In the time that I've been an illustrator (about twelve years now), I've been drawn to collaboration. I've done so through group shows, organized get-togethers for coffee, or a few drinks, workshops in my old studio, or through volunteering at ICON.
I did it because I needed to. There have been so many moments when I've felt stuck, frustrated and bored. Surrounding myself with those whose work I admired spurred me on. It helped me reassess what I was doing. I took comfort when some confided that they were also struggling and celebrated their successes, even when I was envious. In those chunks of time when work was at a stand-still, it was a way to stay focussed on what I really desired, to remain an illustrator.
Last year when I was in Prague, I went to many galleries and museums, but the thing that excited me the most was a place called, Orbis-Pictus. The event was titled "leporeloHRA", an interactive drawing project that invited visitors to make creations of all kinds, using paper, drawing implements and a variety of rotating machines and instruments. The project demonstrated that creative play can function as a universal means of communication without language or age barriers.I could barely grasp the concept at the time (no English explanation could be found). I loved the feeling of the place though. Collaborative work, freedom to play - it felt very fresh to me, something I'd been craving.
Through many conversations with friends about my trip to Prague, what emerged was a desire to have a space where we could learn from each other, collaborate, share ideas, work, and play. In Toronto, illustrators have never had a central place where they could show their work, get reliable industry help, rethink, retrain, and share what they know.