2014. A twist of fate leads to James purchasing his first (of many) typewriters to come.
The previous owner of James’ first typewriter, a handsome 1956 Oliver Courier, were an elderly couple looking to sell up their heap of antiques stored away in their dusty bungalow attic. With a couple of squirts of WD40, James was able to transform this clunky writing device into a well-lubricated portrait-generating machine.
James lives in the UK. He receives typewriter commissions from across the world (largely across the pond in the USA.) Without reservation, he will tackle any typewriter project that comes in his direction; be it album covers to book cover and portraits of pets to wedding anniversary presents. Unbounded by any challenge he faces, James looks to improve his typewriter skills and expertise in shading with the @ symbol.
7 years later, James now owns 40 typewriters and has been able to share and sell his artwork to musicians, actors and various public figures.
James draws his inspiration from artist, Paul Smith, 1921-2007; a Philadelphia-born typewriter artist who suffered severe cerebral palsy his entire life. Smith produced intricately-detailed drawings that are stamped with thousands of letters, numbers and punctuation marks. The control and precision of the mechanical typewriter helped Smith through his cerebral palsy to produce a portfolio of work spanning nearly 70 years.
A Picture Worth a Thousand Words
The scale of James Cook’s work ranges from the size of a postcard and the antithesis of this being rolls-upon-rolls of paper. Larger drawings are constructed in section and hot-pressed together thereby allowing for creations larger than the limitations of a typewriter’s traditional paper-feed.
Each drawing can take anywhere between a week and a month to complete. Despite this, James has somehow managed to accumulate a portfolio of almost 200 pieces of work since his early experiments back in 2014.
“Each drawing is assembled from a variety of characters, letters and punctuation marks using the forty-four keys of a typical typewriter. Information is overlaid and the keys are tapped at variable pressures to achieve tonal shading.”
~ James Cook.
Whilst most of James’ work is straightforward by its frame of reference and subject matter, the use of perspective and concept of concealing of information plays and important role in how the drawings are observed by the viewer. Some of James’ more recent works feature hidden, written messages which only become visible from up-close. This adds another dimension to the drawings and their complexity.
Since 2020, James has hosted three exhibition of his typewriter art; the most recent at London’s Trinity Buoy Wharf where the artist has a studio. On display was more than 50 artworks and 30 typewriters. The exhibition also featured workshops allowing the general public to have a go at creating their very own miniature type-written masterpieces. We are currently in the planning stages of a Summer 2022 exhibition to be held in Essex; the artist’s home county.