Depicting the planet's natural beauty is at the heart of Zhou's creation of oil works. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Zhou sometimes endures danger. He once got lost in Tibet－a place he has visited five times－during a 45-day drive through the region. The artist ended up in no-man's land－a place not even locals dare tread－for two weeks. But he produced about a hundred works during that time.
He often faces storms, landslides and tornadoes.
"I feel like a yak," Zhou says, joking about painting at altitudes exceeding 5,600 meters, where most people experience altitude sickness.
"I'm used to spending a long time painting at high elevations. I feel exuberant vitality of creations upon discovering flowers there."
Zhou's favorite Chinese destination is Yunnan. He has regularly visited the province to paint over the past 13 years. He's familiar with each of the province's counties' respective histories, cultures and geography.
"(It's) the best place to create," he says.
His style combines oils with xieyi ink painting－a freehand form that portrays the spirit, rather than the details, of a subject.
It's ideal for depicting Yunnan's colorful landscapes and traditional ethnic attire.
Zhou worked with Yunnan University to found a school devoted to ethnic art last year.
He has since spent much time in the provincial capital, Kunming, to develop the school.
He drives over 10,000 kilometers a year to engage with nature, he says.
The artist often goes to the Meili mountain range on the border of Yunnan and Tibet where he works between 5 am and 8 pm. He often waits for the weather to change to produce the ideal scenes.
"It's like a model posing for me," he says. "I'm lucky to experience such rare moments."
Zhou plans to travel across the United States in September in search of new vistas.