Fantasy oil painting “Leopard woman”

Original fantasy oil painting “Leopard woman” ©YueZeng


In 2002, animation version of <The Twelve Kingdoms> began to broadcast. At that time, I was not so interested in this story because the author, Fuyumi Ono (小野不由美) clearly borrowed almost entire mythology concept from ancient Chinese tales and history. The landscape, the names, the mystery creatures, the buildings and many many things are all from part of Chinese history such as Zhou dynasty and Tang dynasty. If you are not familiar with that, you may enjoy the story settings. However, to me, they are not so original, sometimes can be unacceptable.

For example, in this story, every emperor or empress has one unique Qilin (麒麟) which can transform between human figure and animal figure freely. In China, Qilin is dragon head, deer body, horse feet and ox tail. In Japan it is called Kirin. But in <The Twelve Kingdoms>, Kirin is basically unicorn, a horse with a horn.

Despite all the differences in settings, there is one Kirin I like the most. It is the only black Kirin (Taiki, 泰麒) in this story. According to the author, every Kirin has one unique chaperone for its whole lifetime. In this case, my favorite black Kirin’s chaperone is called Haku Sanshi (白汕子) or Sanshi. Her upper body is woman, lower body is leopard and a lizard tail. She has white/silver hair and green eyes. I think I love her more than the Kirin. 🤣

In 2018 I even tried a digital drawing of Sanshi.

Digital drawing “Sanshi” 2018

Digital sketch

In 5 years I am looking for opportunity to paint her on canvas. And finally I did. But clearly I cannot paint her exactly like <The Twelve Kingdoms> so I choose snow leopard over leopard, regular tail over lizard tail. In digital sketch she has green eyes but there was background color paint left on my palette during the actual painting process. Thus her eyes are blue in final painting.

Also, in digital sketch she has more pale skin. That was my initial thought. However when I put on the greyish blue tone paint on her upper body, she looked like the walking dead.

I stared at her about 30 minuets and decided to add more peachy color. 🤣

Digital sketch of fantasy oil painting “Leopard woman” ©YueZeng


I am thinking about painting a Qilin in oil. I can deal with the deer body, horse feet and ox tail.

But dragon head? I need to figure this out.

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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.