05 Jan 2012

– with apologies to Charles Dickens –

(Or “Website Inkwell: The Origin and Travel Guide”)

Almost exactly four years in the making.

When founding committee member Jim Tournas constructed our site within our first month of creation in January 2008 we were ecstatic and all eager to turn it into THE one-stop inking resource site on the web.  We had Inker-centric News, an Inker Links page to tutorials and interviews, an About page with core committee, contributors and ambassadors info listed, my blog, a Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame page and some sections that would eventually fade into limbo such as the Advertisers info page, a Press page with our announcements, a Friends page, A Conventions/Photos page and a Links page.  Another committee founding member Daniel Best who acted as webhost (along with our first contributor Tim Aslat) took over the site maintenance soon after Jimmy.  Besides doing updates and polishing up the venue to create a cohesive, consistent-looking site,  we eventually added a Results page, new HoF pages, Art Supplies links, Inker Samples, and after his passing in June 2009 a Dave Simons Scholarship page.  I even got our first comprehensive and exclusive Inkers Database launched with Danny’s help.  Like it does today, the homepage ran news, a definition of the craft of inking, social networks links on the web, supporters banner ads, and, until recently, upcoming convention events.  Some of these additions were my ideas, some were those of our associates, and some were in response to our online annual ballot poll which asked “what would you like to see more of at our website?”  (I believe the number one answer was nekkid girls <g>….number two was for more graphics).  We were expanding and the site was something to be proud of.  Until Danny eventually found it more problematic to keep up with it and updates began to get less timely.  It was time for a new maintenance contributor to take over and keep us fresh and current.  Thus ended the honeymoon period.

Teacher and website designer Rich Lane had recently upgraded my personal website from the relic it’d been and I asked him to take over the Inkwell site for us.  He did so for about a year but he expressed that it was time-consuming to update with our system with average updates taking him about 2 hours.  He persevered but, as with my personal original site, he stated that he could convert everything to something more efficient for the site, as it was, ever-expanding, would eventually collapse under it’s own weight.  I gave the ok and got excited.  And then obligations to Rich’s teaching schedule massively increased and he tragically had to depart, leaving me wanting.  Rich covered for us until we found a replacement contributor in Ike Sulat but regrettably his tenure lasted but couple of months when he went MIA.   My gut blamed it on the time constraints he had to perform the necessary duties.  A change was needed.

Soon thereafter (with Danny filling in again if I recall correctly) we met a volunteer named Kris Fenol who soon agreed to become a contributor.  He was adept with WordPress and agreed to complete what Rich had generally intended, which was to make the site more accessible and time-efficient.  My feelings had been that we wouldn’t be able to get volunteers to stay for site maintenance duties unless we did so.  I would’ve done it myself but I couldn’t successfully get access to the system (although even if I had I wouldn’t have been able to perform well due to my already burdened workload).  Not everyone on the committee agreed but I convinced them that the efforts of Kris and his pal Jason Gouger, both acting as our new webhosts, would pay off with much success.

A couple of months later I was proven wrong.  Without getting into the details, Kris and Jason abruptly went their own way.  The site was active by it’s April 1, 2011 deadline but it was incomplete.  While it had been originally understood that some sections of the site would be subsequently added/edited, by him leaving, Kris left us with little opportunity to do so.  Danny wasn’t savvy with WordPress, although he did try with updates as best as he could.  Neither Nathan Massengill nor Jimmy could find the time to do it.  I’m not only inherently tech-stupid but I was overloaded trying to prepare for the final ballot event and the awards ceremony at Heroes Con, so I wasn’t viable to help, especially when several Marvel inking assignments suddenly materialized from spring to fall of that year.  Thus the site languished for months with few updates, missing assorted key sections, a shadow of what it was.  My hopes for establishing a SUPER SITE as a foundation of our mission and for retaining our credibility looked dismal.  I felt defeated.

