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-studiesThis 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-conceptContinuing to play with the red/pink/white/blue palette and simple—bordering on obvious!—geometry.

austin-commission-conceptI 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-studyThis 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.

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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 post shared by Jonathan (@h0u9h) on

Reginald Pean / @frenchinald on Instagram

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

A post shared by Jonathan (@h0u9h) on

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

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

A post shared by Jonathan (@h0u9h) on

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

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.

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