Artist Recreates Famous Paintings by Typing Them on Vintage Typewriters

Typewriter Art by James Cook

Instead of relying on a brush and paint, James Cook creates art through the power of language. For several years, the UK-based artist has utilized his ever-growing collection of vintage typewriters to produce unique works of art composed entirely of letters and symbols found on the keyboard. Recently, he has applied this creative approach to translating some of art history's most famous paintings into whimsical typewriter art.

Like his other pieces—which range from detailed portraits to sweeping cityscapes—Cook uses a combination of characters to render the design. In the case of these history-inspired pieces, you can find words or phrases related to the individual piece. For instance, the reproduction of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring features the words “pearl,” “earring,” and “girl,” repeated across the sheet of paper. While the legible speech makes up the background of the image, Cook will then incorporate a carefully-planned assortment of other symbols to render the shape of the head and the details of the face, and so on. Oftentimes, this means adding multiple layers of text to render a distinct contrast between dark and light, which in turn makes the piece more realistic.

Some of the other notable works from this series include one of Frida Kahlo‘s self-portraits and Grant Wood's masterpiece, American Gothic. Similar to the Girl with the Earring illustration, these pieces also include references to the title of the work and the artist through duplicative language. In the case of the Frida Kahlo work, Cook even incorporates red ink to enhance the design and honor the original painting. With so many thoughtful details, these striking illustrations are worth observing for a long time.

You can purchase limited edition prints and original artwork via Cook's online shop, and keep up to date with his latest projects by following the artist on Instagram.

UK-based artist James Cook uses vintage typewriters to create unique works of art.

Typewriter Art by James Cook

Lately, he has used his process to recreate famous paintings, including Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.

Typewriter Art by James Cook

And one of Frida Kahlo's iconic self-portraits.

Typewriter Art by James Cook

Each piece features a combination of letters and characters to bring the design to life.

Typewriter Art by James Cook

Typewriter Art by James Cook

Typewriter Art by James Cook

Typewriter Art by James Cook

Watch these videos for insight into Cook's creative process:

James Cook: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by James Cook.

Related Articles:

Vintage Typewriters Are Taken Apart and Reassembled Into Movable Bird Sculptures

This Rare Vintage Typewriter from the 1950s Lets You Type Sheet Music

Detailed Portraits Made with Only Text are Produced Using a Typewriter

Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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