Australian Darter in Oil

The Story Behind the Painting

I was travelling way out west in the far reaches of Queensland when I came across a wonderful free camping spot called Clem Walton Park at Corella Dam, in fact it was so beautiful I stayed for 2.5 weeks and met some wonderful people. I think this was the first time I truly relaxed and just enjoyed my surroundings of what nature had to offer. I would lay in my tent listening to the whole world wake up one animal and insect at a time.

The only thing I didn’t like was on some nights the free roaming cattle, sleeping in a swag close to the ground I felt very vulnerable. One night a cow managed to rub against my car setting an alarm off I didn’t realise I had scaring the living daylights out of me.

My Painting Process

I drew the darter on this canvas over a year ago and was just waiting for an opportunity where I was in a house so I could paint it.

I just purchased a field easel so I could take it traveling with me and If I was in one place long enough I could paint some oils. I didn’t really think traveling with a few canvases in the car through enough. I guess I may end up leaving the artwork here at possum park.

I thought it was time I loosened up a little and worked on something a little larger than my miniature gouache paintings.

I mixed a few colours up and started working with some large brushes getting down a nice background working from left to right.


After I had a nice blurry background in I started creating some reflections working from the top of the canvas to the bottom.


Time to get a few logs in this is where I started realising oil was much harder that gouache as every thing was working with wet paint on top of wet. If it was gouache it would have dried after 3mins not oils they take around 3 days before I could start working on a second layer.


Time to move onto the tree stumps and darter reflections, this is where a few experimentations came in. I also think I painted them in the wrong order I was trying to do the hardest part first the reflections and really should have worked on the bird.


I wasn’t happy with the tree stump reflections I wanted a smoother look, so loaded up a large paint brush with different coloured paint and created a ripple pattern. It looked good but not like a true reflection. I also then re worked the tree stumps as I was not happy with them they looked a little dull.

I then moved onto the rippled water near the birds head and started creating some nice circles.


I couldn’t quite get the correct shape for the ripples so I continued creating circles this then made the painting look like it was raining or the bird had just shook its wings and created water droplets.

I actually liked this effect, so I kept going creating more circles of varying sizes in the water using a variety of colours.

I finished most of the ripples in the water then move on to paint the bird. I was having trouble with the detail and as I went down to smaller brushes the paint was sticking to the brush and not transferring to the canvas. I really do need some oil painting lessons, I tried using some linseed oil but that was just making a mess.


Back to the tree stump reflections trying to make them the same colours as the tree stumps. After about 4 attempts I moved onto the bird and started painting some feathers and was having no end of trouble.

My reference photo was on my iPad mini and I could only enlarge the image so much so the rest of the scaling was in my head. which didn’t compute. So after a while I just turned the iPad off and started painting by feel what looked like feathers in my head.


Using a little reference from the iPad and just making things up I continued painting the feathers and reworked the beak.

For some reason the camera hasn’t picked up a lot of the shades of green in the painting. I’m not game to take it out side because of the wind and dust while its still wet so just take my word its greener than the photo.

Overall I didn’t quite get the correct colours or the shapes in the water ripples but I guess its my interpretation of what I saw and what I thought would look good on canvas.

Hopefully someone likes it and wants it hung on their wall.


Oil Paint Palette

I use Winsor & Newton Oil Paint on canvas.

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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