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Gifts for your Artist

15 Ideas from the most used items and student favorites in my studio

Gift giving is a special opportunity to buy a treat for someone, and if that someone is an artist, there’s no better gift than art supplies. The more one creates, the faster those supplies run through our fingers. Here are 15 ideas that will spoil the artist in your life- from big to small budgets, there’s something for everyone here.

(This post contains affiliate links and I will earn slight commission on qualifying items when you use these links- it does not effect your cost at all and helps support me as an artist in today’s world!)

Arteza Watercolor Brush Pens are a favorite product for me and my students. When combined with traditional watercolors, they give extra color and control while still playing nicely with your regular paints. They are like brushes pre-loaded with paints, and you can dip in water and use seamlessly with your own paints or use on their own to save on the setup and mess.

Micron Pens are a great set of pens that can be used on their own or with watercolors without bleeding. I used these (along with a few other ink tools) to create my 100-page coloring book, and frequently use them with watercolors or the above listed Watercolor Brush Pens. High quality and long lasting, these pens will love you right back.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pens - Set of 6, Black, 08

Prang Watercolors are low-cost but quality watercolor that is a step above the base for a beginner. Easy to use and easy to clean, these are the watercolors I recommend for children. I use them too and i’m a grown up! (See the next item on the list if you’re looking to spoil a non-beginner.)

Prang Watercolor Pans - Square, Assorted, Set of 8 Colors

Windsor Newton Watercolor Travel Set
If you want to spoil them with nice watercolors, but don’t want to spend a ton, this is a great set. The bonus is it’s a travel set so they can take it any where- the park, their backyard, or work easily from their kitchen table without a huge set up. I have a set of these that I use for my primary watercolors, and they are very long lasting.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Set - Pocket Plus Travel Set of 12

Canson Watercolor Paper is a high quality yet affordable paper, and watercolor paper is a treat. It’s made to take all the watercolor-ness you can dish out, doesn’t warp/bubble as easy, and is maybe something that your artist doesn’t often have around. Since i’m listing watercolors and materials above, I can’t leave out this great and affordable paper that’s made for it! (Make sure to pair with the Pro-Art Tape at the end of the gift list)

Canson XL Watercolor Pad - 11'' x 15'', Euro Fold, 30 Sheets

Set of Synthetic brushes
If your artist is just starting out, a set of versatile brushes can compliment your gift and make sure they’re ready to create right now! This set can be used with watercolors or acrylics and has a variety of shapes to use and experiment yet. Even if you’re artist has been at it a while, brushes are a consumable material, and new brushes is usually a treat for any artist.

Liquitex Basics Brush Set - Set of 6

Arteza Wood Rounds are a favorite for me and for my students- these are fun to use to make gifts, ornaments, coasters- or just as a unique and different canvas for your art! These are a nice size for working, and everyone i’ve seen use them or receive the just loves them! Use with acrylics, paint markers, or even oils. I used these to create my Oil Painter Annie 2020 ornament

Arteza Metallic Acrylics
Talk about fun, these metallic paints add a little sparkle to your life. And what a treat- I received my set as a gift last Christmas and I love adding a little sparkle to my pieces. These are a unique material to spoil your artist.

Sharpie Paint Markers are another favorite product for myself and my students. These oil based paint markers can be used on so many surfaces: i’ve used them on metal, wood, rocks, plastic, my studio door, the wall! Oh and paper and canvas too. Really fun to use to get to decorate unusual surfaces, and great for all ages. I’ve had particular success with young artists with these paint markers.

Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Marker - Red, Fine Point

Box to keep Art stuff
I see my students carrying their materials in all kinds of containers- plastic bags, backpacks, boxes, or just loose and rolling around everywhere. Art Bin is like a Caboodle for your art stuff- so fun to keep it organized and easy to grab and carry out the door or to the kitchen table. Plus wouldn’t you love it if they’d stop leaving it all over the table when it’s dinner time? An Art Bin is a treat, even for me. And pair it with some of the materials listed above, and you have a really thoughtful and inspiring art gift.

ArtBin Sidekick Storage Bin - 15'' x 10'' x 7 3/4'', Translucent

Table Top Easel
A great gift for any artist- new or seasoned. I’ve noticed almost none of my students have one of their own, and they LOVE to use it during lessons. And for a seasoned artist, there’s never enough space for drying projects! A table top easel can be used to display pieces too. Foldable for storage- it’s a great addition to any artist’s studio equipment. (I have 3 and I could use 3 more at times!)

