Jonathan Hough, Maker of Things

That’s a custom lighter by Jonathan Hough.

It’s great to watch an artist develop. My favorite kind of artist is the one who—through experimentation, trial and error—seeks the best means to give shape to whatever space his head is in at that moment. And then when that head space shifts, so does the search for the way to give it tangible form.

Jonathan Hough, my brother, @jh0u9h on Instagram, is one of these artists. I follow what he makes, and we talk about art, broadly and specifically. Often he is the kind of artist who wants to be responsible for every atom (ideally) that comprises a piece of artwork. Below, check out my small collection of Jonathan’s work. Two of them are paintings made from hand-ground minerals mixed with oil to create his own paints. The third is a hammered metal piece that is part bell and part oculus. They are compact pieces, like gems, representing countless hours of focused making.

Jonathan Hough art

Now, Jonathan has taken his passion for metals and minerals, and an arsenal of technique he has developed as a jewelry-maker, and has begun collaborating with artists to create custom-engraved lighters. This project is his first big foray into bringing his highly specialized skills to a wider audience. Check out some of his recent collaborations…

David Cook / @bonethrower on Instagram

Alright, this one is for you @bonethrower. #custom #zippo #cnc #engraving #oneofakind #proof

A video posted by Jonathan (@jh0u9h) on

Reginald Pean / @frenchinald on Instagram

First official proof for @frenchinald. #custom #cnc #engraving #paradiselost #zippo #lighter

A video posted by Jonathan (@jh0u9h) on

And, the artist himself, Jonathan Hough / @jh0u9h on Instagram

Skeletal bird flippin. #cnc #engraving #wip #flippinthebird

A video posted by Jonathan (@jh0u9h) on

Find Jonathan on Instagram to see more of his work. @jh0u9h

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley is a humblingly great graphic novel

“Humblingly” just became a word, because that is how good Seconds is.

Seconds, a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley

I recommend this graphic novel to anyone, particularly to aspiring graphic novelists. After I finished the book last night, I picked it up and arbitrarily opened one page, then another, and more, to see if I could imagine coming up with a spread as good as whichever spread I happened to behold. But every page was conceived and composed so beautifully, succinctly, and with such sensitivity to the story that I had to cry “uncle.” O’Malley is working at a level of craftsmanship that both inspires and humbles those who would aspire to create a graphic novel of their own!

So, read this story about a brash chef in her late twenties who stumbles upon a way to go back and fix the mistakes in her life. Bask in the cuteness and the depth of O’Malley’s artwork and storytelling. Or just look at the pages. Everything here is worthwhile.

Thank you, Bryan, for the great book!!

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:)

Runaway Soccer Ball, new and improved!

I made this illustration during the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. I was never thrilled with the final product: it needed some attention. So, I worked with the color palette and value, and now I am happier with the artwork. Watching little kids play soccer is a unique, crazy joy, and here I give the soccer ball’s perspective on it.

James Hough, Runaway Soccer Ball, digital illustration, 2014

A Not-So-Accidental Blog Tourist Hop Stops Here

Welcome to this final cul-de-sac of one side road of the great wandering tour of blogs by artists – writers, musicians, painters, photographers, and more!

I was invited by Nancy Heard, a fellow North Texas illustrator, who in turn was invited by Bobbie Dacus, her good friend and another fellow artist.

You may make your acquaintance with Nancy at her blog: http://nancyheard.blogspot.com/

And, now a little about Nancy:

Nancy Photo - Bio

Nancy Heard is a freelance illustrator/artist. She has illustrated children’s books, activity books, and coloring books. She has designed/illustrated wallpaper, scrapbook paper, party invitations, and has also produced illustrations for corporations. Some of Nancy’s clients include: NRN Design, Glad Tidings, Sonburn, Ideal Publishers, Dominee Press, Rainbow Press and more. Nancy illustrated “The Tiny Ant” for Edupress, which won the Teacher’s Choice Award. Nancy currently resides in Dallas, Texas.

Now, for my part in the tour …

1. What am I currently working on?
I am writing and illustrating a re-telling of a classic fairy tale, and I am enjoying the challenge of incorporating American muscle cars and skateboarding into a beloved princess tale. The final product will be a juvenile graphic novel.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My illustrations begin as ideas, and if the ideas do not eventually speak with their own strong voice, I discard them. I do a lot of discarding. Then, those that have potential become pencil sketches, then ink drawings on paper, in the tradition of Bill Watterson, Mercer Mayer, and Will Eisner. Finally, I digitally paint the drawings, aiming for the most expressive, luminous, painterly, and lush final product. It is the combination of solid ideas, deft draftsmanship, and painterly color work that gives my illustrations a shot at standing out.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?
A life of making is the life for me. I have always made things, as long as I can remember. If I do not have a project going, I get cranky. When I am working on something—a painting, a drawing, a story—I am trying to make the best thing I’ve ever made, with the goal of making something worthy of joining the work of artists who have made all the things that have so enriched my own life.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?
My process is pretty messy, though I am always trying to refine it. Most of my work is accomplished by brute force, lots and lots of erasing and re-starts. I meet with my critique partner—the very funny and smart Bill Burton—and we bounce ideas off each other and laugh. And, I riff a lot with my kids, one 1st- and one 6th-grader.

So, as I wrap up this leg of the tour, I would like to share a few sites of people whose work I admire and who also blog sometimes.

Diandra Mae is a fellow Texas illustrator from Houston. I met her at the great 2012 conference of the San Antonio SCBWI Chapter, when she had just been honored as SCBWI’s featured illustrator that month. Her illustrations feature the three legs of idea, drawing, and color that I aspire for my own work to stand firmly on.

Erwin Madrid is an artist whose work I follow for equal parts inspiration and humility. He is an illustrator and concept artist, and sometimes, when I look at his book jacket work and concept painting, I literally whimper.