Thursday, June 29, 2017

Help Us With Our New Site!


Hello all! Thanks to the success of our recent Patreon videos and the continued generosity of our readers, we are finally capable of investing some legitimate money into our website, and we want your input!

Very shortly, we will be revamping the Muddy Colors website. We have been tossing around ideas to make it more of an everyday hub for artists of many genres. The goal for the new site is primarily to encourage more interaction. We'd like to open this up to you, our faithful readers, to get your feedback on what you'd like to see from Muddy Colors. You are, after all, the ones who keep this blog meaningful!

Some changes have already been announced and put into place. We're working on a new logo (one of many prospective new logos above) and overall site design. We've also begun offering our past demos for purchase through our site here.

We also have top secret plans for a few more artists to join our ranks as contributors very soon! Trust me... you are going to be impressed!


While we're very excited about the new direction, and we're not just talking about post topics (though those are welcome too!), we want your input on the site itself. Layout! Features! What would you like to see? Live chat? Forums? Portfolios?  Perhaps it would be nice for posts with new comments get bumped to the top to encourage continued discussion?

This is your chance to let us know what could help make Muddy Colors more engaging to you.

So please feel free to drop us a comment with your suggestions. Send us ideas. Send us thumbnails even! Whatever you'd like to share, we'd like to see! Even if it's just a comment stating what you don't like. We looking forward to hearing from you all!

32 comments:

  1. I sometimes refer to your posts for teaching purposes. But it can be difficult to find the one I was thinking about. As you design your new website, I'd love to see more descriptively named posts and perhaps we could even favorite the posts we like best by subscribing - sort of like favoriting fonts on MyFonts.com. Can't wait to see it! Cheers, e

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    1. I second this. A robust search feature and easily browsed archive would be ideal.

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    2. Being able to tag a post as a 'favorite' is a great idea! And although we already have a search feature, it certainly could be more advanced.

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    3. Came here to say this! I would love an easily navigated archive. Maybe a menu showcasing posts organized by content.

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  2. I would love to find a way to see articles based on their topics. But I'd also say, be careful of asking your audience too much what they want.

    I used to work at AskMen.com and everytime we'd redesign, it was a nuclear explosion of negativity.

    Then 2 weeks later everyone would be fine with all the changes ;) People love to resist change (although, artists should be more open to newness). Love your site, can't wait to be able to participate. :)

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  3. Leave it alone. One of the biggest problems we had in the old ad agency biz was keeping the client out of the kitchen. every few weeks, clients would call for a new dog and pony show, new ads with more pizzaz. The reason was, and still is, that the client tunes in every night to watch his ad on tv, or looks at every ad of his in the newspaper. He soon tired of his ads and thought he was wasting his money. It is very hard to convince the client (or you) that every human being on the planet is not looking at your site every hour of every day, and dying of ennui. Leave it alone. We're used to it, know what to expect and how to get around in it.

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  4. Get out Blogger and get rid with spam.

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  5. Am very happy (and thankful!) about how MC works at this point in time. Can offer no suggestions, except that the idea of bumping a popular thread/post is having me a little worried that I might miss something new & cool, which may not be popular overall. Actually, not all that worried ... you guys will do great!

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  6. In regards to previous comments, maybe announcing and implementing changes incrementally would be more welcome than a major change all at once.

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  7. I agree with the notion of a more robust search engine. Other than that I think this site has been a wonderful tool for illustrators and artists young and old. Thanks for all that you do.

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  8. We're happy to hear many of you like it the way it is! That said, we do feel there is room for improvement. We will not sacrifice simplicity and useable for looks. But for instance, we have a backlog of over 2000 articles and most of those are going to waste because no one is going back to read them. Also, very few people comment on any post that is older than a day, so we are missing out on a lot of questions and dialog that could be beneficial.

