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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.