Here are my six unique gifts ideas for the artist in your life. Simple to find. Inexpensive. And surprisingly handy. I use all of these nearly every week.
I strongly recommend shopping at independent art supply stores. I have a list of my favorite ones at the bottom of this e-letter. I'm not paid by anyone to promote anything, so buy from whomever you want. (...but please, choose an independent art supply store 😊 )
My Six Favorite Gift Ideas for the Artist in Your Life
1️⃣ Art Portfolio
A carrier with a handle for protecting and carrying your art. An “everyday” portfolio is not expensive and provides a permanent place to hold two-dimensional art. Use it to tote art (and art supplies) to an art class, on a car trip, or to protect the creations from pets, siblings, or other curious eyes.
Most of all, an art portfolio honors artwork as a product of one’s creative gifts. I have never had a fancy portfolio; I don’t think it’s needed. Mine have been in the $25 range, and up to $140 for the largest one. Don’t get one too big. Match the size of the portfolio with something that is about 5” - 10” larger than the largest paper being used. If in doubt get a smaller one. The largest ones get too awkward and can get heavy.
This is my largest portfolio, leaned up against my tree. I think this is the largest size you can buy. You probably don't need the largest one.
Below are a variety of portfolios from Dick Blick, an independent art store in Illinois (started by the Blick family).
This is not a clickable image. But it is easy to search for.
2️⃣ Color wheel
Even without getting into complex color theory, a color wheel can be handy. It makes it easy to see my two most referenced color harmonies: analogous color harmony (which is colors next to each other on the wheel) and complementary color harmony (colors opposite each other on the wheel).
Color wheels cost about $4 - $10 each and they are well worth it. You could print something off the internet, but it would be dependent on the calibration of your printer and the accuracy of the original piece of art. And, honestly, a color wheel has a wealth of information.
3️⃣ Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 Pencil
These are designed for kids because they are chunky, but it’s a wonderful size for anyone, any age. It can be used as a regular-colored pencil, and as a watercolor pencil.
I use watercolor pencils every day and recommend them for students. Typically I get a set of 8-12 pencils by Winsor & Newton or Derwent. They are narrow ones, like a standard #2 pencil. I prefer those for most of my painting. BUT, the chunky ones are so fun they actually stimulate a different energy in my hand as I create art.
Here I am holding one of the Stabilo crayons. My set has more colors than most people will ever need. The set shown below is probably about right for most kids or adults.
The chunky size adds a bit of whimsy. The sets come in many sizes.
- The “lead” in the pencils is washable pigment and is equivalent to 8 colored pencils at once.
- Large circumference ideal for smaller hands.
- Washes off smooth surfaces like windows and tile.
This is not a clickable link. It is from the Stabilo website on how to use the chunky pencils.
4️⃣ Old-School Clipboard
Yes, an actual physical clipboard. For the budding artist (or even the mature artist, such as myself) it’s convenient to have a clipboard to clip together a sketchpad, or material you want to keep handy, or even attach a flat zipper bag with supplies to a hard surface.
I have one of my color wheels clipped on mine to make them easy to spot while I’m teaching. The neon clipboard catches my eye. I also have a gigantic clipboard of Masonite that I have used for decades when I am working on large pieces. It's easier to attach a large painting to a board and move the board around to move the painting around. Additionally, it gives a large surface if I am painting en plein air and need a large surface. Generally, I no longer paint this large, but it's great when I need it.
My small neon clipboard with a color wheel clipped to it. A large clipboard with a painting adapted from a painting by Demuth by me.
Also, a clipboard provides an ever present hard surface for writing / drawing / sketching. Frequently when painting en plein air, I depend on the “clip” part of the clipboard to keep my watercolor paper from blowing away. I also attach a rubber band to the opposite end to keep my paper flat. Another benefit is a flat surface for supplies on when working on bumpy or wet ground. Plus the small clipboards are lightweight.
5️⃣ Daniel Smith Paint for a watercolorist
Good quality professional paint is much easier to work with than “student” paint. I recommend a set of six small tubes of paint by Daniel Smith. Six hues include a warm and cool of each of the three primary colors. When a tube of Burnt Sienna is added, variations of all colors can be mixed. Really. It’s an inexpensive way to set up a complete palette with quality paint.
These are very beautiful, very intense colors. When you squeeze out a bit of paint (like the size of a green pea) on your palette, you will get the tiniest bit of fresh paint on your brush (like the size of a sesame seed) to start with. Resist grabbing too much paint. They are brilliant, highly saturated colors. These small tubes go a long way. This set is usually about $40-$60.
Although, if you are just goofing around, my fave inexpensive paint is Crayola.
6️⃣ A spritzer bottle
A simple spray bottle, designed for hairstyling or for indoor plants, can be used to keep paint in the palette wet.
I also use it frequently to add water to the paper to create really beautiful clouds as well as other techniques on my paintings.
In this painting, you can see the droplets of water from the spritzer bottle spray. I am tipping in my color to the wet paper to get a lacey, cloudy effect in the sky. I use a spritzer spray many times for my painting techniques. See the finished painting below.
Although many of these ideas may seem to be geared toward kids, they are all good ideas for any artist at any age. I have all these tools and use each of them all the time.