Judge Dee Paper Mache Gift Canister
These little 3" x 3" paper mache canisters actually sell at street festivals. They can make an ordinary gift - like wrapped candies - special and add color to a desktop or room. I enjoy painting each canister on a theme of some sort - in this case, Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee novels. He did marvelous Chinese-style illustrations - note the aggressive warrior cat in the middle of the cylinder. The lids, of course, are excellent for detailed close-ups.
Paper mache actually has a reasonably good life span if you don't let it get wet. You or your friends could enjoy these whimsies for years. The canister was gessoed and then painted with interior latex before I began to draw. (I had a lot of interior latex wall paint left from remodeling.) The figures are painted with long-lasting acrylics.
This is a good size of inexpensive object to begin your own painting experience. I personally like to put colorful figures on every available space, but your vision might be something altogether different.
At Peaypatch you will find several of these canisters available, as well as some of the supplies to begin your own painting.