About Rubén Madila
Web Developer / Graphic Designer
I ❤️ art and creativity.
My name is Rubén Madila, and I’m first and foremost a full-stack web developer. I double as a designer, having been an artist all my life.
After struggling to explain what I do, I decided to built this site from scratch, using my own evergreen WordPress Theme, to design a place that would answer the question…
What do you do?
The source of everything
I wrote my first website when I was 15 years old. I did it almost by accident, sheer curiosity, after finding the “View Source” button on the contextual menu that appears when you right click on any empty part of a website. To my surprise, it instantly made sense. There was a head, a body and a footer, just like a letter; there were section titles in descending order of importance and hidden information only intended for the browser to know more about the page. It was all there, fully exposed, sometimes even surrounded by very useful comments.
That curiosity landed me in my Windows ’98 Notepad, with my only intention being to test if my browser would be able to read a text file, hastily created by me, saved as index.html. It worked.
That was the precise moment where I understood that computer software was nothing less than a whole set of languages, all derived from the proverbial 0s and 1s, layered on top of each other just so humans could somehow interface with hardware.
Just like my school’s curriculum had English and French on offer, obsessed as they were with providing us with international skills, the internet required a whole new range of languages constantly evolving, looking for a golden standard to power an ever-connected world. It wouldn’t be fully understood as an accessible skill until almost a decade later, and even then, we failed to see how understanding technology now is a matter of survival, that involves all in a community, and not something that we can safely leave to the pejoratively called nerds to do. More specifically, the web needs a diverse community of people that are not only fluent in these languages, discussing the best path forward to evolve them into something that remains accessible for everyone but to help implement those technologies into problem solving tools.
The value of nothing
I grew up playing with DIY toys in the corridors of a hospital turned museum of modern art, Madrid’s very own Reina Sofia. Visiting my mum at work meant spending time walking around exhibits in all shapes and sizes, from abstract paintings to quirky sculptures, always wondering how they acquired their incredibly high value.
I vividly remember two paintings I saw in my youth. Nevermind the author’s name, as in my mind they have now turned into a feeling of extreme confidence, broad strokes, simple passion and tranquility. But as much as they tried to convey their meaning to me, at the end they could only be etched in my mind as two rectangles of almost solid colour, one fully red and the other green, hang next to each other, without any further context.
I stayed there for minutes, feeling dazed and confused as to how anyone could pay millions for what I perceived as the output of an afternoon’s hobby.
It took me years to understand that sometimes that creates the point. That art, as an experience, is entirely subjective, but dependant on the medium and the journey, with the audience left to enquiry about its meaning, to themselves and other, where there could be plenty or there could be none. It’s a desperate attempt to communicate all things willingly and unwillingly, in a way that survives its own creator. A permanent expression of a concept, in its own accord, where everyone will see a different dimension and depth.
The narrowing path
All the way back when I was 14, circa 1998, I signed up to my school newspaper, writing video-game, cinema and music reviews, all of them still passions of mine. What started as a side activity would eventually turn from another social bubble into my safe haven. Strangely enough, this modest newspaper, probably due to the perseverance of its editors, would manage to be invited to movie premières with their very own press pass. They (we) were sent trailers to report on, gushing over them, and nervously writing clever questions in case he had the luck to picked in their Q&As, your very own quote for the next issue. And there I was, fifteen-year-old-me, mingling with professional actors, at times tripling my age, watching them show me their honest work while I ran out of reel film on my camera.
To see all those artists pouring their souls into a piece in the hope you understood what they meant, was intimate, personal and meaningful. I wasn’t entirely naive as I fully knew it was their job, but for me it felt confessional, like seeing the world with borrowed eyes, with as much nuance in the container as in what it contained. So I kept on reading, watching, listening and playing as much as I could, in sheer awe of how much the world had to share. I became amaze to the overlap in concepts, patterns and stories, the same feelings being expressed over an over again, with different voices, different textures, changing with the time but in essence, the same themes. Feelings and facts, waiting to be acknowledged, fought over or laughed at, until they were finally reconciled with the world.
The deep dive
Even though I always had the need to do art, the thing is that for most of my life I was told to treat it as a hobby. Unless I could use that creativity to make money, art was the door to a life of instability and self-doubt. A bad investment. Art, to be successful, needs a whole lot of money. That much I knew. It was indeed the allegory to every piece of advice given. So I went into coding as the most sensible way to harness my creativity into a stable income, not knowing any other way to channel that need of expressing emotions.
As much as I loved art, the reality was that I didn’t think I understood enough about it, or that I had a real opportunity at being part of it. Every time I thought of the overlap between art and money, it easily became just mindless entertainment or a high-brow investment scheme. So the advice kept ringing true, to my dismay. I found that my only lucrative form of self-expression, was talking to a machine.
Day after day, I worked on a medium that channelled a new future for all arts, closely watching them adapt, merge and become one with it.
I ended up loving the feeling of communicating with machines, understanding its logic, and seeing it evolve while learning to negotiate its possibilities. Learn to read a whole new world that spelled the beginning of a global revolution just for the part of society with voice to be trapped up in 6″ mirror.
The eternal staircase
But as the years went by and I established myself as a developer, I kept taking pictures, editing video, composing songs, drawing and writing, almost every day. My computers got faster, my cameras got better and I guess I did too. And because my income was still generated by coding, using anything other than social media for all the byproduct of my hobbies, seems like the right idea. Now I know it’s not true.
I’ve become jaded with the way big tech quietly asks for our contribution, forcing everyone to create and process every piece of media through their mass-consumption friendly, algorithm-driven play-dough extruders. But that’s an opinion I will leave for another thread, if I ever come around to start my blog.
I never thought it necessary to share what I’m doing, my journey, or even to make it easy for people so see what I’ve done. So I failed to create a place where to display it all. I guess I was still that kid wondering how anything gets its value.
Social media was the reason why I initially felt I didn’t need a website or portfolio. In 2022, social media is the reason why I think finding your own voice through a medium that you control and understand, it’s the only way to thrive.
I want my portfolio to be the monument to my efforts as an artist, not a source of content to be digested in 1 minute clips.
The way in which we consume art is as important as the art itself. Creating tools that allow others to tell bigger, better stories is what drove me to code in the first place.
So feel free to browse and share, feel inspired or moved.
I am already grateful you made it this far.
If you have any potential collaborations you’d like to discuss it, please do get in touch.