A Beginner’s Review of Copic Markers


My current Copic collection.

As I noted before, I decided to try Copics to see if they could potentially replace watercolors. They’re very expensive (I got mine using coupons and a shipping deal), but they seem to be the default alcohol-based marker, so I wanted to see what they were like.

I tried some blending first, but the real goal for me was mimicking watercolor washes, so I did the backgrounds for my last panel post (along with a few other things) in Copics. The short form: even for someone like me, who can’t seem to do a totally streak-free marker picture, Copics create a smoother effect than I can manage with most markers. (For instance, the ones I used for the shirts in my last panel post.) But they’re definitely not the same as watercolors. I feel like watercolors have more depth to them, a bit more nuance; the Copic shades look flatter and more uniform. That’s an impression I get from looking at the actual paper drafts of my panels, though. For projects that I’m mainly interested in scanning to the computer, I don’t know that it makes much of a difference whether I use watercolors or Copics. And Copics have much easier cleanup, and don’t make me feel guilty about excessive brush rinsing, both points in their favor.

You’ll also notice from the picture that I tested one original marker, but the others were all Copic Sketch markers. I had read that the brush tip was hard to maneuver in small spaces–and yes, it can be. But since I’m more comfortable with watercolors than ink, maybe it’s not surprising that I still ended up liking the Copic Sketch markers better. I also don’t intend to do most of my Copic coloring in tiny spaces, so that’s not a deal breaker for me. I can see how if you were planning on that, you might go for a smaller nib.

Other notes:

  • I found it a bit easier to stay inside the lines with Copics. I’m terrible at that with watercolors. On the flip side, I felt like I had to color faster before the ink dried.
  • The pens are easy to work with. I like the oval shape, and I did find myself treating them a bit like watercolor brushes, so that’s all good.
  • I noticed some feathering with multiple layers. I used mixed media paper, so that may have had something to do with it.
  • I’m not sure I like the fact that the colors show through on the other side of the paper. I’m leery of doing projects back-to-back anyway; I never want to take the risk of anything bleeding through. Still, I like to look at the back of a page and not see hints of the drawing on the other side.
  • Copics have a wonderful range of colors. I can see how that alone might keep me interested in buying them.
  • The multiliner took some getting used to, since I’m pretty accustomed to my usual pens and fineliners, but I have to admit I love the way it holds up when you color over it.
  • I like the Sketching Grays. And oddly, in a brand that’s so full of color, I think black-and-white scenes are something Copics or other alcohol-based markers could be really good for. That’s one case, at least, in which I definitely wouldn’t reach for watercolors first, so it might be a good place to get my bearings with a new medium.

Overall, I’m willing to keep experimenting with Copics, but I also want to try at least one other alcohol-based marker. I’m thinking Spectrum Noirs. They’re a lot cheaper, and considering that I’m not aspiring to be a professional illustrator, they may be sufficient.

I also still want to work on this blending thing. I’m not there yet. But I probably need different paper.


One of my blending tests.


Loving and Lending Books

As a general rule, I don’t lend books to people. Not that I don’t trust them. It’s just…


Or maybe I expect something worse.


The first fear makes perfect sense to me. I mean, libraries place limits on how long you can borrow a book, and they have *multiple copies.* All right, so libraries also have many readers who might want to read the book, while I maybe just don’t like the idea that I can’t reach for any one of my books whenever I want. But I’m going to move right past that to the worry about book damage, because that’s where things get a little… unfair.

Book Ruiner

I don’t tread on eggshells with my books. When I was in elementary school, I read my favorite book until it split in half and lost its front cover and first few pages. I’m a lot nicer now; I do my best to keep my books in relatively good shape. But I also shove them into bags, sleep on top of them, and read them in dangerous proximity to messy foods. To me, a book is a companion, something that’s supposed to show some signs of wear. A pristine book is a little-read book, one I don’t love enough to drag through the untidiness of my life on the off chance that I’ll get to snag a few chapters.

Or it’s a special shelf copy, enjoying the envy of its battered but much-loved twin. Either way.

You would think I would be happy to lend a book to someone else who’s dying to read it–someone who will love the book as much as I do, carry it everywhere out of sheer addiction to the story. But no.

