As a recently converted artsy creative type, I have a lot of opinions on this topic (and on oh so many others) and have used a lot of products - these are my fave. The thing about these gifts is that they can be for ANYONE. I'm on this new high about how everyone's artistic and creative. The key for me was finding a fun medium and some inspiration. Does that sound artsy fartsy? Well thank you. Here are some ideas for the already creative type or wannabe artist or doesn't-know-that-she-wannabe's-an-artist yet:
Japanese Watercolors and Water Brush: I'd seriously never been into watercolors until I tried Japanese watercolors. They're as easy to work with as the wishy washy watercolors I associate with floral arrangement and sunset paintings, but they have a totally different feel and look. A creamier texture allows you to get as much or as little on your brush to go from a light wash to totally opaque. But the water brush is what makes them. You fill the barrel with water and then just squeeze to wet the brush. It's hard to explain why this is so fun, but trust me. I've watched people that have never painted in their life get really into these.
My Suggestion: Kuretake Fils watercolor 14 color set, $23.30
I have a few, and this is my favorite for gifting because it's small, portable, and comes already with a water brush and drawing pen. Plus, it's one of the best quality makers at a decent price.
Adjustable Tilt Desk aka Drawing Table: So the drawing/drafting tables the pros use are huge and super pricey. So, here's my workaround: a little tilt desk. It's really nice to have a tilted surface instead of being hunched over your artful sketches all the time. Super useful and compact. And bonus - it doubles as a laptop stand and snacking in bed table.
My suggestion: Avantree Adjustable Table, $42.99
I outfitted this little guy with a clip-on lamp, iPad stand, and pen holder, and I can easily carry it from my desk to the couch when I want to draw in front of the TV (which is often). It's name is Megadesk.
Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry, $12.48
Lynda Barry is a well-known cartoonist who started teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (just a year after I finished grad school there, dammit!). This book is made up of her actual cartoony syllabuses/syllabi (?) as well as notes from her classes. It is not only useful, but it's a veritable dessert buffet for the eyes - every page is completely filled with drawings and text. There's some creativity inspiration and also fun drawing prompts anyone can follow, from beginners to pros. I'd give this to anyone interested in drawing or just creativity in general.
Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking, $12.67
Similar idea to Lynda Barry's book, but the whole thing is full of creative prompts not just for drawing, but also for painting, writing, what have you. I've had a lot of fun with this little guy when I've been in the mood for some artsy-craftsy time, but my creative juices are sucked dry. I'd suggest this one more for a burgeoning creative type.
Pentel Pocket Brush, $12.43
This is THE brush favored by anyone into brush pens. What the hell are brush pens you ask? Well they're mostly used for Asian calligraphy and manga drawing, but really they just make any writing or drawing or painting you do look badass and interesting. And unlike traditional brush and ink, this is a little compact pen with refillable cartridges, which means none of the drips. I think this is a killer starter implement for any artist, or any established artist who's never painted or drawn with ink before.
Copic Marker 12-Piece Sketch Basic Set, $59.99
I used to make fun of these pens. A $5 marker?! And that's the Amazon price. But hear me out on this one - they are totally rad and fun to use. These are not the markers of your youth-hood. They color in like slightly more opaque watercolors, but you can actually control them, like, you know, a marker. Professional artists, illustrators, and rich-lady-coloring-book-enthusiasts go nuts for them. You can get lost in the colorful hole of Copic Marker options, but I like this basic "Sketch" set, meaning that they have both a brush side and a chisel tip. Any coloring enthusiast or color-loving artist will be totally stoked on these.