No matter how well you know somebody—sister, bestie, lover, mom, grandpa, even an ex—the idea of giving them art as a gift might seem like a very tricky game to play. Art is personal, after all. Style is, too. But if you do a little thinking about the kind of art they might like—and always, always err on the size of a small piece to add to their collection—the gift of art can be one of the most meaningful.
Here are lots of ways to give the gift of art, depending on who you're loving on.
The perfect blend of useful and cheeky, a print that will actually help you in the kitchen, and be delightful to look at all the while. We're partial to Rochester-based Chickpea's how-to versions, and also this recipe for pickles, wonderfully illustrated, by Claudia Pearson.
A kitchen illustration
Earlier this year, the editor John Donohue left the New Yorker to focus on his drawings, calling his craft a fatherhood survival tool. Before leaving the magazine, he'd logged 150+ renderings of his dish rack alone, some of which are now for sale in his online shop—along with lots of other prints of household objects—Eat Draw Repeat.
A special offer from John for Food52 readers: Use the code "Food52" at checkout on Eat Draw Repeat for 10% off (and free shipping!).
Food art (including, but not limited to, still lifes)
Encased behind glass, many relics of good memories will take on an elevated, artistic quality—be that a dried sprig of leaves from a tree in your new neighborhood, a beloved recipe card, or a printed photograph of a time you shared together (20 other ideas, below).
Cheesy as it sounds, a drawing of one's beloved cat or dog, a watercolor of their childhood home, or a print of their first post-college place of residence will tug at even a cynic's heartstrings.
Search for custom pet illustrators on Etsy—yes, it's a thing—if you don't know a person in your hometown who has taken this up as a profession. And for city prints, we love the illustrated ones in Mr. Boddington's Studio (above, right) and these line drawings from Handled With Care.
An antique mold, a rugged gemstone, sand in a vintage stoppered jar—they might not be fine art, but they do well displayed on open shelves alongside books, and plants, and glassware.
Using just a printer, a copy machine, and a good pair of scissors, you can make professional-looking silhouettes. Just follow the tutorial at the end of this article to make versions of the ones below and have them framed for your recipient.
By cutting out a few triangles of construction paper and gluing them side-by-side, like this, you'll end up with a first-rate modern composition whoever you give it to will be able to iterate on themselves. Just tell them it's Flavin-inspired.
Make cobalt blue sun prints, also known as cyanotypes, using branches and leaves or even household objects. Or purchase a nature photograph, like this lovely watery one (below, right) from online art website Saatchi.
We lean ours up against the backs of open shelves, like so.
for the college-bound
A neon sign
Admittedly, the cheapest versions of these are beer advertisements, but if you do a little hunting around the internet you can find some reasonably-priced alternatives: open, espresso, love kills, to name three I dug up in a five-minute Etsy dive. (Basically college in a nutshell.)
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