Covid-19 Reflectoins

Being Alone Together

Table of Contents

Covid Picasso – Dec 18, 2021

Ongoing Reflections from the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in Toronto. 

Covid Picasso

Jumped on the subway and went to see the Picasso show at the AGO. As per usual, there was some friction when I asked to draw. They said no. Various people had to be walkie talkied. And then they let me because somebody realized what they always realize – you have to pretend to give a shit about artists if you’re an art gallery. I stood to one side to get my draw on because I am not a crazy person. But this time, I drew that into the pictures. I like these a lot.

I ran out of energy before I ran out of Picassos, so I’ll try to get back and draw some more. After Picasso, I headed to the visiting Contemporary exhibit. Video is big in these days. The exhibit I sat down and drew was called “Three Kings Weep” by Ebony G Patterson. It featured three black men with tears in their eyes. You don’t see them start crying, so it feels a little artificial, but the men good actors and it has some emotional resonance. The video is reversed, which works really well. The men “put on” clothes… I don’t know. By the time I got to the last man, I was pretty tired. He’s more generic than the other two.

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And, of course, I drew on the way there and the way back…

Lynda Barry PhotoBooth

So, I’m still working through Lynda Barry’s excellent book Making Comics. I made a zine yesterday, just using her Face Jam instructions and the pocket zine format that I love so much. It’s called YOU: A Non Exhaustive List of People Who Hate Me (According to My Undiagnosed Depression).

But today, I MADE my kid do these with me. He liked the bit where we made the characters but he really didn’t want to add the solid black (which is a set instruction). I over reacted and then he over-reacted. And then I redid my last panel because, well, that’s me in my worst moments.

Having admitted all that, I think it was really worth doing. I like his work much better than mine here. I am particularly fond of his last panel (the one with the 7 for a nose that gets angrier and angrier as it goes down.) Look what he did with the teeth! They go from smooth to spikey! The character is so expressive!

We came up with these characters together using the “Face Jam” exercise. You can see we both chose to copy the same face… his second character (the angry one with the ‘A’ nose) is the same as my 4th. Once again, I think his interpretation is much more expressive. Mine is… neater. I’m learning a lot from this book and from James. But it’ll go up on the art wall as a reminder that emotional regulation is a skill that requires practice and dedication, especially for those of us with ADHD.

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Making Comics (Lynda Barry)

On the recommendation of my friend, Kimberley (who just happens to be a mega talented artists), I picked up Lynda Barry’s Making Comics. I love it! These characters are created using her exercise FACE JAM (p 85-90) and the accompanying assignment PATTERN AND SOLID BLACK (p 91). It’s a group exercise but these ones come out of a solo version. Well, actually, the benefit from doing the group exercise with my son, James, who has a wonderful, spontaneous line. I did a very boring version of Face Jam, then two really exciting ones with James, and then I did this version, which is much improved. The Pattern and Solid Black assignment takes 90 minutes+, but the drawings themselves are produced over 6 minutes. This quick line is important to Barry’s school of creation.

She writes that “It’s hard for something original to make it past ‘already knowing how.’ Being good at something is its own curse, Sometimes. Because a non-artist can’t control his line, he can’t interfere with what’s showing up, he can’t stop the mood his character is in because of the way he drew on the eyebrows, and so the original has a chance.”

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Garden & Collective

Garden & Bugs

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Garden Pests in Panel

Still working on The Garden, but this time focused on coming up with panels that give a sense of this world. I tried more formal pictures based on the Collective sketches. And then I had fun with a “dog” design inspired by my son’s work, and some taken from Obliques.

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collective Repurposed

I’m still working on the May zine, which may or may not be called “The Garden”. I have a partner in crime this month, so we’ll see what that does to the schedule and project in general. I think I may end up with a mini-zine. I’m landing on surrealism here, I think. Or comic weirdness. At any rate, I used the 3 hours of Collective drawing to come up with these plant expressions. They aren’t all winners but there’s something interesting going on. I’ll reuse these for the comic. Probably going to keep their name as “The Collective” in a sense, but maybe not.

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Gypsy & The Garden

I am feeling the inspiration from the Cel del Nord virtual residency. The landscape is a semi-imaginative piece based on Mount Ararat. I am going to use it as the background in a panel introducing my gardener character, Emp. I notice that I lose all my yellow with the scan and all my purple with the photograph. Maybe I can blend them?

