Once widely distributed in the Arabian Peninsula the Arabian leopard is now critically endangered, and comprises a dangerously fragmented population of less than 200 individuals.

I first came across this bewitching desert survivor when invited to do a residency in the United Arab Emirates, at Sharjah’s Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Animals. Smaller, paler, and more finely built than its African cousin, the kohl eyed predator held me in its thrall from the first moment, and I went on to join an expedition in the Omani desert to prove the continuing existence of the leopard in the research area, and increase conservation measures.

As a painter primarily interested in the potential of rapidly executed paint to transform into form and movement, this leopard was my nemesis ; fluid, supple, and powerful, there was nonetheless no escaping the starkly contrasting overall pattern of dark spots, designed to confuse and camouflage the predator’s form. It is a testament to the power of the Arabian leopard’s fascination for me that I persisted.

This series of watercolour studies were made for a series of large scale unique prints, commissioned for a public venue in the Middle East.

Mark Adlington