Cell Phone

I’d rather buy a friend her own copy than lend her mine. But that’s not always feasible, and if mine is the only copy available… I’ll probably make the loan, because it’s hard not to sympathize with someone who desperately wants to read a book. Even with someone I trust, though, I can’t expect to be completely at ease about the book until it’s back in my hands.

My anxiety is possibly a little ironic, considering my track record. But maybe it’s like a house. It’s ok for you to scuff the floors, smudge the windows, and break an appliance or two. Those are all signs that you live there. But if someone else comes over and does that, you might never invite them back.

I think to a certain extent, all readers live in their books while they’re reading. We’re people with many homes, and we love them all. So when someone borrows one of my books, I expect them to be on guest behavior. And as much as I like sharing the hospitality of a good book…

Book Return

…it’s nice to have the house to myself again.



So bad it’s funny

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to go wrong? It’s not sitcom-worthy; it’s not even the worst day of your life. It’s just a bunch of small grievances when you were already feeling down, all adding up to choke your blood pressure. So you hop into your car to escape for a bit, only to hit a massive traffic jam. And then there are bees.

I may have to explain.

Nine years ago–seriously, it was September 17th–I was having a tough time. To cheer myself up, I put on my version of a daring outfit: a nice camisole (that didn’t hide my collarbone!), with a long-sleeved but slightly translucent shirt worn open over it. I think I even pulled on a pair of heels. Presumably there were khakis or something as well, because nothing says “daring” like khakis. Thus armed, I set out for a drive.

Cue: traffic, traffic, getting lost/confused a couple of times, more traffic, and finally stopping at a vista point to try to de-stress.

That was when the bees arrived.

Maybe I glimpsed a few drifting around the other cars as I climbed out. But that didn’t prepare me for what I found when I returned: a lazy mob of yellow bodies congregated around the tires and below the door. Waiting for me.

I had two choices: I could charge for the door, braving bees and risking letting some of them into my car; or I could stay at the vista point forever.

Or… use my fancy outfit to my advantage. I took off my shirt and started waving it at the bees, trying to chase them away.

As I was doing this, I realized that from a distance, no one could see the bees. All they could see was this girl in heels and a camisole waving her shirt around.

I think that was when I started laughing.

Nine years later, the bees have turned into needles.

That may also take some explanation. As I mentioned before, I have Crohn’s. It’s not my favorite blogging subject, but it’s been kind of hard to avoid recently. Between doctor’s appointments and dental work (which was my fault, but still unpleasant), I’ve had more needles in me in the past few weeks than I usually see in a year. Which would be trying on a temporary basis, but it looks like needles are going to become a regular part of my life for who knows how long.

Not that they won’t have upsides; hopefully, with this treatment, I’ll start to feel better. But that doesn’t change the fact that I hate needles, and I hate needing treatment, and there’s a gap between “not as bad as it could be” and “good.” Being able to get medical care is a wonderful, incredibly important thing. Needing medical care, not so much.

So this hasn’t been the most upbeat time. Then, on Thursday–which was supposed to be my day off–I got a call. And guess what my day off was now going to involve?

No, really. Guess.

That’s right. A needle.

It was for a procedure I badly needed, so I couldn’t complain. What I did do was laugh, ridiculously, on and off all day. And text a picture of my IV hand to my sister so I could be amused by her horror. (Tempted to post picture here too. Will resist.)

And the whole thing really was–still is–funny to me. Not that I’m happy about the needles; there are just so many. (“Hypochondriac Girl, meet your new sidekicks: the Needle Army! Try not to look directly at them.”) But I thank God for that switch in my brain that turns the exact same situation from overwhelming and depressing into inexplicably hilarious. And to all the people who create things that make us laugh at just the right times: thank you, too. I think sometimes laughter may save our lives.

All of this, anyway, is why I’ve had a hard time keeping up with the blog lately. I’ve had needles on my mind. Or, you know… other places.

But that’s enough seriousness for now. Have this random doodle-comic. (There, see? An art-type thing. I didn’t break my schedule.) I’m sure it’s relevant if you squint and look at it cross-eyed. And who knows? Maybe next week, I’ll have an update about the Copics.

Life in ComicP.S. If you’re wondering how I escaped from the bees: eventually, another car parked to the right of mine. The wind from its arrival shooed the bees away. I used the opportunity to climb into my car through the passenger’s side. Another thank you to whoever owned that car. I hope you escaped the vista point and its apparently hitchhiking bees as well.

