For a British artist, the key to good art is a typewriter


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London (AFP) – James Cook sits quietly at his desk, his only sound being the click of his typewriter. As he works, the portrait of a boy emerges.

From Hollywood star Tom Hanks to the observation wheel of the London Eye, the artist can turn symbols and letters into art, earning him growing attention.

Cook, 25, produces his work in a studio in London, surrounded by typewriters and artwork, with the white dome of the O2 arena visible outside.

He started producing typewriter art in 2014 while studying art at university and came across an artist from the 1920s who produced similar work.

Initially, he thought the idea was “impossible” – until he tried it himself.

“It was just out of curiosity that I decided to go out and buy my own typewriter,” he told AFP.

“Since 2014, I’ve been learning little by little how to draw.”

Cook initially thought it would be easier to depict buildings because of the straight lines and the ease of moving left to right on a typewriter.

“I couldn’t draw people’s faces before I made typewriter art,” he said.

“In fact, I probably draw people better on a typewriter than I can draw freehand with a pen or pencil.”

Cook organizes an exhibition of his work from July to August Niklas HALLE’N AFP

Cook never set out to make a career out of it and went to college to study architecture, but online interest encouraged him to pursue typewriter art.

People donate typewriters to Cook as he gives the machines a “second life”.

“Always a challenge”

Cook can produce art anywhere, including in the shadow of the London Eye or across the river from Britain’s parliament, the Palace of Westminster.

As the sun shines in a clear blue sky, he delicately produces his images using the “@” symbol, numbers and letters including “W” and “P”.

Cook studied art at university and was inspired to embrace the medium after seeing a 1920s artist who produced similar work
Cook studied art at university and was inspired to embrace the medium after seeing a 1920s artist who produced similar work Niklas HALLE’N AFP

For a portrait he uses the parenthesis symbol to recreate the curvature of the pupils of the eyes or to illustrate the complexion of the skin he will use the “@” symbol because “it has a large surface”.

Tapping methodically on the outside, he quickly grabs attention.

“Before Microsoft Word and stuff was invented, this is how we typed letters,” said David Asante, who works as a computer engineer at a hospital.

“For him to be able to turn it into a work of art, it’s amazing.”

Cook says it was “really satisfying” to use “limited” support.

Small drawings can take up to four to five days, but portraits can take longer.

Panoramic drawings – assembled at the end – can take between two weeks and a month.

It will host an exhibition from July to August where people can create their own typewriter art and view his work, including the signed portrait of Hanks.

But although it looks seamless to the viewer, Cook says “it never gets easier”.

“It’s always a challenge.”

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