Beyond sketch pads.
January 25, 2011 8:32 AM   Subscribe

What would make a good birthday present for a charming, arty, somewhat dyspraxic sixteen-year-old?

My sister turns seventeen in a few days' time. She enjoys art (mostly drawing and sketching), but I don't want to be too banal and give her pens/pencils/pads (again!) unless they're particularly special.

She has mild dyspraxia which presumably makes drawing a bit trickier, but she enjoys her art nonetheless and I've seen her come along in leaps and bounds over the last few years. It looks to be her strongest subject at school, too. My past arty presents have been nice and she's used them, but there's never been anything magic enough to get her sitting down and sketching for hours at a time, say.

What gifts would be suitable, d'you think? Doesn't have to be art supplies, or anything related—but that particular part of her life strikes me as something she gets a lot of pleasure out of and could be enjoying a whole lot more if she really immersed herself in it.
posted by henryaj to Shopping (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you sign her up for a drawing class in your area? Most art colleges have classes aimed at people in her age group. A sketch pad and some nice pencils along with a life-drawing class would get her drawing regularly. Fair warning: "life-drawing" means drawing naked people. So maybe get your parents' okay for that. It's the best way to learn to draw people, though.
posted by Adridne at 8:42 AM on January 25, 2011

How about a membership to a local art museum? Being able to just walk in with a sketchbook and find a quiet spot to observe and draw is a real pleasure.
posted by muddgirl at 8:45 AM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

What's your budget? Is she computer-inclined or into digital manipulation of any sort? Low-end graphics tablets are quite inexpensive and might be a fun tool for her to play around with.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 8:53 AM on January 25, 2011

The Wacom Bamboo tablets are good cheap fun, as long as you have or can procure a suitable drawing app.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:56 AM on January 25, 2011

I recommend a book called "The Artist's Manual" by Angela Gair, Chronicle Publishers. The book costs about twenty five dollars, is easily available on Amazon. I use it for my beginner studio classes and the students rave about how much they love it as a guide. There are a lot of inspiring how to pictures, it's easy to read, and easy to find the direction you seek as an artist.

And, you still have some change left over for a gift card. ;)
posted by effluvia at 9:30 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

What about Anime Studio (from Smith Micro)? It's very reasonably priced and may get her interested in web design or programming, too.
posted by parilous at 9:50 AM on January 25, 2011

Cartooning and making comics is wonderful for expression and creativity while being versatile enough for any style (from highly detailed to stick figure). Anyone who likes to draw and tell stories could enjoy it.

there are 2 books that come to mind in the "how to" area, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Matt Madden and Jessica Abel - - it's very useful, aimed at teens - adults.

there's a children's book put out by the Center for Cartoon Studies called Adventures in Cartooning that's slated for younger readers.

and Lynda Barry's wonderful book What it Is works well for comics but other kinds of artistic expression in general:

if you'd prefer to get her some YA comic books, there are many a teenager would like. If she's not into comics, though:

in terms of fun art supplies - if you want something different from pens/pencils/paper, there's lots of ways to make art with colorful Sculpey clay, paint, screenprinting, letterpress, with textiles, with wood, with a cheap camera. Are there any art supply stores near you? Like Blick, Pearl, or AI Friedman (the last one tends to be more craftsy).

hope that helps. you're a nice sister!
posted by Geameade at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2011

* sibling. sorry.
posted by Geameade at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2011

I don't think it's silly at all to get her paper and pencils and the like if she draws - art supplies cost a lot of money, and even my college friends who were studio art majors with supply budgets in order to complete assignments griped about it constantly and were always looking for ways to cut corners.

If you want to make it more special, I'd get her the top of the line (or best you can afford) of something she uses a lot. If she draws in blank notebooks, get her 10 moleskines. If she's more of a big pad and charcoal person, find out what the best quality materials are and splurge on her behalf. If she's using one of those $3 manila cardstock portfolios, buy her something really nice (or offer to take her shopping). If she's expressed interest in moving on to painting, get her some canvas and stretching equipment, or her first set of acrylics or oils or whatever. (Painting supplies are CRAZY expensive - to the point that I know artists who've had to work around the reality of not being able to afford to paint.)

I like the comics idea, as well, though I'd suggest that, at seventeen, she's probably too old for YA stuff. (unless you know for serious that she's really into that, of course.) I love graphic novels, and if someone were buying me a gift, what I'd want would be nice hardcover editions of "classics" (I especially like anything by Jaime Hernandez or Adrian Tomine). Or really any beautiful edition of anything unique. I would not get paperback editions of serialized stuff - that she can buy on her own at the comic shop. Look for things from Fantagraphics and Drawn And Quarterly.

In a similar vein, art books. Soooo expensive from the perspective of a student. But so easy if you know what she likes. Publishers like Phaidon and Taschen have books of interesting drawing/illustration/"works on paper". Books from museum publishers - especially those big hardcover coffee table books from a particular show at a particular museum - are AMAZING (and again, probably more than she is prepared to spend on herself). If you go this route, make sure to get something from a well-known publisher. Those coffee table books you see in the bargain section at Barnes & Noble usually have pretty poor quality prints of the work.

If you live in or near a big city, a membership to the local art museum would be just the thing.

No matter where you live, lessons, a class, or some experiential/skill oriented gift would also be really cool.
posted by Sara C. at 2:07 PM on January 25, 2011

Beads? Not plastic, but for-real strands of gemstones (birthstone, maybe?) and/or pearls with some sterling clasps &c. Fire Mountain has a big selection and Etsy is good for "I want a tiny pinch of X size and X colour" buys.
posted by kmennie at 3:37 PM on January 25, 2011

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