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Advantages Of Collective Collaboration in Online Art Collectives

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Participating in online art collectives offers numerous advantages. A collective is a great forum to get your worked reviewed by professionals and critiqued by peers. By working together unique opportunities arise for fusing style and stretching your creative abilities. You can grow close connections with other talented artists, and learn to solve design/illustration problems by tackling themes. Through this article, we examine numerous advantages found by participating in online art collectives.

Online Art Collectives

As stated by Wikipedia, "Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals." Collaboration is incredibly key for any artist. It is so key because it allows artists to not only branch out, but to establish relationships and connections with other artists. Another spectacular aspect of collaboration is how broad it truly is. A collaboration is not limited to two artists working together on a single piece of art, a collaboration can be something on a much larger scale, the most concise example comes in the form of the digital art collective.

Online art collectives have risen to prominence as a way to display large scale collaborations to viewers who are thirsty for inspiration. Art collectives typically involve between 30 to 100 artists who release exhibitions every few months. Certain collectives like slashTHREE and Depthcore use themes for their exhibitions, while others like Intrinsic Nature do not. Regardless of theme, one thing we can be sure of is that what occurs in these massive scale collaborations is something that is not only beneficial for artists, but also for viewers.

Let's look at some of the advantages of participating in art collectives, and how collaboration will help you grow as an artist.

Unique Critiques

Critique is one of the most essential things for all artists. Who you choose to ask, how you choose to interpret it, and how you plan on following it might be some of the issues that arise in the mind of an artist when they begin to ponder how to get their latest work critiqued. Online art collectives provide a special brand of effortless and efficient critique that can help improve the skills and attitude of any artist.

What typically happens is that within the hidden area of an art collective (commonly called the artist area) exists the control panel, where each exhibition is worked on. Typically artists will submit a work in progress (WIP) or a finished piece to be voted on.

Once a piece is submitted, it will automatically become open to all of the collective's artists for commenting, voting, and most importantly critiquing the artwork. At the online collective slashTHREE, each time a WIP is submitted it receives an intensive set of critique from Creative Directors, Senior Members, and Artists.

After the first round of critique, the artist will typically sift through what they feel are the best suggestions, make the improvements, and then update the work. If the community of artists feels that the work now meets all standards, the piece will be voted on, but if there are still errors, then a second set of critiques will be posted. This process continues on until the piece becomes something that the artist and the community feel is ready for the exhibition.

Although this is the style of the slashTHREE collective, this is a ballpark description for the general style of collective critique. It may not seem like a big deal, but knowing that in only a day you can have a piece extensively critiqued by a number of world class artists anytime is something that can be highly beneficial to the progression of any artist.

Another typical trait of collective critique is the technical feedback line diagram. Shown below is an example of a critique showing perspective and composition traits of a piece, the piece is done by Bechira Sorin.

Fusing Style

A style is what sets an artist apart. The facial recognition function within the human brain allows us to immediately distinguish people we know. One could say this is similar with visual stylistic traits, if you are an artist reading this, I'm sure you've had a moment when you've seen an intricately constructed swirl based illustration and thousand of neurons later you have had that eureka moment, "aha! this is Si Scott."

Collaboration is a major breeding ground for fusing two styles together to create something new and fresh. And there is no place better to do this than design collectives. When a collective is working on an exhibition and multiple artists are all attempting to create their own interpretation of the theme in their style, roadblocks can come up. These roadblocks are the beginning of greatness.

Lets say one collective artist starts up a great 3D based render, but just isn't sure how to finish it off. All that artist has to do is place the file in the private collective forum and wait for someone else who is feeling inspired to have a go at it. Below is an example of this, an illustration I created from a 3D object of Australian artist Chris Haines.


I can say from my own personal experience that design collectives are one of the best places to make connections and good friends. Different collectives have various criteria for accepting applications, but two beneficial traits for applicants are personally and attitude. This usually leads to a tightly knit community of artists who are all in contact with each other, and always looking at each other's artwork. When someone is familiar with not only you, but also your style of art and the way you are used to working. collaboration becomes a simple task with the potential for even more magnificent results.

Most creative professionals are used to collaborating with art directors who they aren't familiar with on a personal level for commercially based projects. I personally believe that the best collaborations are produced by close friends, and often within design collective communities. Since it is hard for me alone to articulate the differences, I asked my friend Justin Maller (creative director of Depthcore) for his thoughts on the matter:

Collaborating with a friend gives you the artistic freedom to explore and mesh aesthetics in a way that simply can't be afforded by art directing client work. As enjoyable as the challenges of realizing a goal within the parameters of the typical art direction project are, as an artist it is always liberating to be completely free. Especially when collaborating, the ability to drift through your own stylistic flights of fancy, anchored only to your partner's contributions is not just liberating but often provocative; I've discovered and developed several styles and techniques that are now staples of my creative process whilst working with friends within my collective.

Following The Theme

I'd like to end this article discussing what I feel to be one of the most unique aspects of design collectives, themed exhibitions. As mentioned earlier on the majority of design collectives create a theme to follow for each exhibition, this gives the viewers something different to look at, while also continually challenging the collective's artists.

Theme voting begins typically one week before an exhibition is about to release. Theme voting is an incredibly untidy process that usually results with many artists brainstorming ideas whilst arguing about which is the most plausible. When a theme is finally agreed upon by all of the collective's artists, the magic can begin.

When collaborating within a design collective, the usage of a theme can be a productive breakthrough tool. Here are some examples of themes I have encountered over the years: Steampunk, Eve, Noir, Afterlife, Unity, Empire, Spectrum, Deja Vu, Revolution, and Heist.

I mentioned style fusion before, but one thing I did not mention is about some of the difficulties two artists can run into during a collaboration, and how a theme can be a viable solution.

Sometimes it's hard for two artists to combine styles because it visually does not look compatible. A good example would be when a matte painter tires to fuse his work with a traditional pencil artist. These two styles are incredibly far apart, but here is where the usage of a theme can provide unity.

Using the Steampunk theme as an example, we could hypothesize that the matte painter creates his own Steampunkesque town, and then has the pencil artist render the people for the town, which he can then integrate, and voila, visual unity has been achieved. Many graphic designers are always saying that design is about problem solving, and the usage of a theme is great problem solver for roadblocks in collaboration.


You have all been given a glimpse into the world of design collectives and the way they work. We have gone over a few key things regarding design collectives and collective collaboration, but I am afraid this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is such a vast world of collaboration to be explore. I recommend anyone enticed by this article to pursue their own design collective research and get involved. Some of the aforementioned collectives include:

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