Cottage, Rock Bridge
Credit: My painting 30x48 my photo

Are you Interested in oil Painting?

Perhaps the greatest surge in first-time oil painters took place when PBS stations across the United States began airing the likes of William (Bill) Alexander with his “The Magic of Oil Painting” shows, and Bob Ross with “The Joy of Painting” series. There has never been so much publicity of how-to shows on oil painting as with these two individuals. They created a phenomenon of response that was overwhelming to suppliers to say the least. After all, when you tell people that it is easy to oil paint and then you continually paint a captivating oil painting before their eyes in twenty seven minutes, people take notice.

The problem with many “would be” oil painters today, especially in this economy, is that the materials used by a lot of these public figures require a lot of front money to get set up. We are talking about twenty dollar brushes and extremely expensive easels, mediums, and canvases. If you would love to start oil painting but simply do not have the money to purchase the name brand products, don’t be discouraged. Without elaborating on the myth that you have to have a special thickness of oil paint to get the desired effects, I will share a few things with you that I have picked up along the way when it comes to oil painting alla prima or wet on wet(WOW).


Credit: My painting and photo

Inexpensive Supplies

For starters, let’s examine some of the bare essentials of oil painting WOW method. There are no rules, as has been so truthfully stated by the successful promoters of this fun style of oil painting. Outside of knowing the common sense rules like not cleaning bristle brushes with water and that oil paint cannot be thinned with water, you essentially are the creator and can do what you want, how you want, with that painting.

Here is a list of what you will need to get started:

  1. A good table top easel
  2. A canvas
  3. Oil paints and liquid medium
  4. Brushes and palette knife
  5. Odorless paint thinner
  6. A small bucket with a grate or something in the bottom to scrape brushes on
  7. A plastic tote with a small wire rimmed device to beat out the brushes
  8. Paper Towels
  9. Palette paper for your oil paints (you can use a piece of cardboard but it absorbs the oils)

10. A drop clothe if painting in your house

11. An apron, smock, or old clothes

12. A few good how-to DVDs to give you something to emulate and show you how to make the brush strokes to get desired effects.

   Now that you see the list of the few materials you need, I will break them down one at a time and show you where and how you can obtain good quality, affordable supplies.

Majestic Mountain
Credit: My painting and my photo

Try These:

 1. A good tabletop easel – My advice would be to check out your local art supply store for an adjustable, wooden tabletop easel like Hobby Lobby or Michaels. If you cannot find one there, then I would go to and search for the best buy. I got six or seven of them from there and they were only around $29.95 apiece. (I teach classes sometimes) If you get good and want to teach classes of your own, I recommend a metal standup easel to use in front of the class.  I spent almost $300 on a wooden one and it fell apart after a year or so. Not Happy!

2. A canvas  - My suggestion would be JerrysArtarama or Walmart. I recently priced a double pack of 16x20 pre-stretched canvases at our local Walmart and to my surprise they were as cheap as buying the economy kind online and paying shipping. Just shop around and do the math. When I buy canvases I buy them in bulk from Jerrys and I get the Creative Mark or Practica brands. At the time of this writing there is a super sale going on and its a great deal! Usually it’s just the cheapest pre-stretched, primed canvas that is either 18x24 or 16x20. You don’t need a fine tooth canvas like Fredrix or something to paint WOW method. You will be using a buildup of paint and the tooth of the canvas will not affect your work. Fine tooth should be used for portraits and so forth. If the sizes above cost more than $7 a piece you are paying too much.

3. Oil paints and liquid medium – Here again I suggest JerrysArtarama because I have found the Lucas Studio brand of oils to be the least expensive in 200ml tubes anywhere. Also, I have used this paint to teach and sell my work so I know it works. Shop where you like and try it, you may find something better and cheaper. I like to buy 200ml tubes of paint because they allow me to stay stocked up longer and I get a better deal. I buy Titanium White, Thalo Blue, Prussian Blue, VanDyke Brown, Burnt Sienna, Sap Green, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow LIGHT (be sure to get this instead of just Cadmium Yellow when using the Lucas Studio brand because you will get a much darker color otherwise), Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow, and for black I use Payne’s Grey. These are all you will need to paint anything unless you want to experiment with things like Thalo Green, Violet, Peach, etc. 

As far as a liquid medium, you can make your own version of White base medium but it won’t keep in a can.  I generally just buy one or the other of the two name brands to avoid wasting my Titanium White paint (a requirement to make it). Both mediums last a good long time so it may be a bit pricey at first but as long as you keep putting the lid back on it tight, you won’t be disappointed.

