DON'T DO OIL! It's extremely cancerous, since most of my art teachers that used them got it over the years of constant use. Acrylic's a good alternative. Use Synths or something like them for any type of painting. Lowell Cornell's cheap, but it works for what I do.
Oil paint is not cancerous (with the exception of the cadmium pigments, which can also show up in every other kind of paint). The solvents are not healthy at all, but you can oil paint with less harmful solvents or even without solvents. My house is not well-ventilated so I don't use solvents.
oils are fine so long as you take the proper health precautions (ie: work in a well/specialized ventilated area, and don't wear/eat the paint). Most of the problems that come with oils arise with habitual use by people who think it's cool to walk around with paint stained pants, walk on their studio floor bare foot, and fail to properly ventilate their work space during and after use.
I see. Where I live, they don't construct any building with proper ventilation for that kind of thing, especially institutions that teach art. That's kind of why it's very worrysome and such for me. I kind of swore to myself to never do it whenever possible, and I think it's one of those mediums I just can't master, like pastels.
oh wow, then the weariness is certainly warranted! I had completely taken for granted that all the art schools and such where I am make absolute certain that studios are well ventilated, or they risk enduring the joy of potential law suits.
Yeah, the people here are reckless in the case of health of the public. It's ridiculous on how this little niche of US territory is so careless, especially since so many universities coalesce in the area!
I only use my hog brush to sketch or drybrush with. It's too firm for my tastes when laying down paint (most of the time.)
Strange that they can't hold a hard edge, since that's really all they're good for. I would imagine they've been mistreated and frayed.
I'd grab a variety when they're on sale at some point (Hobby Lobby/Michael's does a 50% off Masters Touch at least once a month around here) and see what you like. That's really the only way to figure it out. Synthetics are cheap - usually no more than 5 or 6 bucks on sale for a reasonably sized one.