Christmas/ Chanukah gift ideas for artists: part 1

October 29, 2012

 What to buy for the artist who likes to sketch

 Above: Detail from “Venus and the Three Graces Offering Gifts to a Young Girl”, 1486, by Sandro Botticelli

Over the next 6 weeks or so, I plan to publish a short series of articles on art gift ideas. Whether your friend or relative is a professional artist or just paints or draws as a hobby, you will find suggestions for presents on this website. Today’s post focuses on gifts for artists who like to sketch, and will include ideas for everyone from school-age students to professional sketchbook addicts. There will be further articles on presents specifically for beginner artists, and on gifts for those who already have plenty of art materials.

In order to illustrate these articles, I am including picture links from two of my favourite online UK shopping sites: I have chosen Amazon for its great choice of specialist books. For art products, I have chosen Jackson’s, a treasure trove of materials for all art media and, in my experience, a reliable retailer. The pictures and banner links are all clickable, and will take you to the retailer’s website where more information is provided about the product. By all means do click and browse. If you do end up buying something that was suggested here, please bear in mind that I earn a little commission if you buy directly after clicking a link from my article. This helps to fund my blog and website and for that I am very grateful. Having said that, I only provide links to books and products that I love, and that I would be happy to recommend to a good friend.

Coming up with a gift idea for someone who likes to sketch

Sketching materials are generally not very expensive, but you can put together a package of special things that would be well-appreciated. A sketchbook along with a few excellent pens or pencils makes a lovely gift. For a very substantial present, consider buying a larger boxed set of pencils, coloured pens or specialist crayons.


 Your first option is to buy a basic but good-quality sketchbook. This makes a good gift alongside some pens or pencils. I personally tend to go for an A5 hardback book without ring-binding. The best-value good sketchbook that I have bought so far is the Daler-Rowney Ebony, below. The paper in this book copes well with both dry and wet media without curling or “bleeding” colour onto the following page. It is smart and professional-looking:

Daler Rowney Ebony Hardback Sketchbook Portrait A5 : 62 sheets : 150gsm

On the other hand, you may prefer to treat your friend to a slightly more luxurious sketchbook, perhaps one that they would not normally buy for themselves. The Moleskine range is very trendy at the moment:
Moleskine SKETCHBOOK Large: 13 x 21cm 104 pages

Or, for a fun look, choose from the Gnu range of brightly-coloured hardback sketchbooks, e.g. in delicious berry colours:
Gnu Art Berry Blank A5 Hardback Sketchbook

Coloured pens

I can recommend Pitt Artist Brush Pens for sketching. At first sight they just look like a grown-up felt tip pen. So why are they incredibly popular amongst artists? They have a special brush-like tip that produces different thicknesses of line according to the amount of applied pressure. These pens are waterproof, making them good for line and wash effects when combined with watercolour paints, neocolour sticks or other water-soluble media. They are light-fast, so can be used in wall-displayed art as well as sketchbook work. They also come in a great array of fantastic colours. If you are choosing one set, I suggest the “shades of grey” to start with, as this is a very practical one for all kinds of sketching.

Faber Castell : Pitt Artists Brush Pen Set of 6 : SHADES OF GREY

 Jackson’s also sells plenty of individual colours. Go for your favourites (your friend will think of you when they draw with them). If you can’t decide, then opt for a warm orange-brown (terracotta) and a cool blue (smalt blue) as these work well together. Just click on the images here to get to the website:

Faber Castell : Pitt Artists Brush Pen Terracotta
Faber Castell : Pitt Artists Brush Pen Smalt Bleu


Water brushes

These are brushes that contain their own reservoir of water. My own sketchbook use has been revolutionised since buying my first water brush. They can be used along with water-soluble pencils or pens, watersoluble crayons and even with watercolour pans. Having bought various brush pens, I would highly recommend Pentel ones as cheaper varieties tend to leak. Clicking on the picture below will take you to the product at Jackson’s website for more information:

