Friday, 16 October 2009

Hello Fellow Tamales


I'm Elizabeth (or Liz) Zunino and I just join Hot Tamales U Can't Afford. For those of you who don't know me, I've been a long time resident of the East Bay and I'm currently a Traditional Arts major in my final year at CSUEB. I work with both oil paints and ink, though right now I'm working on a series of oil paintings of Koi. In my work, I focus on organic patterns, texture, vibrant coloration, and the fluidity of water and identity. The oil paintings on the far left and center are the first koi paintings in my series based on drawings I did a number of years ago. You may or may not be able to tell in the images, but I added texture (a mixture of Liquin, Stand Oil, oil paint, and talcum powder) to the scales to make the fish emerge from the surface.
The last work isn't a painting but a textile/needlepoint fish pond I've been designing for the past three months. Needlepoint is a combination of counted cross stitch and embroidery and I've been practicing needlepoint techniques for about ten years (since my grandma taught me when I was 12). The image (far right) features nine sheets of 10''x 12'' plastic canvases, the skeleton holding the yarn and stitches in place. It's still a working progress and will eventually be composed of 25 sheets (54''x 60''). I'm hoping to complete this project in time for my senior show.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy! :)
~Liz Zunino~


  1. I remember the koi! It was actually my favorite painting that year in school. I think it's cool that you manage to keep your subject interesting while varying mediums and it seems to reward well. I'm mostly attracted to the 1st work in which you use needlepoint. In way it's a lot like your surface intensive koi but with the needlepoint you create repetition more naturally. It also reminds me of pixelated images you'd see digitally. If you can get the hang of it you should totally try taking a photo of a koi and pixelating it to map out a new piece.

    It's nice to have you in the tamales, welcome :D


  2. there's actually an artist showing at the gallery I work in at the moment who works with beads very similar with the way you work your needlepoint. here's a link to the page

  3. First off, welcome to Hot Tamales, Liz!

    I really like how you approached your koi subject. I have seen a lot of people take the koi theme, but do completely the same stuff. Most people replicate that stiff, stencil-like tattoo style, where it’s completely flat and the koi are twisting their bodies and fins in the same fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I like it and I think that it’s very pretty, artistic and culturally/historically symbolic -it’s just that I think people feel almost restricted to continue that same style or maybe they’re too afraid to approach the koi in their own artistic/creative ways.

    What I like about your pieces is you took that subject matter and broke away from the stylistic tropes by creating your own signature. Instead of the flatness, you made it have thick texture -I absolutely love the gills and I even thought that the painting with the black background was a sculpture when I first saw it on the overhead projector. Another change is the poses. You broke away from the typical twisting koi and made them look like they’re actually swimming instead of posing for a glamour shot. Have people seen a real koi? I’ve seen those things in ponds and some of them have more thickness to their bodies than twisting abilities. I really love the piece with the koi swimming in the water. I enjoy the texture of the gills and the strokes of the water. Your distortion of the koi is almost like a way of showing that you’re not like everyone else who uses this subject matter. How did you create this effect? Did you take pictures of koi and study the waves in the water? Did you have to draw it out a few times before getting it right?

    The needle-point piece is also very unique. This is another example of taking a subject matter and going in another direction with it. I was amazed when you said that the lotus flowers were created separately and then added to the textile. It displays a tedious and perfectionistic quality that many people do not have the patience to even learn. I really want to see this piece in person, because I’m sure it will just blow me away to see all of the details.

    Your pieces radiate something about yourself and your personality based on the details and composition. I enjoy your rich use of colors and texture. How many paintings have you completed? How many are you currently working on? How big are the paintings? I really want to see your show and I hope to see some of these pieces in person soon! Keep up the amazing work!

  4. OK, either I'm writing too much or it's the font that makes it look like I'm writing novels instead of comments.

    I apologize. I'll try to limit myself.

  5. @Victor: Thanks! I'm glad it was your favorite! :) I'm always thinking about whether people like my work or if the koi theme is too redundant. You know, that's the first thing I thought after looking at my needlpoint piece. It does remind me of a pixelated computer image. That would be cool to make a painting in that style. I really like the way Erestingcol uses bead to create his "pixelated" colors and content. It gives the work a multicolored, patterned surface similar to my textile piece, and an interesting spatial quality. Thanks for the link!

    @Leslie: LOL, no worries, I like long comments and the format made my comments look that way too. Thanks for all your compliments and opinions. :) I agree with the overuse of koi as strangely contorted tattoo-like symbols. There so much of this style circulating around that I think people might've forgotten what a real one looks like too. Though I don't mind koi in this style, it's nice to see different interpretations. I try to steer away from the fanciful representation of them by using more realism.

    The fish underwater took me the longest because I had never painted water before, so I looked up images of water. I actually painted over the water areas three times before I was finally satisfied with the end result (I blame the meticulous perfectionist in me, lol). The references didn't seem to help to much, but I found out there's this Japanese tea garden in Hayward. So when I made the trip down there and hung out near the pond watching the fish, I realized the water and fish together appeared harmonious, fluid, and natural, not stiff and planned. So I came home and "winged" the effects of water over the fish in a day to give it spontaneity, then glazed and fixed it after the painting dried.

    I'm currently working on a 48 x 30 painting of a koi fish in a bathtub surrounded by rubber duckies and a reddish-pink cloth draping over the edge and into the water. I want to demonstrate the clash between artificiality (the toys and man-made goods) and purity (the water and fish). It's almost done, I just have to refine some areas and glaze. A lot of the future paintings I'll be doing for this series will be painting koi in odd places instead of the more traditional settings. The needlepoint piece is easier to see in person. The image doesn't capture the stitches or spatial elements very well. My show is the last one of the year I think, May 30-June 5 (in the upstairs Student Gallery).

  6. I'll also be showing some of my newest paintings for the BFA Critique Seminar on Dec. 4 if you'd like to come and see. :)

  7. I like your plans on doing koi in odd places. That sounds really intriguing. I think people take the koi subject so seriously due to its symbolic meanings that it's almost unthinkable to make koi funny. I'm not saying that this is true for all artists, but it is kind of a nice change of pace. You should make a painting with two koi forming the yin-yang symbol as they’re being flushed down a toilet.

  8. NOTE TO KOI LOVERS: I did not mean this as a way of saying "I would love to see them dead." I love koi and think they’re very pretty fish. I’m always mesmerized when I watch them swim and I appreciate their symbolism. I was just referring to all of the koi tattoos I have seen in the yin-yang position and I think it would be funny if the reason they were in that position was due to being flushed down a toilet. OK, that still sounded mean. I apologize to those who I’ve offended.

  9. So have you decided on who you are as an artist yet? IT sounds like a complicated question but I just wanna know what we could expect for the future.