They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and one artist is out to prove that, making pictures from words by typing them out. He types his captivating visual art into existence with retro tools more associated with journalists and office secretaries than artists.
Anyone who thinks the typewriter is dead, should think again. James Cook has repurposed classic Remingtons and Silverettes as tools for creating art, even recreating works by artists as diverse as Van Gogh and Banksy in type (speaking of type, if you're wondering what fonts to use for digital projects, see our pick of the best free fonts).
Ok…maybe one more photo before the Twitter universe implodes on itself. 🤯Here’s Frida Kahlo, typed on my 1970’s Brother Deluxe 220 typewriter. A personal favourite of mine. Look closely 👀 Some technologies will live forever. #Twittershutdown #FridaKahlo pic.twitter.com/z2C3BihkkdNovember 19, 2022
Cook is a 26-year-old artist from Essex who's been amazing audiences on social media with his detailed artworks created using old typewriters. He's types original work, including portraits and landscapes as well as recreations of famous pieces of art and photos of well known artists and other figures.
As Twitter spiralled into chaos in recent week, Cook tweeted that “some technologies live forever," which he says was the guiding motive for his work. He started with Da Vinci's Mona Lisa as a tribute the typewriter artist Paul Smith, a pioneer of the medium, and then carried on from there. He's since typed up Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Grant Wood’s American Gothic and a Van Gogh self portrait.
The timelapse video below shows how the latter was created. Cook, who has a collection of 50 typewriters, says the piece took four attempts because of Van Gogh's tricky impressionistic style.
A timelapse of my recently-completed typewriter drawing of Van Gogh #vangogh #artistsontwitter #timelapse pic.twitter.com/5EnHe4UwUSNovember 15, 2022
As another nice touch, there are Easter eggs hidden in many of Cook's pieces, including references to things that were in the news when he was typing them – you just have to know where to look to find them, he says.
It may seem impossible to create art like this using a typewriter – some people might remember typing out stickmen in typing classes. But Cook even typed a two-metre-wide image of the London skyline made from half a million letters, numbers and punctuation marks, which took a month to complete. Cook says that with people he always starts with the eyes and then goes from there.
Typewriter Art of St Pancras - typed on a manual 1970’s SilverReed typewriter with many type-written hidden messages relating to the history of the building! Many other London locations to be typed very soon! pic.twitter.com/OwOzLj5srdMay 23, 2022
London. Reimagined in type-written form as a festive Christmas card scene featuring a Routemaster bus and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Displayed with my 1921 Remington Portable typewriter. #london #christmas pic.twitter.com/CqftnICxlnNovember 20, 2022
This was such a challenge for me because it required a completely new way of typing in order to achieve a birds-eye view. I spent most weeks with my head tilted at 90 degrees in both directions and sometimes with the typewriter tilted on my desk. pic.twitter.com/OrDwxnBKehOctober 18, 2022
Cooks set out to show that social media and digital platforms in don't have a monopoly on either the written work or the sharing of visual art, elevating a classic tool in the process. You can see more of Cook's work at his website jamescookartwork.com.