And then along came Sarah L. Covert.  Sarah was familiar with WordPress as her own site ‘She Never Slept’ was based on that system.  Her and I began a concentrated effort starting in September 2011 to enhance what was good, eject what was bad, and return as much material as we’d previously had.  Danny (who’d thankfully resumed as webhost along with Tim) went hunting through his old files to find the vintage material with mixed results.  And what we’ve designed to date is in my humble opinion the most exciting and comprehensive venue on educating and promoting inking on the internet to date.  But there were some challenges and failures.

• Danny couldn’t find the Friends page list of names which listed our donators, supporters, volunteers, etc. so this page was not able to be recreated.  But between our ComicArtFans gallery which lists almost every artists who’s donated to us, the Supporters on the homepage, and the associates and special thanks listed in our brochures and annual donation drive books, we pretty much already covered this aspect so it was somewhat a redundancy (plus the page had been labor-intensive to constantly keep up).
Archived News– Danny couldn’t find the really old news items which went back to early 2008, leaving us going back to only April 2010.  In addition, my first blog entry (two?) was irretrievable.  C’est la vie.

• The Ms. Inkwell section and the Inkwell Store!  I’d conceived of these areas on the site as far back as 2009 but they were daunting projects that none of us ever had time to create, especially me.  Sarah was able to upload every Ms. Inkwell model’s photos I’d saved (as well as cover art) just as I’d envisioned, allowing us to promote them as thanks for their voluntary participation in promoting us and collecting funds at shows.  The Store is the only section not fully complete as I need to add more text and Sarah will soon thereafter polish up the material and add things like shopping carts and other ordering-related doodads.
Video embedding is now active here!  The video recordings done at our 2011 awards ceremony are now included in our 2011 Award Recipients page and all future results pages.  We’ve also added a rotating homepage feature “Inkwell Video Spotlight”, with video tutorials taken from our Resources section, under the “About the Inkwells” definition section to visually elaborate what it is inkers do.
Social Network interaction and Comments sections on every page!  Visitors can now get involved, promote, and be heard (read).
• A snazzy wallpaper design- this is another matter we’d discussed for some time and never got around to.  It sounds trivial but damn does it enhance our look and fit the theme of an inking art site. “More graphics”.
History page in the About section- it’s great and flattering to be presented on Wikipedia but sadly what is posted there, while objective, isn’t always accurate and is often missing what we consider to be key details and accomplishments.  Now we can plug our own progress and give credit where credit is due.  When you have you’re own site it’s absolutely all about tooting your own horn, although I focus on being historically accurate, warts and all, than simply regurgitate propaganda.
• And lastly, our info and vast resources sections are all back and expanded upon! Our About section has subcategories listing all Inkwell associates as well as the Conventions info and History.  We added a Nominators tab for crediting all of our precious NomCom rotating volunteers because they deserve it for the time they put in.   Our Award Recipients (previously Results)  and Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame tabs are now totally up to date thanks to Sarah,  Danny,  J. David Spurlock, and Henry Covert.  The Inking Resources tab is reasonably thorough in that we were able to return the Database (which is updated by Mike Kellar on the committee), the Inker Samples (which is updated by Stacey Aragon on the committee-although a few files from this section are still absent from the old site, but it’s been expanded upon), Art Supplies, and separate sub tabs for our links to tutorials, articles, interviews, galleries and forums, instead of being all lumped together like before, for easier searching (and speaking of searching, Sarah even added a search engine to the homepage for the first time for more happy hunting).

The website exists thanks to the dedication and contribution of those credited above and many more other friends and supporters.  It’s our backbone to the only non-profit inking advocacy organization around and I can again say that with conviction and confidence.  It took a long time and effort to get here but we all persevered and now reap the rewards of that blood, sweat and tears.  At last, victory.  I do hope that you will bookmark this stop and use it often as a vital resource for all things inking and find it educating and entertaining.  And most-importantly to recognize the ink artists.