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Art at Home Transforming Tools

Photo: Jacqui Reedy

by Jacqui Reedy


To transform, something must change its form, appearance, use, or character. Think about how a caterpillar can transform into a beautiful butterfly or how a tiny seed can grow into a tall apple tree. They completely change! Playing pretend is another kind of transformation. Have you ever transformed one object into another using your imagination? Have you used a stick as a magic wand or used couch cushions to make a secret fort? Using items that you have in your house can transform the way you see the world and lets you explore your creativity. Artists do this all the time!


Jim Dine, (American, b. 1935). Tools, 1970. Lithograph on paper; 39 ½ × 53 ¾ in. (100.3 × 139.1 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of American Art Foundation, 1980.58

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

For inspiration, look at the artwork called Tools, created by Jim Dine in 1970. To create this piece, Dine used a lithograph on paper. Lithography is a very old process of printmaking. “I grew up with tools. I came from a family of people who sold tools, and I've always been enchanted by these objects made by anonymous hands,” Dine has said. Transformation here is happening by using objects in ways they weren't intended to be used. Look more closely at Jim Dine's creation, Tools. What shapes do you see? What tools do you think he used to make his artwork? What story would you tell about what you see?

What tools or objects in your house could you use to make prints? What would make exciting or unexpected shapes?

Art Words

Transform—To change in form, appearance, use, or character.

Abstract art—Art that explores shape, line, texture, form, and color without trying to look like recognizable things in the real world.

Collage—A kind of artwork and a way of making art that involves sticking paper, fabric, and other materials onto a surface.

Print—An impression made by any method involving transfer from one surface to another.



  • Construction paper
  • Collage materials (Some examples include recycled paper, aluminum foil, colored tape, scrapbook paper, felt, wrapping paper, sand paper, bubble wrap, cellophane, fabric scraps, napkins, etc.)
  • Scissors
  • Washable glue or glue stick
  • Household objects that can be easily cleaned or disposed of (This can be anything. Some examples include string or yarn, potato masher, fork, measuring cup, funnel, toy car, beaded necklace, sponge, bottle caps, bubble wrap, cotton pads, golf ball, toilet paper rolls, pastry brush, Legos, loofah, spatula, dry pasta, Q-tips, ice cubes, hair brush, crumpled paper towel, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, plastic cups, etc.)
  • Washable paint (As many colors as you would like!)
  • A disposable plate, piece of cardboard, or other surface to pour paint onto, so you can dip your objects


(For children under 4, start with step 1 then skip to step 7.)


  1. Cover your work area in paper or plastic to protect the surface from mess.
  2. Gather your materials. Go for a walk around your house and look for objects that have interesting designs, lines, shapes, and patterns. Choose the ones that you can easily clean or throw away.


  1. Cut collage materials into expressive and interesting shapes.
  2. Glue collage materials onto construction paper. (Tip for working with glue: Use a dot, not a lot.)

Questions to ask:

  • How do you usually use these materials?
  • What kinds of shapes, colors, and lines do you see?
  • How many shapes do you want to use?
  • How are you planning to arrange things on the page or is there no plan at all?
  1. Let glue dry for 30 minutes.


  1. Gently dip a household object into paint. Allow excess paint to drip off. (Tip for working with paint: Say in your head, “Driiiip, driiiip, driiiiiiiiip.”)
  2. Press objects that have been dipped in paint onto your dried collage.


  • There’s no one right way to make an artwork. Experiment with different colors and different amounts of pressure. Try making an artwork with only one print from each object. Try making an artwork with many many prints of the same object. Try turning your paper upside down.
  • Here are some questions and prompts to help you talk with your family while you're creating: How many prints are you going to make with that? Are you going to use (insert color) again or pick a new color? Why are you selecting that object? What kind of pattern or texture do you think will this make? Use the same object or try a new one. You are the artist—the choices are up to you! What is this object usually used for? What are some other ways it could be used?
  1. Let paint dry and enjoy your creation!

Dig Deeper


After you make your artwork, take a look at it next to Jim Dine’s Tools. Ask yourself, a friend, or an adult:

  • What kinds of lines are on the papers?
  • What textures do you see?
  • How are the artworks similar? How are they different?
  • How have the materials you used been transformed by printing?
  • How could you transform the same materials in different ways?


Did you like this project? Check out the children's book The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (available at the MCA Store to continue the conversation about color, shape, and transformation.


We would love to see what you created from this project! We invite you to share your drawing with the MCA by sending it to us via Direct Message on social media, or by tagging @mcachicago or using #MCAChicago on Twitter or Instagram. We might even ask to feature your work in an upcoming post!

Extra Credit

Take a look at Richard Long’s Untitled from 1987 to see how another artist made a print out of everyday objects. This time—someone's feet!