It's here, it's done (again)

May 8th, 2020
It's here, it's done (again)

Here’s to new beginnings…

I almost can’t believe I’m finally writing this. Here’s the scoop for you, dear visitor: Welcome to the third official reincarnation of my illustration portfolio site. Third, you say? Sure enough. It’s sort of a long story that I’ll attempt to make as short as possible.

What’s in a name?

Starting around 2010 I was using the Obert pseudonym and the obertoons.com domain to publish illustration work. However over time I grew wary of the name as it sounded too German and foreign for the Latin audiences, so around 2016 I felt it was time to rethink my public illustration persona.

Why use a pseudonym, after all? What’s wrong with my own name? Nothing actually… but I feel presenting myself as “Alberto González, illustrator” at all times is actually kind of, don’t know, way too common and with not much ring to it. There must be just another million Albertos who do art stuff out there. Also, most of the artists I admire and come back to often have always used artistic pseudonyms as well, specially those from the European comics scene. So on May 16th, 2016 (Date is right there in the sketchbook and yes, 2015 is a typo as I recall still using the Obertoons moniker when I attended the Angoulême comics festival in early 2016) I came up with the name Alzamon, which is a compound of my own full Spanish name. Notice also the first sketches for what would eventually become my artistic signature that I have been using ever since.

First ocurrence of Alzamon as a name

So, for better or worse, I rather stick to this pseudo from now on, even if I still find weird being referred to as “Alzamon” instead of Alberto. You take decisions, you live with the consequences…

What’s in a site?

In this age of Behance and Instagram, why bother having a web site to show your stuff? It’s not the 2000s anymore, you would say… Okay, I’ll tell you why.

Reason number one: Branding control and consistency. Here I can display my work and identity exactly how I want it, without conforming to a cookie-cutter template of a web service. Sure I may never get as many visitors here as I can get on social networks (and keeping those active is important since you can’t count on people coming to your site), but this is my place and I get to pick and choose the rules of display and content. Plus: social networks come and go, here today, gone tomorrow. Might at least have a backup place that I can control to the tiniest bit to shield myself. That’s something us old schoolers have always appreciated.

Reason number two: Professionalism. When you care about having a serious portfolio site, a domain name for branding, keeping such branding consistent across social networks and having reliable hosting, you give the message that you really mean business. Even though I pay my bills on IT work, turning creative illustration as an alternative source of income has always been my goal and this is part of it.

Reason number three: Being a code nerd. I learned to create websites by coding back in the late ’90s, so unlike most illustrators out there, I’m not scared of coding. After a long hiatus where I concentrated on UX work, my coding abilities fell by the wayside so I settled on using Adobe Portfolio to assemble what would be the previous version of this site. While Adobe Portfolio is an okay solution for those who don’t want to bother with coding, I felt myself wanting more control over what I wanted to do. I felt the urge to rip the safety wheels off the bicycle. Some time later I got another design job that did involve coding, and little by little I started regaining my coding chops again.

Alzamon.com on Adobe Portfolio. Man, how painful it is to look at this.

At first I considered a rather spartan look and feel for this site, and then longtime web design guru Jeffrey Zeldman published something on a Seattle designer chap named Luke Dorny. Luke’s website harks back at everything I loved about web design in the late 90s and early 2000s —stuff like this— before we had to consider making these things useable on iPhones. So I challenged myself into getting some of that intrincate web design feeling on this site and, so far, I think I did fine. A web site should always be seen as a work in constant progress and evolution.

The uber-nerdy scoop

Besides Adobe Portfolio, I developed older versions of my sites using Wordpress. It’s what everyone and their mother uses when they talk of building a website, so there’s nothing very special about that. But I also grew tired of Wordpress too: dealing with ancient PHP code, databases that break easily and having to rely on a million plugins for everything… thanks but no thanks. Then I got hold of Jekyll, a blogging/website platform that only programming nerds seem to use yet is lean, simple and easy to maintain (once you get past the super geeky process of dealing with Ruby, node and other stuff you have to type commands for). The Alzamon website is actually a mix of Jekyll, some web frameworks including Bootstrap, Sass and custom Javascript. The icing on the cake of nerdery are built-in Gulp tasks written by yours truly to optimize and publish all image files.

If you are among the 1% of potential visitors that actually understood what the last paragraph was about, I’d love to hear from you.

Wrapping it up

If you have read up to here, I want to give you my sincerest thanks for taking part with me in this design-y rant. So here’s my new website with hopes of sticking in for the long haul - starting over time and time again is tiring and time-consuming. So from here on you might want to check out my portfolio or sketchbook, recommend this to someone else or just say hi. Whatever you please doing.