Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tools of the Trade

 A sneak peek at one of the rascals who started all this! Yeah, I bet you can figure out what kind of animal this is...well WELL WELL!

The most important - the best - tools of any artist are the mind, the soul, and the imagination. No art can emerge without this creative trifecta. But in order to materialize their alchemy, an artist needs tools.

Luckily we're born with the  most exceptional tools imaginable - our hands! Personally, I interpret this as a sign that nature designed us to be creative. Honestly, all good things in human nature come from positive creativity, perhaps because it requires openness, humility, joy, reflection, and respect for the internal world of others. So I find it no surprise that lots of good things derive from creativity, some of which I wrote about in a 2010 article:

Studies show that our brains slip into a meditative state and release serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and beta-endorphins when immersed in creativity. And the more we engage it, the stronger that positive feedback loop becomes cemented into our neural net. Quite literally, we become addicted to our creativity. The effect can be so profound that our brains actually re-wire themselves to expedite these pathways. For this reason, artists tend to be most balanced when allowed to work in the studio on a regular basis. It’s why we derive such deep, penetrating joy from our creativity.

Experiencing this effect on a daily basis, I've long thought that every person should have some form of positive creative outlet. But creativity doesn't mean just visual art, but anything that requires the implementation of creative expression, from writing, cooking, dancing, gardening, music, architecture, etc. Putting our hands to work to express our inner selves gifts us with a path, a profundity, and a voice...and don't those things stew in the human soul by nature?

On the left is my ever-handy Microstamp® logo stamp I use for sculpture. Lynn Fraley referred me to their product and I can vouch that it's fantastic! It'll be a lifetime tool. On the right, with the goldfish floatin' around inside, is one of the minions of Page Up® paper holders that populate the studio.

But I digress...back to tools. Such gizmos are the means by which our voices can be expressed and they range from the humble hand to the found object to the custom-made contraption. Every artist has a pile of tools and often an even more exclusive group of favorite ones. Tools also can be as unique as the artist, revealing quite a bit about how he or she works simply by its condition or design. Each art form demands its own set of specialized tools, too, and even different media can demand specific implements. 

Since I work in such varied media, most of my studio is strewn with various tools...they are taking over! But that's OK...they're my little partners in this madness. So along those lines, I thought you might be interested in the tools I've been using to create Mr. Pony, and his future ilk...
 Here's a line-up of the usual suspects. "B" has little balls on each end, which are really useful for details, especially inside nostrils and ears. "C" is my steady partner for all clays, and my primary sculpting tool for epoxy (its epoxy partner is encrusted in the stuff!). D-H are various loop tools. "J" is my ever-present set of calipers - I have five of them so I'm never without! "K" is my Microstamp®. L-M are my various smoothing brushes for earth clay ("L" is that flat brush I mentioned for the veining yesterday).

Here's "A" from above. This custom-made tool from Bison Studios was a gift from Joan Berkwitz a couple of years ago and has proven to be indispensable! So much so that if you see it covered in clay, you know I've been working in the ceramic studio. I even kept the cool box it came in!

Here's "I" from the line-up. This tool was a gift from Lesli Kathman, one she made herself. The interesting thing about this puppy is that you can make a whole slew for yourself, too! Just take bass guitar wire and some brass tubing (available in many hobby stores). Simply bend the wire into the shapes you want and insert the loop into the tube, and crimp the tube ends with needle-nose pliers. Super for earth and oil clay! It also leaves a really appealing tool mark, which I plan to leave on some ceramic pieces.

 Youth Taming the Wild, Anna Hyatt Huntington, stone, 1927. Brookgreen Gardens, October 2009.

I'm sure as I develop this line of work over the years, new little partners will be added to the party. I can't wait! I have a deep fondness for my tools...they represent so many memories past and more to come. Each one has a story and each one plays a part in mine. So here's to our tools! Always dependable and at the ready to help us forge our path! Hazzah!

"Let the technical skills you acquire guide your hand but also have the courage to listen to your heart." ~ Ted Smuskiewicz

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