If you’re crafty, you can make wet canvas carriers using two painting frames glued face-to-face and some big rubber bands. That was my intention but, after I scoured all our thrift stores unsuccessfully for the proper size frames, I gave up and ordered PanelPak wet canvas carriers. For the sake of my car’s interior, I wish I’d bought them 200,000 miles ago. I use the 8X10 and 12X16 the most, but that’s an individual thing.
Another pricey but invaluable accessory is a stainless steel brush tank with a leak-proof lid. Yes, artists can use glass jars with tightly screwed lids, but they make a mess in the field. Get a small one for a plein air painter. Cared for properly, these last a lifetime.
In our house, Santa doesn’t bring presents but he does fill stockings. He always remembers sketch books. I like Strathmore’s Visual Journals with smooth Bristol paper and #2 mechanical pencils, but you can scale that up or down as your budget requires. You might add micron pens if your list includes teenagers who like to draw comics.
I have a Winsor Newton watercolor sketch kit, but dedicated watercolorists love to create their own pan sets. Anyone would be thrilled to get this Schmincke empty palette set, but if your painter is young and hip, get him just the empty half-pans, some double-sided tape and a few tins of Altoids. Pair this with a watercolor field book, and he will entertain himself for the rest of the year.
Every painter should have a set of grey-scale markers for value studies. A navigational compass and a cheap (because it will get dirty) business card holder are both useful field tools.
Every year, a million knock-off French box easels appear nestled under aspiring artists’ Christmas trees. Do me a favor and don’t buy one; they’re heavy, cumbersome, and discouraging. For the watercolor artist, see my post here about choosing an easel. For oil painters, a pochade box and tripod is a better option, although they can be expensive. Good with your hands? Here’s a pochade box I built for under $50; it serves me well and it can be paired with a less-expensive tripod.
If your artist really needs a studio easel, I think the Testrite aluminum mast easel is good value for money. It is what I use for my students. If your artist likes to work really big, go with their hinged professional model. I’ve been using one for decades.
And, of course, art lessons are always good.
Don’t forget my holiday sale, or my 2015 Maine workshop. Details on that are coming tomorrow.