Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Artist's Wish List

-By Dan dos Santos

Don't know what to get for the Artist in your family this holiday? Or maybe you simply don't know what to ask for yourself? From modestly inexpensive to incredibly lavish, here are 10 holiday gift ideas sure to make any artist happy!

Feel free to put your own suggestions in the comments section.

1. Inspire Pro - iPad Painting App

Cost: $8
This is a wonderful, and inexpensive, application for the iPad that will turn that machine of theirs into the ultimate digital sketchbook.

2. Audible.com Subscription 
Cost: $21 for a 3 month Trial subscription
If your Artist is anything like me, they spend long hours, working alone, in the middle of the night. Audiobooks are a fantastic way to constructively pass the time, while not distracting you from the work you need to get done.

3. Spectrum 18
Cost: $25
Spectrum has been my default Christmas present for years. The book is so chock full of amazing art, I can't think of an artist that wouldn't find something in there to love!

4. Drawing the Head and Hands, by Andrew Loomis 
Cost: $26
Loomis' books are staples in the art instruction world, and this particular title has recently been reprinted. Since it was just released a month or two ago, it's quite likely your Artist doesn't have it yet!

5. Instructional DVDs

Cost: $50
It doesn't matter how experienced an Artist you are, you can always learn more. DVDs are a fantastic gift for pros and amateurs alike. The Art Department and Gnomon both have wonderful selections.

6. Copic Sketch Markers: Warm Grey & Cool Grey Sets 
Cost: $63 each set of 12
I attended NYCC recently, and every comic artist I saw was using these markers. I was blown away by the stellar results they achieved with such a simple set of tools. The values are graded very subtly, which eliminates the need for a blender. A wonderful tool for toning preliminary sketches!

7. Winsor & Newton Shannon Easel 

Cost: $100
I see so many students working on the worst of easels. Wobbly paint boxes that bounce every time they lay a stroke, or tripod bases that fall over at the slightest touch. It's a shame, because a decent easel really doesn't cost that much. The H-Frame base makes this easel super sturdy, and the whole thing folds up rather easily if space is a concern. I used this exact easel all through college, and for the first 4 years of my professional career. 15 years later it's still in great shape.

8. Smith & Vector 1200 Watt Light Kit
Cost: $380
A must own for the budding Illustrator. Good reference is invaluable to a good illustration; and good reference requires good light. If you don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a professional strobe kit, this is the next best option. The kit is versatile, and comes with everything you need. I used this exact kit for the first 10 years of my professional career.

9. Craftech Painting Taboret 
Cost: $550
I've never used this taboret personally, but I have seen several pros use it, and they all had great things to say about it. The glass mixing surface lifts up so you can easily place a neutral toned paper or even reference beneath it for easy color matching. 

10. Illustration Master Class Tuition 
Cost: $2000, includes tuition, room and board.
It's certainly not cheap, but it is definitely worth every single penny. If your Wife or Husband is an aspiring illustrator, consider spoiling them rotten this Holiday. I promise you... This is a gift that your loved one will remember for the rest of their life!


  1. Wonderful gift ideas! Picked up Spectrum 18 as a present for myself. I'm gonna check out the instructional DVDs.

  2. Most excellent list, Dan. My family always wonders what to get me for Christmas. This more than fills the bill. Thanks!

  3. Thank you Dan, I'll take one of each. Next year you'll receive a present (a cake or something) ;-)

  4. Dan, do you have any idea if the bunches of free Loomis pdf's floating around the interwebs are legal? I'm not even talking torrents, just google his name and a list comes up.

    Of course, I realize this is irrelevant because no one is going to give the gift of a shiny new pdf.

  5. Another GREAT gift idea: A $100 gift card to the local art store... You can never have too many art store gift cards.

  6. What about those Anatomy tools male/female reference figures? I don't have one myself just yet - totally want both male and female:


  7. these are great versatile sketchbooks and very affordable for artists.


  8. @Julia: I forgot about those sculpts. I've wanted one for years!

  9. I daresay if I had an extra $199 floating around, I would want one of them new-fangled "Inklings" by Wacom:


    To physically sketch and have it immediately import vector data onto my machine at pretty much the touch of a button is the coolest thing I can think of toying with as I draw.


  10. Don't forget to visit your local bookstore for used art and illustration books. Odyssey bookstore in South Hadley Ma recently had a batch. Found books on Federic Remmington, Darrell Sweet, 'Dream makers' [Paper Tiger] , Spectrum #1, and the Art of Narnia. Spent about $35 and saved a bundle. They still had The Art of Micheal Whelan and 'Infinite Worlds' in good shape…

    Sure wish IMC2012 was an option but this year Mrs Claus already told Ol' St. Nick to bring another batch of replacement vinyl windows… ...sigh…

    Cheers, Thanks for the list…


  11. Yuuup, Audible is where it's at!! Gonna have to check out the tablet app :D

  12. This is a fabulous list and pretty much nails everything.

  13. How did you get access to my list? A few of these I've already purchased for myself (Audible subscription, Spectrum 18, the Copics and the Loomis book) but the others are on my "someday" list. I'm really hoping for #10 in my stocking this year. There must be SOMEONE that loves me that much!

  14. Dan, do you have any recommendations regarding a decent camera?


  15. Dan, what easel are you using now?