I teach a lot about differences in art making. Differences between colors, shapes and textures, values and even emotions. The thinking being, that a bright color will look even brighter if paired with its opposite. A dull color. A light shape will look even lighter next to a dark shape. It also relates to states of being. Being careful, cautious in parts of our art especially looks good when paired with an area that has been made by being slightly out of control.

Interestingly, this juxtaposition of opposites, this enhancement of things also works in life too. For example, I can’t stop thinking about this fabulous ice cream cone I had this past Sunday right after crossing the finish line of a particularly, grueling running race I do every year. The sweet, cold ice cream cone and the dry, extremely tiring, 7 mile cross country race, for me, were truly opposites. And experiencing them together improved both. They each become more, in the presence of each other.

This play of opposites enhances not just Art but also Life. Both sides of the equation are positively affected by the richness and variation of differences.

On the last painting I made I used a tiny dental picking tool. I used a #2 pencil and brushes that make fine lines. But then I also used 3 and 5-inch paint brushes. I used a 13 in roll of paper towels along with rags to smear and adjust paint. I have a car window squeegee that is about 13 in wide. I have a 7-inch paint scraper. I builder’s scribe for making large carved circles. I used a 6-inch orbital sander with 60 grit sandpaper. I used 16-inch wide x 5 ft. sheets masking paper to apply paint and adjust its texture. And I also used a house brick to gouge the surface. I have a box of greasy pastels that I constantly use in addition to oil paint.

When I laid out all the tools on the table I was kind of shocked at how diverse they all looked. Just the tools alone are interesting. In fact lining them up against each other is in a way just like a painting. Combining the small with the large. The delicate with the rough.

I realized you could tell a lot about someone’s art by looking at the tools used to make it. Maybe if the tools are varied, if they are gathered over time, discovered one by one based upon the differences in marks they each create greatly contribute to the potency of the final art.

Maybe some of the richness in our work can be discovered before we even begin.

Maybe by making an effort to push our awareness about the kinds of mark making tools we use, we can more easily create art that not only moves us, but everyone else too.