Blick Tabletop Easel - H-Frame, Natural

Prismacolor Colored Pencils
These are the good ones! So smooth and blendable- plus the more you use them, the more you need! Save your artist from those short stubby pencils they are clinging too and spoil them with a fresh set!

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils - Set of 36

Canson Mixed Media Paper
Very versatile paper and can be used for watercolor, acrylics, pen and ink, pastel or pencil. Sturdy and durable, this is a great paper for artists of any level. (Make sure to pair with the Pro-Art Tape at the end of the gift list)

Canson XL Watercolor Pad - 9'' x 12'', Wirebound, 30 Sheets

Canson Paper for Acrylics and Oils
If you have an artist who is primarily a painter, this is a great gift. I paint with oils on this paper and it can handle anything I dish out, and I dish out a lot! (Make sure to pair with the Pro-Art Tape at the end of the gift list)

Canson XL Oil and Acrylic Pad - 9'' x 12'', 24 Sheets

Pro-Art Tape
Seems basic, but I use this ALL THE TIME! It’s way better than the blue or green painters tape which always tears the paper! If you’re buying any of the papers listed here, this tape is a must! It won’t let paint bleed, but it also won’t tear the top layer of paper off when removed. An artist friend recommended this to me a few months ago and my life is better for it!

Up-Cycled Earth Day Art Project

I created these easy painted earth pieces after a very nice person gave me a stack of pie-plate lids to use in my art studio. I think she had thought I could use them as paint palettes for students, but I ended up getting an idea perfect for Earth day! Since the lids are clear, they are a great surface to combine two of my favorite materials: paint pens and paint! Earth Day is a day to celebrate our beautiful earth and remember to be good stewards of it. I also love FREE or up-cycled art materials!

Pie Plate lids rescued from the recycle bin

These are so easy to make, and once you make one you’ll probably get ideas for more. It’s a very simple and straitght foward process: you draw you design on the inside of the lid, then flip it over and fill the shapes in with paint! If you don’t have a pie-plate lid, any clear plastic from your recycle bin will work. Just remember- if you cut a shape out the plastic may be sharp enough to cut your hands.

Supply list:

  1. Sharpie Paint Pens (or regular sharpies will work too!)
  2. Acrylic Paints- I used Liquitex Basics and Blick Studio Acrylics
  3. Scissors
  4. Paper Towels
  5. Paint Brush
  6. Pie-Plate Lid or other clear plastic you rescue from the recycle bin

Here are the steps I followed making these with a few of my students:

1. Flip the lid and make your drawing with your paint pen (or regular black sharpie will work too) on the inside. This makes the painting steps much easier.
Make your drawing on the inside of the lid
2. Go over all your lines again to thicken them- that makes it easier to stay within the lines when you paint on the back.
3. Flip and paint the shapes in on the back!

This will take a few coats, depending on how transparent or opaque you like it. I painted 2 coats of each of my colors because I like it opaque. If you want to display your piece in a window, you’ll want it very transparent.

I used two colors for each the blues and the greens to give each space more depths. I used: Aqua Green, Pthalo Green, Cerulean and Ultramarine. I recommend a heavier body acrylic for this as the craft style paints will require multiple coats.

4. Cut out, Flip and refine/add any more lines or designs with your paint pens!

When the paints are dry, you can cut the rim off the pie plate lid. Careful because the plastic might try to crack as you cut. You can leave the rim on if you like the look, of course!

Have fun and make your own designs!

This student added a meteor shower to her earth.
I added a heart to this one when I drew the lines in step 1.

If you have a pie-plate lid (or other surface) with ridges or other patterns, just go with it! See what you can come up with!

This pie-plate lid had ridges in it- I had a lot of fun making this mandala-esc design.
Since you’re painting on the reverse side, you don’t have to be super careful staying in the lines.

Watercolor Conversation Hearts Step by Step

The iconic Valentine’s Day Candies- in art form! Enjoy these step by step instructions to create a sweet treat for yourself or your valentine.

Materials needed for this project:

(Post contains partnership links which help me remain a full-time artist and do not effect your cost at all)

Tip: Get started by gathering all your supplies and setting up a little workspace. This will help you have a more relaxing time while creating!

Step 1: Fold one sheet in half and draw half a heart on the fold. Conversation hearts are wide with rounded edges. Look at a picture for inspiration!

Step 2: Cut out the heart and unfold it. This is your stencil or template piece.

Step 3: Trace the heart on your other sheet of paper. Go towards the corner so you have plenty of room to draw more hearts on your sheet.

Step 4: After you trace the first heart, slide your template slightly to the right, keeping it lined up on the top and bottom. About 1/4″ is enough to move it to the side.

