The Collective 2021

The Collective 2021

Interested in forming your own Artist Collective? Here’s a zine to show you the way: How to Build An Art Collective.

I am a founding member of The Collective, a Toronto based figure drawing group. The Collective has been meeting weekly since 2009. Each week, a different member hosts. The sessions last three hours, with poses between 1 and 30 minutes. At the end of the session, we pass around our sketchbooks.

My work within The Collective ranges from the conventional to the experimental. During Covid-19, the group has been meeting via Zoom sessions. I have been drawing portraits of Collectivites off my phone in my car parking lot.

Covid-19 Sessions

Storytelling Part III

The 10s

We had lots of 10s this week! I mistimed the first one of Brian and ended up adding three more mini-panels. I liked the way that looked so I tried it again with Francis. The Jake took the whole 10 minutes and the Kim ended up getting mucked up and needing extra time to “fix”. I like the way the page looks with all the 10s together.

The 5s

Lots of 5s!

The 2s

And a page of 2s! These were fun. I tried to make some time for words, even though it took away from the drawing time. Francis + his Foot is a solid panel. I like the Kim panel too.

Storytelling Part II

The 10s

Last week, I think the 1 and 2 minute panel pages told a story. This week, I think the longer draws have the better storytelling. In particular, the page with Kim holding a plant and multiple Anthonys up in a panel feels like a story. The other 10, with Francis, Jake, and Gila also has a good feel. I like it despite errors. But it feels like 3 people with their own stories… maybe they’re all thinking about the same thing?

The 5s

No story here but “Seductive Brian” and “Cute-Guy-from-IT Francis” are certainly characters. The 5s for Jake, Gila, and Anthony are more expressive but not  as character-driven. 

The 1s and 2s

The panels feel like storytelling. The black ink makes it look more finished. I don’t know. I kind of love 1s and 2s. There’s something so satisfying about getting a likeness or an expression (or just a pair of glasses) in one or two minutes. 


I have been trying to learn how to tell stories with words and pictures. The Collective tells the same story every week – people getting together to draw model for each other over Zoom. The stories we tell each other during this time, the camaraderie through Covid… I don’t know if any of that comes through in these pages. I think we should have a show at the end of this – Locked Down Over Zoom or something, because I have loved this time together and I sense that we are going to start having the Zoom sessions on an off night in the near future. I can tell you this – I don’t ever want there to be a last one of these.

3 Models

This was a very unusual Collective because there were only 4 of us, which means only 3 models for each of us to draw. So I had 25 minutes of Kim drawing time and 35 minutes each of Gila and Francis. It meant that I could organize the work a little better and put the three 5 minute drawings of each person in sequence. So they’re comic strips! There was just enough time for everyone to do a 10, so I stuck those together too. I think this is my personal best for Kim. I’m disappointed that the page bleed on the blue ends up on her chin.

Here are the full pages, including a ton of 1s and 2s of Gila and Francis.

More Panel Portraits in Pen

Scott McCloud talks a little bit about non-sequitur transitions between comic panels. This means that there is “no logical relationship” between panels. I don’t think that’s exactly what’s happening here. This is more moment-to-moment with each panel representing the model posing as we flip from person to person. In the past, I’ve given each person their own mini-zine that tells the story of their poses for the evening. I think it would be worthwhile to have another go at separating the people into their own stories. Shouldn’t be too hard. We do 3 one minute poses, 2 twos, and 1 five per person. I can do something different with the tens since we almost never get one per person.

Markers Minus Pink

When I use markers, I use pink. I love it for skin and I think it always makes colour combinations pop. But not this week. I ended up really liking a black, yellow, and green combination on cream paper. The 10 of Gila is my favourite this week.

Panel Play

Another week devoted to exploring panels. I started out with some preset panels for the ones and twos. For the 5s, I thought about open panels – where the box is only defined where the figure touches the sides. For the tens, I started with a loose panel but narrowed it down to fit the piece. This worked well for the Gila and Brian, which I think are the strongest pieces on the best page. The other tens had more preset panels. The Francis and Anthony 10s are poor portraits but I like the backgrounds quite a bit. The 10 of Jake is moody. Which is funny, I would definitely vote Jake as “most likely Collective member to burst into giggles.”

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Panels in Pen

I just like these. I love black pen. I love panels. I used the panel design from Lynda Barry’s Making Comics exercises (see more on the Covid blog) and I think they really push the feel of storytelling, even though the panels are non sequiturs.

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Mechanical Pencil and Comics

The ones and twos this week were super fun to do. I used advice from this Lynda Barry book (Making Comics) to get some real expression. And then Jake posed with a clamp on his teeth and it freaked my style back to its default setting! I’m not kidding! you can see the style get sketchier and more realistic!

I like my 5s and 10s though. I put Jake’s eye in the wrong place in a ten and then decided to keep it there. Jake is such a muse! He could be a leading man or a character actor… he’s just interesting to draw!

My Evas definitely don’t do her justice, but there is one tiny piece of her with hand sanitizer that I really like.  Digging my 2s of Gila. The ten of her looks like… someone. Not sure who but it’s a nice picture of them.  The 5 is generic too, but her pose is so uniquely her that it reads as Gila.

My Brians are okay. I really like the ones, kinda like the twos. Ha ha! I marginalized Brian for the 5 and I think it makes the page much more meta (which is fitting for Brian, as he’s quite self reflective). I think my strongest Anthonys are the ones. He was holding this tube for all three and it was such a great drawing exercise! I hope he pulls it out again (ha!). 

