Artists revive manual typewriters to create incredible works of art

If you were from the generation when the computer was not invented, you would have been familiar with the manual typewriter – the tool that allowed people to write letters, articles, books, and what have you. But with the advent of computers and laptops, typewriters became a thing of the past.

Credit for reviving the allure of manual typewriters in modern times goes to James Cook, who used them not to write text but to use the typography to design stunning images. For this 23-year-old, it’s a “weird way to have fun!”

The inspiration to create art with a typewriter came to him from the late Paul Smith, a cerebral palsy patient hailed; and wide as the ‘typewriter artist.’ Despite his disorder, which affected his speech, mobility, and fine motor skills, he created spectacular typewriter art with thousands of delicate keystrokes. His incredible typewriter artwork spanned six decades.

Cook Paul so inspired him that he made Paul’s work part of the premise of his art studies in college. He began his typewriter art by reproducing The Woolworth Building in New York. But his first attempts were unstable and rough. In an email to, he shares his experience thus: “It was like learning a whole new language (literally) consisting of punctuation marks, letters, and numbers. How I assembled these marks on the page would reveal the image when you stepped back from the drawing.”

It wasn’t easy for this architecture student from Braintree to get his hands on a manual machine. He told “People don’t usually give them to charity shops; they either throw them away because they don’t quite work properly, or they get lost over time. For me, a broken typewriter can often work fine compared to using it as a tool to create art.” His first typewriter was a beautiful 1956 Oliver Courier bought by an elderly couple, and today he owns half a dozen typewriters.

Cook, who resides in the UK, receives typewriter commissions worldwide. And he does all kinds of artwork – album covers, book covers, pet portraits, wedding anniversary gifts, and more. His latest work was for a lady, measuring about 4 feet by 3 feet, consisting of three rolls of paper containing over one hundred thousand letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. He considers it the most excellent typewriter drawing ever made. He has musicians, actors, and public figures as his clients.

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