The Collective 2021

The Collective 2021

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.

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

Covid-19 Sessions

Burnout Perspective 2

Mini Collective

Just a few of us keeping it going… the live version is up and running again. Virtual is on Tuesday. We’ll see if it catches on. So far, it’s not looking like we’ll be able to pull off two nights.

Burnout Perspective

Mini Collective

Just a few of us keeping it going… the live version is up and running again. Virtual is on Tuesday. We’ll see if it catches on. So far, it’s not looking like we’ll be able to pull off two nights.

All Sketches Here 2

For the love of the line

Pen and line are my first and truest loves. It’s so easy to use them to build shape and imply form. I’d like to think that these sketches have some kind of composition to them, but I have to admit that it is so organic that it doesn’t have much wow factor. Just Rule of Odds, really.

Tens Turned Around

Flip through the gallery below to rotate the image:


So MAny Screens

This was fun to build. Would it have been much better if I had built it first and then added images during the session? Quite possibly. I switched perspective from top to bottom. What I should do (but probably won’t) is build a multiple-screen object with more distant screens set aside for quick sketches and more close-up screens set for the long ones. I do think that making it all at the same time keeps the style unified. Hmmmm….


And the Squared off Instagram versions…

BallPoint pt 2

Blue Ballpoint

There’s something really pleasant about a good, cheap ballpoint. They’re so well designed. Ink doesn’t flow beautifully but it does come out reliably. 

All Sketches Here


I really do prefer the tight control of lines and high impact you get with pen. 

Instagram Squares

I honestly hate the Instagram square format. And, of course, the way they profit off content they don’t create. It’s awful.

Colour Scheme 2


The Collective influences each other. I mean, it isn’t a universal. Some people have their own set styles and they’re around for the conversation and the models. But I am not one of those. EVERYONE has been getting into watercolor and who am I to fight the tide? After all, I’ve been seeing an awful lot of panels and we know who (cough cough me) is the big influencer for those! Man, I really love seeing the pass around. That’s the bit at the end of the night where we each show our work. It’s something I really need to bring to my students, I think. The great thing about my set of water colours is that it comes pre-separated. Choosing a colour palette was pretty easy. Is mine garish? It wouldn’t be a NEOLittle any other way.

Oddball Sketches

These were fun. Some pen, some mixed media.

Instagram Boxes

Everything on Instagram has to fit in a square. It’s… stupid. Here are the Instagram versions of the piece with different cropping. 

Surrealist Collective

Limbs and Eyeballs and People Framing, oh my!

More work inspired by art lessons. I tried to treat the page like one work of art, not lots of little panels or individual pieces. I missed out on some poses but I think that the overall piece works. Well, the first one does. My kids came home for the last hour and the longer poses didn’t get the time they needed. I’m feeling good about the first page though.

Instagram Boxes

Everything on Instagram has to fit in a square. It’s… stupid. Here are the Instagram versions of the piece with different cropping. 

Back to Ballpoint

Sketchbook Pages - Inspired by Student Work

Picked up a job as a Middle School Art Teacher. The kids are great and the other teachers in my department are basically dream coworkers – they share information, they speak warmly about the students and never gossip, and they help me troubleshoot problems. The student work has been really inspiring. Just seeing the way they layer images and notes got me thinking and led to one of my better Collective pages in years… well, I like it.

The Emphasis Edition

Principles of Design: Emphasis

This week, I used my one and two minute sketches as background for ten minute sketches. The extra detail creates and the different material help guide the eye… at least, that was my theory. You be the judge.

Longer Poses on their Own

Of course, I ran out of ones and twos..

Shorts without an emphasis piece.

Next time, I’ll try to leave space inside the short poses for the long ones.

Teeny Tiny Collective


There were five of us tonight but Robert only stopped by to promise to come next week and Liz was only there for the 10. I’m glad she came because I like this wonky portrait of her! The Brian and the Francis look interesting together but my scanner is tiny and I’m not in the mood to cut and paste so…


Again, the images lose something when I don’t stitch the page together. I like this solo-Brian though!

Ones and twos in grops and on their own

Find the cat.

Tiny Collective

Longer Poses Make Longer Panels

Putting people in context makes for better storytelling.

3 twos is better than 2 Twos

The Extra 2 minute pose is now the standard and I’m super happy about it.

