Holiday Gift Ideas for the Artist in Your Life

With Thanksgiving behind us and Black Friday out of the way, I’m finally starting to feel the Holiday spirit. Singing along to the Winter Wonderland tunes on the radio reminds me of all the Christmas wish lists to take care of this year.  My favorite part during the gift opening is watching the person’s face as they unwrap their gift, and hoping for the expression that says “this is exactly what I wanted!”  That’s a lot easier to accomplish with your immediate family (especially the young ones), who very likely start dropping not-so-subtle hints right about now.  My family’s wish lists are currently filling up with remote controlled cars and helicopters, posters, books, video games and BB guns.  Yes, we have boys in the family.  As I reflect on others’ interests and likes, I think about how different mine can be.  As the artist in the bunch, I often receive very interesting and…unique gifts that are always well intentioned.  So here’s a list of art related gift ideas for that artist or creative person in your life.  This list is in no way exclusive, and is rather meant to inspire the thoughtfulness behind the gift giving.

1.  The Gift of Experience

This is my personal favorite, so I will begin with this one.  In a world filled with material interests, technology and dwindling face to face interaction, a new experience or adventure can create memories that will last a lifetime.  The experience can range from something as extravagant as a balloon ride over a majestic landscape that will inspire the next dozen paintings, to a laid back evening of painting together at the local painting bar.  Take your relationship with the person  (and your budget) into consideration when deciding on the type of adventure to send them on.  Do you send them off on their own?  Let them pick a friend?  Share the experience with them?

The Gift of Experience ideas:

  • Balloon ride over an inspiring landscape
  • Painting session at a local painting bar (ex. the Muse Paintbar in New England – – this one will especially work as a shared experience, since most of those classes are geared toward beginners…think: time spent together.
  • A local art workshop or class (try to find out which workshops they’d be interested in, or what new skills they’ve been wanting to explore)
  • A pass to local art museums
2.  Art Supplies

This may sound a bit cliche, however for an artist who goes through art supplies at lightning speeds this can be a very welcome gift.  Art supplies can get quite expensive, and in a field that yields limited income (unless they’re a well-known, established artist – in which case they probably don’t have to worry about the cost of art supplies), receiving a set of new canvases or paints can be just the thing.  I received a couple small canvases and a set of new brushes from a friend one Christmas, which not only touched my heart for the thoughtfulness behind it, but it also sent my mind into overdrive thinking of what I would be painting once I got home.

Pay attention to the type of supplies your artist friend uses, the preferred brands, sizes, colors, etc.  For example, if your friend specializes in watercolors, avoid getting them a new set of oil paints just so they can try something different.  Although a welcome thought, such gift will most likely go unused.

The Art Supplies ideas:

  • The artist’s preferred medium – what do they like to work with?  For example: watercolors, oil paints, colored pencils, ink, chalk, clay, textile supplies, etc.  Look for the basics, but avoid “beginner sets” (unless actually buying for a beginner artists).
  • Blank canvas/paper/board – depending on the type of art created.  An artist can never have enough material to express their ideas on.
  • Specific items from their wishlist – lead conversations to figure out what specifically your artist friend might want or need in their studio.
  • Art Supply Store gift certificate – I reluctantly include the gift certificate in this section, since it’s the least personal type of gift.  However, it may be appropriate in certain situations, such as for a stocking stuffer, for a Secret Santa gift exchange at the work holiday party, or for that hard-to-shop-for artist who seems to have all the shelves stocked with supplies.
3.  Coffee Table Books

Coffee table books can be a great source of inspiration, especially when they are on a topic that’s very personal to the gift recipient.  For example, I absolutely love dancing, specifically ballroom dancing.  I have recently received a book titled “Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday” by Jordan Matter (Check out the book page at  Page after page, the book is filled with creative and inspiring photographs of dancers, some with a little story accompanying them.  I not only love to dance, but I love capturing the essence of motion and the human body in my sketches, so a book like this is a great source of ideas.

The Coffee Table Books – topic ideas:

  • A book on their favorite genre of art
  • A book featuring their favorite artist or group of artists
  • A book showcasing some other personal hobby or interest – look for clues in the subject matter of your artist’s work, do they love painting landscapes, people, boats, abstract, still life?
4.  Digital Art gifts

The digital art world has grown so rapidly in the last decade, that it’s very likely the artist in your life either specializes in it or loves to explore it.  From animation to graphic design, to digital illustration, the techy artist has more options then ever.  Your options here will depend greatly on the interests of the person and their skill level, and more so then in the other categories; your budget.

The Digital Art Gifts ideas

  • The Sensu Artist Brush or the Sensu Solo (Check it out at – The Sensu Brush is a digital brush that works on nearly every capacitive device, including iPad, iPhone and Galaxy tablets.  It was first introduced several years ago by getting funding as a Kickstarter project, and has proven to be very popular.  The Sensu Brush has a brush on one end and a stylus on the other end, while the Sensu Solo only has the brush.  I have the Sensu Solo that I use with my Samsung Note 10.1 tablet and I love it.  It feels like a real brush, although it glides much smoother over the glass surface than a real paintbrush does over canvas or paper, giving a fairly free-flowing painting experience.
  • Tablet with drawing apps or software – Last Christmas, I was fortunate enough to receive a very generous gift from my sweetheart…a Samsung Note 10.1 tablet, which I’ve been using religiously ever since to create my chapter book illustrations (in the ArtFlow drawing app).  There are many options for tablets currently on the market, including the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy, the Samsung Note, and Surface Pro.  Prices range from about $100 to several hundred, so do your research and try to match the device to your artist’s preferences and needs.
  • Wacom tablets – Wacom tablets are the professional devices for professional creatives, which is reflected in the price.  Wacom offers several types of pen tablets that work in conjunction with your computer software (such as the Adobe Suite) and portable pen displays that you can directly draw on.
5.  Handmade Gifts

If you prefer something more personal or just can’t decide on the right item to buy, opt for a handmade gift.  Artists are creative people, they enjoy making things and they appreciate when others put thought into their gifts, as well, so chances are they will love your handmade gift and will be grateful for being remembered in such a unique way.

The Handmade Gifts ideas

  • A Greeting Card – simple, traditional and sentimental.  Take it up a nudge and write your own poem, or just simply express how much you value the friendship.
  • A photo book – grab a dozen of your favorite shared photos and compile them into a picture book, adding titles next to the pictures.  Be there when your friend opens the gift, and reminisce together over the fun memories.  You can upload and print your own photo books on sites such as Snapfish or Shutterfly.
  • A Personalized Photo Christmas Ornament – help decorate that tree with a favorite memory of you and your friend.  You can create custom photo ornaments on various sites, including tinyprints and Zazzle.

Whatever you decide to give your artist friend this Holiday Season, remember that your friendship and time together is the best gift of all.  Happy giving and share your own gift ideas in the comments below!

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