The seated character is based on a photograph of Gypsy Rose Lee. It was drawn during a writing prompt for an EventBrite Smithsonian writing hour. Picasso has been on my mind and the mini-lecture mentioned that Gypsy was a collector so my inspiration went in that direction. It was a 20 minute “write” but I kept working on it while people read their reflections.

The write-up for EMP on the page was a 5 minute warm-up and I DID end up getting an idea out of it! Feeling like today went okay, creativity-wise. I think it makes sense for me to take one day a week to make art without the kids around. I’m recharged and I like what came out of the day. Covid precautions are… exhausting.  

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Oblique Strategies

I started making these during the Cel del Nord virtual residency. They’re great fun to make on shrink film and very useful for studio inspiration.

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Historic Graffiti

2021-04-19, attended an online presentation, “Historic Graffiti” by James Wright. So much great stuff but my favourite was the medieval cat licking itself and the evidence of a really, really unfriendly monk. Apparently writing someone’s name backward and upside down is a way to curse them. The sample was found in a location that was not open to the public. 

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How to Build an Art Collective

Here’s the zine! Sister Mary Paul Lewis and the Council of the Agricultural Commune made it in! So did our friends from Rijks Museum, the Mona Lisa, and quite a few members of the Collective.

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More Community

Newest members of the Community member zine:  Sister Mary Paul Lewis, taken from a photograph by Doris Ulmann (1882 – 1934), and two members of the Council of the Agricultural Commune, taken from Boris Ignatovich’s 1928 photograph. The two members will almost certainly be tucked between the shadows of larger portraits. Sister Mary Paul Lewis may be too wide at the base to fit in with her habit, but I do hope to include her.

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Thinking Community

This week, I’ve been searching for “community” in Rijksmuseum and other galleries that have gone online during Covid for my January zine, How to Draw Yourself a Community. These are the sketches so far. I’ll intersperse images from my art collective (The Collective). I’ve included those in this post along with some early Covid pieces that fit the theme of community. The Mona Lisa is hanging out in this group because, well, she is my litmus test. I’ve always been jealous of that piece and all the attention it gets. But I’ve also drawn it a few times. I realize that (like the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman), I’m over the jealousy and what’s left is admiration. This version is drawn on shrink film. I photographed it pre-shrink. Thank goodness! I don’t like the shrunk version nearly as much. 

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Pazyryk Classic- Shrink Film - Dec 29, 2020

Classic in richer colours. A gift.

Pazyryk Moderna - Shrink Film - Dec 28, 2020

This is a variation on the Pazyryk Rug. (see post below for original colours). I was thinking about Queer identities and the way contemporary (or are we post-contemporary?) art highlights and celebrates a variety of identities. My very traditionally leaning partner really prefers the unbent original. I agree that the original colour scheme is more beautiful but it’s also… well, it’s been done before. As a modern Canadian Armenian with multiple identities, this feels more like an expression of who I am and what I want to project out into the world. I think this is worth developing. I’ll look at colour schemes with set meanings and see if I can make new and beautiful.

The Pazyryk Rug in Shrink Film - Dec 26, 2020

The Pazyryk Rug is very old and, possibly, Armenian. The original dates from the 5th century BC. It depicts wild game (and maps out their organs) as well as armed horsemen. This was an exercise in copying for me. I have to say, I would NEVER have chosen these colours in this combination but I really love them. I did most of the inking on one side and then enhanced the yellow on the other side. I am disappointed with the warping that happened in the oven. The piece was wrinkled and I flattened it. I did not keep the pressure even and that was a mistake. I actually really liked it wrinkly. It’s just hard to spend hours making something and then… well. I’ll make more.

Christmas Ornaments (My Loves) - Dec 23, 2020

Shrink Film! And my little loves.

Grandma Gripes Character Sheet - Dec 15, 2020

My mom is a big walker. She does over 20k a day! She has this great list of complaints that I got her to write down. Gonna turn them into a zine. She didn’t want me to use her as a model though. So I came up with a really simple one using expressions I found online. My partner says the character doesn’t read old but I think it works okay.

The Comfort of Ritual - Nov 29, 2020

I made a second COVID-19 zine. Drew the pictures quickly and without any polish. They’re sloppy but they tell the story, which is the important thing… I think. The zine has its own page here: THE COMFORT OF RITUALS

Impressionist Nipples - July 16, 2020

I’ve been making these since I finished my 3D Fusion Beasts. I like how simple they are to put together. Some of them really remind me of Impressionist Landscapes. Others are very… nippy.

Duel Landscapes



More Abomidorables! - June 2nd, 2020

My brother and I have been sending each other these creature mash-ups. I will link to his as soon as he posts them! In the meantime, here are some of my favourites. I think there will be many more to follow. Click on each image to see the name.

