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Do the tools of an artist make a better artis

Ed Twilbeck

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Do the tools of an artist make them a better artist? At one time I thought that all I would need was a sharp knife and I could carve anything. Well that may be true, but with the proper tools and more of them, you can do more, and for some better work. I have been browsing this forum and admiring the work of the many artists. Looking for inspiration, for a new carving. After seeing the moths by Janel and Jim Kelso, They inspired me to do a moth. When I did moths, butterflies, and dragon flies before, I always took my wood and sliced it to book match the wings. Well now the tools that I had to do those and many other jobs, I do not have. Yes I can cut them by hand and will make it work. But I was wondering if I had the tools to make my art work easier, and would it be better. Since Katrina I have down sized in everything, not crying or moaning, but I have noticed a difference in the way I work without the tools that I had. Now with just a few Hand tools I will continue to work at my art, and work to make it better. :)

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This is an interesting topic I think about every now and again. For me, tool use/accumulation is an ongoing process. As I develop, I find that if I don't have the right tool for the job I'll increasingly make it, buy it, or else devise a way of redisigning the task so the tool is no longer needed. Point is, the need has to be there before the tool is acquired.


I can be somewhat skeptical of people who buy all sorts of tools at the start and then use them in a proscriptive manner: "To carve the wings you'll need a number 3 gouge, and a 60 degree veining tool....".


There are also two sorts of people in this world :)B) : Those who get all excited about gear, tools, approaches, 'book learning' and those who just get out and do it with what they have at hand. I do a lot of bicycling and notice this to be true in that arena, at least. I'm guilty of fence sitting too.


I have a feeling if we take an informal poll here, most of us have just a small handful of tried and true tools that have become like our hands and that we reach for constantly. Perhaps 10-20% of our total assortment of knives, gravers, scrapers and files.

The remaining 80% are there for very specialized applications, or that we bought 'cause they were shiny, but for one reason or another have never been used :D

I guess I have this belief that something of quality and beauty CAN be created by a pocket knife as long as it is within the bounds of what a pocket knife can do. Know what I mean? The tool describes it's artistic bounds, if you will.


All this said, I believe an artist should buy the best quality they can afford. Not necessarily the widest range, but the best of any individual tool. Munakata is the exception that makes this a rule B) . He apparently used those cheap woodcut chisels that come in a ten pack at the craft store for $7.99...Threw 'em out when they got dull




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This is all very interesting, so I'll pedestrianise it by adding my opinion :)

I believe that the act of creating is through a discourse between the creator, the tools, the materials, and, ultimately, the observer. In that respect the tools are an important part of the act.

Tools have their input in the result, but they generally oblige to your wishes. I say 'generally' because those tools have a mind of their own, sometimes (as my fingers will swiftly attest). And their voice is valuable too.

There is value in knowing how to use each tool to its best potential, whatever it may be...


Like Doug, I think that tools are bourne out of the need for a specific use. I am often guilty of buying tools because I am in awe of their creators (tools as art?) and rarely use them. It's true that sometimes tools open new horizons we were not aware of, though it's generally the case that their creator was...


I rant... let me wrap up.

Tools (in my opinion) do not make a better artist.

Good artists tend to make a better tool, though.


disconnected thoughts... must be the music


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Interesting is the phrase alright.


Tools cannot make an artist any better but can certainly enhance an already existing talent or skill.


The true measure is determined by the ability to recognise a problem then be competent in resolving an efficient solution. Whether it be applying a different technique or approach, or even designing and making a new tool if neccessary.


Designing and making tools is an integral part of the process of creating and producing a piece, even if the tool is only ever used once for a specific purpose.

The piece may be better and the artist further experienced, ultimately the artist is the tool and all else is no more than an extension of the practitioner.


I have a drawer stashed with such explorations, all relevant and has proved on numerous occasions an invaluable resource for further evolvements.


As mentioned, recognition of something as a problem is the key. Someone commented a few years back 'If something is difficult to do then the greatest probability is you are doing it wrong.' Had a profound effect on my understanding of many things, including carving.


It's all in the head!!!! Open minds are free playing fields!!!



Cheers ,


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