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Iowa Artist

‘Free play’ painting

11/6/2019

Argentina-born artist is inspired by everyday life.

Monica Zunino Mel moved to the U.S. from Buenos Aires, Argentina, eight years ago. She has since sold numerous paintings and displayed her work at the Waukee Arts Festival, the Waukee Public Library and Art in the Barn in Johnston.

As Monica Zunino Mel approaches a blank canvas in her home studio in West Des Moines, her head swirls with thoughts about possible colors and shapes for her next painting. When inspiration hits, she paints from improv — pulling inspiration from her surroundings.

“Inspiration is found in everyday life,” she says. “If I were to stop for a minute and really observe everything, one would be amazed about what nature offers every day.”

Zunino Mel, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, majored in speech therapy and neurolinguistics, with art as a hobby. When she moved to the United States eight years ago, she enrolled in art classes. At her home in Indiana, her friends encouraged her to sell her paintings.

“I thought my art was only to paint for friends or give as Christmas gifts,” she remembers. “Then I had my first art show in Indiana, where I was featured as an emergent artist.”

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Zunino Mel and her family moved to Iowa last year, and she’s sold numerous paintings. She displayed her art at the Waukee Arts Festival, the Waukee Public Library, and Art in the Barn in Johnston.

The studio she works from has large windows and overlooks a sunny location at the front of her home. Through these windows, Zunino Mel caught her neighbors peeking in when they walked by. The next time she was out, the neighbors asked to see her paintings.

“They liked my work so much, I’ve already sold them three of my paintings,” she says.
To begin her painting, Zunino Mel brews a cup of hot tea, turns some music on and settles in for hours at a time. She begins with a bottom layer of color. Then she’ll add different layers and draw simple geometric patterns of circles, squares, rectangles — where some become silhouettes, branches, flowers and more. She uses her fingers to soften and blend colors.

“I start with an idea, but no pressure,” she says. “The creative process isn’t a set of rules to follow. It’s supposed to be free play. I can feel my fingers and hands unfolding freely and following my intuition. Whatever is in my soul.”

Favoring vibrant colors, she enjoys the feedback from people who view her art.

“I love it when customers tell me I’m full of life,” she says. “I’ve had one person say, ‘When I get up in the morning, the first thing I see is your painting, and it gives me energy to start my day.’ It makes me happy that people enjoy my art.”

As Zunino Mel explains her goal of art, she smiles brightly, speaking in her thick accent.

“My goal is to create a painting that conveys an instant feeling of peace, joy and freedom,” she says. “That’s the freedom I feel when painting. My work is deeply connected to my soul.” ♦

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