Best Gifts for Budding Artists

Last week I posted this question on the Art Biz Coach Facebook page:

Art Biz Coach post on Facebook

Some people were glib:

  • “Acid”
  • “An exorcism”
  • “An application for a job”

But most of my fans took the question seriously.
Several offered advice in lieu of a gift. They said the recent high-school graduate needs encouragement and support. They stressed, “Don't get influenced by the party crowd. There will be enough time for that later on.”
Other fans said the best gift would be mentoring.
MANY people said the kid needed businesses classes and a copy of my book (thank you!).
I question this. Does a kid straight out of high school really need business classes when he should be focusing on developing a studio discipline?
I'm still not sure, although I wouldn't mind the topic being introduced in year 2 of school. Too many schools offer business classes during the final semester only, which seems far too late for anything to stick.

The Top 6 Gifts for Artists

The graduation gifts for budding artists that seemed to attract the most votes were, in no particular order:

  • Money
  • Art supplies
  • Books, especially Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
  • Gift certificate for art supplies and restaurants
  • URL/Domain name
  • Museum membership

One person observed that most of these would make good gifts for any artist.
Read all of the responses here.
What are your favorite gifts to give and receive?

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19 thoughts on “Best Gifts for Budding Artists”

  1. I would like to receive a spot in your next Bootcamp as my gift, Alyson. LOL.
    Let me see how my current body of work is going. If I continue the current rate of 1-2 paintings a week, I’ll have accumulated enough good quality work, then I may give my husband a HINT on what to buy me for my birthday in September.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Lucy: We’d love to have you in Bootcamp. Sounds like an AWESOME goal for you and totally doable. I’m cheering you on!

  2. Thanks for the tip on “Art and Fear,” Alyson. I was able to read enough on Amazon to see that these guys can really write. And the reviews made it pretty clear what not to expect. I don’t need motivation or comforting, but a well-written book on one of my favorite topics will certainly be welcome.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Arthur: I am surprised you haven’t read it yet. I think of you as really being in the trenches. My peeps seem to get a lot out of the book. Hope you do, too.

    2. Alyson, there are no art books in the trenches. 😉
      Except maybe catalogs.
      I certainly ended up being a little disappointed in “Seven Days in the Art World.”

  3. I have a degree in Art with a minor in business, the best part of my education was taking business classes. A lot of my income in the past 40 years of being a professional artist was due to knowing what to produce in order to make a living. NOT, as some would probably say, painting things just to sell but earning the money to be ABLE to paint what I want, when I want and expand and fine tune my personal style.
    This, in turn, allowed me to take classes, get my master’s degree and teach others. So few artists think that they need business acumen and knowledge, I think it’s essential to achieving your artistic independence and becoming a professional artist.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Thanks for sharing that, Diane. Did you take business classes at the very beginning of your college education?

  4. Yes, I took accounting, business writing and journalism, shorthand and keyboarding, speech and office machines. All worth it. My best class was writing a business plan. I have used the information countless times for every project I have done. I opened a studio/art supply store so that I could sell supplies to my students, paid the rent!

  5. I am all for studying business and art… to focus on business marketing would be especially valuable. As in life, it’s about learning how to juggle multple tasks in order to achieve your goal.

  6. Looking back, I’m not sure what would have helped me as a gift heading into Art School, I was nervous enough about the commitment to Art and went to a large university in case I didn’t like Studio Art, full time.
    What helped me most was the cash to help pay for books, art supplies that I didn’t have but needed for certain classes and Sunday meals (most colleges don’t have Sunday in their meal plan).
    I know I did want to take business classes along with my BFA, but my university didn’t allow an Art/Business double major and classes in the business school were limited to Business majors only. Our school only started to look at teaching the business side of it as I was heading out, so there were some voluntary workshops. The ones I remember best were about Shamless Self Promotion.
    At this point in my art career, it would have been nice to have an idea of all the different paths I could take as an artist and which routes might get me there. The biggest help as far as the business side for me has been through our local Arts Council (the Arts Council of Greater Lansing). They offer tons of workshops, grants and their one on one help. They also are great at connecting artists for mentoring etc. Some artists are extremly talented, but struggle on the business end. It would be great to get into the business side right away so that you can think about it, and the balance while working on Studio Discipline.

  7. “What are your favorite gifts to give and receive?”
    A new computer, with great software.
    External storage device(s) for backing up work. Artworks, photography of art, digital art, video, all very storage intensive.
    Gift certificates to eateries, itunes, netflix, etc.
    Subscriptions to expensive imported magazines on art, fashion, culture, architecture, etc.
    Membership fees to the local Art council.
    Pre-paid card to the post office for shipping and mailing things.
    Things that reduce stress – lessons in some outdoor sport, tickets to concerts, zoo/aquarium, spa (rather decadent tho)
    Regarding business, I think it should be something taught later in school and the matter of Ethics and intellectual property being taught first, as those things are important to one’s mental health and sustaining a sense of (business) confidence. Marketing and so forth is also useful, but as an end piece.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Dee: I love the idea of the card for the post office. And I also love the spa idea. What a treat that would be!

  8. Alyson, I don’t know if you’d find it interesting. My bachelor’s degree is in Commerce majoring in Accounting and Finance, and I had worked a few years in banking and investment after I graduate. I think banking and finance and accounting are the last places that people should get creative about, because it is destructive. Anyway, it is still very very different from Marketing, which I wish I have studied instead (after painting).

  9. For me, Easels were the best gift ever! I have two types. One that I use for large paintings made out of metal and is sturdy. It stays in my studio. The other one that is portable made out of solid wood called RENOIR Table Easel. It has a drawer to hold your Paints in it and is very well made. It can hold up to 18×24 size canvas panel or Stretched Canvas. It folds up into a brief-case. I take that with me everywhere – On Picnics, to Cafes, on Vacations.

  10. I’d give them a set of credit card sized artist grid cards currently up for pre-order on Kickstarter. They’re great for drawing and composing for painting. But then I did make them! I wish I’d had a set since my college days (and before). They are easy to find at kickstarter if you search artist grid cards.

  11. I agree that a business book isn’t appropriate at such a young age. It’s important to develop as an artist.
    Then again, if the person can separate the two and realize that they need to learn about business topics, even if they’re not ready to apply them yet, then that would be okay. Why not learn the basics of business from a young age?
    The issue of keeping the art creation mind separated from the business mind _during the creation process_ is one all artists face.

  12. For an young artist,a big “No” from my side when it comes to giving a business book to young children. It’s the time when they need to grow on their own and not just with textual knowledge. I think books related to art will do wonder for them along with art supplies.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      AGSI: I don’t think they’re talking about young children – just high school grads. But I still think that the biz book can wait a year or two after that.

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