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    1. One option for increasing views for prior articles is to implement an "On this day: ..." section. Use this to highlight articles from the previous years.
      Another option, taking a cue from YouTube would be cataloguing the articles by Author, Topic, and subtopics. This would allow you to direct registered users, or cookie holders, to other articles they would likely want to consume based on prior history. This could also be connected with input from the user based on a brief entry survey regarding their tastes and preferences. New users could be matched to your contributing artists and articles based on everything from the type of media they consume or produce to who their top five 'Hero Artists' are.

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    2. I wouldn't say "no one" is going back to read them. At the start of the year I went back to the very beginning of MC and have been working my way forward slowly but steadily. There are some really great old posts! Honestly I've thought that there's enough information there to put together a book or two. However, many posts are dated and not useful. For example, posts about upcoming events which are no longer upcoming but happened years ago. Which brings me to my suggestion. I think it would be nice to have a separate section (maybe a calendar?) for time dependent announcements, such as gallery events, patreon streams, spectrum submission reminders, and other such posts, rather than having them posted as articles. My favorite posts are typically the ones that talk about process or highlight the work of a particular artist. These posts are timeless and are incredibly useful to read even when they're years old! I second the idea of an "On this day" section, it could be a good way to bring up old posts. Also on the topic of old posts, a lot of them sound like they might contain wonderful resources, but the links or videos often go nowhere or are broken. So it would be more work for you guys, but if an "On This Day" feature were to happen the old posts would benefit from some reviewing and updating.

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    3. I too go back and read old content at times, many articles really are timeless, and sometimes I need to remind myself of important lessons. I really like the suggestions posted above, and the improved search, otherwise I like that the site is quite minimalistic in design without much clutter and information on the side which helps to focus on the text, but I guess that is a balancing act, I'm sure the new site will be great too!

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  9. People do not comment anymore on blogs (I have a blog since 2005), they prefer to discuss on Facebook.
    Blogspot manages very poorly archives. And you don’t have any "last comments" widget.

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  10. I've gone back in the blog to read as many past articles as I can. But when I find one I like, I have to copy the URL to a notepad to make sure I can find it again. It would be nice to have better tagging and sorting. For instance: if all the articles on taking reference photos, and all the articles on painting skin tone, etc., were properly grouped, it would be much easier to navigate.

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    1. I was about to write the exact same sugestion. Agree!

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    2. As for copying URLs, I keep URLs, and other notes, in a Windows Notepad file in my work tray at the bottom of my computer screen. I group them by area of interest. It's a bit clumsy, but beats writing them on scraps of paper. Every once in awhile, I go through and cull oldies.

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    3. Pinterest is perfectly designed to handle what you're asking for here if you want a more immediate solution. You can make categories for anything you want, save things with a picture that will make it easier to remember which is which, leave yourself notes and titles that help you find things, all your pins are searchable, save pages on the same topic from multiple sources, and you can make it all private if you don't like the idea of people seeing your bookmarks. I know Pinterest seems like a giant distraction machine, but it is what you make it and really suited to this task.

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  11. I'm not sure what is in mind, but please do keep a sequential scroll-through as an option, blog-style. I would hate for it to change to where you'd have to go searching out missed items if you're away from the site for a few days. Right now it is easy to just start from today and go backwards until you find the last one you recognize. A great small improvement from the current arrangement would be to allow someone to find a point in time and sequentially move from there like you do from the landing page. For example, I stopped viewing MuddyColors regularly between August-December 2015. To catch up on what I missed, I had to click through the "Past Posts" table on the right.

    A nice-to-have would be filters (like metadata-based tagging). Right now you have topics across the top of the site (news, education, reviews etc), but I'd much prefer to browse by multiple criteria. For example, I'd love to be able to check or uncheck boxes, so if I wanted to view everything EXCEPT news posts I could, or I could browse everything that is tagged with one or more of "composition," "thumbnail," and/or "value."

    I personally think it would be unfortunate to see MuddyColors try to be everything to everyone. MuddyColors, to me at least, is a wealth and constant stream of wisdom and information sharing. Compare it to a forum, where to get multiple knowledgeable perspectives, you have to comb through a lot of crap. Compare it to a chat or a site that hosts portfolios...those places are rooms full of people talking to and over each other, where MC is a panel of professionals talking in turn and the rest of us listening and raising our hands in the comments sometimes to ask questions. I'm sure there are ways to do forums, live chat, portfolios, etc in a complementary way, but I think it would be challenging.

