Of the countless millions of websites floating around the Internet, there is only one which I’ve ever felt compelled to pay a monthly subscription fee for and that is Shane Glines’ CartoonRetro.com. After months of eager anticipation, CartoonRetro launched last June and I’m pleased to report that the site is everything I had hoped it would be and much more. CartoonRetro, simply put, is a daily source of visual inspiration and education. Every weekday Shane posts rare high-quality artwork from the greatest cartoonists and illustrators of the 1920s and 1930s. One day it might be the beautiful children’s book illustrations of Vernon Grant, the following day a vintage magazine piece about the art of caricature by William Auerbach Levy, and the next a collection of ESQUIRE spot illustrations by Roy Nelson. Many of the artists featured on the site straddle the border of obscurity and complete anonymity which is completely at odds with the remarkable quality of their artistry. Shane has undertaken the difficult task of rescuing the work of these artists from musty books, tattered magazines and deteriorating microfilm, and painstakingly restoring the art to its full brilliance. The same care that is put into the restoration is also afforded to the presentation. Shane doesn’t haphazardly dump a collection of images onto the site, but presents it with thoughtfulnesss and context. By posting a handful of drawings from an artist on any given day, he allows the viewer to truly appreciate, understand and savor the work. Daily updates are often supported with biographical info about the artists and comments about the graphic qualities of the drawings which adds further value to the artwork.
The ultimate purpose of CartoonRetro is not only to build a library of classic cartoons, but for viewers to learn from the artwork that is posted and to apply the lessons to their own projects. To that end, CartoonRetro also features comic and animation projects that Shane and other artists like Katie Rice, Luke Cormican and Fred Osmond are developing exclusively for the site. Each of these artists provides extensive commentary about the development process of their cartoons and specific explanations of how they are being influenced by the works of earlier cartoonists.
CartoonRetro while still in its infancy has already proven to be an invaluable resource. Without any reservations, I can say that it belongs in the bookmarks of every animation artist, illustrator and designer. The spare, yet infinitely complex and creative, beauty of the artwork on CartoonRetro is a refreshing change of pace from the mathematical sterility of today’s CG artistry and serves as a daily reminder of what attracted me to cartoons and drawing in the first place. Perhaps the best news for myself and other subscribers is that Shane has committed himself fully to the site and turned CartoonRetro.com into his full-time job and sole source of income. With the type of vision and dedication that he has towards the art of cartoons, I am confident that CartoonRetro will be on the scene for many years to come, and I’ll be along for the ride every step of the way.