A Young Artist Creates Stunning Art Prints Using Only the Keys of a Typewriter
Using only a typewriter as a tool, a young British architecture student is making waves in the art world with his incredible renditions of country and cityscapes.
James Cook, 24, from Braintree in Essex, England, renders each “typicition” in ink by hand using deft combinations of the keys on a typewriter. For Cook, experimenting with typewriters began when he was studying fine art seven years ago.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the connection between technology, both new and obsolete, and its potential to produce new and innovative forms of artwork,” Cook told The Epoch Times in an interview.
“I quickly learned from an early age that painting just wasn’t for me, but I loved drawing and wanted to explore new methods.”
Inspired by British artist David Hockney’s ‘The Coming of Spring at Woldgate’, a landscape drawn using an iPad paint app, Cook took to his iPhone 5 to create some of his own digital paintings.
However, after becoming acquainted with Paul Smith, an American artist with cerebral palsy who used typewriter characters to render his subjects, Cook realized that “counter-innovative” technologies intrigued him. any further.
“Something analogous and abandoned and no longer worthy of its place in the workplace,” he said, “that is, the typewriter.”
Living between Braintree and London, Cook often takes a typewriter – from his treasured collection of 30, many of which are donations – to the spot.
(Courtesy of James Cook Artwork)
Cook begins each piece by sketching a subtle silhouette in pencil. “Keying in” classic buildings with seemingly endless detail, he says, allows him to be inventive.
“Gargoyles and carved stones will be reimagined with 0s, Ls, ‘()’s, and meanwhile, the tattered masonry of a Tudor mansion is recreated in Is and ‘-‘s,” he said. he declares.
“Experimenting with the language using the 44 typewriter keys, for me personally, keeps the work original and fresh.
“Classically, typewriters like to move in a linear fashion. So having a good grasp of the levers and switches that disengage some of its functionality, if only temporarily, allows you to step back and retype existing text more than once. You can also vary the darkness and brightness depending on how hard you press the keys on the paper.
This “limited palette” of 44 keys, says Cook, has “unlimited possibilities”.
He has produced more than 110 works of art to date, preferring three typewriters, his “workhorses”, in rotation: his very first machine, a 1952 Oliver Courier; a 1971 Silver Reed 200; and a 1973 Olympia SG3 typewriter that can hold more A4 document paper for creating larger scale artwork.
An A4 portrait takes Cook between three and four days. A larger landscape drawing can take up to a week. Cook’s most recent architectural works measure 2 feet by 3 feet.
Cook said that normally only two or three typewriters are fully functioning at any given time, “the others being in an almost dilapidated state”. Admitting the limitations of his tech-based tools, he said typewriters are “an incredibly precise piece of engineering”.
“When you take them out of their comfort zone, like an office or an antique store, you have to deal with the unpredictable reality of them breaking up as they stand in the middle of a field, creating a pattern,” he added. Fortunately, he says, it only happened to him twice.
Although moved by his surroundings, Cook is also inspired by customer orders.
“A poignant commission for me was from a man who had recently lost his mother and, after clearing out her property, discovered the wedding speech she had read on her wedding day,” he said. .
The gentleman asked Cook to recreate a portrait from a cherished photograph and incorporate segments of the wedding speech into the image. “I estimated there were over 100,000 letters, numbers and punctuation marks carved into the design, measuring approximately 4 feet by 5 feet,” he recalled.
The commission took Cook a month and became his very first “hidden message” artwork. He has since used the same technique to camouflage the names of sites he visits in an image, and protect his artwork by “hiding messages that only the original creator of the work can find”.
Despite honing his craft, Cook says making art using a typewriter has never been easier. Unlike painting, he says, there’s no second attempt or way to cover up mistakes.
“Accepting mistakes has been the most difficult challenge,” he said. “Any mistakes I make in the illustration, like a letter or number out of place, as I see it, those mistakes stick out like a sore thumb on the page, but I bet no one else will ever notice them! “
Cook is currently looking for city dwellers around the world who want to give him access to a rooftop or balcony with “incredible views” to work on for a day. In return, he agrees to offer a signed and framed print of the finished drawing as well as one of his existing prints free of charge.
“As long as people care about my passion, I will continue,” Cook said. “It’s the joy and pleasure of listening and talking to other people who appreciate my work that also drives my ambition to create even bigger and more ambitious typescripts.”
Potential collaborators can contact Cook via its website or Instagram.
Watch two of his videos below:
(Courtesy of James Cook Artwork)
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