Fuzz Dots: Abstract Art That Is Warm and Fuzzy

Fuzz Dot 1 airbrushed painting by James HoughFuzz Dot 2 airbrushed painting by James HoughFuzz Dot 3 airbrushed painting by James HoughFuzz Dot 4 airbrushed painting by James HoughFuzz Dot 5 airbrushed painting by James Hough

The Fuzz Dot paintings above are original works that I’ve unearthed for my website’s 10th anniversary. The pieces themselves are straightforward enough: they are 11″ x 14″ original airbrushed paintings on heavy watercolor paper. But even the most simple artwork can contain multitudes. There are several art ideas at play in these little works.

Why Fuzz Dots?

Non-objective painting is alive and well.

Fuzz Dot 1 airbrushed painting by James Hough

Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Malevich and more artists from 100-150 years ago started to transform the surface of artwork from a fictional window through which you see a picture to a flat space where you see the artist play with paint. Since then, artists have had a blast reducing painting to pure color, pure shape, pure line, and so on.

What I find amazing is that this exploration of painting as a non-picture is ongoing, exciting and explosive! The Fuzz Dot paintings are just one example of pieces I’ve made that participate in the huge arena of non-objective – that is, fully abstract, with no reference in the real world – painting.

Non-objective painting can be off-putting.

Fuzz Dot 2 airbrushed painting by James Hough

As gentle a soul as Agnes Martin seems to be on camera, encountering her work out of context can be trouble. Most of her work that I’ve seen looks like straight, delicately-drawn pencil lines on a white canvas. I have come to appreciate what she has to say about beauty and the sublime through her painting, but the paintings aren’t for everyone.

Fuzz Dot paintings are one of my responses to the fact that non-objective abstract painting can be cold and uninviting. The layering of color and those blurry non-edges just evoke a coziness that I like to look at.

Layers of color are beautiful.

Fuzz Dot 3 airbrushed painting by James Hough

Much of my artwork is, in part, about enjoying the beautiful, subtle, infinite effects you get when you layer multiple colors on one another. The Renaissance period in Western Art is characterized by the invention and master of glazing: layering translucent strokes of paint on top of one another to achieve a blended, luminous effect. In order for an artist not to blaspheme by portraying Jesus, they had to invent an incredibly sensitive and gorgeous method for portraying the spirit-made-flesh, and they did it!

Each of the twelve shapes in a Fuzz Dot painting is made of at least two airbrushed layers of paint. The effect is that each fuzzy dot passes as one color while actually being several simultaneously. I just love this, and I think you might, too.

Structure and looseness are equally appealing.

Fuzz Dot 4 airbrushed painting by James Hough

Agnes Martin’s work is very meticulous and organized, while someone like Willem de Kooning painted in a style that feels much looser, even if he is constructing a careful composition in spite of the slashes and dabs of paint. Fuzz Dot paintings have a little of both: I create a careful, slightly oblique grid then freely paint the circles without stencils or even touching the paper.

Painting without stencils, in 2011 when I made these pieces, was a freeing experience, because I had been making stenciled portraits and gestural abstract paintings, and I just needed to work with color and relax.

Finally, working intuitively can pay off both for the artist and the viewer.

Fuzz Dot 5 airbrushed painting by James Hough

Beyond knowing the general placement of each dot, I never had a plan when I started one of these paintings. Through working slowly, responding to the color and size of the dots I just painted, I slowly built what felt like a balanced composition of colorful, blurry dots. Artists of all kinds know the flow state of this kind of deep work, where you are using your instincts – honed by experience and education – and simply responding to the artwork in front of you until you feel it is finished.

This way of working on instinct does not always yield a product that is user-friendly, but in this case, the Fuzz Dot paintings have been artwork that people continually enjoy looking at and talking about.

In conclusion:

I have been heartened by the reaction that viewers have when they see the Fuzz Dot paintings. They situate themselves nicely both in art history and in front of your eyes. I have experimented with how I can explore the Fuzz Dot without making unnecessary, uninspired copies, and I hope to make some and put them out there for you to see soon.

In the meantime, at the time of publishing this post, two out of the five pieces are still available, so consider adding a Fuzz Dot painting to your collection.

A Few Digital Sketches, Soon to Be Finished Paintings

Below are a few digital sketches that represent a snapshot of what has been going on in my painting studio lately. Working digitally like this has the huge benefit of offering infinite flexibility when working with colors. I also love to dig for intuitive geometric compositions in my paintings, and Adobe Illustrator is well suited to this kind of sketching. horizontal-studies This sketch should be a finished painting by now, but I keep revisiting it, tweaking the colors to try to achieve the balance of light/dark and intensity that it needs. I ended up going with the top design with the chain of small rectangles running across the diagonal. red-pink-white-blue-concept Continuing to play with the red/pink/white/blue palette and simple—bordering on obvious!—geometry. austin-commission-concept I am currently making the painting that is depicted in this digital concept photo. I created the palette after spending some time at the collectors’ land in west Texas, home of big skies, cedar, mesquite, and earth. When finished, this painting will be an important piece of the collectors’ newly remodeled home! orange-green-red-study This sketch did not make the cut for the above commission, but it has found a place in my painting queue. It uses the west Texas palette, and does some of the things with simple color, light and space that keep my eyeballs coming back to look again.

