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Mind Your Business: What Artists Want for Christmas

Mark Simon plays animation Santa.



What do I want for Christmas this year? How do I explain to someone that I want something cool? Not what they think is cool, but what I think is cool (other people's cool is usually not very cool).

I ran a survey last week and more than 230 artists answered a series of questions of what they want for Christmas this year. Times, they are a-changing, as you will see from the results. You can find this survey online at I'm leaving the survey open so you can take it too.

Artists are very particular about supplies they like to work with. It used to be that we all had our favorite brand of pencils, only used certain pens, preferred a particular paper and only worked with one type of paint.

Over the last few years, artists preferred tools are no longer instruments to make physical art. Our preferred tools are for making virtual art. The top two requested supplies this year are software (more than 60%) and computers. While pencils take the 3rd position, lessons and subscriptions (presumably to learn how to make better use of those faster computers and upgraded software) take up the next spots.


I'm always fascinated by lists like this survey. While all artists share creativity, we vary greatly in how we look at the world. One artist asked for the desire to improve their craft and patience to actually draw something. At first glance it may seem hard to give the gift of desire, but that's exactly what artists get out of incredible art books and toys (especially really cool maquettes).

When artists talk about the books they'd like to get, the list is incredibly varied. One common theme are the Art of… books, based on our favorite animations and sci-fi/action flicks. This year I also saw the request for more training books than I've ever seen before. Software advances so quickly that it's hard to keep up. That's an annoying issue we all share. As much as I hate HAVING to learn new software all the time, the new things software can do are really awesome.

A number of people also want books on marketing for artists and books on storyboarding. Luckily, I've got just the books for you (here comes a sales pitch). Take a look at my link at the bottom of this article for books I've written on these subjects, Thriving Artist CDs and other books I recommend. For those of you who asked for my books on the survey, thank you, thank you, thank you.

A collection of Mark's books and CDs.

The incredible list of books requested in the survey has given me tons of ideas for books I now want that I didn't even know existed. Take a look at the Survey Results link below and you're sure to find more books you didn't even know you wanted (but you really, really do).

But, we don't always want to read. Sometimes we want to chill and just want movies. The request for DVDs is also really diverse, but there is a consensus on wanting the best animated films of the last year, Inception, Avatar and, again, DVDs on training. A number of responses on the survey asked for the same thing I love, great DVD movies that have behind-the-scenes bonus features.

Since artists want more software than tactile art supplies, this survey wouldn't be complete without a list of requested software. Again, I saw a lot of softwares I didn't even know about. But Adobe products top the list. Then Toonboom products (animation and storyboarding) follow. One artist said he thinks he bought everything he needs. This list of software requests may offer him an additional idea or two. (I may have to sell my extra kidney to afford all the new stuff I'm finding by writing this article!)

But what about the hardware? We always need bigger and better computers for all this new software. That may be true, but the most requested computer gadget is the incredible Wacom Cintiq. For those of you living in a cave, those are the monitors where you can draw on the screen. More than half the respondents want one (and the rest probably already have one.) I have a few of them. Next comes the desire for a laptop and then backup storage.

Mark's family wishing you all a Happy Holidays!

As computers get faster, we make larger files which take up more room and slow down our computers. Then we run out of storage and buy more, then a virus wipes out our system and we swear we'll never forget to back up our files again. Then life happens and we fall back to our old, no-backup habits again.

Of course, life can't be all work without play. Games have become a huge part of our lives. Even if you're not a gamer, it will affect you (especially if you have kids. Sheesh!) I found it interesting that all 3 major gaming systems had the same number of requests. We just got the PS3 Move, and it's awesome! Even for non-gamers like me it's fun.

But, the number one entertainment device requested is a 3D TV. There's a lot of talk that people don't want to deal with the glasses, but the 3D TV images are so much better than what you see in the theaters, most people get over that problem pretty quickly (except for the cost of buying glasses for everyone).

My favorite request from a gamer was for a massage therapist. That tells me that person spends WAY too much time gaming. But I understand, because I need the same thing after a few crushing schedules of working on my Cintiq.

We hear a lot about the iPad, and that's not lost on artists. That's the number one requested gadget. If the iPad or any other tablet offered pressure sensitivity (with a cost lower than the Cintiq) artists would flock to it. Personally, I'm holding out for a second generation tablet that runs Flash and has dual cameras.

If you want to see all the down and dirty details of this survey (and maybe pick up some ideas for gifts), you can see the results online at (capitalization is important).

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation director/producer. He's written a number of books and training programs for artists, which also make for great presents. Go to for Mark's books ( Your Resume Sucks, Facial Expressions, Storyboards, Thriving Artist & more), CDs for artists and other books he recommends.