Hi. I'm the cheapest SOB in the history of cheap SOBs. Perhaps I may be of service here.
I always like to put in a good word for Shiva oil paints, since they offer pro paints at student prices. They're sold at Plaza Arts as their house brand.
If you live in a town with a Plaza Arts, get a couple of Groupons when they are running a special. (When Groupon offers an additional
discount, pounce!) Twenty bucks worth of Groupons will buy forty bucks worth of art supplies. That's enough to purchase the $33 six-tube introductory Plaza Art (Shiva) oil paint set
, and you'll still have some money left over. I suggest some Masters brush cleaner.
The "artists quality" materials at Michaels are not all that great, frankly. Still, I think Michaels can be a good place for cheap brushes, especially since you can almost always find a 50 percent off coupon.
Unlike many contributors here, I think that one should collect low-grade brushes as well as good brushes. Sometimes you just need a brush that you can use for frenzied slamming and scrubbing and stabbing and slashing without worrying about how much money the thing cost. (Think of Kirk Douglas attacking his canvas at the end of Lust For Life
: "It's IMPOSSIBLE! IMPOSSIBLE!") Michaels used to offer -- and may STILL offer -- a collection of bristle brushes of various sizes wrapped in a canvas carrying sack. I find them useful for all sorts of purposes, not just painting. The 5 buck super value pack includes a lot of sleazy, cheesy brushes. They're not good, but they still have their uses, and the plastic palette knives are fine for mixing paint.
You can find ultra-cheap brushes from China via ebay. Most of them are pretty awful, but there are some nice ones in there. The fan brushes are REALLY nice. Soft and luxurious.
Cheap make-up brushes can serve as blender brushes in oil painting.
Over time, you'll want to collect nicer brushes, especially if you do realistic work. Kolinsky is the best natural fiber; look for makers like W&N, Raphael, Isabey and Escoda. These are expensive. That's just a fact of life.
I've learned not to disdain the better synthetics. The Escoda Prado is almost as good as their Kolinsky. The Princeton 3950SL (hard to find) has proven invaluable for crisp details. The blue-handled Princeton 3750 line (easy to find) is very inexpensive, and usually does the job.
Collect every kind of brush you can get hold of, because only experimentation can tell you what truly works for you.
I went through a period where I experimented with all sorts of mediums, but the truth is, all you truly need is a solvent (usually OMS) and an oil. Most artists use linseed oil, but walnut oil (the choice of Raphael and Leonardo) also works, though it dries a bit slower. Spectrum Natural Walnut Oil (the kind without
additives) is inexpensive and available at the classier grocery stores. You may want to add in an alkyd drier like Liquin or Galkyd. Lead fishing sinkers in your medium can speed up drying time.
A big concern is something to paint on
. Costs can add up here. When I started out (more years ago than I care to recall), everyone used canvas, but today's artists have learned, once again, the virtues of panel.
MDF at the hardware store is still pretty cheap, though I noticed that the price has gone up. Here's a secret: Free wood panels are EVERYWHERE if you look for them.
Walk through alleys on trash day. Cast-off furniture may prove useful. You probably already have something in your garage or basement. Ask your friends.
Cut the panel to your preferred size and prepare the panel with a sealer. GAC-100 is commonly recommended, though you can use Kilz or a similar primer from the hardware store. Over this first coat, put a number of layers of Gesso, using a cheap foam brush from the dollar store. Since I like an absorbent panel, I often use inexpensive student-grade gesso mixed with a good amount of marble dust or talc (in the form of baby powder). Some artists hate an absorbent panel, so you'll have to experiment in order to determine your own needs. Sand the panel eggshell-smooth. (Sandpaper is another expense, alas.)
A piece of tempered glass works nicely as a palette, if you can find one that is the right size. Tape a sheet of paper to the reverse side, and tape up the edges of the glass, if those edges are sharp.
Finally, you'll need a varnish. For me, there is only one choice: Gamvar.