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Barrie Tullett’s ten things you should know about Typewriter Art


here are people out there who create art out of anything: out of letters and numbers, even out of individual keystrokes that can “draw” pictures with devastating accuracy just by using a typewriter. This humble kind of art form is a passion for graphic designer Barrie Tullett, an art typist himself who decided to edit Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology to amaze everyone with the visual history of more than 100 years during which artists have used their typewriters to create graphic art. So, years after the first typewriter, the Hansen Writing Ball,was released to the public in 1870 we are now ready to explore the fascinating world where people hack their typewriters with inspiration not to produce letters, but genuine art. TYPEROOM asked the man responsible for this amazing collection to provide us with some basic knowledge on his passion, and he kindly responded. So play this Ultravox tune, a group he identifies with, and read on ten things you should know about Typewriter Art before buying your own copy of this anthology that will leave you speechless.


1: Typewriter Art is not ASCII Art. 

ASCII Art gives you an undo. The Typewriter is an unforgiving beast and for most machines, the best you can hope to do is cover up the mistake with correction fluid, correction paper or a white corrective ribbon.


2: Typewriters have more than one typeface.

As early as 1884, the Hammond Typewriter offered 8 different typefaces for use as, and when, required. These included a sans serif, an italic, a law italic (which sloped 'backwards’) and a Victorian Decorative Capital.


3: You could have any colour you liked, almost.

In 1920, Remington released a range of coloured portables in such seductive shades as Ivory & Cosmo Green, Tan & Pompeiian Red, Nyanza & Cellini Green, Colette & Endowa Blue, Light & Dark Orchid and Mountain Ash Scarlet.  


4: You could type in any colour you liked, almost.

A Life Magazine article from 1953, featured Montserrat Escardivol, a typist with the Barcelona Police Department. Of an evening, she would sit at her old Underwood and reproduce paintings and photographs with the aid of 17 different coloured ribbons.


5: Typewriter Art doesn’t have to be A4

In 1998, the Indian Typewriter Artist Uday Mahadeo Talwalkar, created a Typewritten Portrait of 'Lata Mangeshkar’ which measured 21.4 feet. x 13.3 feet and took over 250 hours to complete.


6: Typewriter Art is drawing

In 2012, Kasper Pinces’s artwork ‘…As if you could kill time without injuring eternity’, which is composed of 135,000 full stops on a folded sheet of newsprint, was selected for the UK’s 'Jerwood Drawing Prize'.


7: Typewriter Artists can upgrade.

American Artist Allyson Strafella had one of her Smith Corona's specially modified to include 29 unique keys and an extended, 36 inch carriage. The new ‘characters’ were based on elements taken from her drawings and are cast as solid and outline forms to replace the upper and lowercase of the ’normal’ keys.


8: Typewriter Art can be quick.

Every November, Michael Crowe and Lenka Clayton work on a daily drawing project, where they send each other typewriter drawings of something that they’ve seen that day. 


9: Typewriter Art can be short.

Stuart Mills’ book ‘Poems for My Shorthand Typist’ consists of a series of wonderfully witty poems, each of which is one single punctuation mark long.


10: Typewriter Art is as old as Typewriters themselves. 

The first artist to find fame was a British Stenographer called Flora Stacey.  Eight pieces of her work were included as part of the Bar-Lock Typewriter Exhibition in the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and in 1904 newspapers described her work as the benchmark by which all others would be judged.