Best Gifts for Watercolor Artists
If you are adamantly *not* an artist, but you have a creative friend or family member that would love an art-related gift, I’d like to help you!
My own family is sprinkled with engineers, mechanical wizards, construction titans, internet security bosses, firefighters and nutrition and fitness gurus. If I set them loose in a Dick Blick art supply store, and said “Please buy me an art-flavored gift?”, they’d be utterly perplexed.
My whole family loves art, and they’re totally supportive of my artistic endeavors, but that would be akin to sending an art historian out to buy buy circuit board assembly parts.
A little art-gift direction would be peachy. If you’ve got an artsy friend or family member on your gift list who plays with watercolor, here are a few ideas to inspire your gift-giving mojo. (A printmaking gift list is over here.)
If your Artist Likes to Sketch and Paint in Watercolor
The thing about sketching and painting in watercolor is that you “consume” your tools. You fill sketchbooks, wear down pencils, and rub off erasers.
Brushes fray and shed. Watercolor pans empty, and it’s always fun to test new colors on your palette to see if they work with your painting subjects.
The good news for gift-givers is that even if your artist has some of the items in these suggestions, they’ll use them up and need more soon, so you’re either gifting them a first, or supplying them with back up when they run out. Win + Win!
A Good Watercolor Sketchbook
One of my favorite square format watercolor sketchbooks is this Global Arts Travelogue Watercolor Sketchbook. (It’s under my watercolor palette in the photo of my watercolor travel kit above.) The paper is good quality, the binding is a nice linen covered board, and the format allows either single page square sketches, or a double spread horizontal layout. Like this.
An Artists’, Adjustable Viewfinder
The Artist’s Viewcatcher is always in my art supply tote bag, especially if I’m sketching or painting a landscape.
This lightweight, small tool helps simplify the expanse of the scene I’m looking at.
The viewfinder crops the parts that will translate well as a sketch or a painting.
The gray frame also represents the edges of my sketchbook page, so I can see where a break in the composition or the shape of a tree touches the sides or top and bottom of the View Catcher.
That helps me place those shapes accordingly on my paper. “Does that branch terminate off the middle of the left edge, or the upper third of the left edge?” I love the way this simple tools helps with accuracy in my drawing.
An Artists’ Lightweight Proportional Scale Divider
I like that they fit in my tote bag, and they feel balanced and light in my hand.
I use these to measure distance between edges on my reference photos, and then my drawing.
This ensures that I’m not making hands bigger than a head in a figure drawing, or drawing a crooked a bowl in a still life set up. Which is almost always what happens if I don’t use tools like this, combined with the grid method of drawing.
Get Carol Marine’s book Daily Painting
This wonderful book still garners glowing reviews that are are well-founded, years after it’s release.
If anyone you know is looking to get better at painting, or they’re stuck and not making art at all, this book could be a heap of encouragement to Get Back in the Saddle.
Inspiring imagery, simple directions, and encouraging words make these chapters a cup of tea on a cold day. Really, this is a great book.
(Note: I’ve known Carol for a few years but our friendship hasn’t cultured my bias; I read a lot of art books, and I believe this one will be dog-eared with post it notes and curled pages from repeated referencing in many artists’ libraries, forever.)
An Excellent Set of Artist’s Watercolor Pencils
Watercolor pencils are a great gift for people who like to draw, but find watercolor a little too loosey-juicey to control.
With a watercolor pencil set, and a block of watercolor paper, little colored drawings can be coaxed [slowly] into watercolor paintings with water and some brushes.
Books for the Business of Art
Most artists have a hard time selling their work, and talking about it at an exhibit. Writing about art for juried show applications is also intimidating. Keeping an active artist’s blog seems like a furnace of unknowns to many artists.
Painters aren’t usually wordsmiths. But that’s no reason to avoid learning how to create compelling titles on your art, or write an amazing description of a fresh piece of art. It’s so unfortunate to avoid submitting a tantalizing proposal to a library for an art show curated by your artist and their friends, right?
The business of art, and all the associated knowledge is available, and easily digestible from artists who’ve gone before us, so read, read, read! Skip the guessing, step over the gutter of avoidance, and follow the directions generously offered by the artists before us!
Travel Paint Brushes for Artists: Watercolor and Acrylic
I just bought this brush set, and I love it. If someone on your gift list paints watercolors, or pen and ink outdoors, or they paint while traveling, these cap-able brushes are wonderful.
The set is varied in shape and size, the bristles are soft and hold a lot of pigment, and when assembled, they feel nicely balanced in-hand. The (faux) leather case fits easily in a side pocket of a backpack or suitcase.
Mine have been banging around in the bottom of my art supply tote bag, and they’re good as new.
An Artist’s Tiny Watercolor Palette
If you know someone who’s just starting to paint watercolor outdoors, or they’d like to have a compact palette to take on hikes, or weekend getaways, this Winsor Newton Cotman set is a nice, small format choice.
The watercolors are good quality, without being as pricey as professional grade, and the set is very petite for tucking into a backpack pocket, while still offering 12 colors.
I’ve used this palette while sitting on long flights without any trouble from TSA screenings too, so they’re an excellent gift (with a block of postcard watercolor paper) for someone who travels a lot, and wants a way to make the time pass quickly on flights.
Testing New Colors
Artist Books on Color and Light
James Gurney’s Color and Light is a treasure trove of tips, instruction, inspiration and common sense – some of it very advanced, but absorbable.
There are whole chapters of concepts that are intuitive to a visual person, but often remain submerged till they’re spelled out in words.
It’s chock full of little Ahh-hah’s. James Gurney is a fantastic illustrator with a rock solid work ethic. He takes his art-making seriously, but divulges his methods with humor, and a palpable sense of wonder for the basic tenets of color, light and value.
Value is one of (I think) the most challenging concepts for artists to master. In Gurney’s book, each element is presented in clear and concise ways.
The chapters are organized to help you flip to the section you need in the miedst of a struggle, and inject fresh inspiration and guidance into your art-making day. Read the reviews on amazon.
Gifts for the Artist in Your Life
Well, I hope that gets you started on your gift giving strategies (or gift lists for yourselves!)
Sometimes, artists just need a new toy to rekindle a lost spark for making. I hope your artist is actively pursuing creative adventures with enthusiasm and an open heart.
If you have any questions about the goodies I’ve listed here, feel free to leave a comment.
Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!
P.S. You can subscribe to get each new post via email as soon as it’s published by signing up here.
In watercolor, it’s fun to experiment with different kinds of black: bone black, lamp black, Mars black. The pigment called “ivory black” used to be made from elephant ivory. Since that is now unavailable, some paint makers create ivory black by burning and grinding up fragments of mammoth ivory from Russia, which is legal to use. Each kind of black has different qualities of texture and chroma. If you get a couple of different blacks, you can play with them and compare them by painting them in a thin glaze, tinting them with white, and mixing them with other colors.James Gurney