Marker and ink illustration - Love Letter to New York - by Joana Miranda

Thomas Edison said…

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

I’m not sure I am at the 10,000 flops mark, but I feel like I came close earlier this week.  And here’s why.

When I created this illustration…

Love letter to NY

I was pretty excited with the overall concept.  Upon review from my editor-in-chief  (a.k.a my husband) though,  I realized that Josephine’s expression did need some tweaking.

And my husband also wasn’t convinced by the background.  He said…

Grey detail from illustration

So I decided to start over, and am happy to share with you my list of…


#1. Begin by retracing the illustration onto a fresh sheet of marker paper.

Technically, retracing does work, but by versions 6, 7 and 8 (see below), I felt pretty foolish when I realized that scanning the line drawing into my computer and then printing it out onto art paper was a lot less time-consuming.

many versions of the same illustration

#2.   Use Q-tips with Copic Various Ink Refills to create a background ink wash.

That was my intention at least when I made the trip to Dick Blick’s art store in lower Manhattan to purchase the Copic Various Ink refills.  I found the refills, but also attracted the attention of a security guard who followed me around every aisle convinced I was his childhood French art teacher.  But I digress.  More to the point was that I learned that the Q-tip wash technique is best suited for small background areas.  On my illustration, the result was messy and streaky looking…not to mention that my hands got stained with the inks.

#3. Cleaning up Copic ink spills is easy.

Guess what?  This is permanent ink.  Soap and water won’t remove it and neither will nail polish remover.   However, Copic Colorless Blender solution does!  Which is something to keep in mind when you try and use the “Blender” to blend different colored inks on your marker paper.  The blender should be renamed “Color-Lifter-Offer” or “Color-Smearer.”   Here’s an example of the blender used incorrectly…

detail of illustration with critique

#4. Dilute Copic ink with water for a softer background “wash.”

My attempts at a water-diluted ink wash resulted in this (mess).  Note the buckled and wrinkled paper.

illustration attempts

#5. You can smooth out any buckles or wrinkles on your Borden & Riley #125 Bleedproof marker paper with a household iron.

Although I have ironed other paper before, this paper is definitely not suited for this kind of treatment.  In fact, if you iron the shiny back side of the paper, the paper will glue itself to your iron.  How neat is that?!

After gaining all of this hard-earned wisdom, some people might have done this…

crumpled paper

But not me (or Thomas Edison.)  So I hope you’ll come back tomorrow to see the redone illustration along with some tips on WAYS THAT WORK!


    • Joana says:

      Hi Rita,

      Thanks so much for letting me know! I’m planning to try to show more “in process” posts in the future.

      With all best wishes, Joana

      On Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 11:58 AM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


  1. natella111 says:

    I admire your passion and perseverance! Good thing that you finally found a way to make it work! I see now that trying a new medium is not like driving a different car model! There’s enormous amount of learning involved!

    • Joana says:

      Hi Natella,

      Yes, there certainly is a learning curve with every medium I think. Sometimes I feel like an illustration just flows. Other times, like with this one, it takes a lot more work and, as you say, perseverance! My goal is to do more with the backgrounds in my illustrations, but that can be a challenge if you’re working on a larger scale.

      I look forward to seeing any new artworks you post on FB!

      🙂 Joana

      On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2:29 PM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


  2. Pamela Frame says:

    It’s so entertaining hearing about your trips to Blick’s, and your trials with new media, etc.! It crosses all sorts of borders (working outside our “comfort zone”, a term I hate). I enjoy learning new techniques, too, so I have tried many solvents for various inks. Are Copic pens alcohol soluble? I would love to have a chart of which pens use which solvent. Sharpies are definitely alcohol soluble but Prismacolor…? Staedtler? I get myself into trouble when I’ve used lots of different pens on a project and then want to seal it with a durable finish! There’s a particular red pen that I just love, and I know it will make trouble but sometimes I use it anyway. I get a great, bright, fine line with it. Then I can forget about it until weeks later. If I’m not very, very careful I will see rivers of red running down the side of the piece. Retribution!! I think I will never learn.

    I especially liked seeing and reading about the changes in the background! I liked seeing the addition of light (yellow) and white. I think that I forget that you don’t absolutely have to start with white, as in a watercolor. Hey, I didn’t go to art school either.

    Thanks for sharing your work with us, Joana.

    • Joana says:

      Hi Pam,

      So lovely to hear from you on my blog! I hope all is well with you and that this cold winter hasn’t been too hard up in your “neck of the woods.”

      Copic pens are alcohol based which is why the “blender” solution (77% alcohol) works so well at lifting off the ink. The inks are permanent, non-toxic and they dry acid-free as well. Even better, the ink can be refilled and the nibs can be replaced.

      I do have a collection of Prismacolor markers as well, but they don’t combine (blend) very well with the Copics. Also, I recently learned that Prismacolor markers are “solvent-based” and not alcohol-based. Maybe this is why they don’t blend well with the Copics? This Prismacolor review by an artist on Deviant Art has a lot of interesting information about the Prismacolor markers:

      I haven’t used the Staedtler pens, but I do use the Stabilo fine line pens with the Copics and don’t get any bleeding. Also, now that I’m using a dip pen and black Higgins India ink, I see that layering the Copic ink over the ink also works well (no running or smearing). However, you do have to make sure the India ink is dry first. Patience isn’t always my virtue, and I have smudged the ink with an eraser or my hand because I’m so eager to get to the next step…

      A big hug and all best wishes,

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