James Cook, a typewriter artist from the UK, creates beautiful artwork using only the antique typing machines. He mostly enjoys creating pictures of buildings since he went to college to study architecture. So far in his artistry career, he’s produced over 75 architectural drawings. However, James doesn’t limit himself to buildings.
He also draws celebrities, family portraits and other commissioned work. He sometimes features his work in exhibitions throughout the UK where he reveals never-before-seen typewriter art for fans. Here’s James’ story, and how he got into this unique art medium.
“I create drawings by typing on mostly old and somewhat broken typewriters, and I’ve been doing so for more than 7 years now. In the collection I have just over 40 typewriters and I have created more than 160 drawings,” James said.
“I describe my drawings as being a picture worth a thousand words and because the drawings are handtyped, I’ll hide messages or words and phrases for people to find when they look at the drawings up close.”
This Artist Uses a Typewriter to Create Absolute Masterpieces
In his unique line of work, creating the typewriter art is only half the fun! Many of these machines have rich histories depending on their previous owners and age.
“A lot of typewriters I end up collecting, they normally have quite interesting backstories to the previous owner. Some of these machines have been around for more than 60 years, so a lot of them have already lived a life and have been passed around from generation to generation, workplace to workplace,” James said. “One of the typewriters behind me has paperwork on it showing that it was bought in London in 1935 just before the second World War and survived all of that, and still fully works.”
James says that sometimes, it’s the stories he hears from people who once owned the typewriters that inspires him. However, he also draws inspiration from buildings, as you can see from his depictions of the famous Big Ben and London Bridge.
“Many of my pictures are architectural, and most recently, I’ve made a series of these large panoramic drawings of the London skyline. More recently, I’ve worked on location in London recreating the Palace Westminster and Greenwich just by simply rolling up on a day when it’s not raining and all. Sometimes I take with me a fold-up chair and a couple of spare typewriters because it’s guaranteed one of them will break on me,” James says.
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By far, he enjoys drawing buildings on his typewriter the most since it opens an opportunity to work on-site. Sometimes, people look at him strangely while he’s typing away in public, but they’re usually inquisitive and friendly. Many of the architectural typewriter artworks are panoramic since it offers more room for large buildings.
The Talented Typewriter Artist Aims to Reach New Heights
“The panoramic drawings can take anywhere between 2-3 weeks to create and they are typed on sections of paper which then join to the very end to create these very wide drawings,” James explains.
According to his website, James “creates the largest typewriter art on record as many of his panoramic-scale drawings expand far beyond the size of his typewriters. Most of his art contains more than 100,000 individually-stamped typewritten marks and he can spend at least a month working on a single drawing.”
Aside from architectural drawings, James also enjoys drawing celebrities. Some of these include portraits of Tom Hanks (who collects typewriters), Jeff Goldblum, Blake Shelton, Bill Murray, and Jon Heder. After having so much practice drawing people on typewriters, James feels quite comfortable with the art medium. James said:
“This is a really weird thing to say, but probably now I type people better than I can draw them with a pencil. And I think it’s because, when I get commissions coming in, lots of people like to ask for a family portrait. So I’ve definitely honed my skills with drawing people on typewriters more than I have using any other art material. Some I might use to create a drawing.”
He added that his ultimate dream is to visit a rooftop, balcony or other area that looks out over the city. He loves working on-location, and has received several opportunities in the past to do so. Many of the buildings had incredible views which helped inspire his work.
“But, it is incredibly hard to get permission with the nature of my work. It’s also a really tricky thing to describe to people over email what exactly I do. I’m hoping I can do more of these on-location drawings in the future,” James says.
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