Abomidorables - May 24, 2020

My brother and I have been sending each other these creature mash-ups. I will link to his as soon as he posts them! In the meantime, here are some of my favourites. I think there will be many more to follow. Click on each image to see the name.

Below are some older mashups. Every time I see one, I want to make another!

I Miss the Subway -May 19th

I’ve been drawing on the subway for so long that I remember the shift that happened when people started being able to use their phones underground.
All of a sudden, you didn’t have to worry about someone catching you drawing them. You could openly sketch the person across from you for minutes on end without being interrupted.
Before that, what usually gave you away was the nicely-intentioned (but bored) people to either side of you. Someone would make a remark and your subject would become conscious of the possibility that they were being drawn. Even worse, they would pose! No! No! Go back to how you were sitting when you thought no one was watching!

I’m really looking forward to riding the subway. I’ll miss all those mouths and noses though. Masks, like scarves and hats, are very convenient for the artist because, once you learn the trick of them, you can draw them very quickly. But they do take so much away from the face.

Ben Shapiro Left/Right -May 10th

Talking head and general nuisance to the Left, Benjamin Aaron Shapiro is an American conservative political commentator with a Harvard Law degree. He launched The Daily Wire website in 2015 and has been delighting in using it to expose the folly of the Democratic party (and the occasional Republican) to an audience of millions ever since. 

My partner listens to Shapiro for Covid-19 statistics and for his breakdowns and critiques of various governors and governments handling of the crisis. His perspective is always nuanced and it is always backed up by solid statistics. His core beliefs are anti-socialist, which clashes with my own feelings that the social net needs to be strengthened, not turned into various for-profit enterprises. I think both these portraits are accurate, but I drew them both, so of course I do. 

Ben Shapiro as seen by the Left

Ben Shapiro as seen by the Right

Norman Summerton - May 4th, 2020

I like chilling with the talking heads on Your Mom’s House. And they like scouring the internet on a quest to bring us the Norman Summertons of this world. The warmth in his face make his, let’s face it, pretty insane kinks even more… absurd? Twisted? Repulsive? Fascinating. Norman, you’re a freak among freaks. You’re in on the joke and that makes it okay to laugh along. Thanks for being the star of the isolation time freak show. (Note: please do not Google Norman unless you are prepared to be very disturbed with what you find.)

Edward Naps - April 13, 2020

The condo was not so small when we had museums and art galleries for living rooms and parks and playgrounds for our backyard. Edward has learned 90 words since Toronto entered lockdown on March 15th. I know because I record them meticulously in a chart – ctrl f to check for duplicates – and send them to his grandmother. Most of his words are indoor words. Condo words. Except “car”. He waves to the cars from our balcony. “Bye car.” “Red car.” He is obsessed with them. My littlest love. 

Cellphone Zoom with Cory - April 8th, April 22nd

Two sessions of Zoom chat with a DJ friend from Hamilton. I am envious of his free time, his time to create, his time to learn new skills, his time to himself. His features are hard to make out on my cell. The screen flattens but it also simplifies. It feels good to talk and to listen.

Being Alone Zine

A simple, 8 page zine, intended to inspire someone. Probably me. I like these. They give me a sense of accomplishment. They are finished pieces. And I find zines inherently cool. I post mine on a few zine sites and attract the attention of other zine creators. It is good to connect.8

The Gladstone Experience

My brother Michael and I were excited to participate in the Gladstone Hotel’s #GrowOp2020. As we set up, we felt like we were in good company with lots of talented people, Queen street is vibrant, the Gladstone is a cultural hub with a long history – a nice opportunity to show 3 months’ work.

The show itself was completely upended by the virus. It was surreal. The city was not yet on lockdown, but I found myself stepping back and away from the show’s attendees. There was never a large enough gathering to be unsafe – we had 500 attendees over the course of all four days – but there were times when even two people in the room felt like a crowd.

These are sketches I drew of my brother and of, well, not my brother, during the show.


People at a Distance

Michael and I spoke about a feeling we had during the show. We described it to each other, this uncomfortable feeling that made everyone seem somehow more like a stranger. It felt like the hostile beginnings of xenophobia and I never want to feel it again.

Thank you to those who participated in this project. It felt good to connect to you, even at a distance. 

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Covid-19 Blog Archives

April 02 2020 – Drawing Cory

March 12-15th, 2020 – The Gladstone

March 2020 – Alone Together Zine