering my site was working fine. But then I tried logging again some days later, failed again, and got directed to some russian site I shan’t name here (they will not get anything from me ever again, not even mention of a name). A few nights of research later the results were these: I had wiped my webspace clean and only after, with a tip from a pro, tracked the issue to .htaccess-file. It was hacked, edited by adding extra lines of code hidden hundreds of empty lines below the regular content so I would not find it unless I knew where to look. The file directed CGmascot web traffic elsewhere, to well know sites popular sites like Yahoo, and I imagine brought some cash to the hackers who, again I imagine, are in business of selling web traffic.

How did the hacking happen? I suspect TimThumb plugin vulnerability that has caused pain to numerous Worpress users recently. TimThumb is a plugin that offers very handy automatic image thumbnails and more from your site and also from outside, and stores the files on the server. It is included in numerous Worpress themes like the one I was using. I’m not the right person to explain this, but a loophole in this allowed malicious code to get into your site and then lead to problems. I think whatever got onto my CGmascot accessed .htaccess-file and so re-directed the web traffic.

Naturally Timthumb has been fixed by the author since then.

Got to say I take this all very personally – after all CGmascot is a personal blog, my venue for writing and more. What’s worrying is that this can happen again. Worpress is a very fine platform, but like any such a system built on lots of code, database and use of plugins, it is bound to develop holes. Makes me miss old times: I used to make sites by hand, pure HTML, which is hard to crack as then the hackers have to brake in to the server the site is on, not just send some robot software snooping around for WordPress holes and abuse them in masses.

Steps you can take to secure your Worpress blog

I’m no WordPress expert so I will rely on links here for most part. What I can recommend though, is

  • Keep your WordPress install up to date
  • Make backups of your database and the folder your site is in.
  • Make backups of your plugin settings and your theme settings so getting them up again becomes easy.
  • Consider plugins you install for security, don’t just go nuts with them. Less plugins running means a faster site, too.
  • Read about .htaccess, what it is and how to secure it. My approach for now is to make it unwritable – nobody but me can access it and even I have to edit it by hand from server side.

Following links should be of more help.

What’s next for CGmascot?

CGmascot is back and intends to stay. Sure content updates are less frequent than they used to be, but I do what I can. And now the site is all new. I hope you like the upgraded CGmascot 🙂

CGmascot Redesign


CGmascot is back and better!  Took me a while, lots of work and green tea, but now the site is redesigned and up and working.

I hope you like the look and feel.  The visual work is not quite finished yet, will get some polish later.

One thing I am sure you agree has improved is getting around the site and finding things.  One of the most common problem on blogs, in my opinion, is getting to the content.  My old site was like that – just one article available on front page and rest you had to to dig up from archives.  This WordPress-theme (The Morning After by Woothemes) and my implementation should offer a different experience.

I’ve also updated and polished the Mascot Service page, with new flashy introductory slider and a PDF.  See Maskottipalvelu for Finnish and Mascot Service for English.

So, what do you think?

Blog Info Spring 2010

This is a look at where CGmascot blog is right now and where I’m going with it.

I started CGmascot in late February 2010.  You can read up on the Why of it here. First there was 3 articles per week.  Every article takes good deal of time to do, so that pace was nuts.  Now I’m down to one post per week, which is reasonable and something I hope to keep up.  Personal life and work may intervine, so please understand if I miss an update sometime.

CGmascot has, at this post release, 22 posts.  If you have trouble finding articles, I suggest checking out the Archives.  You also also browse via Categories (page top or sidebar).  Also every article has links to other related articles at the end.

The plan is to do more articles on animation.  So far I’ve focused on animation production, modeling for animation and low-polygon work.  Animation needs attention.  So I’m thinking about something like this:  I do a small animation project and then brake the process down for you.  Hopefully some weeks from now I have time to go at it.

Now I’m working on a major new section for this site.  CGmascot will acquire a commercial dimension.  It is not a tutorial shop that some have requested.  However I will later make tutorials for sale, too.  That is definitely in plans.  But don’t worry, CGmascot core content, the blog, will stay free.

Some site additions worth mentioning:

  • Check the links at page bottom.  There is a new link to Thadeel’s Animation advice.  It is a Youtube channel with some very good animation tips.  I need to rethink the links-section, though.  It is very hard to find good CG Tutorial or CG Tips Blogs to fill it.
  • Check the Files.  I have added two base meshes to the Model an Animation Ready Male Body-tutorial downloads.  Now there is the tutorial end result, the big bulky male base mesh, and two others: normally proportioned male and female.
  • I keep updating the articles whenever I notice something needs fixing, better wording or more info.  So if you notice something has changed, I promise it is for better.

That’s all for now.  What do you think of the blog?  What would you like to see more?

Blogroll – sharing is caring

I think I should promote other good CG learning blogs on the net.  I have these currently in my Blogroll(=the list of links available on this site).

  • 3D Ninja is learning blog gold by Wes McDermott.  He covers game design/development, digital compositing and writes about the following software and lots of tutorials for them too: modo, Maya, Mudbox, Toxik and Unity iPhone Game Engine.
  • Intel Software Network Artist Blog got my interest because they have interviews from Project Offset developers, the inside story in a way.  Intel has been growing a huge community or more like communities around varied topics and CG is one of them.  They have a very nice way of making people active, a competition that I would recommend:  Animate This!  Digital art tutorial challenge.  Get rewarded for writing a quality tutorial.  Maybe you have a suitable material sitting on your computer already?  Check it out.  I’ve won and have bagged one gift voucher myself.
  • Reanimators Podcast is bi-weekly show featuring guests working in game, comics and film.  Really good listen, topics such as Animation Acopalypse which features animation critique.  The guys chat about many topics, a lot about games and and animation as they are all game animators.

Very short list, don’t you think?  Maybe you can help me out.  I would wish to add only quality learning blogs, or some quality blog close to being a learning blog, and keep the list somewhat short – only list the best.  Please, share you favourites.  Edit:  CG learning blogs only, thank you.

Welcome to CGmascot!

I feel there is a lack of 3D-learning blogs. Sure the web is full of tutorials and there are some great podcasts, but analysis, breakdowns and general comprehensive tips are harder to find.  I will to do my small part to change that.

Aim is to create learning material. Main topics are characters and animation. I will be doing articles(analysis, breakdowns, thoughts) and shall write tips and tutorials. Also sometimes I may give away other resources as well. On a rare occasion I may also write about some personal project, but they usually connect well to blog topics.

Browse, read, enjoy! And when you have something constructive/informative to say about an article, please don’t hesitate to comment. I will listen to topic suggestions, too.  You can also send me an email.