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The SCENE Magazine

Off “Z” Wall - Kemah Artist Jim “Z” Zanelli

Local artist, Jim “Z” Zanelli designs unique, playful art with reclaimed wood. 

“I like off-the-wall stuff. I know I’m not the greatest artist, but I love playing and creating,” he admitted. 

Zanelli told he has a natural ability and has created art his whole life. He mentioned he only took standard art courses in grade school. 

“I started by painting murals. I was doing it, because I like it,” he said. 
As a resident of Kemah, Zanelli finds piles of wood from neighbors’ home construction projects. With permission, he rummages through the wood junk piles to collect workable pieces. Zanelli stated, “I search for good shapes and solid wood. I imagine what I want to do with it. I even collect pilings to make into totem poles.” 

Zanelli further explained when an idea comes to his mind; he draws the image on wood, paints it, and then cuts it with a jigsaw. “Whatever comes to mind with the wood piece, and I play with it,” informed Zanelli. He leaves certain creations as a painting on a wooden canvas and others are cut out to a specific shape. Zanelli often incorporates the existing features of wood such as knots of a cedar post and the natural patterns found in wood to create the shapes and designs much like seeing forms in clouds. He typically accents what is there. 

Zanelli advised it’s how the wood speaks to him that dictates the final product. He shared he sometimes integrates strands of rope and other found objects with his wooden projects for more depth and texture. Zanelli constructs both small and large scale wood works. The majority of his creations are nautical in theme; including distinctively different sea-life, mischievous mermaids, and whimsical fish and lizards. 

“Any work creating is learning. The more you do, the better you get,” declared Zanelli. He added, “I enjoy it and making money doing what I love.” But for Zanelli, the most rewarding part of his job is the reactions from the viewers. He expressed, “It gives you a good feeling inside when people appreciate your work. I see folks taking selfies with my art. I love that. It gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.”

To learn more about Art by “Z” call 281-851-9983 or email [email protected]. Jim Zanelli’s work is also displayed at the recently opened Voodoo Hut in Kemah.

- Kelley Dawson