Ink and art and schedules

Ink 5I love watercolors, but with a severe drought in California, I feel a little guilty about using them. Not that I think there should be a statewide ban on watercolors. I’m pretty sure any artistic medium you could name has its environmental costs, and there are much worse uses for a few cups of water than building your painting skills, unwinding (I’ve found watercolors to be soothing), or producing something that helps either your soul or someone else’s. Since I seem to use watercolors mostly for simple background washes, though, the drought got me wondering about alternatives.

The first one to spring to mind was ink. That was about when this hand-lettering happened. (I’m trying to get better at hand-lettering. Go easy on me.) The statement is nowhere near as decisive as it sounds; if not for the rhyme, I could tack a “one would think” on there. Despite the fact that ink is easily the medium I use the most, my go-to for writing and doodling, drawing in pen makes me nervous. It’s no more permanent than watercolors, I guess, but watercolors have a certain softness to them that maybe I find less threatening? Or maybe it’s that my high school art classes touched on watercolors, but I don’t remember getting lessons on pen and marker techniques.

Whatever the reason, I hope to learn more now. I’ve already splurged on some Copics, to see if they can stand in for my watercolor backgrounds. I don’t know if ink can truly replace watercolors; in my limited experience, I love ink and watercolors for pretty much opposite reasons. But hopefully this will teach me a little more about both, so that in the future, when I select either one, it won’t be out of (quite as much) ignorance, but because the chosen medium is right for the job at hand. Then I’ll really be using them, not wasting either.

For now, though, it’s ink, so I’m nervous.

While I delay experimenting with my Copics, a bit of housekeeping: I’ve been considering a blogging  schedule. I don’t know that I can stick to anything as simple as Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but I do like the idea of connecting certain topics to certain days. So here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Monday/Tuesday: Something with panels, like my post on skimming ahead.
  • Wednesday/Thursday: Food, or other things I buy way too much of–art supplies, notebooks, etc.
  • Friday/Saturday/Sunday: Sketch/something about art, or possibly about writing. (I refuse to commit to that, though. Take that, reverse-psychology part of my brain.) Maybe social media/blogging admin posts, like this one, as relevant.

So at most, I might post three times a week. My goal is still twice, though. For example, panel post on Monday, food post on Wednesday; or notebook post on Wednesday, art project on Saturday. Ideally, the flexibility will keep things fun and stress-free for me, while the schedule will give a slightly clearer idea of what to expect when, which I hope will be helpful for you lovely people who are kind enough to give me some of your time. (Thank you for that! I would reward you with cookies, but those are a bad thing on the Internet, right? No, honestly, I’m a millennial…)

The schedule isn’t set in stone (or ink), but it should work as a guideline. Sort of like a pencil sketch.

Oh my gosh, those Copics. I really hope I like them.

Angel Food Cake Tasting Spree

I love food. I can go on an incredible vacation, see beautiful things and have experiences I’ll remember for years, and what will I talk about when I come back?

It was an amazing eclair.

It was an amazing eclair.

That doesn’t mean I have a varied diet, though. Instead, I often go on stints where all I want is one particular food item. (And I’m definitely not a gourmet. Not to say I don’t love high quality food, but sometimes what I really crave is Oreos.) I’ll plan shopping trips because of it, try it in various iterations, and basically eat as much of it as I can get away with for a week or so before moving on to something else.

Most recently, that item was angel food cake.

Before I talk about my favorite angel food cake, a quick word: I have Crohn’s. It’s not something I was planning to bring up on this blog, but it’s tough to explain why I like certain things without touching on the fact that I have some dietary restrictions. My system *hates* fiber, for instance. It isn’t too crazy about dairy, either. It’s given me mixed signals for gluten; I’ve tried going gluten-free, and I’m not convinced that it helped, or helped enough to make the sacrifice worthwhile. Still, some of my beloved baked goods pack an unpleasant punch, which is what made me pick up my first angel food cake sample. I wanted:

  • Emphasis on the “cake” part of the name.
  • Something lighter, that wouldn’t hit my system as hard as a full-on cake or cupcake.

When I found that angel food didn’t seem to bother my stomach unduly, and that it satisfied my craving for… well, cake, the spree was on. I tried five specimens, including mini cakes and a loaf, from 4 supermarkets. Mostly I compared by slight overlap, with the survivor in each round squaring off against the next contender. I’m not going to go down the list in its entirety, though, because I’d much rather focus on the goodness that is my winner.

