Saturday, July 3, 2010


Tool Mark. Graphite drawing by John Whalley

I am fascinated with tools .... with wooden handles worn smooth by use 

Tool Belt. Graphite Drawng by John Whalley

..... flecked with paint ........

Art History. Oil painting by John Whalley

.... chipped, scratched and patinated with sweat and grease.

American Vocalist. Graphite Drawing by John Whalley

Lyle sent me a link to John Whalley's website and I was blown away by his exquisite drawings and paintings of old, forgotten tools.

"Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated by old tools and found objects. At the same time, there's something about pencil and paper that I love. Just holding a pencil in my hands feels right. The pencil is something I have gotten to know so well. It's second nature." - John Walley

Class of 54. Graphite drawing by John Whalley

" His Maine studio is a bastion of detritus stacked neatly on shelves and tables - seashells, screw-drivers, hammers, balls of twine, assorted locks and keys, musical instruments, oxidized spoons, baskets and jars, buttons and more. Nothing is too distressed, tarnished or lost to obscurity to escape Whalley's attention and sympathy; when he draws a strand of frayed twine, you can almost imagine what it might have held together." - M.M. Cloutier

When I emailed John about using his images in this post he graciously sent the photograph (above) of some of his collections and a wooden dancing doll he made many years ago. If you are drooling over this photograph you will love the documentary about John's work here .

Still Life with Brushes by Jos van Wunnik. See Flickr photostream here.

Whenever I experience a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome I'm extremely aware of how precious my hands are to me as a wood carver or artist in general. My hands are my means of expressing myself. Without them I am rendered useless. My hands are the most precious tool's of my trade.

Pray for Rain by Asbestos
The artist, Asbestos is known for his beautiful series on hands. I have featured his work before in a post about Expressive Hands, here.

I Will Inherit These Hands. Mixed media on board by Asbestos

"This series of paintings focuses on the hands of street artists and my friends around me and serves to draw out the expression and personality that is ingrained in each and every pair of hands. They're the tools that seperate us from other animals, they can create and they can destroy, that's why they're so fascinating to paint. Every pair has it's own unique grain that highlights the personality of it's owner." - Asbestos

Dark Hands. Mixed media on found wood by Asbestos


  1. Really interesting post. I am sure you have come across Jim Dines prints of tools, I particularly like his wrench and hammer pieces. It is great to see such skillful drawing. XX

  2. I absolutely love those graphite drawings Robyn. They are so exquisitely detailed. I am like you in enjoying and touching old tools. I love the smell in old toolsheds and potting sheds. I will pop over to his website and have a look. The hands are fascinating too. I love to draw hands but have to copy them as I find them very difficult to reproduce freehand.

  3. Those graphite drawings are exquisite. I thought they were b&w photographs. Hands facinate me. I will have to pop over and see more of this artist's work. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  4. you think of such interesting topics for your posts. The Maine artist is wonderful and original. The paintings themselves look as old and worn as the objects he paints. The hands too are amazing. Thanks for sharing your artist's eye.

  5. Oh wow, you always bring us the most amazing inspiring art. The graphite drawings look like photos

    Happy weekend Robyn

  6. loved the pencils too, and drawings of hands fascinate me, you are truly an inspiration
    thankx :)

  7. Wow, they are astounding! Where would we be without your finger on the artistic pulse?

  8. Incredible drawings and paintings...old tools are fascinating and its lovely to see the photo of how he arranges them. I love hands too and when I was in art school I did a series of hands from a variety of people. I love the quote about the 'grain of a person's hand saying something about their personality'. I love the presence of the objects, that is what I find so inspirational about this selection of art.

  9. Great


  10. a little evening read here for me...marveling at what this artist can do with graphite!
    have a great week, with those hopefully happy hands of yours.

  11. I enjoyed hearing John talk while he took us on a tour of his studio - what a sensitive and talented artist. Thank you so much Robyn.

  12. What a great topic for a post--the tools that we use, wear smooth, wear away. I think this Maine artist has found a well of inspiration and hidden depth. There also seems to be a kinship between his drawings of objects -the paintbrush, the hammer, the awl and the doll and your totems. Exquisite.

  13. whenever i wander the whirled
    i always investigate hardware stores
    and shed sales
    just in case there's some treasure that needs to come home to the workshop...
    off to visit those links now, thank you!

  14. What a talent John Walley is. His work is stunning.
    Thanks so much for highlighting his work here.

  15. we have so much in common and so much we both love- I have been collecting Japanese tools for some time now-- I usually do not know what they were ever used for--and they have to have Japanese characters carved on their handles.. I also love the 'hands' featured here.

  16. I had a hard time getting to grips with the fact that those tools were drawn.

  17. robyn, I'm so glad I had torn out the one photo of his art work and sent it on to you! You do such a wonderful job of " showcasing" other artists work! I enjoyed seeing him on your blog! and how about the doll! must be related to yours! lyle

  18. Whalley's work is beautiful. I never really liked the way Jim Dine worked with tools in his paintings, but I liked the tools. These are MUCH more inspiring to me, and his studio is great. Think I'll explore him more, thanks!

  19. Sue, I do know Jim Dine's work and have just hauled out a book I have had for years. Jim Dine: Five Themes. My favourite pieces are the one's with long rows of tools and objects.

    Cathy, aren't they wonderful?! You will love John's website. Have a look at ArtBeat (documentary).

    Lisa at Greenbow, the drawings of twine really intrigue me.

