Freelance illustrator Adrian Cartwtright blogs about birthday ideas for illustrators.

blog 015 / What to buy an illustrator for their birthday: Gift Ideas.

Planet illustration studio company blog 015 / What to buy an illustrator for their birthday.

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Adrian Cartwright owner of planet illustration, looks at birthday ideas for illustrators.

16th June 2015

What to buy an illustrator for their birthday: Gift Ideas.

We’re going to look at “What to buy an illustrator for their birthday”. And just so you know my birthday is coming up very soon in June. I had no intention of making this a birthday wish list… honest !... But let’s say I’ll let you into what I wanted later on.

I’m celebrating my 25th year as full time professional illustrator this year, and experience has shown me that illustrators come in all shapes and sizes, some very young, some old and other’s simply different. In fact we’re all different, which makes the task more difficult, but then there’s one theme we all have… We are illustrators.

I’ve grouped us illustrators into 3 x groups. And will focus on 3 ideas or items for each group, considering personality ie: Subtle or Adventurous, age ie: Young or Old and cost with a price range of £20, £60 and £200 ($30, $100 and $300 USD).
As I’m writing this, I’m sure this is going to be a great resource for illustrators… well for their birthdays at least.

Now I know as an illustrator myself, that I know what I want when I buy stuff for work, and perhaps the Work bit is key here… Don’t by Paint or brushes if they already have them. It would be like buy flour or a rolling pin to a baker…Dull.
I’m a strong believer infun with gifts, so practical is fine so long as it’s a treat of sorts… and something they don’t have.

Traditional illustrator:
This could include people who might work in Oils, Pastels, Watercolours and pretty much anything that’s possible without the aid of electricity. I use to work traditionally, for 20 years, mostly watercolour and pastels, and know that illustrators like to stick to the same products, so unless it’s a new widget that’s different from anything else, it’s worth finding out about what brand they use.

£20 ($30) Gifts:
Books can be good for any age or ability if they’re fun or inspirational. I’ve had books in the past, like a pop art book, and an old favourite “Victorian inventions illustrated”. Another was a paper art book, which I’ve since lost, but it was a little like a child’s Air-Fix model kit with different things to make using only paper or card. At this price range, Books although obvious prove good value. It’s in the choosing that matters.

£60 ($100) Gifts:
Art classes are a good experience and can open new areas of art, media and design to an illustrator. I was given a nude drawing course as a gift many years ago, and I’m always thinking of doing Life classes again, as I really enjoyed it. In the UK there’s plenty of night classes available at schools and colleges during term time.

£200 ($300) Gifts:
Now spending this sort of money is more of an investment so the fun part has to come as a more longer lasting gift than say a Whoopee cushion.
Perhaps a artistic course or weekend break at an art academy or trip to sketch or paint scenes in the highlands Scotland. In the past I’ve found myself saying “thank you” for a gift that is a little too indulgent to justify buying myself, but as a gift, it’s the best ! So a luxury item, a play thing. Something to spoil yourself with is good. It could be a vintage Angle poise lamp, there’s lots of refurbished ones on eBay.

Digital illustrator:
As you might predict from the previous note, this covers illustrators who work on computers with software like Adobe creative collection or similar.
Now this is my territory, so I hope you find my recommendations helpful.
£20 ($30) Gifts: Although we work digital, there’s always a need to put pen to paper, and retractable pencil and or a fountain pen is something a little different. Especially the fountain pen, there’s a smooth glide that’s quite nice to write with, and I’m always sketching out ideas and composition before I use software.

£60 ($100) Gifts: I’m sure many digital artists have a tablet of sorts, and I have an iPad, and on that I have drawing Apps, now there are stylus pens out there to make the experience more natural, but beware some are simply a plastic tube with a soft nib imitating your finger. So when you rest your hand down to draw or write, you’re effectively touching the screen in two places, causing all sorts of confusion for the App. And the only way around it, is not to rest your hand… hardly natural..! At the time 2014, there was only one pen out there that combated this…
The Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus. A bit of a mouthful, but it’s the best one simply because it did something the others didn’t. Cleverly using bluetooth, it cancelled out your hand or finger touching the screen, and only responded to the tip of the pen when using certain drawing/sketching apps. a I bought last year a Wacom and although it’s costly at the time £75, I’m sure it’s dropped a bit by now, as it was a new product, and simply the only one, but might be worth shopping around for others, but the manufacture Wacom I’ve found over the 15 years I’ve used them, is the best around for drawing tablets and digital drawing aids.

£200 ($300) Gifts: This seamlessly brings me to the Wacom tablets… if you’re a digital artist or illustrator. I would highly recommend them. Ergonomically there’s no alternative unless you want to go traditional. The prices range so I suggest you take a look at Wacoms website. There’s also paid directories and support like the AOI (Association of illustrators), currently in 2015 it’s £150 for a years membership, there’s support and benefits to be had. http://www.theaoi.com

Out there…
This pretty much covers anything. Think Lego, Paper sculpture and any 3d work that’s then photographed. I think we need to draw the line at film as that’s kinda turning into art. Seeing that this area is focusing on physical subjects ie they really exist and might be fixed items. Like a mural on a wall, photography is possibly the only media used to reproduce the artwork for generally sharing. So this is going to be fun…!

£20 ($30) Gifts: At this price range a funky memory stick is a simple and personable way to share your work, especially if you want to show it at a high resolution. As they’re possibly on the move, and not stuck to a desk a bluetooth hands free headset might be useful to avoid getting there new iPhone grubby.

£60 ($100) Gifts: Typically a 6 month Magazine subscription following an interest or area the work in would fit the budget. Now this is getting tricky… I’ve already resorted to magazine subscription… I guess I’ve got to keep it general, and it’s sort of wide open. But a convention in the area could be good, I know I’ve been to a couple and although I was unsure before I went to the first one, it’s great… meeting others with a similar interest… they’ll get to make lots of new friends and learn more about others the will inspire and give a great feeling of community. If that’s not available, simple tickets to a relevant exhibition is a winner.

£200 ($300) Gifts: As with all three groups here, when you’re spending this amount or more, it’s worth talking to them and asking them if there’s anything that they would love to have, but can’t justify it… I had this happen to me… I’d almost obsessed about it, but knew it was something I couldn’t justify at the time. The cost mostly was the factor, but as a gift, you don’t have the guilt, if you know what I mean… it turns out that it’s the best, and if I know then, I would quite easily justified buying it myself.
Perhaps that’s it, it’s about focusing and daring to ask.

I’ve already had my pressies from my other half, and I’m a very lucky illustrator, what with getting it 2 months early. The reason was I was given an Apple Watch for my birthday, and it’s simply brilliant. I can’t stop bursting into some sort of Apple sales pitch when someone shows interest in it.

To all illustrators out there, I truly hope you get what you want for your birthday, and have a great day.

Author: Adrian Cartwright illustrator

PS, Let me know how you get on, I’d love to hear and learn from your gift ideas. Contact


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