The phase of the lifecycle of any project that we refer to as “tools” considers the devices or implements used in your project. Tools determine the scale, quality, and formal constraints of your projects. If you are a painter or a filmmaker, and your projects are medium-specific, you will get to know your tools intimately. For example, the collaborative duo Ryan and Trevor Oakes create their own paint brushes and easel-helmet-drawing-machine, inspired by historical camera lucida devices, for their drawing and painting. They have said that “the paper needed to be spherically concave so that the length from your eye to the paper was equidistant for all points on the surface of the paper. We had all these grand ideas of what we could do with it, and the natural course of things led to building our first easel, in May of 2004.” If your medium changes with each project, and you are a project-based artist, your tools might range from graphic-design software to sewing machines to paint brushes. Project-based artists often rely upon work-for-hire contractors or fabrication companies—in these cases the tools are not available to the artist because they are used by the fabricator.

Oscar Rene Cornejo makes sculptures with traditional Japanese joinery techniques and woodcuts with Japanese printmaking techniques, that require chisels, hand saws, and wooden mallets. An understanding of painting techniques has given him flexibility in creating pigments and dyes from surrounding plants and earth, using nontoxic binders such as milk, eggs, honey, and gum arabic. Cornejo travels for residencies, self-created opportunities, and workshops, and has created a working method with hand tools. As he says, “I like that idea of not needing electricity, and just using manual labor to create things…It gives agency to me. I’m not relying on a power tool.” In being present with materials and tools, often on his own for days in the studio, Cornejo embodies the capacity that we call “calmness” or “I am able to practice grounding, centeredness, a sense of ease of being, and equanimity.” See Chapter 5: Capacities and Chapter 10: Source for more on Oscar Rene Cornejo.

Download the full chapter: Tools as a PDF

Download Teacher/Facilitator Guides

  1. Future Project: Tools (worksheet)
  2. Past Project: Tools (worksheet)
  3. Historical Consciousness (worksheet)
  4. Imagine That You’ve Just Graduated (assignment)
  5. Start a Tool Library (assignment)
  6. Make a Project Using a Tool That a Friend Or Family Member Uses in a Non-Art Context