Some may say that typewriters are a thing of the past, but one young artist proves that it’s quite the opposite. 23-year-old architecture student James Cook creates wonderful artworks using manual typewriters, and more and more people are becoming interested in them. His works are very accurate and precise, featuring people, architecture, still life, and pets. Scroll down for Bored Panda’s interview with the artist!
Cook became interested in typewriters 6 years ago when he read a news story about a man who suffered from cerebral palsy. Unable to hold a pencil or paintbrush, he chose to draw with a typewriter. “It started back in 2014 and during my college studies, I came across the news story of a man called Paul Smith who unfortunately suffered from severe cerebral palsy. Due to his condition, he was unable to hold a pencil or paintbrush, but honed his skills using the mechanical precision of a typewriter to produce a portfolio of incredible work spanning at least 60 years. Inspired by his story, I decided to make his work partly the premise for my art studies at college,” says Cook to Bored Panda.
The British artist bought his first typewriter from an elderly couple who were selling their antiques. Even though a lot of people have had them in the past, typewriters are difficult to find now because many have forgotten about them. However, Cook has managed to grow his collection to 30 different typewriters that he uses to produce his paintings. “My first purchase, the '56 Oliver Courier, will always be my favourite typewriter. It’s the most versatile of the machines that I have and it sounds strange to say this, but I know it so well. It’s been in my collection of 30 typewriters for six years now and more than half of my drawings I have done using it.”
This kind of art can be very time-consuming and might feel like learning a new language. However, Cook says that he loves spending time to make his drawings proportionally correct and thinking of tiny details. “My earliest works were a little unsteady and rough. I started with a typewriter drawing of the Woolworth Building in New York. 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.”
When asked how long it takes for him to make one drawing, Cook says that it depends on various factors. The most complex piece can take up to 30 hours to make. “Each drawing varies in size, scale and complexity. However, I am restricted to using standard A4 paper, mostly as this was the most common size of paper a typewriter would take. Each drawing can take between 9-30 hours. I have recently completed a commission of a lady which is my largest drawing to date. It measures in at roughly 4 feet by 3 feet and, unofficially, is probably the largest typewriter drawing ever done. It is made of three rolls of paper and contains more than 100,000 letters, numbers, and punctuation marks overlaid and configured to create the portrait.”
The artist says that he always dreamed of becoming an architect. Therefore, he always prefers to draw buildings instead of portraits with his typewriter. “Primarily, I’ve always been fascinated in buildings and my goal since the age of 5 is to become an architect. Where I live in UK, there are lots of historic buildings such as water towers, lighthouses, castles and I think from a very early age, walking around these places struck a chord with me. I used to have old photo books of London and cities of the world and when I was a small child, I would try to draw copies of them. I think I prefer drawing buildings using the typewriter as opposed to portraits. I think there is more interest in the architectural work from people that have seen my typewriter drawings.” Cook currently has an exhibition of his work in the UK, where you can check out his best works! You can find out more about it on his website and Instagram.
Note: this post originally had 64 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.