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Finding gifts for your favorite creatives can be tricky, especially if you aren’t an expert in their craft. Luckily, we have winning gift ideas for painters, ceramicists, filmmakers, margin doodlers, design appreciators, and everyone in between. Since it’s apparently the supply chain’s world and we’re all just living in it, remember to shop early this year. But don’t fret—whether your recipient is a master watercolorist or someone who picked up coloring during the pandemic, we’ve got you covered. (Prices and availability accurate at time of publication.)
FOR ARTISTS AND MAKERS
A water-soluble graphite set
Water-soluble graphite is having a moment. The medium, often in pencil form, lays down like traditional graphite but can be diluted with water to make washes. Because it combines the control of drawing with the smooth flow of water media, it’s something both sketch artists and watercolorists can have fun with. It also makes a great gift for art novices, since the water does some of the shading work for you. Faber-Castell’s Graphite Aquarelle set includes five soft-grade pencils and a size 6 paintbrush.
Purchase: Graphite Aquarelle Pencils Set of 5, $12.98 on Blick
A funky brush pot
A pot for paintbrushes need not be fancy: Jasper Johns famously used a Savarin coffee can that became a recurring image in his work. But spicing up your brush holder can add a nice touch to your workspace. Pentreath & Hall’s handmade glass brush pots are branded with a letter, number, or punctuation mark of your choosing and are available in a huge range of colors and styles.
Purchase: Alphabet Brush Pot, $46.00 on Pentreath & Hall
A unique set of gouache paints
Holbein’s newly re-released Irodori line should get more attention. Labeled as a gouache, the deeply pigmented paint falls somewhere between gouache and watercolor in terms of opacity and is meant to be layered rather than mixed. The full line of 48 colors is divided into four seasonal palettes drawn from traditional Japanese art circa the 15th century. Get the stunning box of 12 winter hues—including earthy browns and greens, cool jewel tones, and an iridescent gold—for your favorite water-based media artist.
Purchase: Holbein Irodori Artist Gouache—Winter, $107.99 on Blick
A mega-sampler of drawing and painting pads
The paper distributor Legion is offering an indulgent yet useful holiday gift: a sampler of its best-known artist’s papers. Included are 13 9-by-12-inch pads of different types of high-quality paper, ranging from Yupo (a slick polypropylene surface that gives unparalleled flow to water-based media) to Lenox 100-percent-cotton drawing paper to Stonehenge cold press watercolor paper. Perfect for the artist who likes to experiment, the set is also a good deal—purchased separately, the pads would be double the price. Legion also offers a set of the same 13 pads in miniature—perfect for stocking stuffing.
Purchase: Artist Pad Collection, $99.85 or Mini Pad Sampler, $21.69, on Legion
A water pot for plein-air painters
For the plein-air watercolorist, consider gifting this collapsible container. Simply push down to create a flat disk, or pull out for a secure 12-ounce water pot. Made of grippy silicone, the cup is nonslip on most surfaces and has a scalloped edge designed to hold your brush. Consider pairing it with our favorite view finder.
Purchase: Faber-Castell Clic & Go Water Pot, $4.72 on Blick
A time-saving trimming stand for ceramicists
Not every step of wheel throwing is equally rewarding. The Quick Trim 2 stand uses four foam holders to quickly center and secure your vessel for trimming so you don’t have to waste time (and clay) with clay wedges. Each holder can be adjusted individually, making it easy to secure oblong or asymmetrical shapes.
Purchase: Quick Trim 2, $112.50 (was $125.00) on The Ceramic Shop
A good paint brush case
While not the most aesthetically pleasing of brush cases, this no-nonsense zippered version is one of the best. The water-resistant fabric and vinyl flap are handy for wet brushes, and the pack is rigid enough to protect your brushes—and stand up on its own to double as a brush holder—without a lot of bulk.
Purchase: Just Stow-It Brush Case, $26.36 on Blick
. . . Or a bamboo brush roll
If you prefer something more traditional, Silver Brush’s simple bamboo roll is the way to go. The bamboo slats allow airflow to help your brushes dry while protecting them from damage. With 10 brush slots, this is a good, compact option for travel.
Purchase: Silver Brush Natural Bamboo Brush Mat, $6.99 on Blick
A secure pencil sharpener
The only thing worse than a pencil sharpener without a container for shavings is one whose container doesn’t stay attached to the sharpener, resulting in spilled pencil dust and shavings. Kum’s 3-inch-tall glass container securely screws onto the high-carbon steel sharpener and stays there, even if tossed into your bag.
