Contrary to popular belief, artists are (for the most part) relatively easy to please. It usually doesn’t require much effort to work your way into our hearts during the holiday season. It’s really quite simple actually: if you love us, buy art material for us! We can never have too much! Outside of buying our artwork, this is one of the most thoughtful things you could do for an artist.
It shows that you’re committed to supporting our growing careers. Of course, knowing what kind of material to buy is extremely important and this is where I can provide some assistance. So if you have an artist friend or relative and you’re not quite certain how to brighten their day this Christmas, fear not, I’ve got you covered! Below I’ve listed a few items that I think most artists would really love to see under their Christmas tree.
Paper. At this point, you might be wondering if you read right, but you did. Nothing excites artists more than “good paper”, even if they don’t usually make works on paper. We love paper! I love paper! Paper, paper, paper! I’m not telling you to go buy a ream of Xerox paper, people. I’m talking about the good stuff. The kind of paper so thick it feels like heavy linen. There’s something deeply satisfying about touching the grain and imagining all the wonderful things that could be done with it. Most times it sits around in our studio for ages before we finally shake our fear of “ruining” it, but that’s beside the point. Knowing it’s there for when that stroke of genius hits (if it ever hits), is deeply reassuring.
Journals/sketchbooks. Chances are that if the artist in your life has a paper obsession, more than likely he or she also has a journal/sketchbook obsession. And it’s really easy to see why these make great gifts. They’re perfect for jotting down ideas, writing daily inspirations and managing deadlines. But more importantly, they’re usually beautifully made and artists like beautifully made things. I have more journals than I’d like to admit: one for sketches and works in progress, another that functions more like a diary, another that I’ve been using to document my weird dreams and several other empty ones I haven’t gotten to as yet. Even if the artist in your life doesn’t make a practice of keeping sketchbooks or journals, it’s a great habit to encourage.
Paints. Now before you whip out your money to make your purchase you should do some research. It’s important that you know what kind of art the person makes and if they even use paint at all. If they do then your next question should be, “What kind of paint?” This is the crucial question most well-meaning persons forget to ask. The last thing you want to do is to spend money on paints they won’t use. With that said, please put the Crayola paints back in the children’s section of the store and walk away. Bless your heart, but that’s not the kind of paint we use…ever.
There’s oil paint (not the kind you use to paint your walls), acrylic paint and watercolour paint. Most quality brands offer a wide range of each type. Be warned, these are expensive and could easily burn a hole in your pocket. Usually I’m all for being thrifty but in this case, if they’re cheap, don’t even bother. If they come in a small rectangular box of 12 (you know the kind I mean), don’t bother. Good quality brands include (but aren’t limited to) Golden, Winsor & Newton, Daler Rowney, Chroma and Liquitex. I usually opt for the medium or heavy body paints because of their viscosity and the fact that I can use them as is or thin them down to my liking.
Storage containers. Yes, I just suggested you buy storage containers. No, I have not lost my mind. Hear me out. Artists tend to hold on to a lot of stuff (or maybe I’m just projecting here). But for the most part, our workspaces are always crowded with the most random things. I’m guilty of holding on to way too much stuff and justifying my hoarding with some variant of “I could do something with this one day.” The result? Years of stuff that probably won’t ever make it into any work I make any time in the near future.
While I’ve come a far way and have since managed to scale back my hoarding tendencies, I do still have stuff (you kinda need stuff to create). And this might be the case with other practitioners as well. There’s always need for creative storage solutions in our workspaces. While it might seem like a terrible gift idea, trust me, it’s practical and your artist friend/relative will love you for it. Plus there are lots of funky design options available if you don’t want to get the generic looking plastic boxes.
Books. Whether they’re art history books, books about that person’s favourite contemporary artist or how-to books, these are gifts that never go out of style! Books always make great gifts, especially if they were picked to help further that person’s creative practice. So choose wisely! Subscriptions to art publications also make great gifts for artists who love receiving books and magazines in the mail. How amazing would it feel to be the reason your artist friend/relative discovers something in the mailbox every month that wasn’t another bill!
Other items on the list of things to consider for your artist friend/relative could include packs of gold/silver/bronze leaf (if they’re into embellishments), gesso, gels and mediums, canvases (I would advise you buy the unprimed roll as opposed to the pre-stretched canvases for a number of reasons: the material is much heavier and they get to decide how big or small they want to work) and good quality brushes (keep in mind that each paint medium has special types of brushes). On the pricey side of the list would be an easel, drafting table, a Wacom tablet (if they’re into digital drawing) and a good DSLR camera and tripod.
Depending on your budget some of these items could be bought together to create a nice little Christmas package. All of the items listed above could be found online (Golden Paints, Dick Blick, Michaels, Utretch Art, Joann etc.). If you’re looking to shop closer to home then you can check out the ground floor of Oriental Furniture Store on the corner of Water and Holmes Streets. Ask for Christine and tell her I sent you!
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on December 17, 2017. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: