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Sculptures, Prints, Photos & Paintings That Prove Art Can Be an Excellent Gift

December 20, 2016

Day 24 of 30 Days of Thoughtful Giving: Give art.

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.

for the ceramics-obsessed

A small clay sculpture

For anyone who appreciates—and likes to show off—a hand-thrown mug or collection of speckled soup bowls, small ceramic sculptures can be an excellent transition into the world of fine art.

Cone 3, by Lindsey Hampton
Double-U, by Virginia Sin

Uprise Art's Hand Thrown collection features unique, small scale, ceramic sculptures—many from artists who otherwise turn out functional ceramics (like our very own Virginia Sin).

for the cook

A reference print

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.

Don't Let the Demons of Your Past Beat You, by John Donohue
Advice for Those Wanting Sympathy, John Donohue

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)

for the sentimentalist

A framed keepsake

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).

A rendering of something they love

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.

Custom Dog Portrait, by Doggy Arts
Chicago Art Print, Mr. Boddington

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.

Meaningful objects

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.

for parents

A handmade silhouette

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.

for your friends who studied art history

Construction-paper art

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.

for oudoorsy folk

Nature prints & photography

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.

Daffodils, by Monika Fabijanczyk

for small-space dwellers

A trivets that doubles as a sculpture

The safest bet for a person who won't accumulate anything that doesn't serve many purposes? A kitchen tool that looks so nice it counts as art, too.

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.)

L I L' S O M E T H I N' S O M E T H I N' // 👀👌🏼@libertylondon

A photo posted by Lucie (@lucieloves) on

With a typical lifetime of about a decade, the neon sign art gift will last the long after graduation—and they can be recharged to glow anew even after that point.

anyone you want to make smile

Inexpensive, unique, uplifting, and all loveable:

Mysic Toad Limited Edition Print, Hallie Batemen
Red Flowers, by People I've Loved
Playing Again 4, by Duealberi
Summer of 67, by SeptemberWren

Do you ever give art as a gift? Share your favorite artists (or crafty ways to make art) in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • debspots.com
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
  • Jr0717
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


debspots.com December 20, 2016
What about that black and white marbled piece hanging in the first pic?
Amanda S. December 20, 2016
Counts! Stores like Blick and Paper Presentation carry them in lots of colors (and we carry the frame it's in: https://food52.com/shop/products/2835-print-hanging-frame)
Jr0717 December 20, 2016
Hi -I must apologize, but Im not sure I understand. I was also curious about the black and white marbled piece, but is the company that makes it called "Counts" ?
Amanda S. December 21, 2016
Sorry—it's just a piece of marbled paper. I'm not sure the maker of the one depicted in the above image, but you can buy large sheets of marbled paper from the stores I listed above! (Counts! = Yes, it counts as art and would make a nice gift.)
Jr0717 December 21, 2016
Ah, I understand. I'm sorry - thanks!!