Art Supply Stores
I always love to visit art stores, for the obvious reason, when I'm travelling. I am a big advocate for independent shops and we are lucky in Toronto with some really great ones as well as a few chains. But check out these others in New York City, L.A., Buffalo NY, and Rochester, NY.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
There are some great independents in Toronto and I'm so lucky to live close to them. If you are a bit further out in the Southern Ontario region I can highly recommend Wyndham Art Supplies in Guelph and Curry's in Hamilton and Waterloo. Wallack's in Ottawa is also great.
I have videos of some of these stores on Youtube here (Aboveground and Articulations in the west end) and here (Gwartzman's and Deserres on Spadina) and here (Aboveground on McCaul, note: Curry's in now gone from Toronto)
Gwartzman's is in institution. If you like your art stores packed with supplies and creaky wooden floors with knowledgeable staff who are also artists, then this place is for you. They stock so many things that you can't get anywhere else like Nicker paint (a gouache like paint used by Studio Ghibli animation artists). Supplies run from child level to high end professional artist with many European brands like Tintoretto, A. Gallo, Fome etc. They've been in business for over 70 years with the original owner's daughter running the show now. It is very conveniently located on Spadina near University of Toronto and not to far from Ontario College of Art and Design University. It is between Chinatown and Kensington market - two great foodie areas.
In the city's west end on Dundas St West you have Articulations, another independent art store. They also hold workshops in the back and often have a gallery exhibition on. If I'm looking for Holbein products, this is where I go. Don't forget to pull out the antique drawers in the place or you might miss out. Very knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Aboveground has three locations but their flagship store is right beside the Ontario College of Art and Design University. In fact it kind of looms above it. It is jam packed with three floors full of art supplies as well as a good selection of printing, model making, and bookbinding materials.
They have 2 other locations - one near Articulations and one in the Beaches on Queen East.
This isn't really an art supply shop but you must go here if you love all things paper. There are some art supply and stationery materials but it is all about the paper. Located on Queen West near Trinity Bellwoods Park this is a great area to walk around with plenty of shops and restaurants.
Again this isn't technically an art supply shop. As the name suggests it's mostly about pens but they do have notebooks and sketchbooks but, most importantly, they sell my handmade watercolour ot.to. Or obviously you can order from this very site. Located in the Distillery District it is a beautiful location with many restaurants and art galleries.
There are 3 locations for this store (Annex, Danforth and the Beaches). It is mostly a mishmash of stationery and kids' stuff but then they fit in a surprising amount of really good art supplies. Now they might only have a wittled down selection like Holbein oil pastels but they are there!
New York City
A lot of my favourite art supply shops have closed over the years but there are a few independents left. I haven't been to all of them though so this is just a list of the ones I have been to (with the exception of Artist and Craftsman but I have it on good authority that it is great so it made the list). Blick's is a large chain that you can find in many cities like Detroit and LA (see below). There new flagship in Soho is rather large.
Soho Art Materials
I'm so glad that this store is still surviving in Soho on Wooster St. near Canal - the last independent in NYC. It is chock full of great brands and I believe the canvas end of things is really well stocked. Obviously while on vacation I wasn't going to pick up canvas.
This is THE place to go for pigments. It is a German brand with their only North American store. They make their own watercolour as well from their pigments and the store does do workshops and sells other supplies like brushes. Worth it just to gaze at all of the colours even if pigment isn't your thing.
I have still not been to these stores. There is a location in LA that I also didn't get to. So why is it here? Well I know from other artists that it might be worth the trip to Brooklyn for it.
Goods for the Study is where you go when you want to buy a beautiful stationery related gift but why not one for yourself as well. They have a great pen and pencil wall, yes wall. And there are sketchbooks available too. There are two locations, one on 8th St in the West Village and one on Mulberry in Nolita. The one on 8th is larger.
This is not an art store but a stationery store. However, it is cute and quaint and full of Japanese stationery so I just had to include it. If washi tape and stamps and stickers are your thing, then this is pretty great little shop.
Los Angeles and environs
Los Angeles is a very large spread out place. And when I say LA I also mean all of the other places around or in it like Pasadena and Long Beach. We were not there long and it takes a while to get anywhere so my list isn't extensive.
Art Supply warehouse was certainly worth the drive from where we were staying in Pasadena to Long Beach. It is the size of a small warehouse and full of materials. The sketchbook aisle was huge! If you want an easel or a lightbox, well there are loads to choose from. I picked up a few things here that were difficult to find back home like a tiny spatula for working with paper.
Blue Rooster is a fantastic shop with great customer service (we even got food recommendations). There are two locations and I went to both Pasadena and Los Feliz spots (the Pasadena location is slightly larger). So much beautiful stuff and a surprising amount of Canadian products like Stoneground paints, Beam paints, St Armand paper, the Japanese paper place etc. I felt at home.
This store really needs the name warehouse in it because it is that big. They have a huge range of products. The ink area is very large and I highly recommend checking out the clearance or damaged section. I picked up a u.go easel here for a steal. And yes that's me outside the store! Their website is terrible and needs updating but the store is relatively new and well stocked. Check out my videos of this store here and here.
The online version of this store is the Fine Art store but it is well worth visiting in person especially to see one of the largest selections I have ever seen of pastels. It is just amazing. Drawer after drawer of American and European soft adn oil pastels. There's a video of my trip here.
Mexico City, Mexico
I was in Mexico city for the International Watercolour Society's Canadian and Mexican chapter's workshop. I was warned that the art supply stores would have much the same materials and probably for more money but I didn't care, I wanted to see them anyway. I was also warned that they are not like back at home where you can roam around and pick up things yourself. Most here have things behind the counter and you order what you want and then go to the cashier to pay where you will pick up your materials. It does mean that the brush I bought was wrapped up rather nicely, though. They did have some lines that I don't see in Canada like Pilot acrylic pens and more expansive range of Pebeo products.
The location we went to was in a Cultural park with Dance, concert and film facilities called Cenart (Centro Nacional de las Artes) not too far from where we were based in Cayoacàn. It was a large-ish store but everything was behind the counter so you have to know what you want. I had looked at their handmade watercolours online and one of the participants spotted them in the store and bought a palette so I bought one too. I also bought one of their house named brushes (made in Germany). There is another location in the centre of the city as well.
Casa del Arte is much like Casa Serra in that you have to order from one part of the store and pay at another part of the store. The store is full of artwork and frames as well as map cabinets full of papers with a soaring ceiling. It was quite overwhelming and a bit dark. There were a few things you could pick up for yourself like sketchbooks and blocks of paper or books but all of the paint was kept behind the counter. They write up your purchase in an old school way and then you pay for it. It is worth a look at the store. It really feels like you've stepped back in time.
Not far from Casa del Arte, this location was in the historic district and is much more like what you would find in North America in that you can pick out items for yourself. It was modern and easy to see products however sometimes oil painting products were mixed in with other things like watercolour etc. You really needed to go around the whole store in order to not miss anything although they had a number of staff patrolling for any questions (if you speak Spanish).