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  • Writer's pictureJill Velasco

Art Must-Haves 2020

2020 has definitely given me new perspective on things, launched my business and personal art in new directions and has had me spending way more time at home- both for work and leisure. Spending more time in the studio, I have had more opportunities to reorganize my supplies, delve into experimenting with new ones and found new appreciation for the ones I had stored away. So with that, I bring you my favorite (re)discoveries of 2020.

(I will be linking the US websites for purchase along with the item descriptions.)


Gone are the days of having to hold a mahl stick up against your easel while trying to draw or paint with the other hand. This is an absolutely fabulous addition to any easel with the simple vice attachment. The wooden support rotates easily with a slight pull motion to adjust its position over your work. It has great range of motion,is very sturdy and comfortable to use for long periods of time drawing or painting. View product HERE


I have been on the search for quite a while for a transportable way to store my chalk stick pastels. Heilman boxes are a great solution but they will definitely set you back quite a bit $$$. I could never seem to find the right combination between the price, quality and the storage capacity that would serve just as good of a purpose if I was painting at home or wanted to bring the pastels to paint plein air or to teach a class. Well, wait no longer! Thanks to some suggestions from fellow artists in Facebook groups, someone suggested the UK-based store Jackson's Art Supply and these wooden storage boxes. I ordered 2 of the small and they have far exceeded my expectations. The shipping was super quick, they are made really well and even the small will store quite a lot of pastels. The best part is the price! The boxes start at just over $30US.

View product HERE


Not only is this book beautiful to peruse, It is over 400 pages of amazing illustrative instruction on creating botanical art in a wide range of media. I have added this book as a staple in my little studio library and highly recommend it just due to how thorough, comprehensive and well-written it is. If you love botanicals, drawing, painting or even just a beautifully illustrated book, this is definitely one to pick up!

View product HERE

If you love the fun, colorful and quirky bits of Art History these next two are definitely for you. I pride myself on being a big history buff (in the arena of art that is) and always love finding out more things about the people behind the art and art movements.

View product HERE

These two books share those juicy tales and behind-the-scenes facts that you didn't learn about in those dark, four hour slide lectures. They're well written, interesting and a fun new perspective to the traditional "stuffy" periodicals. These make a great read and gift for a fellow art lover.

View product HERE


This sharpener is ideal for achieving those super long points for drawing fine details while the blades rotate around the pencil minimizing any breakage. It charges via attached USB cable that stores underneath and has an adjustable dial for point length. It holds the charge for a long time and is easy to transport in a bag or purse.

View product HERE


Indoor lighting is particularly important while working on artwork. My tried and true desk and clamp lights from ottlite I found to be particularly helpful in getting a cleaner, brighter daylight value of light to help when viewing colors. It is a great balance of clarity and contrast. They have many varieties of lamps that range in price but the two below are very affordable options for additional lighting.

View desk lamp HERE View clamp light HERE


As in-person classes may remain difficult for many of us to have access to in the coming months, I wanted to share two websites that I think have excellent content to keep the creativity happening while at home. Depending on what your choice of media is, I have found them both to have a wide array of things to suit the tastes of many whether it is for programming, drawing, painting or even sewing and baking. Also check out local artists, teachers and clubs/groups in your area on their social media pages. Many now have virtual gatherings and courses so you can really help to support those in your local area!

Visit Craftsy HERE

Visit Skill Share HERE


Being active in your craft can sometimes mean continuing to hone your skills, keep up-to-date with new techniques and materials in your field and be a part of the conversation. One great way to do this is with the wealth of information out there in artist magazines! Both print and digital, these often have a wealth of information, Q&A's and tutorials. You may pick up a new skill or brush up on something you've always been meaning to get to. Now is the time! Many offer deals on annual subscriptions or offer back copies for purchase. I highly recommend researching ones that are in a media that interests you. These are some of my personal favorites.

COLORED PENCIL MAGAZINE: great information, amazing group of people that run the publication and they also have great monthly challenges I recommend to many students to try their hand at. Also, there are two great Facebook groups that accompany this magazine that I encourage you to join if you love colored pencil. Search: Colored Pencil Art and Sketch &Color (You can join me and the others on the moderator team!) groups on Facebook. For more information on the magazine, click HERE

Pastel Journal and Artists Magazine, more info HERE


Prismacolor often puts out limited editions sets of pencils that are curated by particular artists using colors that are popular in their work, with their work on the cover. These sets tend to be a great value (you may need to price compare across a few sites) and you really only need a small set of pencils between 12-24 to really get started. You can also use these sets as a way to challenge yourself with using a limited palette. These are ones that I really enjoy using in my work:

24 set portrait 24 set highlight and shading 12 set botanicals

* I would suggest doing a google search for these are they do go on sale often on amazon, Blick, Jerry's Artarama etc.


I often go through many types of boards and paper to find my favorite, especially for such a time consuming process with colored pencil. Too much or too little tooth can definitely be troublesome. These are some of my favorites that I have used often throughout this year. There are many suppliers for these products so I would just suggest checking at your favorite in-person or online art store, or by doing a google search. Many run sales, so prices differ often. I would suggest trying Blick, Jerry's Artarama, Cheap Joe's, Jackson's Art Supply or Dakota Pastel

  • Pastelmat

  • Ampersand Pastelbord

  • Canson Mi Teintes

  • UART 400 mounted boards

  • Legion Stonehenge Vellum

  • Arches Hot Press Watercolor Paper


Fixative is a handy thing to have that will help preserve colored pencil artwork and prevent wax-bloom, especially if using prismacolor pencils. The trick is to look for ones that are specific for the medium that you are using, they are not all created equal and can actually damage your work if used incorrectly. These three are ones that I have used on many pieces for the last few years and not personally had an issue with color change, spots etc.

  • Lascaux Fixativ

  • Sennelier Delacroix for charcoal and pencils/Sennelier Latour for chalk pastel

  • Spectrafix (with reservations)- this particular one as it is not aerosol and is a pump bottle, I found needed a little bit of help to make a good product great. I transferred the liquid into a fine mist constant spray bottle from amazon and it has made a world of difference in application. It is also natural and odor-free.

That wraps it up for some of my favorite art supplies and resources for 2020. I hope that if you try any of them, that you enjoy them as much as I do! I would love to hear from you! Comment below or email with your questions:

You can also follow me over on Instagram or Facebook @JillVelascoArt for more art content. Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!


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