Misty Stream
Credit: My painting and photo

4.      Brushes and knife – In theory you will probably only need a two inch, one inch, fan blender, filbert, and a script liner brush to do anything you have seen on TV unless you’re attempting flowers. So far the best place I have found to buy the one and two inch bristle brushes that work good are at ThePaintStore.  I use Wooster Amber Fong. Go to the main page, click on brushes, then DIYs, then Wooster, and find Wooster Amber Fong. You can get them for right under $3 a piece and if you buy them in bulk of twelve or more, you will get them even cheaper. They are great brushes and I use them with all my work. For the fan brushes I get them at Torrington brushes. Just go to the main page and type in “white fan blender” and it will bring them up. You want the #6. Again they are around $3 and you can get them cheaper in bulk. For the filbert and the script liner brushes I think you will thoroughly enjoy the Robert Simmons Expression series. You want a #2 Script Liner and a #6 Filbert from JerrysArtarama. Keep in mind at JerrysArtarama your actual price is off to the right in blue. For the special shaped palette knife I have found that I like the plastic brand that you can buy for a dollar at Michael’s Arts and Crafts or Hobby Lobby. You can also find a metal one that is not the name brand for about $4 at Michael’s. 

5.    Odorless paint thinner – Honestly, I am stumped on this one. You will pay almost $30 a gallon for a good odorless paint thinner no matter where you go. However, you can recycle this stuff. Just pour out your brush cleaning bucket into a gallon jar after each painting session and let the paint gook settle to the bottom. By the end of the next day you should be able to pour off the top and reuse like new. All of the paint residue is heavier than the thinner and will fall out so you can make a gallon last a long time…especially if you don’t teach classes.

6.     A small bucket with grate in bottom – I love coffee and because of that we have lots of large empty plastic coffee buckets around (you can use metal also). These make great brush cleaning containers. Just bend down some metal screening like small chicken wire or fencing to where it is about an inch or two from the bottom of the bucket and then fill your container half way up with thinner. When you need to clean a brush just scrape it against the wire you have in the bottom.

7.    A plastic tote with a wire rimmed bracket inside – Check out Walmart or your local Dollar store to get a tote that is about the size of a rectangular laundry basket. Also, in the laundry or kitchen areas you will find a white bracket that is about 5 inches high and has four legs. It has little bars across the top joining each side together. It sort of looks like elementary writing paper with legs if that makes any sense. Anyway, it’s just something to beat your brush out on that will fit inside your tote and keep all of your thinner from getting on your surroundings. Place your brush cleaning bucket (mentioned above) down inside it and—voilà, you are set.

8. Paper Towels – Don’t even start without these precious things sitting next to you. Just find the cheapest because you will go through a lot of them. It’s either more thinner wasted or more paper towels.  You decide which is cheaper.

9. Palette Paper – I get mine at JerrysArtarama. I use the SOHO brand. It’s just a special paper that’s in the shape of an artist’s palette that you put your paint on and it’s in a note pad form to where you can rip out a sheet and just throw it away and you have a nice clean palette to start with the next time you paint. Nice!

10. A drop clothe if painting in your house – This is anything like an old newspaper, cardboard, plastic etc. that will keep your floor, furniture, or table from getting ruined by paint or thinner.

11. An apron, smock, or old clothes – Just what it says. I recommend either an apron or old clothes to keep you from ruining your good clothes with oil paint. Smocks can get cumbersome if they are set up to wrap around you like a baby’s bib. Not my style!

12. Good how-to DVDs – You decide which artist you like best and could learn from the easiest. Shop at yard sales or online auctions and you can find good deals on DVDs, especially old VHS tapes. A few years back I bought a box of forty VHS tapes full of Bob Ross and Bill Alexander shows that were recorded off of PBS by an elderly artist who had passed away. Hours upon hours of shows for only $5.

Credit: My painting and my photo

I hope this blog has been helpful to you. Painting is great pleasure when there is no pressure and you are under inspiration. All things are possible if you only believe!

I was painting at a flea market one day trying to sell some paintings and a guy walked up to me and handed me about $4 dollars. I just looked at him and said, “What’s this?” He said, “Please, just take it. I just wanted to show appreciation for someone who would come along here and paint like that. I’ve watched them shows since I was a kid and I have never met anyone in person who paints like that. I don’t have anything else on me or I’d buy one of your paintings.” 

Needless to say, I felt good the rest of the day.