Stop guessing where the shade goes! Learn to use Copic Markers with confidence.


You've got a great stamp image and lots of pretty Copic Markers

Now what?

A lot of people get stuck right there.

Either they panic because they don't know where to start or they plow onward despite feeling lost.

Neither tactic results in good coloring. Neither method will ever result in the kind of coloring you admire on blogs and YouTube.

And it's not about blending. I know, some people will tell you "Go take a Copic class and learn how to blend. Then it'll get better."

But blending skills are not enough. You can be the best blender in the world...

People could fall at your feet in awe...

The angels might cry over your fantastic blending skills...

Your coloring friends might give you nick-names like "Silkie" or "Smooth Rider" and they might spread word about your amazing abilities to towns, villages, and even the most remote hamlets...


But it's all a lot of nothin'

if you don't know where to put the shade

How many blog articles on better blending have you saved?

How many inspirational projects have you pinned?

How many times have you patted yourself on the back for rescuing a blended are that was quickly heading south?

How many times have you wished upon a star "Oh, if I could only blend like that lady that blog the other day..."


You're wishing for the wrong thing

Anyone can blend. There's no special skill involved; in fact, many people stumble into good blending techniques from simple experimentation and practice. I hate to break it to you but blending isn't that hard.

Copic Markers want to blend. It's a chemical thing that's embedded into their physical makeup. They're a single purpose tool whose whole reason for being on this earth is to blend.

All you have to do is get out of the way and let the marker do it's job.


Smooth blending is n0t the reason why amazing projects look amazing

It's all about the shade.

If you want to improve the look of your finished marker projects, you have to stop guessing where the shade goes.

I know you've done it:

"Hmmmm... maybe I'll put the dark markers over in this corner..."


"I'll put some shady colors over on this side because that's what this handy little sunlight-directional arrow chart is telling me to do..."

Shade is the key to coloring with depth and dimension but if you're always guessing where it goes... well, I hate to break it to you, but that problem isn't going to solve itself.

Depth and dimension doesn't just happen because you included some shady areas in your project. You can't just thow some darks on willy-nilly. Nope, you've got to choose the correct colors for shade and get those colors into the areas where it will look the most natural and realistic.

Realism comes easily when you understand where to place your shade and highlights. But it's not a skill you can learn in three blog posts.

Most Copic instructors focus on blending skills or playing with fun and trendy techniques. They teach you how to color like a crafter.

I approach the subject differently.

Marker Painting Foundations teaches you to paint with your markers, to use your markers the same way artists and trained illustrators do.

We break down images in order to understand their parts and what the shapes represent. Then you learn how to apply the same mental processes and techniques to other images. 

And don't get intimidated, this is not an advanced class! This is beginner level instruction designed to get you started using Copic markers correctly, right from day one. The projects are all beginner level but the results you'll get look advanced!


Enroll at any time, work at your own pace

Students always start with lesson one, so you'll never feel as if you're the lone newbie on the block.

Twelve weeks and twenty six lessons and over a dozen digital stamps designed to challenge your thinking.

Rethink the way you approach markers. Color confidently with a better understanding of color, shade, shadow, light, and highlights. 

You can do this!


Copic Club: Casual Coloring for Beginners, "Super Hero Henry"


Unleash your super powers!

Join me for beginner level coloring in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. EVERYONE can learn to color with Copics!

Wednesday, June 8th from 1 to 3:30pm

Thursday, June 9th from 6 to 8:30pm

Remember When Scrapbooking in Macomb Township, Michigan.

This month we're coloring skin, hair, and fabric but there's a bigger and better lesson to be had... taming villainous color palettes. 

Juvenile images can be bright, bold, and vivid without being loud and obnoxious. Amy will walk students through her image focus process to help students let their images shine rather than their marker choices.

Improve the maturity and sophistication of your images (even the kiddie ones) using Amy's techniques.

Seats are limited so call to RSVP: 586.598.1810

Coloring Lessons: Not all Beginner Classes are Created Equal


 A new reader asked for my definition of “beginner”

Copic Club April 2016 "Boom Bots" (Intro to Coloring Metals) |

Not a problem, I don't mind helping students find a comfy spot within my range of classes. It was a friendly email conversation and I hope to meet her in person soon.

Except the conversation was also a bit depressing. She honestly wondered if I taught anything "below what is marked beginner level on your website".

Here's the class project that scared her, "Boom Bots" by Paper Smooches. I'm teaching "Intro to Metals" in April for my Copic Club classes. Copic Club is my base-line, simple, and most relaxed class, designed for beginners. My new friend was intrigued but also seriously intimidated by what she assumed was a class for colorers with more experience than she has. 


What's funny is that she thought I was teaching a class for super-star beginners

Nope, just a regular ol' coloring class.

Unless you count our smashing good looks. Here we are arriving for class. We usually leave our unicorns in the parking lot.

What is different about my class is that I teach from an art standpoint rather than a crafter's outlook. This means that we focus less on the project results and more on perfecting the process of getting there.

It seems counter-intuitive, but by NOT focusing on the stamped image, we end up with a better project in the long run. It's because I didn't teach you how to color a penguin or a grizzly bear; instead, you learned about how to make something smooth and black or fuzzy and brown.

That's a significant difference and it will show in your future coloring.

There are other differences in the way I approach coloring lessons though...