Step 5: Trace only the right-hand sides of the heart to create the 3-D effect. Don’t forget the top of the heart that peeks out.

Step 6: Connect your lines and refine/erase extra marks so you have a drawing of a 3-D heart.

Step 7: Repeat to fill up your page with as many 3-D hearts as you can!

Step 8: Outline your pencil lines with a Micron Pen. I used size 08. Then erase all your pencil marks carefully.

Step 9: Paint your hearts using a light wash of pastel shades of watercolor. Fill in all parts of the heart.

Step 10: Paint in the dimensional sides of the heart with an Arteza Brush Pen of the same color as your wash. This will act as shading and make your heart look dimensional. Paint the dimensional shape on the right-hand side and the park peeking out at the top.

If you do not have the brush pens, you can use a water based marker (like Crayola markers) or paint another darker layer of your watercolors paints.

Step 11: I used my Prismacolor Dual Tip Markers to add the wording. Look up ideas on the web, or make up your own. Conversation hearts have all caps, blocky text. Use wording you see, or make up your own message. You can use your Crayola markers if you do not have these same ones. ( I recommend using a marker for this step, as fine lettering with a brush takes a lot of practice for even a seasoned artist!) Use the same color as the heart!

Step 12: Outline the hearts with black and cut them out!

Repeat and make as many as you need to spread a sweet valentine treat around your world as needed. These would make a cute banner for a classroom party or home decoration. Have fun making personalized messages for your friends and family.

10 Watercolor Projects for all Ages and Stages

The top 10 watercolor projects from my studio- student favorites for all ages that adults and seasoned watercolor artist can also enjoy. These are really fun to do with a young artist too.

Watercolors are a student favorite in my studio, and a favorite of mine to be honest. I love their fluid freedom, vibrant colors, ease of experimentation, and–let’s be honest– the easy set up an clean up. Using basic household items like table salt and paper towels, you have nearly endless exploration possibilities.

(This post contains product links that are partnership links. This helps me continue to be a full time artist and does not effect your price at all.)

In no particular order, here are the top ten watercolor projects that keep me and my students endlessly busy in the studio:

1. Watercolor Rain Drops

I’ve done this art with kids as young as 5 because it’s easy, fun, and really draws you into the joy of creating. If you only had time or energy to do ONE of these projects, pick this one! This project is taken from Paint Lab for Kids by Stephanie Corfee.

To create the drops, you need to set your paper up vertically- I tape the sheet to a piece of cardboard and put it on an easel, but you could prop it up however it works. TIP: put a paper towel under the bottom edge to catch drips that run off the page. Create the drops by using a round brush with watery paint- tap at the top and watch them drip down! Have fun mixing two or more colors in one drip and watch them change as they drip down. The dripping action is “Super satisfying!” as one of my students says. After the watercolors are dry, we have painted clouds using acrylic paints over the top.

Variation idea: instead of creating rain drops, rotate your art piece a quarter turn on your easel at a time. This leads to a drip piece that starts to resemble a map or pipes. Limiting your colors to choices that blend well together to avoid making ‘mud’ colors.

3. Dream Room Illustrations

One of my favorites to do with a student. We created illustrations with pencil, outlined our drawings using Micron Pens, then painted them. In addition to watercolors, we used Arteza Real Brush Pens, Blick Studio Dual Tip Markers, and Prismacolor Dual Tip Markers to enhance shadows, add patterns and fine details. The result is a bright and cheery illustration- can be based on a real place or an imaginary one.

4. Inside/ Outside House

Using a simlar process to the dream rooms above, these are really fun way to learn a little perspective and use imagination. We drew the outline of the house first, then drew the rooms of the interior next. Then we cut out the house and drew the front- matching windows and doors from the interior to the exterior illustration. Again we then outlined with Micron Pens, painted, and added details with Arteza Real Brush Pens, and Blick Studio Dual Tip Markers.

2. Watercolor Resist Art

Easy for all ages- this art uses watercolors and either crayons or oil pastels. The oil pastels seem to work the best, so if you have those, use them! Draw your image using the pastels or crayons, then paint the entire image with watercolors. I like to use this especially to depict rain, and it’s fun to draw clouds and raindrops in white and watch them appear when you paint it.

There are plenty of variations- a spider web, butterfly wings, and even a full sunset! The only limit is your imagination. Add table salt to wet paint for a great feathering effect.

