ask a cool person

The Best Gifts for Artists, According to Artists

Photo: HBO

We wouldn’t blame you if finding a gift for the artist in your life seems like a tall order. Artists are known for having very good and particular taste, which usually requires a bit more thought than shopping for your L.A.–based aunt who will appreciate a culty back massager or your teen brother who explicitly told you he wants AirPods. And if you want to buy an artist a gift they will actually use, you’ll probably have to be pretty familiar with their practice to know what supplies to get. To help keep you from wandering the aisles of Blick deliberating between that $80 tube of Michael Harding lapis lazuli and a Kolinsky sable brush, we reached out to several artists — including painters, photographers, textile designers, and multimedia artists — about what sorts of gifts they’d like to receive. Below, their suggestions, which include something for practically every artist, whether they’re hoping for supplies, an activity, or cannabis-infused snacks to “inspire” the creative process.

Art supplies

$27

Artist Daniele Frazier recommended a gift that she received last year and loved: Teflon-coated scissors. “I love them because not only do they look really beautiful but they’re extremely sharp, and the Teflon coating allows you to cut tape, even gummy tape like duct tape, without the scissors getting sticky over time,” she says. “Nobody really buys herself fancy scissors, but we all know the gross feeling of a pair of scissors that has been used too often on packing tape, which is what makes these a nice gift.” These scissors are made in Japan and built to last, meaning their recipient can hold on to them for a while. “I think giving someone something that will last a lifetime is not only thoughtful but responsible,” says Frazier.

“As a photographer, I’m always in need of photo paper to make tests and final prints with,” says Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., who names Hahnemühle FineArt Baryta as his favorite. “It comes in a variety of sizes, in both sheets and rolls,” he says. If you’re confused about what size paper to buy, we suggest looking at the dimensions of recipient’s past work as a starting point.

“People always ask me which pens I use, [and I tell them] I’ve been using Krink for years,” says Shantell Martin. “They’re really smooth, the quality of their ink is amazing, and you can use them on anything from clothing and leather to walls for larger murals.” Krink paint markers also happen to be on the desk of Sant Ambroeus creative director Alireza Niroomand, who likes them in blue and who told us that “when I want to scribble, I have one on me.”

Martin also suggested a Baron Fig notebook, a style we’re very familiar with after our big test of 100 notebooks. “I think Baron is doing a great job with both quality and a modern approach to the world of creative stationery,” she says. “Their journals and notebooks always make me want to plan, create, and succeed.” And if you need any further convincing, the Strategist also named Baron Fig notebooks as the best back in 2015, when it was a print-only operation.

“Every artist always has a piece or two that needs to be framed,” says Kent Monkman, whose work for the Met was recently featured on Vulture. “Find a good local shop and get them a gift certificate for framing services they wouldn’t spend themselves.” You could also try ordering through Framebridge, a framing company that we tested and found to be one of the best online framing services out there.

Books

“As an artist, you spend a great deal of your day in isolation, with a lot of time to consider your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions — for me, the unholiest trinity!” says artist Janie Korn. She suggests gifting this guidebook by illustrator Jordan Sondler, which contains advice for navigating loneliness, career, and self-love. “Reading this book has helped me feel mentally healthier and better equipped to create meaningful art,” says Korn. “Beyond the self-improvement part, it’s a really stunning, visually compelling book that you will want to read in a sitting.”

$17

Painter and Illustrator Nasir Young says that, as a visual learner, art books help him gain insight into his own work and understand why he makes art in the first place. He recommends volume one from the Akira series for illustrators and painters. “Seeing different ways stories are told is interesting to me, but also simply looking at how the pages are inked helps inform how to build value even if you’re not drawing comics,” he says.

If you want to give your artist friend a gift that delves into the life of an artist of another era, Monkman recommends The Journal of Eugène Delacroix. “Delacroix’s personal journal offers an amazing insight into the artist’s life and is an incredible resource for any painter,” Monkman told us. “In his own words, Delacroix describes his insights on techniques such as color theory and his use of both live models and daguerreotypes as references.” He says the journal also offers a “juicy look” into the 19th-century painter’s personal life, recounting affairs, opinions of other artists, and what life was like in the 19th-century Parisian artistic scene. “I enjoy the moments where he offers his thoughts on art, like, ‘The things that are most real to me are the illusions which I create with my painting. Everything else is quicksand,’” says Monkman.

Early Rubens
$36

Monkman also told us about this exhibition catalogue by Sasha Suda and Kirk Nickel, which would make a great gift for Rubens fans and those interested in the Old Masters. “The catalogue contains examples of the beautiful Baroque imagery for which this master is known but is also a good resource for those wanting a more in-depth look at Rubens’s practice as an artist,” he says. “There are descriptions of the particulars of his studio practice, such as his workshop techniques and collaboration with other artists.” Monkman notes that the catalogue also offers insights into the artist’s business and shows how Ruben created a brand for himself and branched out commercially. “It’s fascinating to compare Rubens’s historical precedent to modern artistic practices,” he adds.

“Recently I fell in love with the design of American Origami by Andres Gonzalez,” says Brown. “At first, it appears to operate like a traditionally bound book, but at some point towards the middle I noticed that each of the pages folds back and out to reveal a different combination of information.” Brown notes that the material used for the pages is similar to that of stationery folders and collapses into a pile the way a perforated tax document would. It’s a serious gift: “The book itself is a compilation of information on various school shootings, which I learned when looking up the information for the book,” Brown says. But for an artist, its appeal might lie in the construction of the book as an object: “It’s a fairly thick book, so when I first picked it up, I sought to experience the design and would engage content later,” he says.

Photo: retailer

If you want to gift a book that might inspire your friend to experiment with a new form, artist Bernie Kaminski suggests crafting books from the 1970s, published by the Taplinger Publishing Company. “They can all be found for a few bucks online,” he says. “They don’t have very detailed instructions, but the photos have provided inspiration for a number of projects.” Kaminski suggests these guides to making “designer totes,” paper costumes, and masks (he’s made a few, he says, and was “happy with how they turned out”).

Trinkets, home goods, pampering, and gadgets