I never, ever expected to be a marker person. When I was younger, we didn’t have a lot of money for art supplies, so I turned to the infinite canvas of digital work very early on. But like many kids, I started out with cheap pencils and markers on paper, and eventually a need for a natural medium to execute commissions at conventions drove me to try out Copic markers.
I didn’t love Copics that much at first. Lacking the patience for physical media, I only used them every once in a while, and rarely pulled them out when not at a convention. After slowly building up my collection as I needed “just one more” to finish different stickers and characters, I started to feel the power. Sketch by Sketch, I amassed an army.
Other than a box of Ciaos and a box of Cool Grey classics, every marker has been purchased individually, picking only the colours that match what I want. This was definitely not the best move financially. Other than some well-timed sales at my favourite art supply store Artists Emporium or on-site convention deals, they were an $8.00 hit per colour at least. Copics are an addiction, to be sure: no matter how many you get, all you want is that slightly different peach, or that blue with more violet undertones.
I desperately wanted to justify that massive expense (and use the markers, considering they wouldn’t last forever), so I dug through dozens of tutorials, Youtube videos, and books. Nothing clicked – everything I did turned out too vibrant, too muddy, too flat, too this, too that. So instead, I just went with it and did what I wanted to do. While working on one of my more recent pieces over lunch at work, a coworker stopped by and said that my pieces looked very much like watercolour. I think that was my struggle with Copics all along: I needed to approach them my way, instead of the “right” way. I’ve always worked with a watercolour-like approach, building up from the white on the page, so that’s what finally made them feel “right” to me. Now, I work with a dozen colours in a single area, when the “right” way to colour with them often only uses one or two. That’s okay, though, because I’m pretty happy with the direction my pieces go in.
Now, I have a rather heavy officially licensed Copic art bag (meant to hold 380 markers – and the temptation is always there to fill it), and dozens of colours, plus an airbrush kit, dozens of inking pens, and a fierce loyalty to Copics over other brands. I’m okay with this… and Prismacolors give me a headache anyway. Copics are a massive investment (at this point, I’d say I’ve spent around $1,000 CAD on my set), but entirely worth it to build up the variety of colours because of how I work.
I split my collection into skin tones:
reds and yellows:
and blues and greens:
and I can fit them into some well-fitted clear plastic bins that are easy to move around and easy to work with, and all my inking pens slide in alongside in two photograph cases. My Copics are one of my favourite tools, and I’ve actually been rejecting digital outright just to play with them more lately. My new series for the Calgary Comic Expo is going to be predominantly done in Copics, in fact.
I still really miss my undo button and working with layers, but markers are definitely where I’ve found I’m comfortable on paper, even more than the watercolours I first began with. Duplicating them is another matter, of course: Copic marker pieces lose a lot of depth and vibrancy and ink saturation when turned into prints. But that’s just part of the fun, and a good way to draw back into digital, learning how to best scan and correct and replicate them for sale.
I’m looking forward to continuing to play with them and see where they drive my work. I might try mixing them with my matte paintings, or landscapes, or doing still life – the options are endless, especially with a collection this large.