Have you heard of these things called blogs? Blogging wasn’t new in 2005, but it was still a niche hobby for the technologically minded. I had been maintaining a personal blog, and was a regular blog reader. I saw multiple-author blogs devoted to certain subjects and cultures (particularly Boing Boing, and the animation-centric Cartoon Brew) and saw opportunity for something similar that could be devoted to comics and illustration and drawing. I hobbled together a Movable Type installation, sent out a few invitations to artist friends and online acquaintances who might want to get involved, and Drawn! (then with an exclamation point) went live on March 4, 2005.
The site became immediately popular, due in part to there being nothing else like it on the Internet at that time, and the sheer volume of posts from our excitement in sharing all these cool images and artists and links.
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.
Drawn in 2009
It is gratifying to know that this project, even in the tiniest way, became a valuable part of the community it was designed to mirror.
I started Drawn because it was a way for me to connect with an industry and community that I wanted to be a part of. In 2005, starting a blog was the best way to share content easily with a wide audience, and there was enough of a hurdle in setting up a blog, that you could do it and get noticed. I’m happy for Drawn to have been noticed.
Here’s what didn’t exist in 2005: Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook (at least not the Facebook we know today).
Drawn was designed to share links and images when sharing links and images wasn’t easy to do. Eight years later, by the time I get around to posting something interesting on Drawn, it’s already made its way around the Twittersphere and been reblogged on Tumblr a thousand times over.
In a 2013-era Internet that allows artists to share their work easier than ever and to a bigger audience than ever, and for anyone to start a Tumblr or a Pinterest account to collect and curate their own inspirations and influences, a 2005-era link blog like Drawn grows increasingly irrelevant. It starts to look more and more like the dinosaur it is. Drawn quietly switched to Tumblr in 2010, amid unrealized plans to do something new with the site unrelated to blogging, as a reaction to its competition from sites like Tumblr itself. But in those eight years since Drawn launched, it’s not just the Internet landscape that has shifted and evolved.
My personal life and priorities are not what they were when I was twenty-four, hammering away at the keyboard at my day job, hoping my boss wouldn’t notice. Drawn encouraged me to be a better artist, and my association with the site put my name out there in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I owe my career as an illustrator to Drawn — a career that now offers, ironically, little free time with which to maintain a site like Drawn.
I certainly wouldn’t have the opportunities and friends I have today if it wasn’t for the goodwill and community that being a part of Drawn afforded me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
There may yet be life in the site and its name, and I will eventually put its searchable archives back online, but for now I’m drawing the curtain and taking a bow.