Ah, so you’ve got a significant other who fancies themselves an artist? A son or daughter who loves the subject in school? A friend whose been longing to paint like they once did in college, but has never quite gotten around to picking up proper supplies?
Well, now that we’ve tweaked your noodle this holiday season, let’s nudge you in the right artistic direction shall we?
The one thing that every artist needs, whether new or well established, is materials – one can never have enough of them.
Follow me after the jump for a few suggestions that, when unwrapped, will be most welcome in their studio.
Fist things first:
Sketch Pencil Sets.
I’d suggest a basic set – they’re good and useful for anyone of any skill level and, generally, they’ll be used. Often. Most sets of 6 or 12 come with pencils in hardness levels that range from “2H”, a fairly hard pencil that approaches a more mechanical pencil, to the middle-of-the-road “HB”, which is the one you’ll remember always using in grade school, to an “8B” pencil which is one of the softest of the soft pencils, coming close to a block of conte or charcoal.
Personally, I like my pencil marks on paper to be soft. If you were to look at my sets, the “4B”, “5B” and especially the “6B” are the ones that have been worn down to the end of their life cycle. Still, the others all come in handy from time to time and will get used. That’s why artists can’t have enough pencils.
Don’t worry about picking up erasers. Who needs ‘em? “Mistakes” are beautiful! And you don’t need to get expensive pencil sets either. The most important thing for an artist to have is a pencil that makes a mark on paper. A $3 set is just as good as a $30 set (and you can certainly find some that cost that much).
Sets are a theme this year. Just like with pencils, there are a whole host of watercolour sets that vary in price ($4 to easily over $40) and container (cake pans or tubes). I’m going to try to keep it simple for you.
Whether you’re buying for a beginning or a pro, every artist can use a set of basic watercolours.
If they’re new to the medium, they’ll want to (inexpensively) play with the paints first, to see if they have the right amount of patience and discipline. If they’ve been around these types of paints for a long time, your artist can still use a cheap set for early “sketching” before moving on to their final “good” painting using already-bought (I’m sure) watercolour paints.
Most sets will also come with a brush or two. Generally, I find these brushes to be pretty awful – I always buy single, specialty brushes – but the ones that come in these sets will do in a pinch until an artist is comfortable and confident in buying their own. Plus, if I’m just messing about, warming up, experimenting and trying to figure out the paint, colour values, shapes or figures, the brush quality doesn’t matter all that much.
That said, for the burgeoning artist, I’d suggest a watercolour set low on the price scale. If they’re a more accomplished artist, I’d pick one up in the low to mid-range. That type of individual is going to have his or her own higher end, preferred set, anyway.
Add in a small pad of watercolour paper and you’ll be thanked with wide smiles for your thoughtfulness.
Oil Paint Sticks, Pigment Sticks & Oil Bars.
Instead of oil paints or water-soluble oil paints, you can try giving the gift of oil paint sticks, pigment sticks or oil bars. They’ll range in quality and price but they’re a pretty interesting medium to work with.
Basically, it’s oil paint that you can draw with.
The various coloured pigments are mixed with various oils and wax (which helps to keep they’re shape so they can be handled like a pencil) and, unlike regular oil paint, these things dry within 1-3 days, depending upon how thickly the buttery material has been applied. Artists use it on everything from paper to canvas to board to fabric. To prevent drying out, the wax inside the mixture actually begins to form a layer around itself when exposed to air, preserving the medium for future use. The artist will just need to peel this hardened layer off before using.
Becoming more popular over the last few years due to various companies strongly marketing them, the great thing about oil paint sticks, oil bars and pigments sticks is that that can be used in conjunction with regular oil paints, mixing mediums and traditional materials like brushes and palette knives. They’re a pretty interesting and versatile tool for more established artists!
So there you have it.
Three simple and useful ideas to give as gifts for the artist in your life this holiday season. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get a beautiful work of art as a thank you!