BodaSzilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process

Poe portrait oil painting process

This year I’ve decided to make much less (if any) art for sale. One reason for that is I had to admit that two freelancer jobs are just too much for me. Jewelry is, and always will be a priority. The other reason is that I love experimenting and having fun with my art. I love to try different styles, media and techniques, and I don’t want to stick to only one style, or to take art too seriously. It is a reward for me for working hard on my business, and I don’t want to kill the joy. Luckily, I usually love the drawings and paintings I create, and I want to keep them ALL! πŸ˜€

I’ve already painted several portraits of Mr. Poe, but this one is special, because it’s the one that stays with us! I love painting him. He has the most intelligent – melancholic eyes ever, and when I’m painting him, I feel like I’m meeting an old friend.

This is not a tutorial, I don’t show and explain every minute of the process, but if you’re interested in trying water mixable oil paints, you might find it helpful. πŸ™‚

Materials I used

Boda Szilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process - materials

  • gessoed board
    I’m still not sure which is my favourite base to paint on. I love gessoed board, though sometimes I find it hard to make the paint stick to it. I also love canvas board and canvas paper, especially those that have a fine weaving with only a little texture. I haven’t tried wood yet, maybe I will try it one day too.
  • graphite pencil
    For sketching.
  • acrylic paint
    For the first layer.
  • Cobra water mixable oil paints
    In my early 20s I used traditional oils for a while, but my body didn’t like the chemicals of the solvents, so I had to stop using them. I felt really sorry about it, because I love painting with oils! I love the smell and the consistency of the paint, and for me it’s the easiest media to use.
    Water mixable oils are real oil paints, which are chemically modified so as they can be mixed with water. Cobra is a wonderful brand, their paints feel like regular oils indeed. The paint is not sticky at all like some other brands, and it mixes perfectly with water. If you’re interested in these paints, you can find more info about Cobra water mixable oils at
    I also recommend to check this video series about using Cobra paints created by Jackson Art Supplies.
  • Cobra painting medium for water mixable oils
    For layering. You need to follow the ‘fat over lean’ rule even if you use water mixable oils. The painting medium makes the paint fatter, and you can thin it with water if you want to add more layers.
  • brushes
    I use synthetic brushes. I like having soft gradients without visible brushstrokes, and I can achieve this look with softer brushes. Synthetic ones are cheap, and easy to find. The only disadvantage is that I need to replace them often no matter how good care I take of them (especially the small ones that I use for details).

The process:

1. Sketch and acrylic layer

I usually do the sketch directly on the board or canvas I’ll paint on using graphite pencil (F or HB).

Boda Szilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process - sketch

I’m a “big eye” artist, so my works are semi realist. I don’t follow the realistic proportions of the face, but I like to render my paintings realistically. It gives my works an interesting surrealist feeling that I love.

For the first layer I use a dark brown (burnt umber or Van Dyke brown) acrylic paint with a lot of water. It fixes the graphite powder, and also gives me a nice light brown tone to work on. I like to block the main values in this stage, but I always keep this layer very thin.

2. First oil layer

I’ve decided to use only three colors for this painting: titanium white, Payne’s gray and Prussian blue. I wanted the portrait to have a raven-ish color palette.

Boda Szilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process - 1st oil layer

I don’t have a ‘painting routine’, I approach each piece a bit differently. Since this is a monochromatic painting, I knew I’d want to add only 2 layers (I usually add 3-4 for colored ones), so I wanted the first one to be as perfect as possible. I used only water to thin the paint.

Boda Szilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process - overview

I’ve mixed Prussian blue with a small amount of Payne’s gray for my base color, and mixed it with white for the light tones.

3. Second (and final) oil layer

When the first layer has dried, which took about a week, I added the second and final layer.

I corrected a few mistakes, deepened the contrast by adding more Payne’s gray to the darkest parts like the hair, the pupils and the coat, and also added the finest details.

Boda Szilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process - detail

For this layer I use 80% water with 20% painting medium mixed together for thin down the paint. (If I wanted to add a third layer, I’d have used 40% medium with 60% water on that with my paint.)

This layer took another week to dry, so my painting is ready to frame and hang now in my studio. At last we have our own POErtrait! ❀

Boda Szilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process - drying

Next week I’ll have a similar post like this one, but jewelry-wise. I’m making a lot of soldered and wire wrapped rings this month, and I’ll share the process with you. πŸ™‚

Boda Szilvia: Poe portrait oil painting process - for Pinterest
I’ll be happy if you pin this. πŸ™‚

One Comment

  1. Wow, this really is interesting. You are so amazingly talented, there really isn’t much more I can write. I love your choice of colours here, perfect for him. I think he is very happy that he stayed with you πŸ™‚


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