Angel Food CakeI love pretty much everything about this cake except that it doesn’t come in individual portion sizes, meaning I have to rely on self-discipline to stop me from eating embarrassingly large percentages of it at a time. Also, the pricing is a bit high; at $5.99 for one of these, it’s the most expensive sample in the group.

But it’s moist, smooth, and has a really clean taste; I wasn’t surprised to see that the ingredients looked quite basic compared to a couple of the other labels. Maybe the constituent ingredients just aren’t broken down as comprehensively, but that basic feeling tastes true. *And* it has 0 grams of fiber. Meaning technically two slices of bread have more fiber than this whole cake. Just saying.

My runner up wasn’t as forthcoming about its fiber content, but it was still pretty good.

Angel Food LoafThat’s right. WinCo. And if you can see that price tag–sorry, the photo’s a bit blurry–it’s $1.98 for 11 oz. (No amount of squinting will help you see the weight–it’s printed on the lower part of the label, out of frame.) That’s the same weight as my Whole Foods cake.

The ingredient list on the WinCo version looks more complex; the taste isn’t as basic, and the texture isn’t as smooth. But between these two denser, cakier angel foods, it seems like a matter of personal preference–or perhaps what companion you’re planning to pair the cake with. The Whole Foods one is so good that I like to savor it all by itself, but I can see where the WinCo one would be lovely with ice cream and strawberries. Something about the texture; it puts me in mind of shortcake. And if denser angel food isn’t your preference, I saw rounds and mini cakes at WinCo as well. I suspect those might be lighter than the loaf.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t believe I’ll be testing those any time soon, because I sense that the (current) angel food cake era is coming to an end. I might check in next Wednesday with another food type post. I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see where the week and the grocery store aisles take me.

A Review of Bullet Journaling

“Her fingers itched at the thought of a notebook, of a pen flying over the pages, of her thoughts, finally free to move, flowing out.” (Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh)

I started keeping notebooks because of Harriet M. Welsch. But I wonder if I had any idea that they would become part of my brain space–that, like Harriet, I would feel strange and constrained when I hadn’t written my thoughts down, or when I hadn’t summed up daily events.

Nevertheless, that’s been happening more and more often. So when I saw this post about bullet journaling, it immediately appealed to me as a way of organizing things at a glance, separate from the irregular stream-of-consciousness life of my notebooks.

A month later, I have to say that I quite like the system. I’ve made some adjustments, of course. The summarized calendar view doesn’t work for me; I’m good with a monthly list of things to do and a daily breakdown of events. I also only use two bullet types: dots and check boxes. Another thing that works for me is that I chose a slim journal. This was in case I didn’t like the system, but it had a great side effect: my bullet journal can fit in my purse without taking much space from my regular notebook, so I can use it to jot down events or to-do lists as needed throughout the day.

As far as worrying about the bullet journal replacing my notebooks: it does seem to have absorbed my notebooks’ recap function, but I tend to neglect that anyway. And now that I think about it, since starting the bullet journal, I seem to feel less stressed about missing daily recaps; this way I am recapping, and I can always come back and fill in some detail later, in my notebook.

I also like that my notebooks “talk” to the bullet journal, referencing things written there, so that to a certain extent, the two function together rather than independently. I could write a whole post about brain space, all the external things that become part of the way our minds function, and that thus become essential to constructing a complete view of the inward identity of an individual. (On second though, nah, that’s probably enough right there.)

But this post is about the bullet journal specifically, so instead I’ll just say this: I expect bullet journaling is something I’ll keep doing, not as a replacement for my notebooks, but as a companion. I’ve found it useful for keeping things organized in my mind, and that’s invaluable for me. Besides, as everyone knows, notebooks are always ready to gather companions. One way they’re like the TARDIS. Also, they’re bigger on the inside.

Notebook and Logs

Reading and writing logs, bullet journal, and current notebook: a few of the things that make up my external brain space.

I may be a little distracted.

It was delicious.

It was delicious.

Sorry about the smudging. As noted, I’m a little distracted. I have story on my mind, which would be excellent if it were the story I’m supposed to be working on, but when is that *ever* what happens?

I do hope to have another post up early next week, either Monday or Tuesday, but we’ll see how that pans out. Busy weekend ahead, etc. And you know, smoked cat. I mean fish.