Fantasy oil painting “Ram skull waterfall”

ram skull waterfall and a monk.
Fantasy oil painting “Ram skull waterfall” ©YueZeng2023

Initial thoughts

I was thinking something about ram skull. I painted it before in 2018 and loved it. However this time I didn’t want to do the still life again. I was looking for something unusual but also peaceful. Although the skull was from a dead creature, it didn’t have to be gloomy or desperate.

So I tried to put the ram skull in different environment such as beach, woods or mountains. Finally I found out a reference photo of waterfall. It was perfect for my needs. Now I had a giant ram skull standing as a waterfall deep in the woods. I still needed a human to be the size reference. This time, it had to be human figure. The ram skull represented animals already. First I tried climber. It didn’t work. Then I tried traveler, paddler, swimmer, explorer and hunter. They didn’t work either. As usual, I started to go through random human figure reference photos online. Suddenly, I saw the monk. I was so excited! That was it. The monk.

As a “small” human, the monk quietly sits in front of the giant dead animal’s skull. He is doing his Zen practice. He is surrounded by water peacefully. Life on this earth comes and goes. At this moment, the monk is seeing through this giant creature’s glory in the past time.

Digital sketch

The digital sketch appears to be more yellowish green. When I actually paint it on canvas, the yellowish color made the skull very dull. I eventually use more red tone in both skull and rocks.

Digital sketch “Ram skull waterfall” ©YueZeng2023


Every time I paint forest or trees landscape, I am amazed by how much red, orange and yellow color I need to add in order to get a proper green shade. Sure the trees and woods all look green, but those green colors come from red and yellow.

It’s fascinating.

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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.