Let's Talk about Copic markers: Is abundance killing your art?

It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com

We are extremely fortunate

It’s rare in human history for people to have enough free time to practice hobbies. It’s also unusual for so many people to have the financial means to invest in good quality art products for those hobbies.

Heck, it’s only in the modern era that good quality art products even exist.

So yes, you were born at the right time and under a lucky star.

But is this abundance a good thing?

Now I’m not suggesting that we go back to the days of painting with mud paste on cave walls. But let me explain a bit of what I’m seeing recently…

It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com

I’ve got students who own more good quality art supplies than I do.

And they don’t know how to use most of it.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m jealous or that I’m some sort of art dictator, banish that thought entirely! I love the fact that artist grade products are easy to acquire and I’m thrilled that good information is  readily available on the internet, in shops, and in classes.

Viva la freedom!

But here’s the thing- a lot of people are emotionally invested in owning ALL the best items.

It’s the owning that rocks their socks, not the using.

They’re obsessed about a medium just long enough to collect all the materials and then something fresh starts trending and they’re off to collect everything that’s new in that aisle of the craft store.

People have thousands of dollars of art and craft supplies and yet most aren’t producing anything of worth.


Owning all the Copic markers will not make you a great Copic artist

Owning all the colored pencils in the world doesn’t tell you what to do with them.

Collecting every color ever made doesn’t improve the look of your projects.

Abundance hampers growth.

Yep. I’m serious. I think owing all the Copics or all the Prismacolors stunts your ability to learn and to improve your artistry.


For a long time, I had 24 Prismacolor pencils

Yep. I went through art school with just two dozen pencil colors.

Now granted, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to use my pencils because they kinda frown on using colored pencils in an Oil Portraiture class.

But looking back, I only had a few tubes of watercolors and fewer tubes of gouache. Same with oils and acrylics. And sure, part of the reason was that art school is darned expensive but I wasn’t the only student working with a very limited palette.

It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com

Necessity is the mother of artistry?

That’s not too far off. 

When you work with a limited number of colors, you get to know the product really, really, REALLY well. You learn how to manipulate and manage your colors to get the values and saturations that are needed. 

To go all zen master on you, you become one with the medium.

That doesn’t happen when you own 358 colors.

If you had 358 kids, you’d barely know their names much less how they behave under normal and abnormal conditions.

You also don’t get to know your products when you spend only two weeks using them before you bounce off to the next crafty medium.

And I’ll also extend this thought to cover to those of you buying multiple brands of colored pencils or every kind of marker ever made. You can’t learn a product’s ins and outs if you’re also using four other products at the same time.


Owning everything gets you nothing

A lot of people are using some amazing products on a regular basis and not learning anything in the process.

Remember when I said that art school required very few colors? I wasn’t kidding. One class used only four colors- Titanium White, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red, and Yellow Ochre- and we were painting human figures with realism! I learned a ton of things in that class and 22 years later, I still use that information every day.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Well, there are a lot of people wasting money buying more supplies than they need.

And there are a bunch of people having pity parties because they don’t own enough supplies to “make anything good.”

The swan image shown here used 12 markers. Four of those markers were used on the background, they’re not on the swan.

So that’s 8 markers for a swan and I could have easily dropped another three without you noticing. 

And those eight markers are the same markers I’ve used on tons of previous images. They’re not swan colors, they’re colors I use on many other things.

It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com

You do not need tons of supplies to color well

What you need is a good understanding of the supplies you own.

There are giant holes in my Copic collection because I haven’t purchased the colors which I know I’ll never use.

And while I own the entire line of several brands of colored pencil, the vast majority of those pencils sit untouched because I rarely have a need for some colors.

And that’s not unusual for artists. Yes, you’ll meet some color hoarders who own absolutely everything but most artists use the same colors over and over in everything they do. In fact, the majority of us are a little OCD about using just our favorite red and no other red will do. So you could buy out Dick Blick for us and we wouldn’t appreciate it much.


I want you to take a good look at your color collection

This isn't for inventory purposes. I don’t want you to count your colors like Scrooge McDuck.

Instead, I want you to take a good hard look at what you own and ask yourself “do I really understand how to use all this?”

Rather than running out to buy more green pencils because you want to color botanicals and you don’t yet own the magic combination…

Maybe consider the fact that it’s not the supplies you’re missing, it’s the product knowledge.

There’s a big difference between owning everything and understanding everything you own.

Which category are you in?