Buffalo Blessing - 405 Magazine

Buffalo Blessing

Zonly Looman’s drive for creative expression.

Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander

Zonly Looman’s drive for creative expression.

Zonly Looman is an artist living an iconic vision. Beginning at 7 years old painting landscapes with his Bob Ross kit, he has transformed into a sought-after artist specializing in murals, sculptures and live performance painting.

The buffalo, also known as the bison, is synonymous with Looman — similar to Andy Warhol and the Campbell’s soup can and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s crown. The former collegiate baseball player was heavily influenced artistically by his Kumeyaay and Chumash heritage and a book passed down by his grandfather.

Operating out of his own gallery, Studio Z, in downtown Edmond, Looman gives full-out focus to his craft while also giving back to the community through donating his work and time.

Whether he’s tattooing or painting, Looman is walking in true artist fashion by doing it his way.

Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander

Who introduced you to Bob Ross’ work?
My mom bought me the whole Bob Ross kit; I had the traditional Bob Ross paintbrushes and the paint and all that stuff. Probably did about six or seven paintings, and my parents actually ended up taking my brushes away from me because I would get so upset. But it’s because I had the vision in my head, but I didn’t have the skills to be able to put it on the canvas yet.

You started painting at 7 years old, but then you stopped and didn’t start again until 21. Why?
I didn’t think I could be good at it, you know? So I always drew; I was very comfortable with Sharpies, colored pencils, oil pastels — loved all that, just didn’t touch water and paintbrush, you know? It took one of my good friends, Big Mike — he was one of my mentors in the beginning when I started tattooing — he told me, “Bro, you have to start painting. You start painting, your skills will go right through the roof.”

What were you painting initially?
I can tell you the first painting that I did that got me back into it: it was a painting that I titled “Green Tear,” and I still have it today. It was a portrait of an Indian chief, and it had a pink background. It was a green Indian, and he was split down the middle so there was only a half portrait of the face. And on the eyeball, there was like a little bit of a waterdrop that made it look like he was crying.

Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander

Did you continue painting the same type of subject?
There was this one book on Native Americans, and it was passed down from my grandpa. I painted so many things out of that book; that was my whole entire first subject matter.

So, the buffalo — how did they come about in your work?
Buffalo was given to me — I feel like it was just like placed in my lap or placed on the canvas for me. I got hired for a live painting in 2015. It took me two and a half hours to paint the buffalo, and it sold at auction for $2,400 before I even finished it. We got two more gigs from that, and then we got another two gigs, and they all wanted me to paint buffalo. And so it was just word of mouth.

As we’re speaking, it’s February. How many paintings have you done?
Thirty paintings so far, and we’re 38 days into the year. I’m trying to create as much as I can — as many sculptures, as many paintings, as many times that I’m able to tattoo — and pass that on. And, you know, I’m trying to build that legacy and build that body of art because when I’m gone, that’s still gonna be there, man. That’s what’s gonna live on, and the message is with it.

Photo By Charlie Neuenschwander