Tools of the Imagination

I Just finished reading Tools of the Imagination: Drawing Tools and Technologies from the Eighteenth Century to the Present   by Susan Piedmont-Palladino.

The book is written by and aimed at architects so I did find it quite hard to invest in, coming from my perspective of a drawing artist wanting to explore the genre for its own sake not just as a means of drawing for construction elements.

However, to draw precisely, architects of the past and I suppose to some degree the present, have used an amazing array of tools to help them guide their pencil point across the page, and this was what I found fascinating in his book.

Because I didn’t really understand what they are or how to use them, the photos of the drawing tool became like intensely intricate sculptures, beautifully crafted art objects in their own right. Objects which are now mostly or becoming defunct as they are superseded by the digital tools of the computer suite.

The book did talk a little about the switchover from analogue to digital in terms of architecture and construction, albeit with a very nostalgic tone for the loss of a “true” architect who (with a pencil) draws as he thinks. I think that in a way especially for architectural drawers, computer technology is a new kind of pencil, one that is easier to translate to different materials, to shift and copy to where it is needed.I think personally in that field I would prefer an architect who uses the best technology available to him to “draw” his plans rather than walking around thinking with his pencil.

There was a rather interesting quote that refers to a loss of handmade technical drawings which applies beautifully to all digital media art:

“Now there is no “original” drawing, only a digital file from which innumerable identical prints can be made. Are they all copies? Or are they all originals?”


John Farey, 1813. Brass 16 x 16 x 4 cm



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