Hey I just thought I'd mention Costco is selling cheap portable easels for $31.00 plus tax ( regularly $39 but they're doing a 8 dollar off thing right now) and for a first easel or for someone interested in plein air painting or life painting classes it's a pretty good deal and the quality's not too bad either.
This is happening up in the Seattle area so it might be a regional thing but it's worth a look. It's basically just like any wooden full size portable fold out easels you'd see at an art store, maybe a little less sturdy. OK I just thought I'd throw that out there so have at it.