Alan’s 2020 Holiday gift guide for the artist in your life

A few of our Artspace members were taking note of my sketching gear last month at our Newark Union Church sketch event and suggested I put together a gift guide. I’ve found what works for me through research, trial and error. I vouch for all of these as quality items:


Windsor & Newton Field Box set $99.35

Amazing little travel set that fits in the palm of your hand. Contains fold-out palettes, water cup, and travel brush. The price is a bit high because these are premium pigments with excellent lightfastness, meaning that they won’t fade over time like cheaper watercolors will.

Sakura Koi Watercolor Sketch Box Travel Pan Sets – Set of 24 colors $21.25


Elegant box with a really nice choice of colors. It even comes with a waterbrush. Not as pricey as the W&N set but very popular with many serious sketchers.

Kuretake water brushes $14.99

Fill the body of the brush with water. Give it a gentle squeeze and water flows through the bristles. These are a convenient way to apply watercolor to a field sketch without the mess of a full water color set. 

TWSBI Eco fountain pen $30.99

Fantastic fountain pen that resists clogging. It’s the most reliable one I have. I have the extra-fine nib which has a little bit of flex to it. Only thing I don’t like is that the smooth plastic grip can feel a little slippery.

LAMY Safari Fountain Pen $29.60

I highly recommend this as a starter pen to anyone who hasn’t used a fountain pen before. Note the triangular grip. I love this because I can feel the proper orientation of the pen in my hand without looking at it. And you want to watch your subject, not your pen. However, for people with a non-standard grip style, this can be awkward. The TWSBI might be a better choice for those people. Very popular with both writers and sketchers. NOTE: if you want to use the inks below, you will also need a $6 converter.

De Atramentis Document Inks Full Line $22.05

You need ink for a fountain pen. De Atramentis inks are great for sketching if you want to lay some watercolor over them. They are the most water-proof inks I’ve used. You can also buy individual samples for just $1.75

Pentel Graph Gear mechanical pencil $7.09

My favorite mechanical pencil. I prefer the 0.9mm version. Don’t forget to buy leads for it.

Watercolor postcard pad $9.05

Make a nice watercolor, address it, stamp it, and send it home. Ta-da! You just became a more interesting adventurer. 

Stillman & Birn Archival Sketchbooks Epsilon Series – 5-1/2” x 3-1/2”, Soft Cover $9.65

The Epsilon series is great for fountain pens because of the plate finish. The nib glides over it without catching. I like this little pocket size because it’s so easy to take anywhere. And because of the small size, it gives me permission to make smaller, simpler drawings. Easy to crank out a simple sketch over lunch.

Condor pocket pouch $12.95

Great pouch that will fit the Stillman and Birn sketchbook above, along with a pencil, pen, and a water brush perhaps.

Speedball Water-Based Block Printing Starter Set $20.57

When I’m not sketching in the wild, I love linocut printing. This simple starter set is what I first used and it works great. I even made a tutorial video on how to use it.


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