DrawtheDog.com - Paw-fect Artwork
The town of Westport has a reputation for being a dog-friendly community, so it's only natural that one of its residents would start a website, along with a former Disney artist, that caters to dog lovers.
Bruce Kasanoff, a former member of the Planning & Zoning Commission, and Jim George, based in Venice, Calif., co-founded and launched DrawtheDog.com about seven months ago. The highlight of the site is a new cartoon each day that slowly reveals itself as if it's being drawn by the artist -- albeit somewhat faster than the time George actually spent on it.
Kasanoff said the reveal feature "makes it much more involving than if it just came up in a couple of seconds."
People have written Kasanoff saying the daily artwork is their favorite minute of the day.
"I don't think the site would be as successful without it," Kasanoff said. "There is nothing online like DrawtheDog."
The daily cartoons are inspired by stories from everyday people who write in to the site.
"There's no publisher, no big company, no agent. There's nothing between us and our audience," Kasanoff said. "It means that an idea goes straight from your head into Jim's, and if he likes it, it goes directly back to you [via the artwork]. It's a direct relationship."
The websites of dog rescue groups assisted in giving DrawtheDog.com early exposure and so Kasanoff and George have returned the favor by recently allowing any nonprofit dog rescue group to make T-shirts featuring any of the more than 200 cartoons available on the site. Previously, the only cartoons available for use were five specifically made for rescue groups, including an "adopt a greyhound" cartoon, a cartoon of a Labrador sitting on the letters "LAB" and a cartoon of five cute dogs gathered around the words "Rescue Me."
Kasanoff owns not one but three dogs. George doesn't own any, but DrawtheDog.com gives him a vehicle to provide the public with new art every day and get almost instantaneous feedback, as readers can post comments below the cartoons.
On Wednesday, the cartoon of the day was titled "Teeth Marks" and was inspired by a dog named Baker. The cartoon shows a woman at a check-out counter with teeth marks from her dog on her credit card. The first person to leave a comment about the cartoon wrote "LOL! My cards are fine. It is my PHONE that has suffered the most." Another person, an hour or so later, wrote, "With us it is car keys." Someone named Val Mercer said, "The knob of the emergency brake on my brand new 2010 Honda Civic has been shredded by the chomps and chews of my 15 lb Papillion! I do wish he had chewed on my credit card instead!! I still love him tho'."
Nothing gets by dog lovers. The site allows visitors to search the cartoons by breed of dog and so, when someone realizes their breed hasn't been featured yet, they'll let Kasanoff and George know. "Teeth Marks -- inspired by Baker" was the first cartoon, in fact, to feature a Springer Spaniel.
George, who was a Disney artist for six years, said his intention with the reveal aspect of the site is to increase the fun by playing out the information contained in the cartoon over time.
"Sometimes this means graphic elements, characters or objects, are withheld until `just the right moment.' Sometimes, this means lines of text are presented and timed to be more like spoken words," he said. "In addition, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, it's satisfying to the eye to have the composition continue to grow and develop over time. On many levels it just makes the cartoons more captivating."
George said the technique he uses is one he's refined over many years and countless hours of tinkering and refining. It's not a single program, but rather, a collection of techniques "that makes a convoluted and complex process look effortless."
The duo will likely release a book of drawings in the fall.
"You should be able to make money and help people out at the same time," Kasanoff said, "And I think DrawtheDog is a perfect example of that. I'm a huge believer that that's the way business should be, that everybody wins."
Through word of mouth and being linked on dog rescue sites, DrawtheDog.com has about 3,000 to 4,000 visitors a day. However, Kasanoff wants more traffic and admits he'd like to be "the best site on the web."
"I dislike the fact there are people who would love DrawtheDog but don't know about it yet. That's what motivates me. I want to make people aware of it." While the site has received hits from people in as many as 128 countries, Kasanoff admits there are probably people in Westport who don't even know about the site yet.
Kasanoff doesn't plan to change or add to the site in any way. He just wants more dog lovers to know it exists.
"I'm thrilled with the site. I don't think we need to get better or be different," he said.