About Craig Webb

User Experience

The Kremer’s Pigments experience

Kremer's Pigments store shelves with bags of pigment
Kremer’s Pigments sells all types of raw pigments and chemistry in baggies and jars.

Last week I had an appointment in Manhattan and I used this appointment as an excuse to buy art toys and visit Blick’s Art Supply and Kremer’s Pigments.

Baggies of pigment at checkout
A selection of earth pigments and inorganic pigments in my check-out basket.

This year of pandemic I have made three journeys into Manhattan to buy art supplies. Most stores were closed in the first few months but in July the art supply stores began to open. I called ahead and mapped out a journey from SoHo to Herald Square.

I have used my pandemic quarantine time to paint and draw. The media I work with are sumi ink, pencil drawing and egg tempera. Each has their place in my expression. Egg tempera is special for the chemistry of it and the vibrancy of color.

Over the past few years I have made occasional trips to Kremer’s Pigments on 29th St. to buy powdered pigments. The powdered pigments come in baggies and look like the baggies of marijuana one might have bought in the 1970’s. The pigments come in all colors and some are also sold in jars.

Kremer’s sells various types of chemistry to mix with the pigments, paint brushes and other art tools.

I started by purchasing just a few color pigments to use with my sumi ink paintings. Sumi ink provides a strong black and a zillion shades of grey. One light bright color such as yellow ochre can offset the monochromatic color scheme with a complimentary eye-catching pop.

A mix of earth, inorganic and dye-based pigments
Expanding my selections of reds, yellows and blues. the Terra Pozzuoli works great.

I also picked up various earth pigments, starting with a limited palette. My artist training focused on printmaking so working with a limited palette appeals to me.

It did not taken long before I embarked on supplying myself with a full spectrum of color pigments.

Most of the pigments come in baggies. At home, I transfer the pigments into plastic spice jars and carefully peel the sticker labels from the baggies and paste them to my jars.

In addition to the earth pigments such as umber, ocher and earth greens, I have acquired many cobalt and cadmium-based colors – intense reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues and violets. The earth pigments are not hard to handle but many pigments are toxic and I have to work carefully with them.

Because the pigments are the straight stuff, I can add them to various types of binders to create all sorts of painting mediums. Kremer’s supplies items such as gum arabic to make watercolors, additives for egg tempera, oil paint or inks such as ox gall and walnut oil, linseed oil, waxes, shellacs, and crystallized gums to make varnish.

Cadmium, Cobalt and earth pigments, more brushes
Cadmium, Cobalt and earth pigments, extending my palette. I always need more brushes. I have started to explore iridescent mica pigments too.

The store sales assistants are a little shy because of Covid-19 but they are really quite helpful and knowledgeable about different types of chemistry that artists might use.

It is quite an experience to come in person into the store and see the pigments on the shelf in baggies. I like to come and see. Kremer’s offered classes in the spring on how to make stuff or do certain art tasks but I don’t think classes are available at this time.

Because of having to close at the start of the pandemic and the vagaries of supply and demand, some supplies are often out and on reorder. Kremer’s also has a website where pigments can be ordered over the Internet.

Working with dry pigments is a taste and experience that is not for everyone but for those of us who really delve into the chemistry and science of making art, Kremer’s in New York City is a real joy.

More pigments, more paper, more brushes
Lots of earth colors this time, and two tones of Alizarine Crimson. I paint on wood and printmaking papers, and I draw with pencil. I add a few tools and supplies regularly.

Building websites using Squarespace

Recently two different people spoke to me about building websites using Squarespace. It’s been awhile since anyone has mentioned the subscription CMS platform and it was surprising to be asked about the product on two occasions.

Squarespace gained market share and popularity by advertising on NPR and public radio stations like WNYC*.

Working to design within the Squarespace platform is like trying to paint a bedroom through the door keyhole. The CSS can only be accessed through Squarespace’s proprietary user interface. The proprietary user interface is kept locked away because Squarespace charges subscription-based fees and the way to charge the fee is to insert a roadblock to thwart web development.

