If you’re from the generation when the computer was not invented, you’d have been familiar with the manual typewriter – the contraption that enabled people to type out letters, articles, books, and what have you. However, with the advent of computers and laptops, typewriters became a thing of the past.
However, the credit for reviving the lure of manual typewriters in the present times goes to James Cook, who uses them, not to type text, but to use the typography to design amazing pictures. For this 23-year-old, it’s a “weird way of having fun!”
The inspiration for doing art with a typewriter came to him from the late Paul Smith, a cerebral palsy patient hailed worldwide as the ‘typewriter artist’. Paul, despite his affliction that affected his speech, mobility, and fine motor coordination, managed to create spectacular typewriter art with thousands of delicate keystrokes. His incredible typewriter artworks spanned six decades.
So inspired was Cook by Paul that he made Paul’s work partly the premise for his art studies at college. He began his typewriter art by rendering The Woolworth Building in New York. However, his initial attempts were unsteady and rough. In an email to awesomebyte.com, he shares his experience, thus, “It was like learning a whole new language (literally) made up of punctuation marks, letters, and numbers. It was how I assembled these marks on the page that would reveal the image once you stepped back from the drawing.”
It wasn’t easy for this architecture student from Braintree to lay his hands on a manual machine. He told bbc.com, “People don’t tend to give them to charity shops; they either chuck them out because they don’t quite work properly or they get lost through time. For me, a faulty typewriter can often work just fine in terms of using it as a tool to create art.” His first typewriter was a handsome 1956 Oliver Courier purchased from an elderly couple. Today, he owns half-a-dozen typewriters.
Cook, settled in the UK, receives typewriter commissions from across the world. And he does all kinds of artworks – album covers, book covers, portraits of pets, wedding anniversary presents, and much more. His most recent work was for a lady that measured around 4 feet by 3 feet, made up of three rolls of paper, containing over a hundred thousand letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. He considers it the largest typewriter drawing ever done. He has musicians, actors, and public figures as his clients.
James Cook Artwork
All Images Are Used With Permission