IMG_7075_2I don’t want to sound like Scrooge but BEWARE!  Many of the holiday art-gift promotions that come through LOOK GREAT (appeal to auntie), but are not designed in your best interest. Be gentle, but warn them.


If they have to, they can give you watercolor blocks (Arches), but more paper for the buck? At the $100 level they can give you TWENTY FIVE (22 X 30) sheets of bright white Arches 140 lb cold press.  (List price $250.). Buy it from Merri Artist and it is $118, free shipping and no tax. Merri Arches Cold Press Sheets course.  Of course you can later cut it into what ever sizes you use.  Enough paper  for a year? Certainly enough to get you painting after the holidays. One sheet is under the brushes and is also what the forest paintings are on.

Remember the pound only means how heavy the roll of paper was when new. It denotes thickness. It does nothing to insure quality. The cold press means a slight tooth.  Arches is far and away the most reliable brand.

SKETCHBOOKS:  If $118. is beyond consideration, another useful gift is a sketchbook. My favorite is the Robert Batemen sketchbook.  It has a lovely surface and will take dark ink without it leaking through.  From $5.81 to $25.45 from Merri Artist.  These books are also available at most art stores. In the upper photo,  my current  Robert Bateman (8 1/2 x 11″) is to the left decorated with two postcards of my paintings (how I keep track of which book I am in).

PTL-014170-2TAnother we have liked for plein air drawing/painting are the Pentalic Nature sketch pads.  Keep a small one with you at all times!  From $7.80 to $13.46 (Merri Artist).   The small one I take with me is on the right with the dahlia card. It takes watercolor well.

BRUSHES; These make all the difference in the results you get with your painting. And so many people have such bad ones!   You can’t DO IT if you have a brush that doesn’t work for you.

Please insist you don’t want a Kolinsky!!! No, your friends are not cuddling you by spending $75 on a brush. Not only  are Kolinskys very expensive, they are wimpy!  It is very difficult to stay up on the point when you need to.

Brushes do not need to cost a lot.  The ones I like last for years – I still use one that is at least 20 years old. But I have also lost brushes between the boards of decks over water, in the grass of fields where I am painting. A student lost one down a storm sewer.  Rather mourn an $75 brush, I’d rather miss an $8 one.

Get a good 1″ flat and a pointed round, #10 or 12. Indulge in a 2 inch Skyflow if you want a big wash brush. If you paint on dry watercolor paper and want to get wash effects then you need some mop brushes.  If you like to work wet to dry, I have found nothing works as well as some of the synthetics.  Taklon™ or whilte sable.  Brands? Winson Newton Aquarelle, series 995 (one inch $17-$25 depending on where you shop), Pointed:  Connoisseur 157 Gold Taklon/hair — a #10 or #12.  Robert Simmon’s Skyflow,

Left to right: a 3″ and 2″ inch (Robert Simmons) Skyflow; a 1.5″ Connoisseur, 2 Taklon™ 1 inch flat + the one with the green tape and chipped handle is over 20 years old; a 1/2 inch Taklon™ flat; a #30, #12, #10 Robert Simmons White Sable, #10 Connisseur white sable.
PAINTS: The gift givers love those little sets of useless paints.  If the pigments are not “artist grade,” the paints are made of inferior materials and run the risk of being chalky, difficult to blend, and subject to fading.  Fewer tubes of Artist  Grade go a long ways and give you the quality you deserve.

Hands down, I think the best brand of paint is Daniel Smith. Winsor Newton is also excellent. For the colors I use, see my supply list posted Dec. 2011,  Choose some colors you don’t always use if you are pretty well set. or get some of the quinacridones.  Quin Gold, Quin Violet,  Quin Rose…Perinone Orange. You can’t go wrong.

Books: For drawing I recommend Nick Meglin’s Drawing from Within. Also a delightful and inspiring “Sense of Place” book is Vivian Swift’s “When Wanderers Cease to Roam.”

Watercolor techniques?  The  Technique Corner is an excellent free source.

Courses: You may know of a workshop you want to take.  That makes an excellent gift. Suggest it to the right person.  Better than another set of steak knives.

Ooh – Reminds me that I need to get the 2014 schedule posted!!    I have some on-line courses that make a good use of indoor time (see class listings) (hint, hint). I am hoping to write some shorter ($50) ones during my indoor time this winter.

That’s it for now.

My next posting will be on how you can recycle (unwanted) paintings for Chirstmas gifts! but not till after Thanksgiving.  Keep it merry,


P.S. Encourage your shoppers, if they aren’t set to go on-line, to support your local art store. We need each other.