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