I don't have many favorite brands or a go-to drawing pencil. Since I didn't go to art school, I never learned a lot of the techniques or rules that many professional artists swear by. In a way, I think that is somewhat liberating, since I don't have to use the "correct" pencil for sketching if I want to do something different. Personally, I'm more comfortable drawing than painting. A pencil is an orderly thing - solid and straightforward. A brush has a mind of it's own sometimes. (There was a great post on the Muddy Colors blog that touched on that recently, so now I know I'm not alone in thinking paintbrushes are tricksy and false.) I've pushed myself to get more involved in practicing beyond drawing as a way to develop, artistically, because it's easy to get into a comfort zone that regresses into a rut. Once that happens, predictability becomes an issue. I've seen artists who use the same techniques over and over, and focus only on the same subject matter, to the point that I can almost anticipate the elements that will show up in a piece before I see it. So, for me, the answer is to constantly push my own self-imposed boundaries. Sometimes I really surprise myself.
My preferred media (the materials used to make the art I create) are graphite pencil, charcoal pencil, watercolor and acrylic paint, and ink. For the support (the surface material), I use a variety of different papers or a pre-stretched, wrapped, and primed canvas, or even wood panels. The surface will dictate whether I'm working in dry media (pencils, charcoal, certain pastels) or wet (paint and loose inks), and vice versa. Your support materials need to be able to stand up to what you are using to draw or paint. Watercolor pain will completely destroy standard drawing paper, for example. For ink I prefer markers and brush pens, but I'll use loose ink as well. I'll very often combine some or even all of these elements together. I'll also use a variety of thinning or thickening media, top coats, and other materials to add texture and other elements, and from time to time I've even been known to add actual glitter to a painting. I love the shiny stuff. People have frequently asked me why I don't use oil paint. The answer is that I am incredibly impatient, and the drying time necessary for oils is pretty much impossible for me to handle. Then there is the fact that oil paint has to be thinned with a solvent, which can be pretty caustic. Since I don't have a designated space in which to paint, I don't want to risk spilling something like turpentine all over my kitchen table. Maybe someday if I get anything resembling studio space, I might try expanding to oil paints, but for now I'll continue to practice with acrylics.
So, what's the best place to buy your supplies, from artist level all the way up to pro? Good question. And the answer is...anywhere you find them. I'm not trying to be flip, here. There really are endless options for supplies. You can use online retailers like Amazon, Opus, or Jerry's Artarama. If you have a local art and craft store, they can be great for beginners to find inexpensive materials. Of course, larger national retailers such as Blick are a lot of fun to shop, and if you have any local independent professional art supply stores, definitely check those out as well. Most manufacturers like Golden Paints have websites where supplies can be purchased directly. Another option that is budget-friendly is artist swaps and sidewalk sales. Sometimes artists are looking to get rid of excess supplies that are taking up space, and will apply considerable discounts just to get rid of stuff. Honestly, in collage work you don't even have to *buy* supplies - you use whatever you have sitting around, from scrap paper and ribbon to spray paint and buttons to playing cards to old greeting cards.