Niki Cotton Art

Posted 28th June 2016 in blog

for the love of tools

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The collecting of tools for my work is an obsession I am quite passionate about it seems. Brushes of different thickness, textures and handle length (yes really, it’s all in the balance don’t you know?!). Pencils that all have a different softness of lead, ones that blend with water, ones with a traditional pencil shape that remind you of school or just a big scrumptious lump of graphite. I think my favourite is a 6B in a wood casing. I’m not fussed about needing the rubber on the end. There is something so satisfying about sharpening one and trying to get a complete curl of wood shaving….. A 6B has just the right softness and give to be able to get really scribbly in huge arcs on a canvas but is also fabulously smudgable on a piece of paper, leaving just the right density of deep grey in its wake.

I seem to have a plethora of scissors but my cutting skills are still appalling. Great big jagged edges and always on a slant or curve of a curious nature. Palate knives are another thing that over the years I have collected and yet I only use the 2 that are perfect to me and just let me make without thinking of what is in my hand. The rest are either sitting there all shiny and new or covered in random layers of gloop that has crusted up, making them unusable but still I keep them propped in jars about the studio. I collect implements that might make a mark – feathers, sticks, brush handles, rulers, old credit cards and ice scrapers, random chewed up bits of mount board (you get the idea). I have a cupboard stuffed full of jars full of curious things. I have 3 print rollers but only 1 that I love and the squidgy I have for screen printing is redundant as I prefer the flexible ruler I pilfered from the kids.

There is nothing neat and tidy with clean surfaces about what I do. I seem to exist when working in a constant state of the Mr. Messy children’s book. Finger marks sprinkled everywhere and piles of stuff littered about me in the studio. The tools I use are a case in point – paint smeared and well loved. I’m not sure I could have squashed any more things in to my hand to give you a synopsis of what I use to shape the marks I make, that then develop into layers, thus creating a whole picture of some kind or other. They are simple items but boy oh boy do they bring me joy! I have developed a relationship with them and there are some that I know I would cry over if I lost them or they broke and then there are some that will probably sit there unused until the day I die as they just don’t gel with me. I find it fascinating that we develop these relationships with inanimate objects that end up feeling like an extension of ourselves.

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