Friday, April 19, 2013

April Deboxing: Art Snacks, Box 1

EDIT: If you enjoyed this review, please consider donating! Donations go towards the purchase of additional art supplies, which may include more markers for testing. If you found this review useful, please consider sharing it on your social networks.

Art Snacks, Box 1


About a month ago, Heidi Black pointed me in the direction of Art Snacks, a subscription art supply service with the intention of '...send(ing) you cool stuff to draw with'.  As an avid art supply tester and a huge fan of blind boxes (ReMent, Gachapon, lucky grab bags, you name it, I've indulged) I was intrigued.  I saw a lot of potential for a service that mailed out the best of the best art supplies to interested consumers, and thought it'd be a great opportunity for me to test out art supplies I might not have tested before.

Subscription boxes aren't a new thing, and I'm not new to them.  Last May, I purchased my mother an Umba box subscription for three months for Mother's Day.  In general, with subscription boxes, you don't get to pick what goes in them- you pay a set amount each month, and you receive your box of surprise goodies.  This means, for every item you love, there'll probably be a couple flops.  A subscription box is about the thrill of the unknown and the possibility of discovering new goodies.

In the words of the Art Snacks FAQ:

Will you tell me what is coming in my box ahead of time? Can I choose?
No, we won’t tell you; we like surprises. But we definitely want to know if you have suggestions for future boxes. Send us an email with a link to a cool art product and we’ll consider it for the future.

I decided to subscribe to Art Snacks so that every month, I'd have an opportunity to review art supplies I might not select for myself.  I liked the idea of random chance entering my reviews, and thought that if the Art Snacks proved interesting, some of my readers might be interested in following along.  I'm also a big fan of supporting small art related businesses.  I ordered my first Art Snacks box sometime in February, and it arrived just this Tuesday.  I had to wait until I got back from working to open it, as I wanted to be able to share my goodies with you guys.


My March-April Art Snacks came in this cute little box, the perfect size for shipping most art supplies.

Inside was an adorably wrapped little tissue package with an Art SnaDuDumcks sticker.  Also included was a Dum Dum sucker and an Art Snacks pretzel sticker.  I feel like their presentation was spot on- it was like getting a cute little present.

Also included was an instruction card, introducing the materials for this month (April).  A very nice touch.



Close up of the pretzel sticker.


On the wrapping sticker, there's a link to share your unboxing- a clever way to promote both yourself and Art Snacks.  Well played, Art Snacks.


This month's box included a Caran d'Ache watercolor pencil, a Stabilo fineliner, a tri-tip eraser, a General brand charcoal pencil, and a Spectrum Noir marker.

These are all materials I've used in the past.  Recently I tested Spectrum Noir markers against Copic Sketch markers, and found that they are a cheaper, acceptable alternative.  I was impressed that Art Snacks included one, since they're a newer entry to the art marker arena in the US.  I was also impressed by the Caran d'Ache watercolor pencil, as those are very nice quality watercolor pencils that perform quite well.  Unfortunately, the rest of the supplies were less exciting for me as they're very commonly available art supplies and tend to be staples in most high school art kits.  Considering that two of the five supplies impressed me, I'd say that's a good run, although only the Caran d'Ache will be entering my usual rotation.

While I'll continue to subscribe to Art Snacks for awhile, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed with their overall selection.  On the site, they promise the best supplies hand picked by artists, but the selection hasn't been exciting.  I was impressed that this month's box included a Spectrum Noir marker (include link to test), as they aren't particularly well known yet, but I was disappointed that last month's box included a tube of Reeve's watercolor paint, a brand which is notoriously awful (and available in sets of 12 for $10, which is always a bad sign).  I understand that $20 for 4-5 art supplies means there's limitations on what's in the box, but I'd hoped that their ability to purchase in bulk would mean exciting new test products and samples of products one might not otherwise be able to sample.  I guess I'd hoped that a subscription service would have further reach than a small time comic artist.

I haven't lost hope for the future of Art Snacks.  I think it would make an excellent present for a young artist who might only have a small collection of art supplies.  I would like to see the company continue to grow, and I hope that as time progresses, they gain the ability to offer more exciting products.  I would like to see Art Snacks begin communicating with companies like Jet Pens to bring more exotic supplies to artists, as there's a variety of exciting Japanese art and stationary supplies that are relatively cheap but not available easily in the US.  I also know that companies like Dick Blick and Jerry's Artarama offer bulk discounts on supplies.  Some supplies I'd be interested in seeing in future Art Snacks boxes include:

  • Fude pens
  • Watercolor markers
  • Colored pencil leads
  • Variety packs of artist trading cards (for paper variety)
  • Caran d'Ache non photo blue pencils
  • For commonly available materials included, I'd like to see one clever, little known trick included with the material.  
  • Cotman watercolors (cheap but perform well)
  • Spectra Gold Watercolor Brushes or Winsor Newton Cotman Brushes (small rounds are pretty cheap, and good), Robert Simmons brushes (especially Filberts)
  • Liquid concentrated watercolors (vibrant colors, but few people know what they are)
  • Derwent Intense Stones (really really nice, rich watercolors) 
  • Iwako's cute erasers- not really great for arting, but really really cute
  • Strathmore tends to be generous about their samples, maybe something like that
  • A variety of artist grade gel pens like white and black Signo pens, Hi-Tec C pens
  •  Mono erasers
  • Pentel Pocket Brush
Also useful would be an  area on the site where users could submit what they've done with the materials, and perhaps a user gallery.  Submitted tutorials listing which Art Snacks materials used would also be neat, and would help subscribers who aren't familiar with the materials become familiar with them quickly.  Another neat feature would be interviews with professional artists to find out what they use, include one 'recommended item' per box, and maybe a small demo or tutorial of the artist working with that material.

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