How to take your Copic Markers over the top?
Last week I had the privilege of meeting with a group of wonderful Vanilla Arts students in San Antonio, Texas.
And I don’t mean “privilege” in that formal kind of way. I spend my days coloring in a cave-like secluded studio, I’m not a full-on hermit but that’s only because I shave regularly.
For students to travel across the country to meet me in a strange location, and then volunteer to try coloring in totally new and weird ways?
That’s not just a privilege, it’s an honor.
Over four full days of instruction, I demonstrated projects but then helped students develop their own unique slants on the projects.
One of the things I love most about in-person classes which I’ve never been able to duplicate in my online instruction is meeting the students at their own unique skill level and helping them overcome the hurdles they’re facing at that specific moment.
A pre-recorded class that you may watch 2 years after it was filmed? There’s simply no way that a canned class can look at how YOU are holding your pencil or how YOUR ink blends look and offer you specific, customized, and effective tips for improvement.
San Antonio students picked their own marker colors… with only little bits of help from me… and no one died!
They swatched out their own blends and planned where each color would go. I nodded when the plan sounded good but otherwise, they managed their own processes… and nothing exploded!
And then when the eventual problems popped up, we dealt with just that issue in a way that worked for them. There were times when two different students had the same exact problem and yet they received different advice… because what works for one person doesn’t always work for you!
Taking adult coloring Slightly Beyond…
When in Texas ya gotta go big!
We worked 11 x 14 inch projects on giant sheets of marker friendly cardstock.
To work this large, you have to understand how to blend, apply texture, and develop a sense of both small details AND the larger picture.
Plus, you need full markers! Thanks to Lynne at our refill station, no one was stuck with dry, stodgy blends!
As much as I’m glad to offer online learning for my students, you just can’t beat in-person instruction and support. On our last day, I met with each student individually to talk through their strengths and areas for improvement.
The growth I saw from Day 1 to Day 4 of the retreat was well worth a margarita on the house!
I’m not usually one to toot my own French Horn (yes, I was a band geek), but I thought it would be helpful for you to hear what some students thought of the retreat.
So pardon me as we deviate from our usual blog format here while I spend some time quoting students.
Please use it as inspiration for attending local art classes, coloring classes, or even artist retreats.
Online learning is great but it can’t be your only source of instruction.
Find a class near you and go. Keep trying until you find an instructor that you enjoy. Don’t limit your education to just me or just what’s available on the internet. Expand those horizons!
“I just want to thank Amy for another incredible retreat experience… thanks for spending another week sharing this crazy coloring passion.” ~Kathy
“It was a great week. I enjoyed hanging out with everyone each day. I don’t think I laughed so much in a long time.” ~Frankie
“Thanks, Amy, for pushing us to go beyond what we think we can do and for being so generous with your knowledge and experience. It was a wonderful week of learning with you!” ~Amy M.
“What did you learn about Copic Markers or Colored Pencils?”
I was eager to hear student feedback because half of the students had never been to a retreat before. If you don’t know what to expect, what surprised you the most?
And for return students, there’s always something a little bit new to discover.
Here are some of their responses:
“How to hold my colored pencils so that I don’t put down too much color was life-changing. It really was a total lightbulb moment for me.” ~Jessica
“How to hold my pencils!” ~Rebecca
While it was a Copic focused retreat, I can’t avoid the use of pencils. I just love them too much! Knowing how to control pencil pressure is a vital skill that you’ll use for a lifetime.
“Using your own eyes and decisions to select your own color palette helped me realize I am actually capable.” ~David
We spent a lot of the retreat time talking about “coloring like yourself” rather than copying the class sample. I’m pretty proud of the fact that 14 students left with 14 different looking roses, flamingos, and milkshakes. Every student used a slightly different color palette and shaded/highlighted their objects the way they saw the photo reference.
I can’t tell you how important this new-found independence will be to their future art.
You can’t be you when you color like me!
Other students spent their time honing skills they had before, rededicating themselves to becoming careful observers.
“I learned to pay closer attention to reference photos. There are a lot of details that you simply cannot remember off the top of your head. You might think you know what a flamingo or a milkshake and a rose looks like but if you look at the photo close you will see things you didn’t realize are there” . ~Frankie
“I rely heavily on what Amy's [project] looks like and I often ignore everything else. By the end of the retreat when I was working on my rose I was looking solely at the reference picture!!” ~Lisa
“COLOR!!! I have relied totally on your guidance for a color palette. I think this is the first time I actually wracked my brain to choose my Copic Markers.” ~Lynne
“[I learned] not to give up during the “awkward phase” of the project - keep looking for what’s missing and experimenting on scrap paper to find what will work to make it “bloom” into what you want it to become.” ~Pam
“To trust my instincts to take what Amy teaches and apply it to what I see and how I interpret a photo reference. It’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. Nothing has to be perfect the first time!” ~Amy M.
“[I learned] the importance of stepping back so you can get the whole picture. I can be obsessing about some detail that I think looks terrible but when I step back and get the whole picture I can see how it’s all coming together.” ~Jessica
“I took my time observing the photo reference, I looked at every petal and how it folds and AFTER I understood the photo then I chose my colors.” ~Elena
“To know when to stop with Copics and start the pencil work. I also learned how important it is to study the photo reference but then add artistic elements to make it look more realistic. Most importantly I learned to have confidence in my coloring.” ~Jan
“That "Copic coloring" is so very different than coloring from a photo reference! I can do this!” ~Donna
“I wouldn't have believed it, but I learned I don't need a recipe and can pick my own colors. Even if the colors I pick are different from others, my result can be just as good. I walked away with a lot more confidence than I had coming in. Plus I learned that Copic colorers are awesome people!” ~Patti
Yep, Patti’s right. Copic colorers are the awesomest!
Find a local class. Find a great instructor. Attend a retreat.
Look, all my business advice books tell me to encourage you to attend my retreats…
And that makes total sense from a marketing standpoint. So yes, I really do want you all to make time to attend one of my retreats soon.
But the truth is that there are lots of great instructors out there and you can learn something new, helpful, important, or even life-changing from every one of them.
Get off the computer, because you can’t go Over the Top if you’re not getting personalized feedback.
The Slightly Beyond happens when you step outside the pre-prepared video based instruction.
You CAN do this!
By the way: due to health issues and an upcoming surgery to finally resolve my hand and shoulder problems, the San Antonio retreat was my only 2019 retreat. I’ll be hosting several in 2020 after I’m fully recovered.
Watch this website or subscribe to my weekly newsletter “Vanilla Beans” here for retreat announcements.
In the meantime, I highly recommend:
These ladies teach different methods than I do but both of ‘em really know their stuff and you’ll get tons of value from their programs.
And hey, it’s online but I have a 12 week course:
Supplies used at the Over the Top Copic Artist’s Retreat:
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