Ones for Fun

Ha ha ha! They can’t all be winners. I love the unfinished Jakes. 2/3 Francis pictures are so creepy! The Brians are only a little Briany.

A Good Night for Odd Moments


I petitioned hard for extra 2s Since, normally, we each pose for 2 two minute poses, it’s very hard to make a composition out of them. Rule of odds and all. But I think my favourites this evening were the fives (and a couple that I think might be tens of Jake and Brian). 

3 twos is better than 2 Twos

Take a look! It’s easy to make compositions out of 3 of the same face. The Kim set even tells a story. Actually, a couple of them hint at a story. The Francis one is trying to. They read a bit like comics.

Wide 10s

These were fun but I’m not sure they work as well as the other drawings. The Kim has lost out on her charm. The Francis has this very “over it” expression that he didn’t actually have. And the Jake… well, Jakes are always good but this one… hmm… I might actually like these more than I thought.

The Rules of Composition Proofs

I told myself that I would use the Collective to try out lesson proofs. It was more like a prediction than a promise. This week, I played with composition using very particular rules in mind – rule of thirds, rule of odds, triangles, framing… just basic stuff. Some of them worked out and some of them didn’t but I really like the overall improvement to composition in this week’s gallery. The soft pastels though… 

Soft Pastels

I appreciate soft pastels for  their good qualities. They allow you to lay down colour quickly. With water or smudging, you can get some nice, smooth backgrounds. The mark making has character… you can get a really nice edge out of a fresh piece if you lay it flat… let’s see. I’m running out of nice things to say. Let’s be honest – they’re messy and really hard to control. They create excessive texture that’s only sometimes appropriate.  They’re basically the toddlers of the art material kingdom – bright, loud, unrefined, and they leave fingerprints all over everything.


I’m clearly missing out on the potential of soft pastels. They do work nicely with pen and marker. I don’t think they’re appropriate to Collective though. Too… soft pastely.

Colour Scheme 1

Hopefully I follow up with Colour Scheme 2 and 3 but I’m pretty confident that this is going to be an ongoing mini-series. I’ve been annoyed with the colour repetition between sessions for a while now. The yellow and green Copics with the red Sharpie are my favourite bits here… that orange too…

Layered Page of Marker Portraits

Technically, Two Colour Schemes

I emptied out the bag of marker’s that lives at my folks’ place. At first I grouped them to create analogous groupings. For a second I thought I was going to commit to orange-pink-purple but then, being me, I was bored before I started. And the yellow green set looked SO good. So, I obviously had to use it too. My sketchbook is giant so I wanted to get every portrait on one page but it just didn’t work out. We had 6 people but Jake left early and Liz came in late so we ended up with a bazillion 1s, 2s, and 5s. I put them all on one page but gave the 10s their own space.



I think I really should commit to very limited colour schemes to get a better idea of how they work in a drawing. I can pre-group my colours. Just have to test my markers before because I lost so much time on bad markers! 3 in a row for a 2 minute Francis!

Always Do Your Best


I like a few of these but the one of Liz is definitely super unflattering!

Always Do Your Best

Honestly, I was so tired tonight! Grabbed the paper for the shorts last minute. Liked the first ones, actually. But the rest? I don’t know.

Always Do your Best Shorts


I find this grip difficult but I think the results are good. You can’t tell here but I was able to work much larger than usual. I thought the paper was too small for the task, actually. And by using two grips, I was able to consciously choose a focal point to develop with details. Limiting the palette makes this feel a bit more like a series, even though I used three different tones of paper.

How to Hold Your Pencil Proofs

Lesson Proofs

I am working out a new lesson and I needed proofs – images that I create using the instructions – to make sure that everything is in order. This lesson is called How to Hold Your Pencil. It teaches students to use an Underhand grip, with just the thumb and index finger, to make large, loose lines. The Tripod grip (the same one you write with) is used for details. The Underhand grip asks students to draw from the shoulder, which means that the drawing surface must be vertical or angled. It’s a pain but I like the results.




I find this grip difficult but I think the results are good. You can’t tell here but I was able to work much larger than usual. I thought the paper was too small for the task, actually. And by using two grips, I was able to consciously choose a focal point to develop with details. Limiting the palette makes this feel a bit more like a series, even though I used three different tones of paper.

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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