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  12. I like a lot of the comments so far and others have made good suggestions. But I want to echo one sentiment which stands out. There is an adage about babies and bathwater which seems appropriate.

    One of the main reasons I prefer MC to other sites is the preference of text vs video for daily releases. Video certainly has its benefits, but the format of text for learning is superior in nearly every way where a demonstration is not being provided. I point to YouTube specifically for the comparison. There are demonstration videos available, which work well in the format. But, when a "lecture" or lesson is given in video format it loses efficacy for the end user. I feel that is because production value and videography (the flashiness) often get in the way of a cleanly delivered thesis.

    Also, to expand on what Sarah Finnigan stated in her last paragraph, I would not want MC to adopt an open forum where the professional voices are lost. The lack of forum idiocy is a prime attractant for me to MC.
    However, I think that there is room to explore the options surrounding portfolio review. I would be cautious of the format adopted for such a thing if you were to pursue it.

    As someone who visits MC daily, I believe I fit a typical mold for your userbase. Thirty something with some post high school arts education, something happened which required me to change gears and I now gather the nuggets of helpful info wherever I am able to. Free time is limited but I spend nearly all of it honing the skillsets discussed here. Workshops can be difficult to schedule because of family obligations.

    Perhaps the magic of IMC could be distilled and made available in a subscription service through Patreon? Monthly assignments to go along with the demonstration video with feedback at the sketch, midway, and final stages? (maybe a discount for IMC attendees or vice versa?) This is one area I think MC could really move forward with its role as a mentored guidance provider. From a business standpoint it could provide a normalized revenue stream.

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  13. I actually like the fact that I can read professional posts and not be drowned in comments. I prefer to limit interaction to chat and socials.
    As already suggested, I'd love a better research and listing posts by topic. Right now, it's quite difficult to find a particular post I read a few months ago.
    Please, more WIPs and more theory! Just reading this blog helped me improve immensely.
    One more thing: I'm not based in US, so I'd like to know about conventions in the rest of the world.
    Thank you very much for the great work you're doing!

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  14. Have you read this about PACT (professional artists-client toolkit)? There's some good content there that needs a new home and jives well with what Muddy Colors does.

    https://www.facebook.com/Pactartist/posts/1384251744943416

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  15. I'd like the posts to be searchable. Would be great if we could filter the posts by the contributor. Some really good ideas discussed so far.

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  16. I wish that when I clicked on an artist's name, their past posts also appeared. I think that would be intuitive.
    I'd also really enjoy the opportunity to filter by newest/most popular content.
    I miss the critiques, and I'm willing to pay money to make them happen more often. I wonder if there's a way to invite the contributors to a google hangout so many people can speak at once about a portfolio review like Team Awesome used to do.
    I also really enjoy the "rising stars" initiative.
    I like the free content on muddy colors because it promotes an idea of community from professionals that before seemed unreachable to me. I would be alright with keeping things the way they are but with MC lifting some not-so-known artists up. What if there were a monthly spotlight on a rising star? They don't even have to write anything. It could just be featuring their good and hard work.
    Thanks and keep it up! Looking forward to it!

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  17. I'd love to see most popular posts, or editor's picks... Something along those lines so that I can peruse the backlogs without going chronologically.

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  18. I think it would be great if you guys could add a Forum section for people to upload sketchbooks. This would have to be separate from the main part of the site, but it would totally work as an affiliated add-on. I miss the days of the old ConceptArt.org and nothing has quite managed to replace it. Muddy Colors has the readership to quickly grow this feature. You could also use the forum to promote the Muddy Colour videos, and to open up a new tier of Patron subscriptions that would get people a quick redline crit on something uploaded to the sketchbook or something.