Overall, the Francis pictures might be my favourite of him in a while. The ones are silly. The twos are adorable. He tore some paper for his 10 and I channeled his style a tiny bit in the drawing, making up some extra zig zags on the paper to make it feel ripped. There’s an awesome 5 pose of Francis lying down with his forehead close to camera that everybody did a great job with. 

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Slugs? And Other Pests

In the middle of this Collective, I realized I was pretty tired and my work was not giving me the easy flow of the plant Collectives. I wanted pests and I was spending my time drawing the pests, not the models. I should have drawn the bugs and then filled in the faces. Or maybe not. What do you think? 

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A Chorus of Plants

These are for a surrealist project that I don’t get time to work on. I figured since I have three hours dedicated to drawing people every week, why not get some character work out of the Collective? It went… interestingly. I mean, these are pretty mental but a few of them are useable. I actually think the ones and twos are the most useful because they can be the expressions for flowers. We’ll see how well this experiment goes. I think it will involve a lot of printing and cutting.

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Back to the Map

Found an old Map sketchbook with lots of empty pages. Well, empty of sketches. Good night. Fun poses and some moody ones too. 

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Sleep Deprivation Faces

This week was the Cel del Nord Virtual residency, which began with a 3:45am wake up for me every day from Sunday to Friday. By Thursday, my 6pm Collective was… well, let’s just say it didn’t even occur to me to use colour. I had some fun with the ones and twos though. Anything longer was too hard to track. I love some of these funny little un-self-conscious drawings. Some pinheads, some bean heads, and some oddly realistic heads.

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Selling Out

This was fun. Drew Collectivites on old Purchase Order Pad. Was hoping the drawings would go through to the pink and yellow undersheets but marker is too soft. 

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More Panels

More Panels, more pinks that won’t scan. This was a fun session with lots of people (and therefore lots of ones and twos). 

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These aren’t a zine (yet) but I’m not done with panels. Working with markers on a larger scale was great. I realize that I’m never going to stop being in love with the exact neon yellow and pink that my scanner can’t read, so I took some photos and tried to adjust the colour in Paint.NET. I think these are my best in the last few weeks for sure.

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Eyes & Noses - Pocket zines

Eyes and Noses pocket zines. This week, I ignored the poses and just drew the eyes and noses. I even snuck in a couple of me (blind contour drawings are my friends).

The Book of... Zines

More Zines. This time, I devoted one minizine to each person. I grabbed snippets of the conversations happening around the models. This session was mostly in pencil – mechanical, 6B – with a little colour for the final drawings on the cover. Below are some highlights. To read the zines online, head over to THE BOOK OF…

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Quick Draw Zines

This week, I took a stab at a more comic style. The drawing was too fast paced to get in any good dialogue. I opted for some musings, added in after the fact. Read and download the Quick Draw Zines on their own page or check out the highlights here.

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Zoom Zines

I drew this week’s sketches into zines. They can be saved and printed, folded, and read… or you can just read them online here: Zoom Zines. Below, you’ll find some highlights.

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Awful Lime Green Shrink Film

I ordered shrink film. It was supposed to be white. It is not white. It is this… lime green. BUT it IS tonal paper, when you think about it. So I used green to shade and red for contrast and I honestly like a couple of these portraits. Now I’m thinking that I’ll get some pink paper and some white paint, or maybe a light blue.

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Portraits with Pink

Marker portraits from 1 – 10 minutes. Some on Shrink Film, others on paper.

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This week, I stuck to a 6B pencil. Weirdly, this made every mark more permanent than my usual marker routine. Since I lay down lighter marker layers first and correct with darker colours after, the perspective gets fixed with every layer. But when I went to erase pencil marks, it didn’t work. Maybe I need a different eraser? Anyway, you can see my issue with foreheads. I chronically underestimate the length and then have to correct. But the trade-off with the 6B is line weight. Lots of loose light sketchy marks and then tight black nostril depth blacks. I think the pencil work is better for quick expressions.

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Too much distraction from the family this week. Kept my lines loose but I’d have liked to sit and concentrate on the work.

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I put together a minizine: How to Build an Artist Collective! These are the images of Toronto Collective members that I used for the zine!

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Drawing Outside the Box

I started out with the notion that I would draw boxes and fit the drawings into that space. Seemed to really help me with proportions and relativity. In the 10s, I broke out of the boxes, but only with the sketch. I only worked detail and colour into the boxes. I feel like this has the potential to become an interesting lesson plan, actually. It was very helpful to have rules and then to make modifiers that still upheld the original rules. I can see the lesson in three parts – warm up (no boxes), 5 minute in the box sketches, and then 10s with the modifiers. I ended up breaking the 10 minute pose of John into two fives because he has a second camera. I like the results in the longer sketches and I think the lesson plan has some potential. I’ll return to this again.

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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. I’m putting together a January zine on the theme. I drew this week’s Collective to fit into some sketches I’ve done of museum artworks. I’m guessing that I’ll use pieces from other weeks instead, just because there are some that I really love… but we’ll see. Here’s this week’s “community collective”

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Sketchy People Jewelry

I’ve been obsessing over shrink film recently. These were drawn and baked on the same night. I think the floating head of John works the best as a necklace pendant. It’s super hipster though. I’m also partial to the Anthony surrounded by Gilas with the blue background. Something about that reads as jewelry to me. The issue with pendants is that it is expensive to make them into necklaces. It’s one thing to attach a piece to earring findings and another huge step to bead or even string a necklace. 

Click on images for isolated view. These images are small. The pieces are a little larger in real life.

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