Gifts Artists Give One Another

I asked several well-known artists what one gift they would present to another artist during the upcoming holiday season. I thought the responses might help you refine the list you send to Santa Claus or come up with the perfect gift for an artist-friend. Here are some of the suggestions we received.

A Starter Set of Paints
Utah artist Brad Teare thought a beginner painting student could benefit from a pack of 6”-x-8” canvas panels, a set of Golden Open acrylic paints, and some synthetic-hair brushes. “I was given such a set and found them perfect for quick sketches because the package included all the warm and cool primaries,” he explains. “I think it’s important to paint all the time, no matter how much or how little experience you have. A set of paints that facilitate the process of creating quick sketches will make it easier to paint when time allows.”

A Book of Insights
Katherine Chang Liu recommends putting a copy of Kirk Varnedoe’s book Picture of Nothing—Abstract Art Since Pollock (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey) under the tree of another artist. “The book is a compilation of the six Mellon Lectures that Varnedoe delivered in the spring of 2003, three months before he died of cancer,” says Liu. “It is simply one of the best books on abstraction. Varnedoe’s passion for understanding abstraction and his insight into the art maker’s mindset make this book a wonderful read.”

Two Books for Every Artist’s Library
Sandra Burshell and Christopher Willard remind us about two of the most often quoted books written by painters: The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri (Basic Books, New York, New York), and Hawthorne on Painting: Collected by Mrs. Charles W. Hawthorne (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York). “If artists on your list don’t own a copy of Henri’s book,” says Burshell, “then do them a big favor and add it to their library. I’ll offer just one quote that will convince you it’s a book that can inspire any artist: ‘There are moments in our lives … when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness … moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall this vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.’” Willard has an equally strong recommendation for the Hawthorne book, saying “it is the book that was most useful to me as a young painter. More than anything else, it reinforced the necessity of breaking down what I saw into flat blocks of color. Even today I recommend it to all beginner painting students.”

The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Like many artists, Ed Ahlstrom believes everyone needs to draw as often as possible, so he suggests giving beginners and experienced artists a 4”-x-6” Moleskine sketch book they can keep in their briefcase, purse, backpack, or pocket. “I often buy friends a sketch book made by Leather Etc. that has a pencil loop for holding a mechanical pencil with a 2B lead,” he explains. “One friend liked it better without the leather cover so he just carries the refill paper with him. That’s fine with me. I just want to encourage everyone to draw.”

For Those Who Work With Pastel
Both Clark Mitchell and Urania Christy Tarbet recommend gifts that would encourage others to explore their favorite painting medium: pastel. Mitchell suggested a set of 18 Unison dark pastels and a set of 18 Unison light pastels so the recipient had a wide enough range of values. “I love the texture and size of the Unison pastels, and these particular sets have some deep, rich darks and brilliant light colors. Tarbet recommended the same sets, but also suggested that the new Jack Richeson & Co. semihard pastels would help in laying in a foundation of colors when the artist was just starting to paint. “These really are a dream come true for pastelists who like to build up the surface from hard pastels to soft ones,” she says.

Books and DVDs From Top Artists
Deborah Chabrian and Edward Martinez both recommend books and DVDs (Signilar Art Video Collection) by their teacher, Burton Silverman, as well as educational materials developed by Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. “We think Burt’s books and DVDs are perfect for both beginner and advanced artists because he is articulate and possesses a wealth of information,” says Martinez. “At the top of my wish list is the DVD titled Nancy Guzik: An Afternoon With Nancy (Stove Prairie Press, South Burlington, Vermont), says Chabrian. “This show of poetic painting is especially inspiring and insightful for me as a woman.”

Related Posts:


Steven Doherty Blog
M. Stephen Doherty

About M. Stephen Doherty

I've been interested in art since I was a child,  and I was fortunate to be able to take Saturday art classes at the Cincinnati Art Museum from the time I was 9 years old until I finished high school. I majored in art at Knox College and graduated summa *** laude, Phi Beta Kappa (proving artists can use both sides of their brain!).  I then earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from Cornell University; taught art in public schools, a community college, an adult education program, and a college; worked in the marketing department of a company that manufactured screen printing supplies; and was hired to be editor of American Artist in January, 1979.

Thomas S. Buecher introduced me to plein air painting and it immediately became a passion of mine because it got me outdoors and allowed me to continue learning when I traveled to judge art shows, attend conventions, give lectures, and interview artists. Over the years I've exhibited my paintings at Bryant Galleries in New Orleans, Trees Place Gallery on Cape Cod, and in a traveling exhibition titled From Sea to Shining Sea.

I've written 10 books on artists and art techniques and contibuted articles to magazines, websites, and exhibition catalogs. Now as I prepare for semi-retirement, I'm trying to hone my painting skills -- especially those related to painting portraits.

I've been very fortunate to have met thousands of talented artists who have enriched my life with their art, their friendship, and their advice. I am grateful to Jerry Hobbs and Susan Meyer who hired me in 1979, to the talented people who worked with me on the magazines, and to the artists and advertisers who supported American Artist, Watercolor, Workshop, and Drawing  magazines and the related websites.

I've also been blessed with a supportive, talented wife, Sara; a daughter, Clare, who works for an insurance agency; a son, Michael, who is a computer enginner in Austin; a son-in-law, Shawn, who can fix and carry anything; a granddaughter, Amanda, who has me wrapped around her finger; and my mother, Dotty, who has advised and encouraged me from the beginning.

2 thoughts on “Gifts Artists Give One Another

  1. For Deborah,
    An Afternoon With Nancy is one of my favorite DVDs. It has an extra diddy at the end where Nancy answers Richard’s questions about her materials. This “extra” has been helpful to me.

    PS I gave an artist friend Morgan Weistling’s new DVD release. I bought one for my own Christmas present as well.

    Agree wholeheartedly with the two books mentioned… kind of stuff to read before bedtime.

  2. I used to meet throughout the year with a group of about a dozen artists. For our holiday meeting, we’d each wrap a very small painting and do a swap. Everyone who did a painting, got one in return. It was a nice way to show appreciation for our fellow art travelers.

    Of course, some artists’ works were more coveted, but it’s the thought and effort that counted.