S’Wanderings – NYC Books ‘n Art Supplies Day Trip – Part I

There really is nothing like a trip into the City during the holiday season (especially when you a pick a clear December day with temps in the 50s). For months (maybe even years, now), I’ve been meaning to make a pilgrimage into New York to visit a store dedicated entirely to—wait for it—pencils! And, I finally got there (but more on that in my “Part 2” post).

Before heading to pencil Valhalla, I decided to tick some other boxes on my NYC Shoppy-Shop Hit List.

DaVinci Artist Supply, 132 W. 21st St. location

DaVinci Artist Supply, 132 W. 21st St. location

I started off with a trip to the 21st Street location of DaVinci Artist Supply. DaVinci made it onto my radar recently, after taking Yuko Shimizu’s excellent Skillshare class on Ink Drawing Techniques. Ms. Shimizu visits a DaVinci Artist Supply store in one of the class segments, and discusses Asian brushes. Those of you who’ve shopped for good Asian brushes will know they can be tricky to find. So, when I watched the DaVinci store segment, I made a mental note to make a trip there. And, man, am I glad I did! Check these beauties out…

Asian brushes

Asian brushes

I went a little overboard, but I wanted to test a variety of brushes to find the ones that work best for me. (They had many smaller and larger brushes available as well; I was mostly interested in the medium-size range.)

Asian brushes are only one tiny segment of what this store offers; I ambled up and down the aisles, grinning past gorgeous fat pastels, an excellent section on drawing markers, tube after tube of watercolor, acrylic, oil, and block printing ink. The basement is a must-see, too—a tight little staircase leads down to a wonderland of both raw and stretched canvas (Octagonal? Oval? Half-moon? Sure!); their framing area; and a fascinating architectural model-building section that made me want to learn how to build miniature structures. The store also offers paper in practically every form (pads, loose, large-sheet, rolled) and about a billion and one other drool-worthy items.

On my way to my next planned stop, I passed the 6th Avenue Dick Blick, and really, who can walk by a Dick Blick? So, in I went, knowing full well it would throw my schedule off. Upstairs, there was a bright space loaded with all sorts of fun and funky little giftie-type items. Think stocking stuffers and coworker gifts. And, there was a framing section in the back that I skipped in the interest of time. But, downstairs is where the big-kid stuff lives. This snap captures only—I dunno—maybe a third? of what was on offer below.

Dick Blick basement art supply wonderland

Dick Blick basement art supply wonderland

Needless to say, I lost some time in there. But, I eventually managed to get back on track and head a few blocks down to my next stop—the 18th Street location of Books of Wonder.

Books of Wonder, 18 W. 18th St.

Books of Wonder, 18 W. 18th St.

This is another one of those places I’ve been meaning to visit for forever and a week. Books of Wonder is the children’s book store in NYC. Think of a successful children’s book author or illustrator of the last 30+ years. There’s a good chance they’ve been to/signed at/read within Books of Wonder. It’s that kind of place. And, given that the euphoria section of my brain is hard-wired to kids’ books, I knew I had to get there. Again, man, am I glad I did!

They were loaded with all sorts of beautiful books. From board books right through YA, there were books, books, books for everyone. A back corner of the store was dedicated to kidlit posters (some signed!); rare collectible books (first editions, signed copies, and more); and original artwork by illustrators that are so darned good, you want to laugh and bite something at the same time. I should have taken bunches of great interior shots of everything, but I got all tripped up on the fact that my book was on the shelves at Books of Wonder. My book. Books of Wonder. Brain does not compute.

So, these are the sum total of my interior shots:

"The Nutcracker" at Books of Wonder

“The Nutcracker” at Books of Wonder

The Nutcracker selfie at Books of Wonder

My smiley noggin finding my book on the shelves at Books of Wonder

I also got a chance to meet T.J., one of the many excellent employees at Books of Wonder, and he asked if I’d like to sign the copies they had in stock. Well, sure! Of course! So, if you can make it down to the store, you’ll get your hands on a signed copy. But, here’s the really exciting part—the copies I signed were also already signed by Yevgeniya Yeretskaya, the phenom paper engineer.

The Nutcracker - double signatures!

“The Nutcracker” – Signatures times two

Hooray for double signatures! (Note: I think you may be able to get one of these signed copies by ordering online from Books of Wonder, too.)

After Books of Wonder, it was time to start hoofing it toward my ultimate destination in the Chinatown/Bowery area. On my way, I cut through Union Square, and had one of those happy, serendipitous moments, when I discovered a Holiday Market filling the park. I would have loved to have lingered there, exploring the Farmer’s Market; the charming, teensy gift stalls; and people-watching, but alas, there were pencils waiting for me.

So, I motored on through and headed down Broadway, making a quick pit stop at the Soho Paper Source on Spring Street, because, well, paper. And wrapping. And doodads. And colors. And everything beautiful and fun and festive.

But, there was no time for pictures. So, onward! At this point, I was flagging a little in my journey, and I knew I needed to fuel up before pencil joy, so I stopped in at a restaurant I’d scoped out online—LuAnne’s Wild Ginger, on Broome Street, right near the “Welcome to Little Italy” sign.

LuAnne's Wild Ginger Asain vegan restaurant

LuAnne’s Wild Ginger Asain vegan restaurant

LuAnne’s is a vegan Asian restaurant, and it is a must-stop, be you vegan or be you omnivore. The food was absolutely excellent. And by excellent, I mean top-twenty-meals-of-all-time excellent. Sitting-there-smiling-ear-to-ear excellent. Pure-happiness excellent.

Everything was fresh and just the right temperature and came quickly to the table, with a side of pleasant, friendly service. I had the pineapple fried rice and it was out of this flippety-floppety world, with broccoli and tofu and sunflower seeds and avocado, and a gorgeous, rich rice base. My intrepid companion on this whole odyssey had the pan-fried dumplings and the spring rolls—works of art for both the eye and the taste buds. The mint lemonade and Ulon tea were also excellent, and we walked out of the place with a bill totaling less than $50, including tax and tip. Crazy.

So, yeah, can’t recommend LuAnne’s Wild Ginger enough.

After fueling up, it was time for the Big Show. Finally, finally, I would walk down Broome, cut through Sara D. Roosevelt Park, hang a left on Grand, and a right on Orchard and then…

…then…

…open the door to pure pencil perfection!

New York Pencils

New York Pencils

But, that will have to wait for the next post.