Actually, I'm wondering what constitutes a "beginner." There are total beginners who have never stitched with needle and thread on canvas at all - and then there are those who have done lots and lots of counted work, but never a painted canvas. I am amazed that people are afraid of it, but if all they've seen is the "goopy" messes so many people make, it's understandable. Fortunately, it's not required
I would say that either one needs to start with the very basic foundation stitch of needlepoint - basketweave! This is a greatly misunderstood stitch, but it's the one that teaches us how to regulate the tension of our work, and also to fill in parts of a painted canvas where it's more appropriate than textured stitches. It's repetitive motion is also very soothing.
Basketweave is called that because of the way it looks on the back - like a simple woven basket. It's another name for "diagonal tent" stitch, as opposed to the horizontal tent stitch, which is called "continental." An aside is that continental should never be used on mono canvas, as it makes a flimsy fabric, and has ugly horizontal ridges - it also distorts the canvas, and actually serves no purpose. and it's BORING.
This stitch was used by Victorian ladies (and my grandmother) on penelope canvas with pre-worked design. The double stranding made it possible to split 10 mesh canvas into 20 threads per inch for fine pattern.
The second picture shows the look of the basketweave on the right, and continental on the left - you can clearly see the difference. I took these pictures from a post of two years ago - lots of posts under "beginner needlelpoint" if you click on the label. I didn't have time today to do fine new swatches.
Another reason to begin with basketweave is that you get a "feel" for what is called "traveling" - the direction of making stitches properly for the most attractive effect as well as as, again, the repetitive motion that is soothing to us. I have seen some rather poor instructions for this in some of the more poplar books of stitches, although the stitches themselves are great!
There is one book that is supposedly one of the best that actually states that "basketweave can't be done in small spaces." This isn't true. See my little candy corn to dispel that myth.
It also says to come up in the center hole and go down outside when making Algerian eye - common sense would tell anyone this is not a good way to "travel." BUT the stitch collection is superb, once a person has learned technique.
The next picture of the candy corn is the little first medallion on the napkin ring finished - I can remember beginning students being upset by the strange shapes and the "sawtooth" edges on diagonals, but this is a characteristic of needlepoint, and is fine.
Note that the candy corn is stitch painted and perfectly symmetric. Think what a mess this would be if it weren't!!
I chose Petite Very Velvet for the candy, and surrounded it with black YLI Ribbon Floss in Shimmer Blend. I also used ribbon floss for the gold, as I didn't like the idea or the look of metallic braid here. This is YLI Honey/Copper Shimmer Blend. Great stuff!! The edging is my favorite long-armed cross stitch, which is superb for this - as well as for belts, as it rolls over easily and makes finishing simple as well as making an attractive edge.
This is where a nice repertoire of stitches is handy - not too many, as that gets confusing. One should use decorative stitches judiciously and for effect and not over-do it just the the sake of using them. These are things you can glean as you go along - see them on other people's work and ask questions. Just looking through a book when you haven't a clue what you're looking for, as a beginner, won't help. This should come gradually with experience and some good tutoring!
That's enough for now - too much pontificating here and not enough pictures. I'm off to stitch for a while.