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The Art of the Gift: top five presents for your favourite artist.

November 15, 2009

‘Tis that time of year again, when our thoughts turn towards the ones we love and what they love. It can be difficult to choose presents at the best of times, but what if your intended recipient is obsessed with different types of alkyd medium or the difference between Helvetica and Arial? This gift guide will help you choose what will be in your lovingly wrapped present this year.

1.  Gift Voucher from K&M Evans.

The ubiquitous gift voucher always goes over well, particularly for any art students you know who are mostly penniless and always gasping for a new bucket of gesso.  K&M Evans is an art shop tucked away in an unusual place- off Mary’s Abbey on Meetinghouse Lane. If you don’t know where this is, fret not- the map below will guide your steps.

In general, follow the Luas tracks towards Heuston station until you see a language school and a little alleyway on your right hand side embellished with graffiti. You’re on your way towards one of the best art shops in the country.  For artistic types, this counts as a sort of heaven that you could gladly spend hours pottering around in. They have their own brand, you can buy canvas on a roll and what’s better- there’s a student discount. What’s not to love?

2. Taschen books.

Available from just about any good tome merchant, Taschen specialize in art, architecture, design and photography books. There’s pretty much nothing they don’t cover, which means that even the most avant-garde will probably find something to their liking.  Illustrators or Vis-Comm people may like Illustration Now! which comes out every year and is rapidly becoming a bible of sorts for illustrators.

Fashionistas are also covered for with  100 Contemporary Fashion Designers, photographers by Street & Studo: An Urban History of Photography. The Taschen website is addictive and affords hours of pleasant trawling.  Most of the Taschen books can be purchased quite reasonably on Amazon. Keep an ear out to see whether your loved one comments that this, that or the other artist is particularly fantastic, then hit up on the Taschen to find a corresponding wunderbook.

3. Something New.

Part of being an an artist is a curiosity for experimentation. This means that the artistically inclined are often more willing to play around with anything you get them. Try giving them something to break their boundaries. Give a graphic designer a pack of polymer clay, available on ebay or Amazon.  If your sister is a metalwork student in NCAD, try getting her some artist grade Windsor & Newton watercolours and  some 300lb hot-pressed watercolour paper.  It will most likely get used at some point and you may even be sparking off a new obsession.

4. The Basics

Keep an eye on what the recipient uses the most.  If they’re anything like me, reams of paper will be used up in no time.  If you’re in a lecture with them, watch what they do during a lecture, if they are doodling constantly and creating masterpieces beside their graphs, chances are they’d appreciate a nice moleskine sketchbook. Moleskines are having their day in the sun now and they are very easy to find.  Chapters on Parnell St have a rather lovely selection.  The more elaborate moleskines are leather bound with leather strips to tie them shut.  There are two types of sketchbook- one for taking with you to sketch during the day and the other to work the sketches out more- this one is usually kept in the studio.  If you’re looking for a travel moleskine, try and get one around A6 size- they are easiest to carry around with you.

If they work mostly in oils or watercolour and you’re financially limited, get them the biggest tube of white you can get- it’s always the colour used up first and the one that has to be replenished most frequently. This will be appreciated.   Older and wiser artists will most likely have a cache of white, in which case you might like to get them a few brushes.

The most commonly used brushes are the filberts and flats and both are stupendously flexible.   Flats are the square brushes; filberts are  like flats but with rounded edges. The below image shows the difference.

Rounds are useful for people who like to fiddle around with tiny detailed pieces. If their work is smooth and with a lot of blending between colours, a fan brush will probably be appreciated.   A  two-inch flat brush is often used for the first toning layers and will always get used, unless your friend is a miniature painter.

In order to pick out a good brush in the store, get the brush and run your thumb length-wise across the tip of each brush’s bristles to check it out. The hairs should be stiff and  snap back into place. If they don’t, put it back.

If the brush will be used by an oil painter, look for a natural bristle. Synthetic bristles are better for watercolour, acrylics, gouache, etc.

Also suggested is a pochade box. They are little boxes that carry paintbrushes, paints and have a little stand for the easel in the lid.

5.  FUNK

‘But my friend doesn’t fulfil any of the above categories!’ you cry.  ‘He or she is completely unique and the world has not known the like.’  What to get for the artist who has everything? Whose turrets are filled with Taschen books and the paintbox is brimming over with goodness? What then?

If you come from a family of billionaires and all my previous suggestions are moot, what then? Why, how about a cultural holiday? Send your lucky friend off to Florence to participate in a two-week summer workshop at the Angel Academy of Art (  There, the blessed recipient can paint the Tuscan landscape, bone up on their anatomy or pick up tips for painting your portrait upon their return.

If Italy isn’t their cup of tea, try sending them off to the MOMA in New York to see the Tim Burton exhibition, running from November 22, 2009–April 26, 2010. It includes artwork generated during the conception and production of his films, and highlights a number of unrealized projects and never-before-seen pieces, as well as student art, his earliest non-professional films, and examples of his work as a storyteller and graphic artist for non-film projects.

There are also painting holidays being offered just about anywhere in the world, from the wilderness of Achill Island in Mayo to the bohemian paradise of Paris.  Google Atelierworkshop and your chosen location and it won’t be long before you come up with the goods.

There’s really something for everyone here and for every budget. If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 4:03 am

    My friend referred me to your site. I enjoy reading here. Thanks for posting!


  1. Moleskiners

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