I enjoy the challenge of painting the beautiful, elegant leopard. Good fortune during my travels has given me the privilege of observing these wild, elusive cats many times in various settings and behaviors.
One of my most memorable leopard encounters occurred in a remote corner of the Serengeti. . We observed a male leopard for almost two hours during the late afternoon. The leopard meandered through the thick brush, climbed on a fallen tree for a better view, and wandered across ravines.
Abruptly, the leopard turned, walking directly towards us! We quietly watched as he came closer and closer, clearly determined to see us up close. We were only a leap away, but I was thrilled to be so close to a wild leopard! He moved within a few feet of our open-top safari vehicle, and the thought of being a “boxed lunch” for a leopard crossed my mind.
He was a perfect fusion of lean muscle, power, and grace, a wild male leopard in his prime. Suddenly, he turned and looked at me square in the eyes! My heart raced as this wild predator steadily held my gaze.
I felt as if the leopard was “sizing me up.” I am a third-degree black belt and have studied martial arts for over three decades. I enjoyed sparring with other trained black belts and fought in numerous full-contact matches in my younger days. I have “sized up” many tough opponents. It was humbling to realize the leopard may have quickly decided I was no threat. Perhaps the leopard decided his superior strength and speed could easily win any confrontation, which is, of course, entirely accurate.
The leopard strolled around the safari vehicle for a few more minutes then meandered towards a small group of trees on the edge of a ravine. The leopard walked away with a curled tail, a sign that we would not be prey today. (Leopards will often curl their expressive tails and show the white tip, indicating that they are not hunting.)
While looking through my leopard photos, I noticed he was so close I could see the clouds and the sky reflected in his eyes. In one picture, I zoomed in on his eyes and could see myself reflected!