3-D Cash Sculptures Passing Each Other in the Mail

My brother turned 30 just before Christmas. He is an artist, jeweler, and gemstone enthusiast, so with a little inspiration I arrived at a novel way to send him his birthday cash: those decade birthdays call for extra recognition, right? 30 Dollar Polyhedron James Hough So here is the 30-sided polyhedron—constructed from 1-dollar bills—that I sent him as a late birthday gift. Late as in post-Christmas. Which means that my brother’s late Christmas gifts to my family must have passed my gift to him in the mail, because we each received our packages within a day of the other. Cash Origami by James Hough's Brother He sent us a cash butterfly and a cash elf boot! We were both shocked and thrilled that our minds had gone to the same obscure place when we decided what gifts to send each other. Neither of us had sent or—as far as I know—even made anything like these cash constructions before! p.s. I should note that though my gift to him was larger in volume, his was larger monetarily:)

Tumbley, 2014

It has been likened to a picture of blood vessels or tumbleweeds, but I call it Tumbley. This painting is approximately 12 paintings made on top of each other then collapsed into one very noisy, smooth surface. Tumbley, 2014, acrylic on canvas, by James Hough James Hough Tumbley, 2014 acrylic on canvas 13.5″ x 63.5″

Believer, 2013

Believer, James Hough, acrylic on canvas, 31" x 47" Believer, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 31″ x 47″ My most recent painting takes a turn toward representation. I used additive and reductive painting techniques to create the image, as I have been doing in my non-objective works, but this time I was evoking a still life by Henri Fantin-Latour, whose intimate paintings are so quiet, yet sculptural, in the way he uses light and shadow to create space. Plus, finally seeing the Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection was a huge inspiration as I approached this painting. Looking at Twombly and Fantin-Latour is humbling and uplifting at the same time, and this painting owes its swirling circular shapes and its palette to both painters.

Starving Artist, Jim Public Presents, Volume 1 by James Hough, press release

Starving Artist, Jim Public Presents, Volume 1, by James Hough, header image Starving Artist, Jim Public Presents, Volume 1, by James Hough, cover image FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NEW ART-THEMED COMIC BOOK RELEASED IN DALLAS Jim Public, the enterprise of artist James Hough, publishes Starving Artist, a comic book about art, family, and hamburgers DALLAS, TX — Jim Public is proud to announce the publication of the new comic book Starving Artist: Jim Public Presents, Volume 1 by Dallas-based artist James Hough. The comic tells the story of Jim, an artist and family man whose aesthetic ambitions are vitally linked to his domestic and gastric aspirations. “Jim has a plan to sell a painting and use the cash to take his family out for burgers,” says Mr. Hough. “Starving Artist is a slice-of-life story that connects the artist’s career to the artist’s home and family. It is an Anti-Myth of the Artist.” The reader first sees Jim floating pajama-clad through his dreams of fame, fortune, and food before he is abruptly awakened by an early alarm clock. From there he makes his kids breakfast and kisses them good-bye, setting off to exhibit his painting on the downtown Dallas streets. The story is semi-autobiographical, much of it based on Hough’s experiences as the proprietor of his mobile gallery of contemporary art, Jim Public’s Truck. “The gallery continues its mission ‘to present artwork in unusual, spontaneous, and neighborly ways’ with the publication of Starving Artist,” says Hough. “The comic exists digitally and in the traditional paper format, and it costs the tiniest fraction of an original painting, for example. It is an extremely accessible piece of art, a bit spontaneous and very neighborly.” The comic also features Hough’s new painting Burger Night and a bonus educational chart entitled “All Art Is Abstract Art,” which includes the artist’s renderings of famous paintings from art history organized into a concise lesson on abstract art. Starving Artist: Jim Public Presents, Volume 1 by James Hough is available on paper at www.jimpublic.com/books and digitally at eBookstores everywhere.

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Burger Night

I worked on this painting off and on for a long time. In fact, after my attentions progressively made it worse, I was driven into a brief retirement from painting altogether. “Who needs paint anyways!” I shouted silently to myself. “It’s just stupid goo!” But I pulled through and finished it, thanks mostly to my wife for her encouragement and a little bit to myself for remembering that I actually do like paint. Burger Night, 2013, by James Hough