Wednesday, August 29, 2018


About four years ago, I think it was, my brother Jon insisted that I try out his Copic Sketch Art Markers. I am primarily a watercolorist, but even then I hadn't picked up a brush very often for many years since my biggest project has been raising five busy children. I felt a little intimidated not only because I was terribly rusty, but because I hadn't tried a new medium probably since college, roughly fifteen years before. Jon had been playing with these markers for a while and was really enjoying them, and he had a hunch I'd enjoy them, too. So, swallowing my pride, I started a preliminary sketch. I asked my brother's help in refining some steampunk details and adding some flair to the costume (my ideas were so dried up!) My hands shook a little when I did the outlining, and then I dove in with the markers. Nerve-wracking. But in the end, I had to admit, it was super fun, and I really enjoyed the result!
Looking over our shoulders was my other brother, Jim, and his wife, Angie. They had been playtesting a pirate-themed card game which they had invented for several years and had talked a little with me about their hopes to get it ready for publication. They had also asked if I'd be willing to do the artwork. Now, seeing this new style I was working in with the markers, they said this was perfect for what they had in mind for the game. We made a deal: if they would buy me a complete set of Copic Ciao Markers, I'd do the job. So over the next several months, I had plenty of practice as I created about 20 characters for the game "All Hands on Deck." 

Ciao Markers are the cheaper version of Copic's Sketch line of markers, though it really doesn't feel like a downgrade. They have the exact same ink, they are refillable, and they have the dual chisel and brush tips just like the sketch markers. The only real differences as far as I know is that they come in fewer colors and don't hold as much ink. The first difference could be overcome if you really wanted to by purchasing the Sketch ink and just refilling one of your empty Ciao markers, though I feel like the 180 colors in my set pretty much cover the gamut of what I need. As far as not holding as much ink, I haven't run out of anything yet, and it's been 4 years.

I've done a lot more marker art than watercolor since then. Watercolor is still my first love, but it does take a lot more time. You have to stretch the paper, get out the palette and water jug and spray bottle and paper towels, keep your brushes washed and conditioned, and there's that whole waiting for watercolor washes to dry issue. Markers are less of a hassle. The colors are so bright and bold and fun, and there's nothing to clean up when you're done, except maybe the pile of markers you've strewn all over your desk... Markers are a tremendously versatile medium, they just take a little getting used to.

Thankfully, I also started my comic strip a couple years ago, and that really helped me build my confidence in inking. You can really see the progression of sketchy, nervous outlines in my beginning comics (which I did on purpose to mimic pencil sketching, something I felt much more secure in) to a smoother more confident line in my more recent strips.

My point? Don't be afraid to try new media! Give it some time and practice to build your confidence. And listen to your younger siblings! Sometimes they totally know what's up.