I've been to Michaels about 20 times. I initially went to get some real sketching pencils and a decent drawing pad. But I find myself standing in the aisle with the oil paints wondering how I can justify the nearly-certain $200 outlay it would take to get started in this particular medium.
Student grade paints - $5 a tube for 37ml. That holds less than a travel-sized toothpaste.
Brushes - from $2 to $40. Seriously.
Turpentine - $8 and up
Brush cleaning jar - $15
Canvas - $8 to $100
Palette - $12
Then there are the thousands of things I have no idea about like Liquin and Gesso
and which brands are OK, which brands are crap...
Contrary to my nature, I don't buy anything the first time. Or even the next few times. I just look. Then I go to the library and get some books. I had first gotten a drawing book and reading just a few pages from it let me produce things which actually resemble the things they're supposed to be. So I got one on painting. It had some suggestions on bare-minimum equipment and which brands to avoid. It also said to spend as much as you can afford on brushes because you'll end up replacing cheap ones so they end up costing more in the long run.
So I made another trip to the paint aisle and I still couldn't justify putting a large investment into something that could turn into a total disaster. Just as I was giving up, vowing that I should probably take a class where they provide materials to at least get a feel for this stuff, I turned the corner and spotted, "PAINTING FOR DUMMIES!"
Under that sign were carded sets of paints. WATERCOLOR FOR DUMMIES. PASTELS FOR DUMMIES. ACRYLICS FOR DUMMIES.
And laying on the bottom under some other stuff was a single "OIL PAINTING FOR DUMMIES." It was $9.98. It came with 2 brushes, six paints and three 5x7" canvas panels. I bought it as well as a decent brush ($5 all by itself) to go along with my Dummies set. I also got a 2-pack of 9x12" canvas boards and a few sheets of canvas paper for practicing exercises from the book.
My painting book had some exercises at the beginning showing how to make lines and simple shapes. One showed how to easily make a rose with only two colors. I tried this first on a sheet of canvas paper. I think I still have it somewhere. It kinda looks like a flower but not really. I certainly doesn't look like anything from that book.
The next thing I tried was a simple landscape with a limited color palette. This was done on one of the 9x12" panels. I call it Cliffside Village:
It doesn't really look like the one in the book, and that makes me like it a lot more than if it did. It's kinda like my take on a view of someplace I've never been.
The next night I grabbed the first thing that was at hand and quickly sketched it onto one of the small panels that came with my Dummies set. Let's call this one Roland's Firetruck:
A day or so later I tried another one on one of the bigger canvas panels. Again, I started with a freehand sketch and then attacked it with paint. This is a Martin D-15: