Yesterday (Saturday, March 9) my wife Nicki and I took a trip up to midtown to shop at The Art Center over on Union Avenue. When I lived in Memphis over near the U of M I shopped here often, and would drop off promo posters for MSCA events and my art shows around town. Over the years I’ve bought Bristol pads, Prismacolor markers, Createx airbrush paint, various pencils, and even bought my Artograph opaque projector there back in the late ’80s…and it still works!
With living in Hernando now, it’s not as convenient to shop for me these days. I just don’t get over to that part of Memphis like I used to, and when I do I usually buy the large bottles of airbrush paint which last me a long time. Even longer recently considering I haven’t painted since just before the pandemic, and I mostly use markers for my art these days.
Since the Art Center didn’t carry any Copics when I had gone by to pick up the Createx paint and I really haven’t had a need to shop for art supplies, I just hadn’t thought to check back.
Recently I saw on a social media post that they were carrying Copic markers– which if you now know me you know they are my faves! They also had some new stickers, and I had to have the “Pay An Artist Today” one. I’ve got their “Kiss An Artist Today” and “Artwork Is Work” stickers on my portfolio that I keep all my art prints in, and have the artwork one on my old laptop, too.
I liked the pay sticker so much I had to get two, as well as one of the “mo art” one.
I was hoping they would have the 6″x6″ Bristol pads I like. I dig that size to draw on- not too big, not too small. Unfortunately recently got down to the last few sheets and haven’t been able to find them anywhere. Even though they didn’t have any, while I was there I picked up a new toned grey pad. I’ve been wanting to do more B/W work and look forward to experimenting on this pad. It was only a few bucks, so no big investment if I goof up any. I also needed another small portfolio to keep small con sketches, min-prints, and collector postcards. It too was fairly inexpensive as well…“SOLD!”
Again, one of the main reasons for my trek to the art store was to check out their selection of Copic markers.
I love that they come in a ton of different colors, are refillable, have different replaceable tips (chisel point or brush tip), and come in different sizes, too.
I first saw them in Pennsylvania when Dave Beaty, Micah Stewart, and I popped into an art store while being up there for Comic Geek Speak‘s Ep. 300 celebration/recording in Reading. We each picked up a black and a couple grey ones to try out at cons.
Later, Kevin Williams, Antone and Janet Wade, and I got an invite from our friend Steve Stanley to come check out a Copic demo at Binders in Atlanta by artists Adam Hughes and his wife Allison Sohn. That was an amazing trip and demo- and I learned about Copic refills. The art store was sold out of colored refills, but was able to get some black and grey ones. they actually lasted me for several years! A little later after that ATL trip, I got another invite from Steve to come back down for a Coca-Cola sketching gig. They had groups of people pitching ideas for potential new products and/or services and we drew them out. Was a bit intimidating, but a really fun day of drawing with markers!
I’ve acquired a nice collection of Copics, Letraset, and Primacolors over the years- either by buying them as needed, finding them on sale, or being gifted them.
My mother in-law gave me her collection of Letraset markers (and a nice travel Art Bin for my Copics), and my wife Nicki has been getting me Copic markers and refills as stocking stuffers for Christmas, my Easter basket, or for my birthday the last few years. Always appreciated any time I get them!
I keep my refills (and some wide Copics) in a large plastic ammo box- it has a latch and handle, and can be stacked. Ordering Copic refills online has been the only way we’ve been able to get them. Nobody in this area carries the refills, and what Copic markers they do carry they either keep them behind the counter, or you have to go all the way to the back and track someone down to open a locked cabinet- and then have that employee walk with you through the store to the front register…kind of a pain.
That’s why I was so excited to not only see a nice selection of markers, but that they weren’t locked up! Now granted, The Art Center is a much smaller art store than a Michaels or Hobby Lobby so keeping an eye on the merchandise is going to be a bit easier for them, and the counter is only a few feet away from the display which helps, too. I didn’t have a list of which colors I have, or need- but I did pick up a couple I knew I didn’t have in my collection. Will definitely make a list to see what else I can pick up later.
They also had a great selection of spray fixatives. The last couple years those have been kind of hit or miss to find in stores, but they had the Krylon workable fixative I like to use with my marker drawings- plus lots of others…and for right at the same price I’ve been used to paying elsewhere.
I also spray some of my model kits, sculpts, and custom POP! figures with it.
As I walked around I noticed they also still sell packs of blank sketchcards.
Some of the first blanks I bought when I got into working on them years ago were from The Art Center, and they have an even better selection to choose from now. They’re still under $3 a pack.
I have my own custom printed personal sketchcards I draw on mostly when I’m not doing official card sets, but have used the regular blanks whenever I’ve taught an art class, or if an artist wants to try one out for themselves.
On the same aisle as the sketchcards were some comic book and manga pages, as well as some pads for drawing comic strips…cool! If you’re into still doing comic pages traditionally be sure to check out their selection. Or, if you’re working digitally but have thought about doing some hand drawn work these could work for you. I know some folks who work almost exclusively digitally, but will do an occasional traditional paper and ink page to sell at comic cons or online thought their websites or art reps/dealers. Since more and more people are working digitally those physical comic pages are becoming more and more scarce. I wish I had bought more original art instead of actions figures, comics in the ’90s, or anything with a Batman logo on it. They’d be worth more and take up a lot less space!
Oh, I also saw lots of Pigma Micron pens and other brand art supplies that I use on a regular basis, and at very comprable prices to what I’ve been paying at the bigger stores. Plus it’s quicker to get in and out of this shop than those others! Seriously, slide by and do some price/brand comparisons for yourself. The folks that work there are artists and can help find what’s right for you and your art. When I worked at The Art Emporium in the Mall of Memphis back in the ’80s each of us had our own areas of expertise- I knew airbrushing, another knew markers and pencils, another knew framing, another acrylics and brushes, and etc. It really made working there fun to be able to know what I was talking about with customers and help folks out. I also learned a lot from listening to my coworkers help out their customers.
I’ve been trying to get the word out around town about the Mid-South Cartoonists Association, our 35th anniversary this year, and my Drawing Funny podcast so I took some promo items with me to leave behind. Left some stickers, postcards, and pins with them.
If you’d like to snag some swag for yourself, it’s on the front counter near the entrance. I also have some at our monthly MSCA dinner meet-ups at Garibaldi’s.
You can always find freebie swag at Comics & Collectibles on Poplar, 901 Comics in the Copper/Young neighborhood, and at The Cellar out in Bartlett.
I also have my sketchcards and sketchcovers for sale at The Cellar. The proceeds from the sale of these pieces of mini-art helps keep Nicki and me in comics…and art supplies!