    Suki, each post teaches me something and it's like having my own gallery of all the work I love.

    Carolyn ..... but better than photographs :-)

    Megha, there is something about pencils. I never throw a pencil stub away and have used them in my own art often.

    Thanks Jo :-)

    Lrc, the photo of John's collections is the cherry on the top.

    Thanks Skizo.

    Neva, the hands aren't as happy as they could be but a little rest should get them back to normal.

    Leslie, great video wasn't it?
    Glad you enjoyed it!

    Hannah, I loved John's work when Lyle first introduced me to it but after watching the video I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the work..... and the studio .... and collections .... just wonderful!

    India, the owner of our local scrapyard always laughs when he sees me pawing through the scrap metal because it's not often that the wife is excited and the husband stands aside looking bored. it's usually the other way around.

    Thanks Nuhman.

    Azirca, enjoy!

    Donna, did you see the collections in the video? Definitely your cup of tea! The hands by Asbestos are inspiring aren't they?

    Penny, as Lrc commented earlier, these objects have presence.

    Lyle, you know me well! I thought you'd be impressed with the doll:-)

    Valerianna, you are in for a treat!

  20. well you got me. i've never been a fan of 'real life' drawing or painting but you got me on this one. these tool drawings are fantastic. thanks for sharing another wonderful find!

  21. Amazing abundance of objects John Whalley has in his studio.
    Did you notice the beautiful wooden floor ?

  22. Those graphite drawings are just amazing! They look so 3-dimensional, almost hard to believe they are not real tools! Another great post Robyn with such wonderful work by 3 very talented artists!

  23. I've kept a box of my dad's hand tools - a planer, crank drill, his hammer, chisels, tape measure, etc. It reminds me so much of him as he was such a woodworker. (Also, if you're interested, you might check out One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw by Witold Rybzynski).

  24. Gorgeous gorgeous. I love all of these shots. Thanks for an intro to some new artists that I will definitely have to check out.

  25. well I am chuckling over your

    Was it a challenge?
    thanks for more yummy artists to savour.

  26. Great collection. Reminds me of my daughter's tools.

    Have a joyful day! xo

  27. Sometimes I think I must be imagining you because what you bring forth is always so perfect and so close to my own thoughts.

    Old worn tools are so beautiful and when you hold them you can almost hear their stories.

    On another note, I too have had carpel tunnel and am actually recuperating from a day surgery on my left hand which took place in late May. I had to have my right hand done about 15 years ago and it never bothered me afterwards.

  28. Wonderful drawings! I still can't believe they are not photos ( my tired eyes need glasses, I know)! I enjoyed the video about John Walley and his artistic realm! I just wonder what these tools were used about... They keep secrets for me, but this makes them charming! Today we admire them as objects of art, but there was a time when they were someone's tools for making life better and more convenient...
    What about hands... What a theme! They really reveal one's personality, sometimes express more than the face does. They are a part of the "body's language". Take care of your hands and love them - they are your only tool for creating, you are right! The same as with the musicians... THANK YOU for this interesting post!

  29. Paula, have you looked closely at the twine? Magic!

    Wim, yes I did notice since I have a thing for natural wooden floors.

    Cynthia, the framed drawings look wonderful on the wall in the studio.Have a look at the documentary.

    Thanks Heather, I will look on Amazon.

    Annie, I bet the pencil drawing was your favourite!

    Grrl, I had fun with the limerick :-)

    Lawendula, thanks for the flickr link. Your daughter's collection made me smile.

    Curio, I've been putting off surgery for carpal tunnel for years. It's encouraging to hear you've had no trouble for 15 years after the op. Hope the second wrist heals quickly.

    Rossichka, so glad you enjoyed the post.

  30. I just can't get enough of these images. They are incredible. I also have a fascination with hands and! Love to see pics of them. Awesome post, Robyn!!

  31. So much to dip into here Robyn! John Whalley's studio looks like a veritable treaure trove - would love to spend some time sifting through that lot!

  32. those tools are gorgeous - thanks for bringing them to us Robyn. and yes, the hands. i have been off line and away from my art making for a while now because of these hands of mine - the ultimate and most precious artist tool...

  33. Ah yes Robyn - it is only when something goes wrong that we come to the full realisation of how important to creative people hands are. Hope your carpel tunnel is only temporary - it is such a nuisance. Love that picture with the little doll with its feel near the drawer.

  34. Oh Boy, another great post...went over to the artist's site and watched the film...amazing!
    I just love tools and seeing rows and rows of rusty old oil cans made me remember my father's work bench...always a pencil for behind his ear! Thank you Robyn!

  35. John Whalley's work is beyond exceptional. And that shot from his studio made me drool without a doubt. As for Asbestos...well you know how much I love hands!

  36. Oh I love these so much, Such awesome art you present here for us...This is great art...It's so much fun here at your place.

  37. John Walley is getting famous. He has a very nice talent in such work. His every work is stunning. Thank you so much for sharing your blog.

  38. I love that 'art history' image. It's quite compelling and the colours are perfect. Thankyou for the link to the documentary,I will have to take a look.

  39. Tools... fascinating and satisfying subject.. I love my tools and worn ones are the best .. best loved and most used.. hands fall in that category.. please don't let them wear out before I do..

  40. What beautiful tools, and I agree with Gwen, the older and more worn out the better. Wonderful post... I love the paintbrush the most. roxanne

  41. What a wonderful post, I loved it all but my favorite Asbestos - 'Dark Hands'
    ~ Julie