Purchase: Kum Glass Pencil Sharpener, $9.05 on Blick
A universal paint sprayer
The amazing Preval paint sprayer allows you to achieve smooth gradations without the hassle and expense of an airbrush. Pour up to 16 ounces of pretty much any paint (or glaze, dye, stain, etc.) into the refillable container, screw on the sprayer attachment, and you instantly have an aerosol spray paint. The tool is extremely easy to use and cuts way down on waste, since you only have to add as much paint as you want to use each session. Perfect for painters, stencilers, ceramicists, furniture upcylers, and more.
Purchase: Preval Sprayer ValPack, $34.95 on Preval OR The Preval Spray System, $9.99 on Preval
A mini projector
Bitty projectors are often used by installation artists, and having one is a renewable resource for many different artworks. They’re also great for a range of arts and crafts, making tracing a design onto a wall, canvas, or piece of fabric a breeze. This model from Miroir looks like an old-school desktop pencil sharpener but performs well in all the ways an artist would want, with strong color accuracy, sharp definition, impressive speakers for the size, and a decent (four-hour) battery life. At just over 4 by 3 by 6 inches, it’s not the smallest model available but is still easily portable.
Purchase: Miroir SYNQ M189 Projector, $309.99 (was $349.99) on Best Buy
A specialized font
Know someone who always reads the “a note about the type” colophon at the back of every book? Gift a font designed by New Zealander Kris Sowersby of Klim Type Foundry (and the maker of the typeface we use for “Editors’ Picks” and “Latest News”). We suggest Epicine, which combines strong lines and curlicues to trouble masculine/feminine divisions, or the stylish serif Signifier.
Purchase: Retail Fonts, from $60.00 on Klim Type Foundry
FOR CREATIVE KIDS
A set of water-soluble artists crayons
Fun to use alone and a delight to blend with watercolor, Caran d’Ache’s buttery and bright Neocolor II crayons offer the control of a crayon plus quick clean up with water and soap, making them a great gift for kids.
Purchase: Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Artists’ Crayons, $2.25 to $241.13 on Blick.
Double-ended, alcohol-ink markers
Featuring barrels that are thinner than standard to accommodate small hands, Ciao alcohol-based markers are a less expensive version of its professional lines. They are double-tipped, with a brush on one end and a broad chisel tip on the other. Not for children under 12.
Purchase: Copic Ciao Double Ended Markers and Sets, $3.90 to $281 from Blick.
A tiny movie camera
This fun little device—just 3 by 4 inches in size—allows you to shoot a mini silent movie on 35mm film. Perfect for budding experimental filmmakers who can carry the compact cam everywhere they go.
Purchase: LomoKino, $49.90 on B&H
An all-inclusive art kit for children
Encourage kids to freely express themselves by gifting this portable studio from Faber-Castell. The handsome wooden case opens to reveal colored pencils, oil pastels, watercolor pencils, papers, and dozens of other instruments. We’re impressed by the high quality of the tools, especially given the budget-friendly price tag of this set. Consider completing it with a Strathmore 300 Series mixed media pad, a reliable and affordable spiral-bound pad with medium-weight sheets that can withstand ink, acrylic, and loads of other wet and dry mediums.
Purchase: Faber-Castell Young Artists’ Essentials Gift Set, $28.26 on Blick
An award-winning coding kit
Offering hours of engagement for young creatives, Lego’s coding kit is one of the best learning toys on the market. Recommended for kids ages 7 and up, it combines the traditional building of Legos with motors and programming so users can bring all kinds of bots and gadgets to life. Use of a tablet is required to access the step-by-step instructions for coding models so they move, make sounds, and much more.
Purchase: Lego Boost Creative Toolbox, $159.99 on Lego
FOR WRITERS AND NOTE MAKERS
A superior gel pen
Some might say the Uni-ball Signo is the mullet of pens. OK, maybe we’re the only ones saying that. But consider this: The Uni-ball Signo is equal parts business and party. The smooth-flowing gel ink is waterproof, fade-proof, and archival, making it perfect for serious pen artists. On the party side, it comes in a rainbow of colors, including subdued “near black” hues, bold primaries, and sweet pastels, plus a range of tip sizes.
Purchase: Uni-ball Signo Pens, from $2.85 on JetPens
. . . Or, a nice fountain pen
For a more elegant writing utensil, consider the sleek Kaweco AL Sport fountain pen. The “sport” in its name refers to its compact nature, which allows you to always keep it on hand. Although available in several different materials and finishes, we love the AL line, which features a hard-wearing aluminum body with a comfortable heft. Choose from a range of colors, nib sizes and finishes, ink converters, and pen clips. If you’re unsure of your gift recipient’s preferences, go for a medium steel nib to start; it can always be changed out later.
Purchase: Kaweco AL Sport Fountain Pens, $74.00 to $84.00 on JetPens
A Hamelin notebook
For a great notebook, look no further than this graph-ruled notebook from Hamelin. Designed in France and made in Spain, it’s a favorite of many artists, designers, and writers. We love the hard, durable cover and double-wire binding which can withstand being tossed in bags and backpacks; the thick paper that actually prevents bleeding; and the customizable sticker tabs to keep things neat. Choose from seven different colors, two sizes, and one- or three-subject versions.
