If you haven't decided what you would like as your Christmas gift yet, or if you are looking for gift ideas for a fellow artist, I have some recommendations for you! These are resources which I think are valuable to have in your library, or have as reference materials. And if you want to check them out for content first, just see if your local library has these on the shelves!
The Portrait Paining Atelier is a wonderful book which gives understanding of the Old Master's techniques in painting portraiture. In a world where self-instruction is common, you will find this an invaluable resource which gives great information and teaching on a variety of topics necessary to portraiture. Old Masters as well as some of today's leading portrait artists are featured. If you look at this book on Amazon, you will be able to look inside to get a better idea of the quality of writing and photography.
This book is wonderful for anyone who sketches! Many of the secrets of working in pencil and charcoal are given so that you can achieve the results you've been trying for... there is much more to creating a pencil drawing than "meets the eye"!
Again, if you go to Amazon, you can preview the contents with a look inside.
As I am striving to learn oil painting, I have found this book to be full of tips and techniques which are enabling me to understand the techniques required to handle this medium well. A very well laid out progression helps you work through a limited palette to the surfaces you can work on, and much more.
I love how this book encourages an artist to look at what you might consider a "discard painting" and to create something unique out of it! Although this book speaks directly to watercolorists, the principles of recovering and reworking a painting can inspire one whether working in oils, acrylics, pastels, pencil or watercolor!
One resources which I look forward to receiving every couple of months is the International Artist magazine. The pictures and articles are stunning, and the information is invaluable. In addition, there are many additional resource links in the magazine which have proven to be wonderful learning opportunities!
And finally, if you want to learn from on-line teachers, I highly recommend Matthew Archambault of Drawing Tutorials Online. He has free information and teaching on his blog, but you can also order dvd's, or join the membership for a reasonable price. In addition, he has just started up a companion site on painting called Painting Tutorials Online. His teaching technique is easy to follow, and very thorough/complete.