Holiday ART gifts 2010!

I just finished up two evenings of parent conferences, and one of the most-asked questions was about how to encourage a student who loves art but (unfortunately) doesn’t have art class the whole school year?
One of my favorite suggestions is to give art supplies as gifts – especially for the holidays! So, I browsed through my favorite art supply catalog, Blick Art Materials, and came up with a list of some of my favorite items to give to your favorite students:

1. Blick Studio Artists’ Colored Pencils:

I have these in the art room myself for students to use. They come in a nifty metal tin, which makes it easy to stash in a backpack or artists’ carrying case. The colors are smooth and easy to blend. I would say they’re a good student-grade, student-priced alternative to Prismacolor brand. I recommend the 24 or 36 pencil set, unless you want to really go big and order the 72!

2. Blick Studio Drawing Pencils:
All artists deserve a good set of sketching and drawing pencils.  I like this set because of the tin (again) and because of the full range of hardness/softness, from 6H to 6B.  It gives students a chance to experiment and see what kind of pencil they most enjoy working with, which can change over time and depends on what type of drawing they're doing.

3. Prismacolor Colored Pencil Sharpener:

Once again, this is what I use in the classroom. The unique shape makes it easy for travel.  This sharpener holds a small amount of shavings as well, so you can use it in the car or anyplace not near a garbage can!  The blade on this sharpener is awesome for colored pencils as well as regular pencils.

4. Maped Pencil Eraser:

This is my personal favorite type of eraser for general drawing use.  It's white, ergonomically shaped for comfort, and the triangular curves are slim for accessing small areas.  Also available in an oval shape.

5. Blick Art Gum Eraser:
This eraser, lovingly referred to as "The Blick" by my art students (As in, "Hey, do you have the Blick?  Who took all the Blicks?!"), is the one that I have in the classroom for students.  It's a great all-purpose eraser, but this version is only sold in packs of 12.  Luckily, they're not too expensive, and if you lose one, you're not too sad since you'll still have 11 others.

6. Alvin Nylon Utility Bags:

You can't have good quality art supplies without something to protect and carry them all in, right? These bags from Alvin are my pick from what Blick has to offer.  Simple black design made from sturdy durable nylon are just the right thing.  I own several different zipper bags for art supplies, and although I always want the pretty decorated ones, it's the workhorses like these ones from Alvin that really last.  Besides, you want it pretty?  Buy yourself some metallic Sharpies and go to town!

7. Sharpie Retractable Fine Point Pens:

Speaking of Sharpies - this is my new all-time FAVORITE pen!  I've been drawing with it endlessly, especially for my Sketchbook Project book.  It doesn't leak through paper, even the thin pages of my Moleskine, and it has a retractable point.  No more losing caps!  It's lightweight and feels good in your hand - plus, it's got a nice grip which makes it comfortable to hold, and the point is always solid and even. Buy at least one 3-pack, because people will want to take them!  You can even try out a Sharpie pen virtually at Sharpie Uncapped.com

8. Canson Field Sketchbooks:

I love the hard cover and spiral binding of this sketchbook.  It's durable, but can be opened completely and folded over for ease of use anywhere.  If you really mess up, you can tear out the pages and no one will be the wiser!  My favorite size for sketchbooks is smaller, 5" x 7" for everyday use since it pairs well with the size of my pencil pouch and is easily slipped into a bag for travel.  Here at school most students have 9" x 12" since we draw on full-sheet size for assignments.  Nevertheless, I typically have several sketchbooks going at one time, so a few of these little guys is just right!

9. X-Acto Gripster Knife:

You might be thinking that it's weird for me to be recommending a knife as part of an art supply collection, but this X-Acto Gripster knife is perfect for all kinds of assorted art tasks - especially collage and other precise cutting needs.  The rubbery coating on the handle makes it easy and comfortable to hold, and the plastic cap makes it safe to slip into your art bag (see #6) - I have one in my personal art case always.  Be warned though, that this supply is for responsible artists only and should not be brought into school for fear that it may get into the wrong hands.  Same thing goes for home use - make sure it is kept away from younger brothers and sisters!

10. Blick Studio Marker Sets:

Blick Studio markers are an excellent student-grade marker, comparable in product to its Prismacolor counterpart.  They're double-ended: a fine tip and a wider width capable of producing multiple line thicknesses.  I like markers for outlining and detail work, and this is a great set for a variety of drawing needs.

Art supplies are always an awesome gift for students at any time of the year.  The items listed above are just a sampling of what I enjoy using both at school and at home.  I recommend good quality art supplies because they will yield the best results for students, boosting their confidence and pride in their work while teaching them to value and care for art supplies properly. 

I hope everyone has a great holiday season - do something artistic!
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