Holiday Shopping for the Creative Professional [Part I: The Don’ts]

by Michael Zabel

See below {No. 2}

The holiday season is here, and with it comes the age old question of “What should I get for ‘so-and-so’?”  Finding presents in general can be an experience filled with uncertainties, and if ever you had the mission of shopping for a creative professional in the past, then you know that their are many pitfalls to beware in addition to the established traditions.  Here are a few Don’ts to guide you through a less stressful shopping adventure:

1.  Art supplies:

As an artist myself, I can tell you that we can be a particular bunch when it comes to materials.  That being said, the supplies we choose to use come from years of exhaustive experimenting with the many options available. The endless exchange between learning to manipulate mediums and developing personal style (i.e. finding your “voice”) is an organic process not to be interrupted by the introduction of a new or foreign method.  This is not to say an artist shouldn’t experiment with new mediums (in fact it’s a necessity and certainty), but rather that the artist, and only the artist, will know when he or she is ready to make the endeavor.  Not to mention if you have ever set foot in an art supplies store, and I don’t mean Michael’s, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the bombardment of various brands of the same products, multiple questions regarding multiple items, and the cold unwelcoming ambiance of a real utilitarian art repository (staff included).  So save yourself some stress, and unless you have a very specific list from the artist you’re buying gifts for, stay away from the art supplies…or just buy a gift card (more on this later).             

2.  Motivation (by book or block):

There are many products out there that offer inspiring nuggets of wisdom.  There are even books of motivation specifically targeting the artist.  The newest trend that’s catching fire (see photo above) is an influx of quotations screen printed onto painted blocks of wood.  The problem with quotes is that they are most often ages old (hence wisdom), usually taken out of context (misinterpreted), which leads to misquotation or transformation from their original meaning (thus, invalid).  Personal artistic drive does not stem from a quipster like Oscar Wilde (or that wily and equivocal Anonymous) nor, furthermore, from a tome of fallacious quotations or a block of wood invading the aesthetics of any artistic workspace.  If only motivational quotes provided some practical advice like “Paint some words of wisdom on wood; fill your pockets with cabbage.”  Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when quotations are appropriate (key note speeches, graduation ceremonies, etc.) and I have much respect for their authors and the fact that their wisdom can still be found relevant sometimes hundreds of years posthumously.  I just don’t condone supporting the racket that has become the quotation industry.  Whether it’s books, blocks of wood, coffee mugs, tea cups, posters, planners, calendars, bobble-heads, tee shirts, sweatshirts, stadiums, ashtrays, locker room walls, business cards, enlightened energy drinks, sandy beaches, bulletin boards, chalkboards, dry erase boards, skate boards (did I mention blocks of wood?), desktop wall papers, toilet paper (this might actually be a good idea), bumper stickers, hats, plaques, or polished rocks, I guess it’s just not my thing.  Ironically what I’m really trying to say can be easily packaged as a quotation:

“While influence is ubiquitously strewn about, the real deal, motivation, must come from within.”  – me {ca. 2012}

And you can put that  on a block of wood (just give me credit).   

3.  A quick note on stocking stuffers:

Here’s a chance to put some prior information to use.  Try not to fill your artist’s stocking with art supplies this holiday season.  I know it can be tempting seeing that many tools (pencils, pens, markers, 2 oz. tubes of paint, paintbrushes, pocket sized sketchbooks) will fit nicely with room to spare for other odds and ends.  If this is something you do want to include in the sock-o-booty, might I suggest poking around the artist’s studio a bit to find out what brands they tend to use.  For example, I like to use my trusty Dixon Ticonderoga No.2 – HB pencils when drawing.  So, if I were to find a pack of those in my stocking, it would obviously not be a bad thing.  Another idea that is often overlooked by people outside of the creative industry (yes, even your closest friends and relatives) is that you are running a business and this means you need business things at your disposal.  A stocking filled with highlighters, post-it notes, batteries, USB jump drives, paper clips and staples can be more appreciated than one may think.

Best of luck and Happy Holidays!

Stay tuned for Holiday Shopping for the Creative Professional Part II…                       

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