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  19. I like MC the way it is. You already implemented the big technical change I would have asked for and that was being able to easily find just one person's posts. I agree with others here that the magic of MC is that it is a curated set of professional voices before all else. There are so many sites and groups out there whose purpose is to foster a democratic art community and they serve their purpose but most easily fall to self-promo pits of people shouting over each other and shifting the burden to the reader to sift through the bombardment of different directions and voices to find the gems - and I think, to most of us readers, the reason why we love sites like MC and GurneyJourney is because people we trust curate and direct the conversation and the focus is simple and clear.

    As others have pointed out, no one comments on blogs anymore. I don't entirely agree with that sentiment, I believe some of that is a give and take between readers and blogger and has as much to do if not more with creator migration than reader migration (James Gurney gets plenty of comments on GJ but he also participates in the comment section most of the time whereas when I usually notice comment dropoff, it seems like the creators stopped nurturing that aspect of their blog and the readers took the cue.) Anyway, blog comment sections are a special space where directed, quality conversation can happen and I would hate to lose that simply because "everyone wants to discuss things on Facebook now" and similar sentiments. People seem to leave more thoughtful comments on blogs, perhaps because it's easier to respect that they are a visitor in someone else's space rather than just another username on a hub buzzing with activity. Perhaps also because commenting on a blog feels less ephemeral. There are a lot of things that places like FB and forums are good for, but I don't think they quite fill the niche that a blog does in terms of discussion. Blogs are also comparatively easy to permalink and refer back to, and preserve the discussion in an easy-to-refer-back-to way. Forums and Facebook can be a nightmare for that sort of thing.

    As for any changes I'm interested in seeing: Maybe some kind of descriptive marker in the title of the post that lets me know what I'm jumping into would be helpful? Not necessarily anything stringent, but for example, Dave Palumbo's latest post "If I Could Keep Only Ten," it would be helpful if maybe the post was titled something like "Book Review: If I Could Keep Only Ten" or Justin's latest post being titled "Demo: Thrain II." Just descriptors like "Demo," "Event," "Thoughts," "Technique," "Tip" etc. I usually know what to expect based on who's posting but I still think that small change would be tremendously helpful, especially when browsing the side archive for an interesting post to read. Sometimes I come to browse without expectation or keep up with news and sometimes I come looking for instructional posts, but it's not always easy to tell which is which.

    In short, the site is wonderful. I don't think you have much that needs improving upon besides minor tweaks. Thanks for all the hard work you and the contributors put into the blog!

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  20. Actually I take my last comment back, a Patreon demo of Greg Manchess making one of his fabulous smudgy graphite drawings would be the exact thing you need to do to improve ;)!

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  21. I would love to see something akin to a FB Group or a Forum, to create more community around this in general. Of course it shouldn't replace what is already here, the blog posts and the videos! Whatever gets added on, shouldn't de-emphasize the work of the contributors at all. But in addition to that it would be great for there to be some forum where people can share work, tips, questions, do some networking, etc. The blog format is great to learn from a contributor, but the way blog commenting is set up isn't so great for ongoing dialogue.

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  22. I'd like to add my vote for a couple of suggestions that seem to have already been mentioned more than once:

    1. The ability to filter posts by author.

    2. The ability to filter posts by tags. Some examples of tags/facets that I would find useful are:
    - Topic ("career", "technique", "news", "inspiration", "convention", "exhibit", etc)
    - Medium ("oil", "watercolor", "mixed media", etc)
    - Event names ("IMC", "IlluxCon", "ComicCon", etc)
    - Artist names ("Sargent", "Franzetta", etc)

    Also, please consider the following:

    3. A pulldown for choosing how many posts to show per page. I only read MC from home where my internet connection is fine and could handle many more posts that the current setting is rendering.

    4. A compact view mode for browsing. This view mode would only render the title, author, date & first few sentences of each post (plus maybe a thumbnail of the first image in the post, if any), with a link to view the entire post. Sorta like Google News but prettier. This allows for more posts to fit on the page at once with less scrolling. The user can then toggle between this view & the current verbose view that is already used on MC. Keep the current verbose view as the default view for backwards compatability, and store the user's preference in a cookie/localStorage so it is persisted the next time the user visits MC.

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