The Artist on Your List

Don’t be stumped for the holidays. We have recommendations from the best of sources.

Gift recommendations for the artist in your life - Watkins College of Art

So, you have an artist on your gift list? What to do? We polled our faculty and staff about what they would love for the holidays, and here’s what they told us:

1. The Faber-Castel Polychromos pencil crayon set, which comes in various breadths, is a gift that allows the emerging and established artist alike to become reinvigorated about their practices. These fine tools lend an inspired seriousness to the purpose of finding the profound. Fine Arts chair Kristi Hargrove also swears by Staedtler pencils.


2. The classic Moleskine journal has been a favorite of artists for a long time. It has the famous texture but also the portability that makes an artist take action when the creative impulse strikes. One can sketch in the studio and in the car, whenever the Muse visits. And look hip doing it.

3. If you’re seeking something like the pencil crayon set we mentioned above, but with a different effect, you can’t go wrong with a Copic marker set, which also vary by size. These vibrant and long-lasting shades will infuse you with the desire to get to the studio…all year long.
Copic markers make great gifts

4. Need a gag gift, or just something fun? How about the reasonably priced collection of partyware by television painter Bob Ross, good for occasions like birthdays and complete with Ross-isms. Or animal socks, which is another Hargrove favorite. See ’em both to believe ’em.

5. Want to inspire a child in his or her creative endeavors? Think about the Discovery Children’s Outdoor Paint Easel from Plum. Good for indoors and outdoors (and easy clean-up). For the adult in your life, you can provide the same joy with a handcrafted Pochade box.

6. Books are the gifts that keep on giving. Particularly those from Freight and Volume, which highlight individual artists and specific shows from a wide spectrum of media. These provide something artisanal and artistic, and a little role modeling to boot. Professor of film Valorie Stover Quarles also suggests Matthew Fox’s book on creativity and the canonical Great Women of Film by Helena Lumme.

7. Maybe the only thing that equals a book about an artist’s work is one by the artist. Consider photographer Sally Mann’s critically vaunted memoir, Hold Still, now in paperback. Or how about Kenneth Clark’s influential work on the nude, appropriately titled The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form. This book, on the Arborealist school, also caused some buzz this past year. Graphic Design and Illustration chair Dan Brawner loves biologist and University of the South professor David Haskell’s Pulitzer-nominated book The Forest Unseen, which he calls “a fascinating tour de force about the power of seeing and paying attention. Haskell uses a one-square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world.” Core Studies chair Karla Stinger-Stein finds herself returning again and again to Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids, which is a collection of snapshots taken by Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

8. We’ve spoken to a lot of artists about their rituals to prepare. Many of them talk about creating an environment conducive to creativity. Scent is part of that. The Nature of Things is taking the concept of terroir, used for wines, to the pure herbs they enlist for their essential oils. Vetiver, clary sage, and rosemary…oh my.

9. For the interior designer in your life, you might want to check out Tom Raffield’s lighting work, which has garnered a great deal of attention for its whimsy and sophistication.

10. Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t advise you to give a thought to a gift certificate to our Community Education programs here at Watkins. It’s the perfect gift because the giftee can apply it to their primary, or hidden, passion, whether that’s sculpture, graphic novels, screenwriting, woodworking, and much more.