Many Internet-based services such as Squarespace are designed to insert themselves into the service in order to extract money from the transaction or work. A common example of that business model is LinkedIn, where users upload their personal contacts. LinkedIn’s business model is to make it difficult for users to access their own data unless a fee is paid. Trolls build bridges and extract payment to cross. Working with Squarespace is a little like that.

The first person needed to publish sales content for a third party startup. Using an off-the-shelf Squarespace template might be good enough for this purpose. Editing the front-end design or maintaining the website are not concerns. The website will probably not need to exist in six months.

The second person who asked about Squarespace already has a mammoth website built using WordPress. The WordPress website is the primary marketing hub for the client’s entire business.

The WordPress website, built over a fifteen year period, has rambling content, a lack of cohesive brand development and an unplanned site architecture. None of these faults require a technical solution.

The website utilizes multiple custom plugins and consists of many different types of content. It is hard to imagine porting the existing content successfully to Squarespace.

WordPress is utilized for some 25% of websites worldwide. WordPress has a wide and deep technical ecosystem; most of it is public sourced (free to use). WordPress website maintainers are able to access the website from within the user interface and from without, as long as access to the site host location is available.

If there is a strong need to redevelop the website, there are many much better options to use than Squarespace. What the second client really needs is to invest in knowledgable web developers to maintain and develop the website. Lacking that, switching to Squarespace will not solve problems. It will increase them.

* Here’s a little marketing secret: If you have a mediocre Internet technology that you want to foist onto consumers be sure to advertise on public radio. Public radio stations are advertising hungry and will promote anything, without question or testing for quality; and listeners will suck it up, also without any further investigation.

Re-Birth of WordPress

A new version of WordPress has come out and it provided an impetus to clean off the cobwebs and update. The old version was not secure. I have a long list of assholes who have registered on my blog for no good reason. I will find an appropriate use for that list.

Re-install was not so hard once I got into it. The hardest part was backing up my files via my web hosting service provider Powweb.

Now my Webblog is the same in the front end but better in the backend. I am excited to get into new stuff.

The first thing to fix is the pages on Webblog. The theme used here has not module for pages. That needs to be fixed. The pages are now just hovering over the header. Looks bad.

If you have valid advise how to fix that I’d like to hear from you. Also, I would like some tips on how to bling up my WordPress.

Re-doing my presentation layer (again)

I spoke to another developer last week about his work. I learned that he uses templates to design his web pages. He said something about “why bother trying to reinvent the wheel”.

Something about the conversation struck me. As a designer, I think that it is important for me to know the code. So I embarked on re-working on the website. I’m glad that I did.

My intention was to create some new content. Instead, I got involved with attempting to manage my most recent slew of bookmarks, and I started re-reading material about Blueprint.

I found a page that has an AJAX tool that allows people to re-program their blueprint code. I played with the tool, punched numbers on a calculator, and came up with something that I like. The new iteration of my website (the front end) is built with it.

Setup Tool for Blueprint set to 888
Setup Tool for Blueprint set to 888

Not many people still measure in picas but I sure do. My history reaches back to line-o-type and hand paste-up. I like a design that can divide, as easily into thirds as in half, so I like my numbers to count in twelve’s, sixes, threes and twos.

The page layout that I came up with 888px wide, 30 18px columns and 12px wide gutters. One thing about picas over inches is picas are smaller units and therefore more accurate. 18px wide columns give me much more flexibility than Blueprint’s default 30px. I like my 12px gutters as well. They provide a little more white space.

I spent a day and a half on building the first page. I did 12 more today and posted them. The content is the same as before – I am re-arraigning the chairs on the Titanic – but it is necessary to have the structure flat. There is a lot of “fudging” going on right now. I don’t believe in having “the site is down for reconstruction,” signs go up on my site.

Now, I can work on content development with clarity of the parameters of the site.

Re-working my website presentation layer

Just like most designers, I rarely get time (make time) to work on my own website. This past Thanksgiving I holed up in my cave and worked on a major revision of my style sheet.

