Once an in-depth community blog about illustration, comics, and animation, Drawn originally ran from 2005-2013. It was named one of TIME Magazine's 50 Best Websites of 2006. It was relaunched in April, 2020 to showcase freely-available animated shorts from around the web.
John Martz is a cartoonist, illustrator, and designer in Toronto. He is the author of several books including A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories, Burt's Way Home, and Evie and the Truth About Witches. He is the art director for Tundra Books and Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers. He likes to watch cartoons.
I've been watching a lot of animated shorts, and I wanted to share some with you. It seemed like a good time to dust off the Drawn website.
First, let's rewind to 2005. I was working for a television station as a graphic designer. In my spare time I was a hobbyist web coder and an amateur illustrator, and there was this new thing called blogging that seemed like the perfect way to combine the two interests.
With the help of several contributors over the years (shout out to Matt Forsythe, Luc Latulippe, Ward Jenkins, Patricia Storms, Dustin Harbin, Meg Hunt, Jay Stephens, S.britt, Jake Parker, David Huyck, Claire Robertson, Jared Chapman, Jaleen Grove, Adam Koford, Scott Thigpen, and Chris Gardner), Drawn covered a lot of ground: portfolio links, how-to articles, industry news, artist interviews, and more. There wasn't anything quite like it, and it filled a niche.
Within a year Time Magazine included the site in their annual 50 Best Websites list alongside fellow newcomers YouTube, Digg, and Myspace—the same year that social media and blogging led them to crown You as Person of the Year. Drawn became the top Google search result for "illustration". To this day I still meet readers who tell me how much they appreciate the site, and artists who tell me their career got a kickstart from having their work featured.
When Drawn launched in 2005, there were barriers to getting a blog up and running that don't exist today, and the Internet was a much quieter place. Twitter didn't even exist yet. By 2010, blogging and sharing images was easier than ever, and Drawn moved to Tumblr in the spirit of "if you can't beat em, join em".
By 2013, the social media landscape had become louder and busier and uglier. A website like Drawn became difficult to maintain as a hobby. It had lost some of its sheen and, in continuing to try and stand out in an ocean of blogs and retweets and social media feeds, started to become a burden. So it ended.
But I've grown nostalgic for those primordial days of blogging, and for the Internet of the late 90s and early 2000s—before all the noise of social media. Before the walled gardens of Pinterest and Instagram. Before all the algorithms decided what I should look at next. I'm nostalgic for sharing the work of others, and for making a website just for the sake of making a website.
This is not the same Drawn. It is something new. But it was made in the same spirit and with the same goal: to engage with an art form I love, and to plant a flag in the Internet to say, "this is my little plot of land; let me share it with you."
It is simple by design, and as much a work in progress as it is a labour of love.
Every day, as best as I am able, I will share an animated short from around the web—old shorts, new shorts, and many personal favourites, all from public domain or freely available sources. No ads, no Like buttons, no noise.
I hope you enjoy, and that you are staying safe and healthy.