When researching this list we found all kinds of fun looking pre-made art kits which are tempting gifts because somebody's done all the leg work of deciding what sorts of things to include. The problem with many of them is you don't always know about the quality of what you're getting. Have you ever experienced using a cruddy wax crayon where one stroke leaves an insipid, uneven line with waxy blobs on your paper? That can take the joy out of drawing for anyone. The same is true for all art supplies so, if you are buying for the next great artist it may be time to consider giving them some 'real' art supplies. And maybe even a cool place to store them.
2. Portable Tabletop Sketchbox Easel, $30 from Dick Blick: Give your budding artist an opportunity to paint al fresco and give them a space to store their art supplies at the same time. Also handy for small space living since it folds up small when not in use.
3. GoVinci Backpack, $30 from All Modern: For the younger al fresco artist this portable art gallery might be a better choice; the clear outer display frame showcases the owner's latest masterpiece.
4. Let's Make Some Great Art by Marion Deuchars', $20 from Fireworks Gallery: A wonderfully inspiring artist activity book that encourages creativity while at the same time teaches about some of our artist forefathers such as Jackson Pollock and Da Vinci.
5. Canson's Eco-Friendly Eric Carle Sketch Pads for drawing, tracing, and painting ($2 - $4.5), $ from Carle Museum: Don't underestimate the power that quality paper can have on an art project. The most dramatic example of this is in watercolor paper; its rich texture adds wonders to any painting. Also, consider buying a watercolor block (10 sheets for $6) where the paper is glued down on 4 sides to prevent the inevitable warping and wrinkling that occurs while the paper dries.
6. Art Journal with Blank Canvas Cover, $22 from Paperfetish at Etsy: Every artist needs a journal. This handmade journal boasts a canvas cover primed and ready for its new owner to customize.
7. Niji Waterbrushes, (various sizes $7 - $11) from Dick Blick: These are not your run of the mill watercolor paint brushes; each brush contains a water reservoir in its handle. Low mess, great for outdoor painting excursions and easy clean up. Simply give the handle a little squeeze and leave the cup of water for drinking.
8. Lyra Pencil Crayons, $9 for set of 24 from Quill.com: Many brands are laborious to use, leaving disappointing streaks behind on the page but Lyra pencil crayons are soft and simply glide along the paper leaving rich color great for blending.
9. Faber-Castell Aquarelle Pencils, $15 for set of 12 from Dick Blick or Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, $23 for set of 24 from Arts & Craftsman Supply: A fun alternative to standard watercolor paints; simply color and add water. Paired with the waterbrushes, these make excellent travel art supplies.
10. Sharpie Permanent Markers, $25 for a pack of 24 from Utrecht Art: Normally you don't want to pair up kids with things that have the word "permanent" in their name. So for obvious reasons, the younger the child, the more supervision required when using these. What makes permanent markers so great, though, is that they mix well with watercolor; kids can layout a drawing with Sharpie pens first then wash over it with watercolor without smudging their original work.
(Images: 9 & 10 Jackie Boucher)