If you are thinking of starting your own canvas, then presumably you are of an artistic bent of mind, with “finer” sensibilities. It would help if you had a basic background in drawing. This is important, as drawing is the base on which most fine art functions. It helps in making the hand steady, and gives symmetry and beauty to your work of art.
The first step to beginning an oil painting is to purchase a canvas, which is available at any art supply store. Make sure the size is not too big to start with: a half metre by half metre size should be good for your first project. Of course, this is entirely your own choice. If you are confident that your first attempt will be worth framing and putting up, go for a bigger size canvas. Canvases are available as mounted on wooden frames or are available on a flat stretched board. I would advise against buying canvas material and preparing the surface yourself, as this is a time-consuming exercise.
Also on the list of must-haves is a set of oil paints (available in tubes), brushes comprising mostly flat brushes: sizes 12, 8, 6; round brushes of sizes 1, 0, 00 and 000 (single, double and triple zero sizes). You will need linseed oil as the medium for your oil painting, and turpentine to clean your brushes. Keep a handy rag by your side, to wipe excess paint and oil spillages.
Place your canvas on a easel or a flat table. Take care to have some old newspaper at hand; oil painting can be a messy affair, especially for those who are new to the field. Start your drawing on the canvas with a normal pencil. Pencil marks do not rub out easily, so make sure that your lines are more or less perfect at the start. The subject of your drawing may be something abstract, original, or of a painting that you liked and would like to possess yourself.
The first thing to do before you begin actually painting is, to spread a colour palette before yourself. Take a bit of white, blue, and the rest of the shades from your box. This way you will be able to use colours freely. Begin by squinting at the painting you are copying from. Try blocking out the main colours that you see, and fill in those colours with a free hand. At this point, do not worry about the finer aspects of the painting. After the first layer of colour, it is acceptable to leave the painting to dry out. If you still want to go ahead, then take care and continue. Each layer that you do of the painting will enhance it. As oil painting has a greater advantage over water colours in that you may take your own time over it, and do it over a period of time, plus, you can modify any mistake easily.
A great fact about art is that one need not worry about the “results” of your artistic endeavour. Painting brings out the creative side of you, so unless you are aiming at an extremely realistic painting, like a portrait or an animal close-up, then do not worry about what the world will have to say about your work. Try out different genres: still life, abstract, flowers, landscapes, etc. Over time, you will discover your confidence level rising and your paintings getting better and better. The main thing to possess is perseverance and patience. No one is born a great master. Even the Great Masters had to struggle over long periods of time to get to where they are placed today.
As your painting progresses, you will keep noticing new details, and this will add to the depth of your work. Keep the linseed usage as low as you can: as a rule, the use of linseed oil will increase as the lines keep getting finer. Do remember to wash your brushes well after use, or else they will become brittle and unusable.
It is not impossible to become a good, self-taught artist. Do try to take out time to develop this wonderful hobby. The rewards are immeasurable, and give pleasure beyond words.