Cuddles the koala

The Story Behind the Painting

This painting of a koala is taken from one of my photos while I was visiting Australia Zoo about 3 months ago. The difficult part was trying to find one awake or not looking half asleep, so I returned a few times until I got the shot I was looking for.

Australia Zoo is a few hrs drive away and is a good place to find animals that you would not normally come across or are difficult to find in the wild. I have only ever seen Koalas in the wild on Magnetic Island where they look after injured koalas then re introduced them back into the wild.

My Painting Process

I usually start with the eyes and noses of animals, and beaks if I’m painting a bird. Then if I’m happy I move on to complete the painting.


As I started painting rather late, I only managed to paint the koalas head, so the rest was finished over the next few days.

I believe a good painting is observing all the fine details that makes each animal unique.

In this case I spent more time painting detail on the nose and getting all the little freckles in the koalas ears.

I forgot to take progress shots of the koalas head, this often happens if I get absorbed in my work.


Like in oil painting you try and get a feeling for where shadows and light will fall on the subject. I do this by painting large blocks of colour.

I paint a dark under coat of what I could see in the koalas fur, the shadows, this often makes the painting much darker than the final image.


I then paint a layer of black fur, this starts to give me a feeling for its direction. This will be the darkest parts of the koala.

At this stage it looks so different from the completed part of the koalas head, I’m a little worried they will match up.

Yes painting can be quite stressful sometimes, I’m always worried I may drop my paint brush or knock the water container over.


After the darker hairs I moved onto painting the lighter hairs and made sure I captured all the swirls. If you look closely you can see that the hair falls in so many different directions.

The koalas fur starts off like a squirrel and seem to change further down the body and almost become more like the wool of a sheep. This was hard to paint the change in appearance.

After revisiting several areas and a few touchups on the nose and chin, I thought about how I was going to anchor this little animal down.

The tree that the koala was sitting in was sawn off and didn’t look natural, also it wasn’t a eucalyptus tree.

I got out a spare piece of paper and practice three different trees trunks before deciding I was comfortable enough to try the real thing.

Luckily I practiced on some blank paper as they didn’t really look like a tree brach at all and ended up in the bin.

The eucalyptus brach was made up of mainly water and very little gouache pigment at all.

I think next time I’ll start with the tree as it’s less stressful painting something for the first time on an animal that you have already finished and are happy with.

This is one of my favourite so far, I think because of all the problems that these poor guys were having with the bush fires this season.

Hopefully this koala will be someones pride and joy and they will enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed painting it.

Do you have a favourite Australian animal ?


Gouache Colour Palette

I use Winsor & Newton Gouache on Arches France Watercolour Paper, Cold Pressed.

My painting come from my own experiences that I have lived and photographed while traveling. By reading this blog, you as a viewer can now hear The Story Behind the Painting. Where, when, what was happening while I was photographing the wildlife.
If you want more details about my adventures checkout my travel blog website www.ChrisOsborneAdventures.wordpress.com

Enjoy, Chris Osborne

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