PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Do you have a spare thirty hours? Furthermore, do you have about thirty manual typewriters laying around the house?

Probably not!

One architectural student however has both of these and is creating a most astonishing new form of art – one that is reaching across the globe.

Known as the typewriter artist, James Cook (aged 25) from Braintree, Essex uses obsolete manual typewriters to ‘paint’ / tap out stunning landscapes, portraits as well as animated drawings.

James Cook. Photo on Google

There is just a moot point – they are mostly black with a dabble of red (the two colours of typewriter ribbons!) James uses the restrictions of colour to a wondrous effect, capturing St. Paul, Westminster, New York, and Florence amongst many of the world’s famous sights! The largest of these used over 500,000 characters and the least amount of time on the smallest commissions is at least thirty hours.

One weekend in July I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition of his work at a gallery in Finchingfield which is a picturesque quintessential English village with plenty of thatched houses, duck pond, pubs and cafes galore as well as a windmill.

Finchingfield Village sign. Photo by Annika Perry

It was amazing to see the drawings in real life at The Wonky Wheel Gallery. There was a wide range of them on display and it was fascinating to learn that like traditional artists James Cook actually takes his tools of the trade out on location – in this case, a typewriter or two – and sits on a chair tapping away. He will also ensure to make pencil sketches for reference later.

The Wonky Wheel Gallery & part of the James Cook exhibition. Photo by Annika Perry

However, unlike oil and water colour artists, there is little scope for error as there are no second chances and he is loath to use Tippex (white out / correction fluid). ‘Accepting mistakes has been the toughest challenge.’

To date, James has created nearly 200 drawings, and last year became a full-time artist! The now 40 typewriters used range from a 1920s Continental Portable, to a Tippa and Rimington Envoy III to later manual typewriters from the 1990s.

There was one fellow typewriter collector James longed to make contact with – Tom Hanks. The latter was impressed enough with the portrait of himself which James sent him to return it signed. This had pride of place in the exhibition and it is startling how the artist has captured the character and nature of the actor.

Currently, typewriters are to be found in every room in James’s house, and some in his car, although only a few are fully working at any time. Luckily a local company helps to supply the all-important ribbon and he is also sourcing them from the USA.

Throughout his work, his passion for buildings shines and being a student in the field is a crucial component in his success.

The Dom Tower, Utrecht, Netherlands typewriter art by James Cook. Photo on Google

Commissions are at the heart of his work as an artist and over the last seven years, James has become internationally recognised for his work. He has accepted orders from numerous countries including South America, Australia, France, Germany and the USA.

He finds that his ‘inspiration is motivated by the stories of individual and customer who commission drawings’.

Just as each drawing is created from two perspectives, that of the close-up of each individual letter, number or punctuation to create the mesmerising whole image, the viewer is equally beguiled by both elements. Close up I could see the darker areas of the drawing where the key has been struck endlessly in one place, in other areas I could see individual characters, and at times whole sentences are visible. These ‘hidden’ sentences helped him to create his slogan of ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

Florence typewriter art by James Cook. Photo by Annika Perry

While at the exhibition my husband and I bought one of his limited edition prints of Florence, a belated wedding anniversary present to ourselves and in memory of a beautiful visit there years ago. From afar James has captured the city with awe-inspiring effect, building upon building rising up to the iconic Duomo in the distance, the serene Arno and woodland in the fore. Looking closer I can make out sentences such as ‘11 November’, ‘did not wake up’, ‘with intention’ and ‘2nd time lucky’. On each viewing of the image, I make a new discovery and each new find enhances the drawing!

I am sure the astonishing typewriting art by James Cook will become ever more popular and known and it was a joy to view his drawings and some of the typewriters in the early days of his career. If you want to see more of James Cook and his works click here.

Finally, after three long years, my family and I are once again returning to Sweden for a long summer holiday and as many of you are aware the location is wonderfully idyllic and remote – ie. no Wifi! I will pop in to a library or family & neighbours during my sojourn and reply to comments when possible. I wish you all a wonderful safe summer (or winter to my friends in the southern hemisphere).

‘Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.’

Hermann Hesse

Finchingfield famous bridge and duck pond. Photo by Annika Perry

168 thoughts on “PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

  1. How did I ever miss this post??? Well, summer was a weird one for me and my family – that’s the only excuse. But I’m here now and I absolutely love this typewriter art! In late spring my (9-year-old) grandson was doing a project for school and asked me if I had an old typewriter. I searched in my basement and sure enough, there was the ‘antique’ – 1940s perhaps? – old old ribbon barely useable and stiff keys. But he was ecstatic and took it to school to show off. He also wrote a small story on it. I think I’ll share this post with him! I love the typewritten drawing of Florence – it’s a special place for my guy and I also. Miss your blogs – when are you coming back???

    1. Pam, thank you for your wonderful comment! 😀

      I love that you managed to find an old typewriter for your son’s school project and I’m chuffed you’re sharing my post with him – would he like a go at making his own typewriter art, I wonder? Now, maybe you can share his typewriter story on your blog (with his permission, of course!)

      Aww … Florence does have a tendency to win over visitors and is unique in every way and lovely that you both have special memories of the place. When my husband and I saw this artwork there was no discussion – just knew we wanted to buy it!

      I feel for you and your family going through these weird times and can more than empathise – hence my reason for not blogging much at the moment. Out of sight is not out of mind, though and a heartwarming joy to see your comment. hugs xx ❤️

  2. James is one remarkable artist. Making pictures with typewriters. Fascinating work and you can tell he really loves what he does. Never would you imagine how typing out words could turn into a work of art with hidden messages. Amazing that he got the portrait of Tom Hanks signed by the actor and fellow type-writer collector. What a pleasure it must have been to see his drawings in real life. You’d think typewriters are going out of fashion but as James has showed, maybe not so.

