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Mind Your Business: Christmas Gifts for Artists

'Tis the season for giving gifts, so Mark Simon points out some good shopping picks for artists in this month's "Mind Your Business."


'Tis the season to be jolly... jolly that we're about to get a lot of great goodies.

The problem is when the getting's not very good. What do you get for an artist anyway? We can be kind of fickle. Do you ever have those years where you don't get what you want?

To help you, your friends and family, I asked hundreds of artists what they want for the holidays. Some of the results were expected, but a number of them were rather surprising. Use this list to plan both your gift giving and your gift getting.

A few things quickly became clear. According to the survey, we want more things as we get older. The most responses I got were from people over 40 and the least were from people under 20. And we thought kids had large shopping lists. Wait until you see mine!

Over two-thirds of the responses also came from men, which I can only believe means that we're more needy than women. We constantly want more things.

When I asked about what DVDs you wanted, I expected to see great movies like The Simpsons Movie and Transformers top the list. Not so much. A few of you want movies, but most of you can't wait until Christmas to own them and buy them for yourselves. That leaves your friends and family without a clue what to get you. (Although 300 was the most requested movie, along with the Pixar Short Films Collection.)

Mark Simon's book (with no help from Socrates), Storyboards: Motion In Art.

The most requested type of DVD was training videos. A lot of you requested the Gnomon DVDs along with other "How To" discs, including how to cook and play the guitar.

The second-most-requested DVDs were TV series box sets. Evidently all those late nights you spend pretending to work while you're really watching crappy TV shows when no one else is around isn't enough. You have to own all the crappy TV shows too.

There wasn't a lot of commonality among the responses for specific books that you want. Evidently you all want to get better at what you do because most of you want more reference, "art of..." and "how to..." books.

I saw everything from Star Wars books to the classic Illusion of Life to Leo Tolstoy.

The winner of the best kiss-ass answer goes to the respondent who wants the complete works of Socrates and anything written by Mark Simon. (I like those books too.) I believe this may be the first time my name has ever been said in the same breath as Socrates... and it may be the last.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 still stands out as a favorite software. The funny thing is that all of you already own Photoshop. We just can't get enough of buying newer versions of software. Zbrush and Corel Painter X also made good showings on the list.

It's also become clear that many of you have overloaded your computers, as I have, to the point where you can't install any new software. This survey also turned into a forum where you announced your lack of time to learn new software. As much as we all love great software, none of us likes the uphill battle to stay up-to-date with new updates. But then again, the newest Photoshop was still the most popular choice. What's wrong with us?!

The biggest winners in the computer hardware category, by far, were the Wacom Cintiq and a new laptop. The Cintiq, in case you are the only artist alive not to know what it is, is a computer monitor where you can draw directly on the screen. It has revolutionized the debt artists carry. This $2,500 unit is pricey, but every artist who uses one swears their first project with it paid for the unit. Even if that job was only for $15.97.


I am assuming laptops are in favor because we just have to work on the computer while sitting in a tree house or driving on a safari. Of course, many of you want a tablet PC, which is a laptop with a mini-Cintiq monitor on it. I carry my tablet PC to all my meetings and usually end up sketching on paper anyway.

Other popular computer items were a new monitor, external back-up drives, new graphics cards and a regular Wacom tablet.

I assumed that I would get a lot of answers regarding all the incredibly cool maquettes and action figures that are available now when I asked about your favorite toys. The answers were really quite broad, covering everything from Barbie to a metal detector. (Did you lose your mechanical pencil again?) The most common answers were McFarland toys and Star Wars figures.

A number of people listed drafting tables under toys, and while I really like my drafting table, I've never really played with it. (OK, maybe that one time, but it was really, really late and I was so tired I was seeing things.)

One responder listed the Workin Out Teresa. I actually own this toy. It's an incredibly flexible female figure (get your minds out of the gutter) that is a great reference while drawing. Many of us have the Spider-Man with over 70 moving parts, but finding a flexible female for reference is a bit harder. Those art school Woody figures are terrible! These toys have musculature and clothing.

The winner of the gaming systems was not so clear. The leader changed every few hours. The PS3 won by just a few votes, but the Wii was ahead much of the polling time. The Xbox 360 was only a few votes back. The Game Cube, however, barely made a dent in the votes.

The most popular gaming accessory was the controller (what are you doing to your controllers anyway?) and memory cards.

I was very interested in the electronics category. The most popular electronic device was the digital camera. Not surprising. The SLR cameras keep getting better and the small consumer digital cameras can now do everything except cook breakfast. Next in line was the iPhone. I have to admit, they are really cool, but I can't justify the expense since all my other equipment can already do what the iPhone can do.

The battle of the big-screen TVs was won by LCD, closely followed by plasma. Projection TVs, while much cheaper, are not the rage.

One battle I've been following closely is between the high-definition DVD formats. The votes were close, but Blu-ray was the winner in the end. In the long run, this is good because Blu-ray offers much more storage space (and who doesn't need more storage?) and more advanced options.

iPods are still popular, readily beating the MP3 competition. What was surprising was that the Sandisk votes almost tripled those for the Zune.

The most surprising answers came from the question regarding things for your home. There seems to be a lack of coffee tables because that was the most requested item. I guess all you artists are getting tired of using those milk crates that you had in college.

Kitchen supplies also scored high. I guess Rachel Ray is more popular than I gave her credit for. Personally, I can't imagine asking for pots and pans and plates for Christmas, especially when the box set of Green Acres is available.

For the person who wants oven mitts and a spatula, you are either a huge fan of the Bill Murray movie Stripes or you need to get out of the house more often. I wonder if this was the same person who asked for a date for Christmas.

For those of you who said you don't want anything, I immediately put you on my list to send you everything you want. I hope you like what I sent.

To sum this up, the perfect gift for an artist is a Cintiq that doubles as an iPhone, which will lay flat to work as a coffee table, plays hi-def movies, reads reference books to you and you can cook on it.

I'm never buying anything for an artist again. (But I wouldn't mind getting those cool Marvel character busts.)

To view the full results of this survey online, go to

For those of you wanting a date for Christmas, go to Everyone else can go to Amazon.

Links to purchase all your favorite items from Amazon can be found online at To make your gift getting easier, use this list to find the gifts you want on Amazon and build a wish list for your friends and family with one click. Let's make it easy for people to get you what you want this year.

Want to take another survey? An upcoming article will be about your favorite styles of animation. Click here to tell us what you think.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer/director and speaker. He also helps people to sell their shows with consultations, samples and training. He is the co-founder of and may be reached at