Fantasy oil painting “The ugly duckling”

Original fantasy oil painting “The ugly duckling” ©YueZeng 2023

Initial thoughts

Maybe we all know the story that a little grey ugly duckling grows into a beautiful white swan. To me, this story fits in the Chinese old saying “Dragon gives birth to dragon and phoenix gives birth to phoenix.” Despite the genetic issue, I believe the spirit behind it is to encourage young kids to dream their future boldly and fearlessly.

Therefore when I see this reference photo I immediately think about story of the ugly ducking. If the reflection represents future then the bird stands on top of the ice/water surface should represent current status, in other words, the baby swan. I change the lighting condition to sunset time in order to give more pinkish color to the reflection. Sunset is magical. At this moment, the color combination seems so romantic yet the feeling could be gloomy.

Digital sketch

This is the most straightforward digital sketch so far. No accident.

Digital sketch of fantasy oil painting “The ugly duckling”


OK. It actually looks cool when you turn the painting upside down.

Fantasy oil painting “The ugly duckling” upside down ©YueZeng 2023

May we all have faith in future. ❤

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My paintings are an outlet to express the imagination I have inside my head that I can not put into words. After trying many mediums, I always find myself coming back to paint and brushes. In my current artistic practice, I use oil paint and mainly create portraits of mythical creatures and animals transfixed in the shifting colours of seascapes and landscapes. There is a natural spirit and magic to these creatures and their energy draws me in. Choosing to paint these creatures as real living wildlife rather than abstractions, I use bold and vivid colours to express the imaginary intertwined with reality, finding magic between the seams. Using a saturated colour palette, I create bold and striking imagery, contrasted between foreground and background, subject and landscape, and light and darkness. Weaving their bodies and the surface of the landscape into each other through organic forms and flowing brush strokes, I find beauty, strength and innocence in these creatures that reflect my inner world.