Moray Eel

The Story Behind the Painting

In September 2020 I visited the Cairns Aquarium so I could photograph some of the larger and more dangerous marine life with getting wet. I was hoping to get some good photographs of sharks but my point and click camera wasn’t up to the task.

Painting colourful marine life has been a little different from what I’m used too and I’m enjoying the experience.

I did see a moray eel when I was snorkelling in The Basin at Bargara but unfortunately I didn’t have my GoPro camera with me. From memory it was only a small one and the water wasn’t that clear so in this case the aquarium is a good backup plan.

Moray Eel

My Painting Process

I was trying to paint two different looking rocks, the background rock was rough and the foreground rock looked much smoother with a darker profile.

I did start painting some small smooth white stones under the moray eel, but on white paper you have to add a little colour.

I added blue and grey to give some shadow to the stones and a little colour to others.

Next I may have done this in the wrong order by painting the spots first. I now believe I should have painted the yellow moray eel for two reasons.

  1. Yellow would not bleed other colours into it.
  2. I could have defined the shape of the moray eel more easily with different shades of yellow.

The next big step was painting the yellow moray eel and getting the shadows correct and the nice orange sides. Also I noticed that the spots were darker on the top of the moray eel and lighter on the sides.

A little change from the photo here as I wanted the watermark still to show through and not be covered in stones, so I added a little sand.

Another change from the photo was adding a third rock to replace the blue glass of the aquarium tank. Since blue is a complimentary opposite to yellow I thought they would fight with each other for attention, also moray eel’s love to live in crevices.

With a change in environment I now had to add more shadows to the moray eel and try and follow its shape.

I noticed the rock I had just added was physically impossible as it was in front and behind the background rock at the same time.

I fixed this by removing the paint from the green rock before painting in the extension of light brown rock.

As you can see both parts of the rock are in front of the green background rock. I like this change as the moray eel now has a home to live in not just a rock to hide behind.

I take photos of my progression and also use them to spot mistakes that you can’t seem to notice while painting. Looking at the small screen of my phone things pop out at me or if it’s hard to tell subject from background then changes must be made.

One thing I did notice and take attention away from the moray eel was the dark shadow of the rock next to it’s head.

I started to make this much lighter by wetting the blue paint and removing the it with a dry tissue. I found out that blue is a very dark pigment and has already stained the watercolour paper making it hard to lift.

I also noticed that the lighter spots had a sheen to them as they curved over the sides of the eel, oh and it was missing teeth. My photo was a little blurry so didn’t notice them.

More lightening of the stones under the chin was needed as nowhere else in the painting had dark shadows.

Finished artwork framed up and given away as a gift.

Gouache Colour Palette

I use Winsor & Newton Gouache on Arches France Watercolour Paper, 300g 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 

Enjoy, Chris Osborne

2 Comments on “Moray Eel

  1. Love reading how you get to the end product, how you keep going back and pick up on things that are not quite right, there is so much attention to detail well done on another great painting


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