Pentel : Water Brush : SET OF all 3 : use with watersoluble pencils, inks

A good drawing pen

My tried and trusted drawing pen is a Rotring Artpen. This is an artist’s fountain pen with a reasonably responsive nib. It comes in a neat metal case and would make a good gift. I personally prefer the “Fine” to the “Extra Fine” nib for use in an A6 or A5  sketchbook. Artpens only take Rotring replacement cartridges but these are available in various colours. The ink is water-soluble, making these pens a good choice to use along with a water brush pen (see above). They don’t seem to stock Rotring Artpens at Jackson’s online store. Click the link below to see this product at Amazon:

 Coloured pencils

Some artists prefer a very soft, blendable  pencil such as the Derwent coloursoft range, available in different sizes of tin or wooden box, or as a choice of tempting individual colours:


Derwent Coloursoft Pencils : Set of 36 in a metal tin

For all-purpose sketching, I love to use Inktense pencils, also made by Derwent. These colours have a glowing quality to them and are water-soluble. You could pick your own colours from the extensive range. My favourite so far is Mid-Vermilion, which is great for human figures and portraits as it suggests the glow of human skin in sunlight (in my experience it comes out a little more “warm” and orangey than the clickable colour swatch below):
Derwent Inktense Pencil Mid Vermilion


If you pick out a selection of colours for your friend then you may want to buy an empty tin in which to present them:
Derwent : Empty Double Layer 42 Pencil Tin

or a pencil “roll”:
Derwent Signature Empty Pencil Wrap will hold 30 pencils

Fun stuff

I love Caran d’Ache’s  Neocolour II sticks for their delicious, subtle colours, and for their adaptability. They are a type of water-soluble crayon and can be used dry, or dipped in water, or combined with a water spray or water brush.  They come in sets of various sizes. The fantastic full-sized wooden box set would make a very impressive gift:

Caran Dache NEOCOLOR II : Artists Watercolour Crayons : 84 in a Wooden Box

The colours are also available individually. I have been buying them as “pocket money treats” for myself for a while now. I can recommend olive fonce as a very natural, muted landscape green, light ochre for sun-drenched sand, and rouge de venise as the warm colour of terracotta pots, but I don’t think that you can go far wrong with this range.

My other new favourite this year has been Derwent Inktense blocks. These can be used in similar ways to the Neocolour II crayons, but have a chunky shape that is handy for blocking in areas of colour. Once wetted, a rather brilliant ink-like effect can be obtained. If you’re considering buying the full tin of 24 colours then just click the picture below for a link to Jackson’s website. Once there, you’ll see that these colours can also be bought individually:


Derwent Inktense BLOCKS (24) TIN


Sketching can seem like a lonely pursuit at times, and it can be uplifting to have another artist’s ideas to refer to. Below is a link to a book of drawings by Delacroix that I cannot recommend highly enough. I recevied my copy as a gift from my husband and have been referring to it ever since. There are flashes of brilliance on every page. I particularly like the great variety of approaches and media shown in this selection of drawings:

For animal-loving artists, Henry Moore’s sheep drawings make a perfect gift:

For a book that demonstrates current approaches to sketching, I suggest the one below. I must admit that I have not read it myself, but it is related to the Urban Sketchers website that I find very inspiring. I should imagine that this book includes drawings of cities and people from around the world just like the website:

Any further ideas? Comments are welcome

If you are an artist and can remember a special gift that someone has given to you then do please get in touch and share your ideas. For presents on the theme of “sketching”, just add a comment to this post. For other art materials and books, you may wish to contact me by clicking here and, if I get the message in time, I may well include your ideas in my upcoming articles.

Jackson's Art Supplies - Logo 03

Comments (3) | Tags: , , , , | More: Blog

3 Responses to “Christmas/ Chanukah gift ideas for artists: part 1”

  1. Kaye says:

    Definitely works .. Good luck!

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