questionscould you help me compile a painter's set?

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The thing is, painting supplies are about as personal as anything gets. What you need depends entirely on what your mother normally uses. I see that you mentioned linseed oil, so that implies she paints with oils. Does she also use water colors? How about sketching? Do you know whether she wants to return to the media she's always used?

There are a zillion and a half different items she might like, but without more details, I'm having a hard time narrowing it down.

Has she ever used acrylics?

Before I run off for the day, here's a couple more questions:

What supply stores are nearby? Some of the basic chains are Michael's and Hobby Lobby. I'm sure there are others.

Are you sure that this gift is something she wants? Has she expressed a yearning to return to painting?

Buy new gesso. It dries out, and it's better to have new. Consider purchasing some small, prestretched, premounted canvases.

Sorry for the mish-mash of thoughts. Back later.

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@shrdlu: She hasn't expressed any desire to go back to painting, no, but I'm entirely sure that she would if she came home to everything set up. She took watercolor classes a few years ago and very much enjoyed it. Yes she's used acrylics, we have some of those as well.

Getting supplies shouldn't be an issue, there's an AC Moore a few minutes away and a Michaels a bit further than that.

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@lotsofgoats: Okay, I see that no one else has responded, so I'll add a couple of things.

I'd actually go for just a few water colors. Remember that paint mixing is easy, and to just get a few of the basics. I'd even suggest some charcoal and sketch books.

You really ought to enlist the help of the local store, if you can. They'll have a better feel than I on what you ought to get, and what she's missing.

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What @shrdlu said is correct. Art supplies are very personal. For me, a project often starts when I have a good browse through a store or what I have sitting around and decide what I want to use.

If you want to inspire her, definitely a sketchbook or pad, actually a few in various sizes, a portable easel that can be moved and/or used outdoors, and perhaps watercolor pencils that can be used as pencils or with water and a brush give you more traditional watercolor effects. There are also oil crayons if she might want less cleanup than paints but likes the look/feel of oils.

I don't know if there are any physical constraints, but clean up after is definitely something to factor in.

Something new to experiment with like sumi paper, a brush, some ink and a book on Chinese Brush painting might make for a nice start, if something with a brush is more her speed than crayon or pencil.