It has been a year since I last made a major effort at redesign and I have been chomping at the bit for months to do it – writing little notes to myself about what I want to do.

I find my inspiration from working on my client’s projects, and from my seemingly endless search for a job. Most of my recent job search has been conducted on LinkedIn.com, and as I go I Google terms and phrases which I don’t know or somehow hook me.

This is an inexpensive way to get an education and I’m learning quite a lot. I know way more than is indicated by my work and credentials.

One example of a “find” occurred when applying for a Presentation Layer Architect position at Avenue A | Razorfish (no they never called). Well, what is a Presentation Layer Architect?

With more Googling I figured out that a Presentation Layer Architect designs websites at the code level, and that this design structure is critical for desirable traits such incorporating flexibility, expandability, Progressive enhancement, usability, graceful degradation, search optimization, semantic design and so forth. The list of programming code that Razorfish required was massive. *I hope they call me anyway*. I want to work for a company that thinks about things like this. I want to BE a company who thinks about things like this.

I heard somewhere that the difference between Google and Microsoft is that the leadership of Google is all engineers, while the leadership of Microsoft is MBAs. I want to be a Creative that is informed. I want to know the code.

What I am doing to my code in this go-round is restructuring the CSS design to direct its energy toward standard HTML elements. In my previous CSS version, I created code that targeted classes. So the intent of this redesign is that if I isolate the HTML page from the CSS, the page will still work. It may be butt-ugly, but it will work.

Theoretically, the flip-side benefit will be that my website will be easier to expand or update or restyle. It will also be simple and user-friendly and handicapped accessible.

There are other considerations that I have in mind as I perform this redesign. Cross-browser compatibility ought also be a benefit of this redesign. Somewhere I stumbled across the phrase “browser reset” while trying to hack code for MicroSuck.

My redesign started by integrating reset style sheets from five or more sources, including the CSS of my Xeiro blog template. My resources are the Base style sheet from RichInStyle.com, the Base style sheet from nealgrosskopf.com, Base style sheet suggestions from tantek.com, and of course the Base style sheet from meyerweb.com/eric/tools/css/reset/ .

This witches-brew of reset was picked through to create my own Swiss-army knife of all things reset – my MO is to use all of the crayons. I will test it out with use and eliminate stuff later. Right now, EVERY element seems to be at least listed in my CSS.

Along my job-search way, I discovered Blueprint Google code. I added bits of their reset and implemented the Blueprint structure, which I have tested and decided to modify. Already, I have been creating bits of classes, which I modify within one tag. CSS code .ml20, .tleft, and .tinytext becomes XHTML

[Note that the p tag element is the focus of the styling].

.tinytext = font structure and color
.ml20 = margin left 20px;
tleft = text-align:left;

Cool, I think. The thing is, old printer that I am, I like to design in twelve’s [divisible by either two or three] and Blueprint’s code is 30px columns +10px margins x number of columns – last 10px – and that does not divide by both two and three – so I’m fudging the column widths and using classes like .w201 instead. Other than that I recommend it OK.

What else? I suppose that I ought to speak of intent. My website started as a portfolio of my graphic design. The portfolio will continue to persist, but it is about to drop into the background of my website.

The entire “I want a job” mentality of the website will be superseded by and new focus on content. I want to be more like ivillage.com (yes I applied there too – call me, OK?) – more like a news magazine. I want to be a PR site. a Brand.

Recruiters are always asking me “what [one single thing] do you really want to be?” I distrust that question. It is a stupid question. I want to use all of the crayons. That is my MO.

This CSS code redesign is preparing the way for integration of all that new programming stuff – Drupal, JQuery, Smarty Php MVC Frameworks, MooTools, Script.aculo.us, ajax CRUD and Google code!

Concept, design and creative development.

Build a core identity and message tailored to your target audience.

Craig Webb Art provides all aspects of New Business Communications Development including project management, creative development, copywriting and graphic design.