Awe-inspiring animals on fantastical backgrounds are what artist Schim Schimmel is all about. From snow leopards in space to dolphins in stormy skies, nature and animals have always been the central themes of Schimmel's artwork. "It's just where my heart's always been drawn," said Schimmel.
Growing up in Arizona, in the US, Schimmel first learned to paint landscapes from his father, a landscape artist.
Schimmel was an art teacher for seven years, until he finally decided that it wasn't enough for him. He wanted to use his art to send a powerful environmental message to others.
"The message is always that human beings need to share this planet with animals. We don't own the planet, we share it with animals and we need to protect the planet," he explained.
When asked to explain his dreamlike style, Schimmel said that his slow approach doesn't quite match the fast pace of Hong Kong.
"I used to describe my work as environmental surrealism. Many of my images have the Earth in it, it's kind of surreal … I don't really call it that so much anymore, my style is just that I love showing images of space, animals, Earth … human beings forget that we share the same planet, we share the same air, water … that's always part of my message."
Schimmel's unique talent for combining animals with landscapes means it was no surprise to hear that he is an authorised artist for Disney and DreamWorks.
As he explained, "artists like me are allowed to paint their characters and use them in our own artwork. They don't tell me what to do. I come up with an idea, do an initial drawing of the idea, [and] it has to be approved … the studios like fine artists painting their characters, it's kind of an elevated, more cultural aspect".
Schimmel said it can be confusing, as sometimes people think he works on movies, but "it's a different thing".
To him, what's wonderful is that as an artist, he is free to take the characters and use them to create his own images as he likes. "I can still say and express what I want to," he said.
And Schimmel has done just that, with a special painting that celebrates Kung Fu Panda's hero, Po, and Hong Kong.
He didn't have to look far for inspiration: "I was here this summer, and I went up to The Peak and saw the magnificent views of Hong Kong. That's what I wanted to paint, with this iconic pose of Po.
"It's a strong pose, but he's still Po, he's still sweet, he's still warm, he has a heart. That's like Hong Kong. Hong Kong has a heart, it's a beautiful city, but its people are strong, the city is strong. I wanted to capture that feeling of Po and the city."
The painting is called HK Warrior and it represents a fighting spirit but with a heart and a good attitude.
Schimmel added final touches to another painting of Po during the interview - by completing the highlights in Po's eyes.
Bringing animals and studio characters to life, Schimmel explained, is all about getting the eyes right. "It's always the eyes that speak to us," he said.
Taking Po as an example, he added: "There's such an expression on his face, and a lot of it is his eyes; sometimes he's got crazy eyes, sometimes the macho … My focus is always on creating the emotional connection through the eyes."
Schimmel's artwork will be displayed on screen at the Let's Get Movin'! Kung Fu Panda event at Olympian City 2 until March 5. If you would like to see more examples of his work, visit Schim Schimmel's gallery.