Purchase: Hamelin Graph-Ruled Notebooks, $9.99 on Hamelin
A convertible laptop stand
We all spend a ton of time on our computers these days, and an accessory that makes it more comfortable is a gift that keeps on giving. The Moft Z laptop stand can function as a wedge to make couch typing more comfortable or can extend to turn any table into a standing desk. When not in use, it folds into a 0.5-inch-thick panel that easily fits in a drawer, bookshelf, or bag.
Purchase: Moft Z Sit-Stand Laptop Desk, $59.99 (was $69.99) on Moft
FOR THE HOUSE AND STUDIO
Good-looking storage crates
Most artists are cursed with an abundance of supplies and the responsibility of keeping everything organized. Danish retailer Hay makes collapsible, stackable plastic crates in dreamy colors that will hold it all and liven up any studio or home at the same time. The three available sizes can be coordinated for easy customization and fold up flat when they aren’t needed.
Purchase: Colour Crate Collection, $9.00 to $45.00 on Hay
A studio wall clock
Technology has brought us many good things—pacemakers, the internet, Tamagotchi—but one thing it has made worse is analog clocks. This remake of the IBM standard wall clock that was ubiquitous in offices and schools in the 1960s has a deep metal frame with a domed glass lens and is built to last. The easy-to-read face and red continuous-sweep second hand make it legible from across even the biggest studio. It’s powered by one “C” battery, which is included.
Purchase: 1960s IBM Standard Issue Clock, $249.00 on Schoolhouse
A less expensive studio wall clock
A (way) more affordable option is Target’s plastic-framed Schoolhouse Clock, which is about the same size as the IBM and of similarly clean design. It also has more frame color options, all classic mod hues.
Purchase: Threshold 14″ Schoolhouse Clock, $20.00 on Target
Colorful spring paper clips
Office supply addicts know that using fun organizational tools make staying orderly easier. Powder-coated metal bulldog clips from Ellepi, a design-minded stationer in Italy, are effective and unconventional. Available in eight colors and two sizes (7 or 9 centimeters), they can be reused endlessly for papers, packages, and bags.
Purchase: Ellepi 9cm Clips, $6.00 on Forage
A simple paper calendar
Having a good calendar can be the difference between a life full of missed engagements and an organized schedule. Appointed’s 12-month calendar is uber-functional and looks nice, too. The simple grid layout steers clear of unnecessary distractions, and the months alternate among four muted colors to keep things (relatively) interesting. At 15 by 13 inches, it can fit in most spaces while providing large enough squares (nearly 2 inches across) to pencil in important reminders.
Purchase: 2022 Studio Calendar, $34 on Appointed
Candles that belong in a museum
No archaeological sites were looted for these convincing (until you burn them) replicas. Inspired by Bronze-Age stone sculptures, Musea Study’s Cycladic Form No. II candles (available in Alabaster, Onyx, or Sandstone) are a cut above the average jar candle. Display one unburned, or allow it to melt into a new form.
Purchase: Musea Study candles, $60 on Etsy
A really good hand cream
Ceramicists in particular appreciate a super-moisturizing hand cream, and many like O’Keeffe’s Working Hands. It’s ultra-moisturizing and contains a bit of paraffin, which forms a protective barrier on the skin. Importantly, the unscented cream is nongreasy and absorbs quickly into the skin, making it an especially good choice for artists who work on paper.
Purchase: O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Hand Cream, $14.51 for two on Amazon
. . . Or for something more luxurious
For something a touch more special, try Aesop’s Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm. It is similarly rich, nourishing, and non-greasy, but it’s also scented with mandarin rind, rosemary, and cedar to provide an aromatherapy retreat with every use.
Purchase: Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm, $30.00 for 2.6 ounces on Aesop
An artistic jigsaw puzzle
Painter Billy Hassell’s art focuses on vivid scenes of Texas’s natural landscape. A 1,000-piece puzzle of his 2016 oil painting In the Caprock Country will brighten your winter. It’s printed on 250-GSM art paper with sharp detail and true colors.
Purchase: Billy Hassell: Caprock Country 1000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle, $21.95 on Amazon
BOOKS AND SUBSCRIPTIONS
As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic
An important collection of art of the African diaspora is owned Dr. Kenneth Montague, a Toronto dentist who displays an original Kehinde Wiley in his office. For this book, Aperture collected more than 100 photographs from The Wedge Collection, as it is called. The works span decades and come from artists in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. They are interspersed with writing by Teju Cole, Mark Sealy, Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, and others.
