Anything can be used as a tool for oil painting. As a child I knew a man that painted with sharpened sticks and twigs, and referred to himself as the twig painter. Each painting tool is a discipline to master. While working solely with the pallet knife, I needed a larger surface to move paint, so I chose to use a toaster for several composition paintings, simply because it was the tool that could get the results I was looking for. The concept that I was working on at the time dictated what tool I use. I chose the toaster simply because I could only acquire the results I wanted from its large, flat, smooth surface. When I wanted a larger size, I used a freezer door as my tool, with the same intended purpose as the toaster and pallet knife. My personal experiments with unconventional tools did not end there, and eventually led me back to the brush. These experiences gave me separate voices of dramatic difference within my work that I someday may eventually unite into a single personality with a voice based on multiple techniques.
I once challenged an artist to paint with a wind up toy bear that’s arms would become animated in opposing directions in a swimming motion, and a small toilet plunger. Although the physical aesthetic of the work he produced was poor, if the artist would have continued to practice the discipline in oil painting with the toy bear and toilet plunger, he would have eventually found a way to create what his intuitive mind was telling him in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The toy bear and a toilet plunger were experiments in teaching an understanding of what a tool is to the artist. The lesson was intended to remove the artist’s dependance on a conventional painting tool as the brush, and to teach the artist that all painting tools are simply a discipline within themselves to learn. My apprentice painted five works with the toy bear and toilet plunger. It was not until the fourth work that he began to get a handle on the tools themselves, and not until the fifth work did he start to see the lesson of tool as a discipline.
Prior to this experiment, I attempted the same lesson with this artist, confining him to use one brush type per painting. The lesson, tool as discipline, is the same here as it was with the unconventional tools, but my apprentice couldn’t separate his mind from the brush as he used it, even though he was only allowed to paint exclusively per brush type. His unimaginative approach to painting and painting tools pointed me in the direction of removing his habits with the unconventional and witty toy wind-up bear and toilet plunger. I had to remove the idea of tools as tools, making the action of painting absurd in order for him to see the ideas behind the lesson. Subsequently this artist should have been able to see this on his own, and as far as I know he no longer paints. Together we did have a very good time painting, and Stefan was extremely talented in illustration. I hope that he still works creatively today.