5. Paper Towel Watercolor Shapes

Another fun project from Paint Lab for Kids by Stephanie Corfee– this project uses paper towel pieces to create the butterfly wings. Tear desired shapes and lay on paper. Then use your brush to saturate the paper towel with paint. You then carefully remove the paper towel pieces to reveal the spongy color underneath. I did finishing with Micron Pens, Arteza Real Brush Pens, and Blick Studio Dual Tip Markers.

6. Color Wheel

A color wheel is fun and easy for all ages and has a great WOW factor. Why? Because you ONLY use the primary colors (Red, Blue and Yellow) to make the all the colors. Most kids and adults have the primary colors and what they make when combined memorized- and to put that knowledge into action is really fun. Draw a 6 piece “art pie” and do the primary colors in every other space. Then use the primary colors to make the combos:
Red+ Yellow= Orange
Red+ Blue= Purple
Blue + Yellow= Green

Making the secondary colors is super satisfying! Sprinkle salt on your wet paint to watch more science action unfold.

7. Primary/ Secondary Color Circles

Take the color wheel a step further: create a composition of overlapping circles. Fill in the circles with primary colors (Red, Blue, Yellow) only. Then, in the spots where they overlap create the color combinations. This is a great way to use the brain while painting- and if you have multiple circles overlaying in a spot- to discover what colors they create!

8. Stained Glass Art

Another student favorite is Stained Glass Watercolor art. Created you drawing in pencil, then go over the lines in black fabric paint. When the paint is dry, fill in the shapes with watercolors. This is fun because the dimensional paint creates walls. If you are doing this with a tiny person, they will need help applying the black lines. TIP: the bigger the shapes, the easier all around. Tiny lines and shapes are harder to outline and fill in.

This is yet another great project from Paint Lab for Kids by Stephanie Corfee.

9. Squares of Watercolor

Use tape to create smaller boxes on your paper. Challenge yourself to put a different pattern or drawing in each box with oil pastels. Then paint each box a different color. When the paint is dry, remove the tape and you have a wonderful composition of mini art!

10. Watercolor Leaves

Walk around your yard and find leaves (or other objects) to observe their colors. Trace the objects lightly and draw simple details like the veins of the leaves. Outline shapes and lines using Micron pens. Have fun mimicking the colors and patterns you observe on the objects.

Variation: overlay the leaves and draw the negative spaces only. Fill in the negative spaces with an ombre wash of color. Add spatters with a toothbrush dipped in watercolors!

Supply List:

Below are (partner) links to supplies that will make your projects run easier!

Canson Watercolor Paper

Pro Tape Art Tape

Paint Lab for Kids by Stephanie Corfee


Paper Towels

Water cup

Brushes- I recommend a good round brush or a set.

Tulip Dimensional Paint

Prang Watercolors

Micron Pens

Arteza Real Brush Pens

Blick Dual Tip Markers

Prismacolor Dual Tip Markers

Cray Pas Oil Pastels

My son with Jackson Pollack

My Toddler Could Paint That!

Overheard more than once at one contemporary art show or another: “My toddler could paint that!!”

A few years ago I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum while they had their  Rebels show, which included (among many others) Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Camille Pissaro, and my idol Vincent Van Gogh to name a few.  I was in absolute awe in viewing in person many of these paintings that i’ve idolized as an artist and art lover over the years. 

When sharing my awe over the show, I heard comments in different forms, about how simple some of the art seems, and how “anyone could do that” sort of idea.  It really struck me at first, and I almost got trapped into that sort of thinking.  

Years of trial and error are behind any great piece of art.

What you don’t see when looking at these works that seem simple- is the background for the artist.  All the trials, all the experimenting, all the failures to finally come across that one great idea.  For many artists, it’s more than just trial and failure to find success.  It’s a deep, inner obsession that consumes the mind.  That leads them to keep searching and struggling- sometimes at great cost to their careers,  families, or mental health.  Sacrifices for the inner drive-that they might not even be able recognize or name until it happens.

I recently made a discovery in my studio- a much easier way to paint what I have been trying to paint for years.  And it’s so easy and fun, i’ve decided to start teaching the method to those interested.  And i’m sure i’ll encounter students in my classes that might be tempted to think “wow, it’s so easy”.  But I hope they will also see that artist behind the concept.   It’s one thing to look at someone’s idea and repeat the concept.  

Without experimenting and failures, yes it does seem simple.

Make sure you consider this the next time you are tempted down the path of thinking of a form of art as easy or simple.  Sit down and try it yourself.  And you’ll see, probably immediately that it’s not as easy as they made it look.  And consider and respect all the background work that was done to lead up to that one big great idea.  

My son with Jackson Pollack
My husband and my then toddler with none other than Jackson Pollock behind them. And my toddler is being a toddler.