A Christmas Delayed: January’s SmartArt Box

Originally Published on January 4th, 2016, at SharondaWoodfin.net.
Republished at Sharonda.net on March5th, 2017.

My wife and I didn’t check the mail on Saturday.

We should have, though, because when she checked it on Sunday afternoon, it was well-stuffed with the arrival of the first of her Christmas gifts for me. (Yes, there are more boxes coming. No, the others aren’t from Smart Art. Yes, this is the first gift I’ve actually been able to open this Christmas. And, no, I don’t have that kind of patience.)

Technically, this gift was for both of us, because — despite the fact that I’m usually the only one of us willing to pick up a pen and draw — the boxes that come from Smart Art include not just artsy tools, but instructions on how to use them. And she was willing to give those instructions a try.

January 2016 Smart Art box
My Christmas present: a Smart Art box! What could be inside???

Her willingness to draw with me was easily the coolest thing about my Smart Art box. The second coolest, though, was the surprise factor. This particular box was filled with colored pencils (from one of my favorite companies: Derwent), Maruman drawing paper, a pencil sharpener, and a blender pencil. These are things that I wouldn’t have gone to an art supply place and bought for myself, because I tend to buy the things that I know I can work with: pens, brushes, inks, and bristol board. I’ll sometimes switch to Inktense pencils and watercolor paper, blocks, or board as a treat, but that’s about as adventurous as my supply-buying gets.

With Smart Art picking and sending the supplies, however, I got a chance to play with dry color and a lovely, toothy paper without an eye toward how I could use the work later — I can’t use it, at all, given that it’s a derivative of the drawing included in the box’s instructions — and without a smidgen of guilt.

The freedom was nearly as lovely as the paper!

January 2016 Smart Art box unboxed
Unboxed! The Smart Art box contained Derwent Coloursoft pencils, Maruman drawing paper, a Kum pencil sharpener, an Alvin SP600 Finetec blender, and instructions for what to do with all that cool stuff!

It didn’t take me long to abandon both the instructions and the pencil sharpener. (No offense to anyone involved, but the sharpener I already had on hand seems to make for sharper pencils than the one included in this box does. That, or I’m totally misusing this new sharpener. And, yeah, I know that it’s a two-stepper.) The blender pencil, however, is almost half the size it was when Linda and I first pulled it out of the box. My first go at burnishing dry pencils wasn’t quite as satisfying as applying water to a nice bit of Inktense, but it was fun.

And, as it turns out, I’m as heavy-handed with a blender pencil and I am with a ballpoint pen.

January 2016 Smart Art box peacock drawings
Our finished drawings. My wife can draw a peacock! She just didn’t know that she could!

Linda and I spent a little over an hour drawing our peacocks for the Smart Art Challenge. I drew mine too big, and a bit reminiscent of an angry penguin. She drew hers relatively small. I burnished the whole damned thing. She only burnished a little bit.

Despite very different takes on what is still obviously the same bird, what we ended up having in common was fun. It was fulfilling, for me, to have someone I love draw with me, instead of finding something else to do while I draw alone.

And I think it was fulfilling for her, too, because right after we’d finished drawing, she started browsing the Smart Art site for available past boxes.

This box was a one-time purchase, but we’re talking about taking out a Smart Art subscription, because we really did enjoy it that much! If you’re willing to give the projects a go, this could be a wonderful, thoughtful gift for the artist — “Artists” with a capital “A” exempted, of course — in your life with whom you’d like to spend more quality time.

I only wish boxes came bi-weekly instead of monthly!