First off, I do not assume beginners are idiots

Coloring students are almost always long time crafters.

Your craft skills will translate. If you've scrapbooked, you know something about color palettes. If you make cards, you know about composition and balance. If you knit, or quilt, or toll-paint bowling balls... whatever it is you did before you were bit by the Copic bug, you bring skills to the coloring table. And most people took art classes in school-- even if high school was 37 years ago, you haven't forgotten it all!

Plus, there's research. You cruised the internets and pinned or bookmarked a ton of marker projects, tips, and tutorials before you worked up the nerve to enroll in my officially-official coloring class. In six years of Copic classes, I've never once encountered a complete newbie who's never touched a marker before.

If anything, my students are way more informed about who is doing what with markers on the internet than I am!

So I'm never going to insult your intelligence by teaching a class on how to uncap a marker.


my beginner classes are taught in simple stages which add up to something complex

It's pretty easy to forget that a seven-tiered wedding cake once started out with eggs, milk, and flour. 

When you look at my project samples, you're seeing the culmination of several steps.  No one step is overly complicated, but they add up to more than you think you can accomplish.

Stages of Vanilla Arts coloring |

We start by determining where shade is the strongest (1). Marker hues go over the shaded bits (2). We then carve out the shape of the object with colored pencils (3).

The very last step is to add texture and detail (4). That last bit of detail work is distracting; it makes our images seem more complex than they really are.

Still chicken? Don't worry! The challenge part of class is always optional. Maybe you don't go full texture and detail for the first few classes. But you'll learn something by being there and hearing it. And there's something about seeing an entire room full of students exceed their own expectations that boosts your own confidence level. "If they can do it, I can too!"


Here's the hidden secret: It's all about the pencils!

Add texture and detail with colored pencil |

Neurosurgeons do not operate on patients with axes and shovels.

Copic markers are strong and bold but if I'm doing piddly detail work, I'm always going to switch to something more precise and controllable. For my classes, that's colored pencil.

Colored pencils have the added bonus of being a comfort tool. You've been holding a pencil pretty regularly since kindergarten, so using a pencil to do the tricky parts feels easier. Bonus points for pencil being erasable! If you screw up, you can always knock it back to start over.

And frankly, colored pencil can do things a marker simply can not do. Pencil adds a crispness that you can't get with a big, fat, juicy brush nib. It's also a great way to add texture, highlight, or shadow.

So even my "Beginner Marker Classes" switch over to pencils about halfway through each lesson. Relax, even if you're not a marker pro, you can fix or improve your marker work with colored pencil.


Sometimes, the value of a class is in what is not included...

There are some techniques and concepts that absolutely do not belong in a beginner level class.

If you're just starting out or you're still not comfortable with markers, it's quite cruel to make you worry about which direction the sun is shining!

I do not teach directional lighting and cast shadowing in any beginner level class. We tackle those skills in intermediate level classes. For beginners, we concentrate on understanding what shape an object is, where it sits in space, and what happens to that shape as it bends or folds. That's challenging enough without worrying about highlights and shadows.

If a teacher introduces directional lighting to your class and it sounds confusing to you, that's a gigantic, flaming, sunburst of a clue that you weren't ready to learn the concept yet!


Beginners require more guidance

"Whoots" beginner coloring |

This is the primary difference between my beginner level and my higher level classes. In beginner classes, we color together, step by step. I do, you do. Look and repeat.

This allows you to see the process and mimic the technique.

But it's not just copy catting, a good beginner instructor will also observe as you color and make suggestions unique to you. It's not enough for you to passively watch a demonstration. Instructor feedback about what your're doing and how you're doing it is essential to learning correct marker technique.

At the intermediate level, we drop the monkey-see-monkey-do demos. You make more decisions and you work independently.


Beginner classes aren't so much about the stamp image or the look of the finished project

it's about how much hand-holding the instructor does to get you to the finish line!


If you live in South Eastern Michigan, please join us for Copic classes in Macomb Township.

If you're not local, watch for the opening of Vanilla Arts Studio Workshops in June 2016. Classes for every level of colorer with forever access and vital instructor access.


You absolutely can do this!

No magical powers required.

Great Marker Challenge- "The Key to my Heart"


The Key to my Heart

Merry Friday and an early Happy Valentine's Day to you all.

My oldest is home from college for the weekend and the young'ins have a four-day weekend... so I'm thinking this year won't include a romantic dinner for two.

More than likely, it'll be pizza for five, a couch, and Netflix.

And that sounds absolutely lovely.

Older and wiser? You bet'cha!

Here's this week's Great Marker Challenge image. 


great marker challenge?

The Great Marker Challenge:  42 Copic markers, 52 weeks.

Why only 42 markers?

I teach several beginner Copic classes. And while I do have the occasional student willing to shell out the big bucks for all 356 markers, the great majority of my students have limited budgets and a serious need for starter kit info.

So I came up with a list of 42 colors for newbies. I teach all my beginner level classes using only markers from this list. And to test the limits of how many images we can color with just the list (before the palette starts looking monotonous), I color a new image every Friday.

So far, so good! I've yet to find an image I can't handle with my magic 42.

Read more about the Great Marker Challenge here or follow me on Instagram to see what else I'm coloring.

What can you do with the Great Marker Challenge kit? Email me your challenge images and I'll add them to the gallery!