Purchase: As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic, $50.00 on Amazon
Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw
Joseph Yoakum was a retired circus handyman and veteran of World War I living on the South Side of Chicago in the early 1960s when he started drawing stylized landscapes using pastels, colored pencils, crayons, and ballpoint pens. He eventually counted among his fans the members of Chicago Imagist group the Hairy Who. This hardcover accompanied an expansive exhibition put out by the Art Institute of Chicago this year, which will be opening to the public at MoMA on November 21.
Purchase: Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw, $39.53 on Amazon
Art books from the Studio Museum in Harlem
The Studio Museum in Harlem, which focuses on Black artists and scholarship about their work, is moving to a larger space and selling off its publications archive. Its “Into the Archive” sale offers a chance to purchase catalogues and posters from historic exhibitions from 1969 to 2019, including books on Bob Thompson, Faith Ringgold, and Lorna Simpson. Many of the books are slim, small-run publications that would make perfect stocking stuffers for the book collectors on your list. Stock is limited, so act fast.
Purchase: Books from the “Into the Archive” sale, $10 to $1,000 on The Studio Museum Store
An indie art book subscription
Since 2006 the small press Primary Information has been publishing or reprinting artists’ books and artists’ writings pertinent to contemporary conversations about art. Send its subscription service to your favorite bookish friend, who will receive all of its 2022 publications, including Weimaraner photographer and conceptual artist William Wegman’s first published book of “short stories, gags, and non-sequiturs.”
Purchase: Primary Information Subscription, $100 (domestic) or $200 (international) on Primary Information
A Criterion Channel subscription
Another subscription streaming service? Well, yes. For filmmakers and non-filmmakers alike, this membership goes deeper than most. First, you get access to more than 1,000 of the expertly curated Criterion Collection films, which focus on classics of film history and contemporary masterpieces of American and world cinema. But you also get lots of the hallmark Criterion bonus material: conversations with critics, stars, and directors about specific films and weekly “film school” deep dives led by film scholars.
Purchase: The Criterion Channel, $99.99 for one year
A painting apron designed by a painter
Another way to support one of New York’s best museums is by purchasing products from the Studio Museum in Harlem’s gift shop. This longline waxed canvas apron designed by artist Candida Alvarez is secure and comfortable and will do a good job of protecting your clothes. Choose from a bright yellow or a dark gray, and get a complementary palette rag.
Purchase: Candida Alvarez Painting Apron, $85 on the Studio Museum Store
For those who have to spend a lot of time in drafty studios, the right cozy shoes can make a big difference. Birkenstock shearling clogs, which have been riding the normcore wave to a fashion resurgence, are the perfect solution. The real shearling lining is nice and toasty with or without socks, and the trademark cork and latex footbed provides the support needed to prevent tired feet during long artmaking sessions.
Purchase: Birkenstock Boston Shearling Clogs, $165 on Birkenstock
Some things are so appreciated we recommend them as gifts every year. Here are three pairings we love:
A set of great brushes
No animals were harmed in the making of our very favorite watercolor brushes, which are springy, sturdy, and excellent for watercolors and gouache. Pick up this set of four assorted synthetic brushes for the painter in your life who deserves an upgrade. Consider pairing with a watercolor paint pan set from Winsor & Newton.
Purchase: Da Vinci CosmoTop Spin Watercolor Brushes, set of 4, $42.50 on Blick; Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Half Pan Sets, $68.25 to $113.40 on Blick
A set of high-end colored pencils
Faber-Castell’s Polychromos oil-based pencils are somewhat harder than wax-based pencils and are wonderfully rich and smooth. The cedar barrels encase richly pigmented 3.8-millimeter leads that are resistant to water, breakage, and smudging. We recommend a gift set like the 24-pencil box, which includes 20 colored pencils, four graphite pencils, a sharpener, and an eraser and arrives in a sophisticated black box. Consider pairing with a package of Fabriano Artistico Extra White hot press watercolor paper, a favorite of artists who work with colored pencils.
Purchase: Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and Sets, $2.88 to $420.00 on Blick; Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper, 16 x 20″, Extra White, Hot Press, 5 Sheets, $15.40 on Blick
A set of graphite drawing pencils
Know someone who discovered his or her inner sketcher this year? Gift one of our favorite graphite pencil lines in an affordable set. Tombow makes pencils in degrees between a soft 6B to a hard 4H, and they come in sets of 3, 6, or 12 plus an eraser and sharpener. We love these pencils for their reliable performance and durability; the hard cedar wood barrel surrounds a precisely centered core that sharpens cleanly to a fine point. Consider pairing with a spiral-bound sketchbook from Stillman & Birn.
Purchase: Tombow Mono Professional Drawing Pencil Sets, $4.19 to $15.54 on Blick; Stillman & Birn Archival Sketchbooks, Alpha Series, $10.36 to $25.56 on Blick