    Hope you are having a wonderful long summer holiday in Sweden, Annika. Hope you are doing well 🙂

    1. Mabel, thank you for your lovely comment and interest! Ever since being at the exhibition and learning about James Cook’s work I seem to come across manuel typewriters in books, magazines and the news! Maybe they are gaining a new lease of life, just like vinyl records and turntables. I can just imagine how thrilled James would have been that Tom Hanks not only liked his portrait but returned it signed! Seeing these in person one truly realises that there are no limitiations to creativity – and also become more than aware the passion and dedication it takes to make ones dreams a reality.

      Thank you, I had a wonderful idyllic few weeks during the summer in Sweden but alas soon upon my return suffered a silly fall resulting in a bad break of my shoulder. Although fully healed the real hard of physio is starting to get my arm moving once again. It meant just about everything stopped for a good few weeks for me apart from just coping with it. Hope you are keeping well, Mabel. Take care and always a delight to read your thoughts. xx

      1. Who knows where typewriters are headed. That is great you had a wonderful summer in Sweden. So sorry to hear of your injured shoulder. Good to hear you are on the mend and take it easy. Wishing you well, Annika 💕

  3. Hi Annika, I am glad I checked in on you and read this fascinating post. You take me back to the typewriter and many limitations, yet that is all I knew at the time. I am always in awe of creativity in general, imagination, and the significant number of hours creating a project.

    The no second chances gave me a flashback about typewriter days. Tom Hanks collecting typewriters…interesting. Great how you and your husband now have a print with personal meaning.

    Thank you for sharing an in depth post on a new to me subject. I love your quote at the end. An amazing photo capture. Most of all, thank you for being you, Annika.xx ❤️

    1. Erica, bless you for your wonderful comment and it is a joy that you popped by! ❤️

      Oh yes, when one thinks of the old typewriters its limitations come straight to mind and it is inspiring how the artist saw beyond this with his boundless creativity and skill – as well as infinite patience! 😃

      We are both smitten with the print and it brought back such lovely memories – now I just need to find the perfect frame for it!

      It means a lot that you liked the photo of the famous Finchingfield bridge … a rather humble effort in comparison to your majestic photographs! It does capture the spirit of the small village, I feel, and I took my time waiting for all the cars to have passed by!

      Thank you for your warm friendship and always very special to connect here! Love & hugs xx 💕

      1. Annika, Your post is comprehensive and fascinating and I sent it to my husband. I rarely do this. Your photo is amazing. Thank you for your kind words. I take hundreds of photos and I get lucky. It helps when we live in and visit gorgeous areas. Love and hugs xx 💗

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, Jina! It is an incredible and novel art form. Haha! Like you I learnt to type on the old manual typewriters and after every lesson recall my little fingers being very sore! Goodness knows the effort required for these pictures! Thank you, only a few days left of the holiday and having a wonderful time! Hope you are keeping well. Happy Writing! 😃

    1. Luanne, that is fantastic and you will appreciate these so much! Did you have any experience/ interest in studying architecture? The patience required must be immense and only one with a true passion for the subject matter – and typewriters- could create something this amazing!

    1. Nor me, Toni! The guy is a genius and deserves all his success! I can imagine him on many more international trips as part of his commissions! Thank you, idyllic is just the word for my break here in Sweden, the peace and quiet of the forest is intensely relaxing, the music of the trees soothing! We don’t miss the internet at all and in the process gain hours a day! Wishing you a great summer! Xx

  4. It is such an incredible talent and piece of work. I’m truly amazed looking at these pictures. And you’re so right picture is worth a thousand words. It’s an experience learning about James Cook.

    Enjoy your holidays, Annika. 🙂

    1. Ritish, his work is definitely awe-inspiring and I find it joy to see such original creativity… the patience and skill required is immense! I must give credit to James Cook for his slogan of a picture is worth a thousand words – so true and especially in this case! So glad you enjoyed reading about his work and wishing you a lovely summer!

  5. Wow, this is incredible, Annika. What a talented and patient artist James is. This is no small task. Typewriters type in straight horizontal lines, but many of James’ artwork are at different angles. It’s almost impossible to create such images from different angles. He takes the typewriters to the sites and types his painting on the spot. That’s even more challenging. I’m so happy for you to have come across such an exquisite art form. I’m so glad you bought a copy of Florence which means so much to you. Enjoy your family vacation in Sweden. 🙂

    1. Miriam, thank you so much for your great comment and noting about the very tricky angles achieved with this most linear form of machine! It is amazing how he plans in these sharp angles, and definitely no mean feat! I too smiled at the thought of creating these on location – something that I had assumed was not possible! I imagine there would be a group of bemused and awed bystanders looking over his shoulder! 😃 The Florence print is very special and I am impressed how he not only captured the beautiful skyline of the city but also it magical aura! Now I long to return there! Wishing you a wonderful summer, Miriam and hope you have lots of chances to be with your family! Hugs xx ❤️

      1. You’re welcome, Annika. I do drawing and watercolor painting as hobbies. I read the “how to” books as well as take classes. I understand the composition of artwork. When I read your position and the description, I tried to imagine doing it with my typewriter, and thought it’s an impossible task. He has a unique talent for sure. I hope you’ll return to Florence soon. Yes, we’ll spend lots of time with my family this summer. Thank you. 💖

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